The end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009 marked the start of a noticeable rise in demand for English language education in the country. While Sinhala and Tamil are the two official languages of Sri Lanka, around a quarter of the population speak English (mainly in urban areas) and English is used for both official and commercial purposes. For those hoping to send their children to the elite private schools or the top universities in the country, TEFL lessons are a must from an early age. Children learn English in school, but not from kindergarten age unless they’re at a bilingual school. Many of the paid positions in Sri Lanka can be found in Colombo, the capital.

While paid positions in International Schools are available to experienced teachers, there are always voluntary opportunities for first-time teachers who want to get some experience under their belts, or those who want to see Sri Lanka without committing to a longer contract. This beautiful nation is one place where you can really immerse yourself in the country – many volunteers live with host families and live like the locals, becoming cherished members of their small communities and forming great relationships with their students. If you’re looking for an authentic experience and a welcoming place to do volunteering work, Sri Lanka is a great choice.

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Key Facts

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Ratnapura, Matara, Nugegoda, and Panadura
  • Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions (in elite international schools) is likely to be in the region of 95,000 – 440,000 LKR (£350 – £1,630 / $485 – $2,250) per month. Most positions are voluntary
  • TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most paid positions, but not necessarily for voluntary positions
  • Prerequisite university degree: Most positions prefer applicants to have a degree
  • Term times: The school year starts in January
  • Currency: Rupee (LKR)
  • Language: Sinhala and Tamil
  • Teaching programmes: International Schools, Private Schools, One to One Tutoring, Volunteering, Universities, Government Schools
  • Age restrictions: None
  • Previous teaching experience: Experience is often required for paid positions

It’s possible to find work teaching English in government schools (where children learn English from grade 3 upwards) but a lack of funding for these projects means that teachers are usually sourced through volunteering companies, rather than paid positions. Whether you want to work with children or adults, there are voluntary positions available in Sri Lanka. It’s even possible to volunteer at one of the unique piriven schools, which instruct Buddhist monks.

Volunteering as a TEFL teacher in Sri Lanka is a hugely rewarding endeavour. Students are cheerful and well-motivated, with volunteer teachers being invited to take part in extracurricular activities such as sports during their free periods. In some rural locations, you’re likely to be the only English teacher working at the school, and might be the only foreigner in the area, making you a popular and recognisable face in the community! The Sri Lankan culture is also quite formal, so expect to be greeted as Sir or Madam and be met with handshakes – though if you’re a male teacher, be wary that some women won’t shake hands with a man who isn’t a family member. In a full-time role, you’re likely to be working for around 6 hours a day, 5 days per week. Expect students to be in uniform whether you’re in a government or international school. The conservative culture means that teachers are required to dress modestly as well as appropriately for the temperature.

Requirements for teaching English in Sri Lanka

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Cambodia £680 - £1,000
($900 - $1,300)
No November No No Yes Under 65
China £1,000 – £2,000
($1,300 – $2,575)
Yes September No Yes Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country Under 55
Hong Kong £1,550 – £6,300
($2,000 – $8,380)
Yes August No Not usually Yes Under 60
India £120 – £775
($150 – $1,000)
Yes April Yes No Yes None
Indonesia £565 – £1,030
($745 – $1,355)
Yes July No Not usually No Under 60
Japan £1,600 – £2,000
($2,100 – $2,675)
Yes April No Sometimes Yes Under 65
Kazakhstan £360 – £470
($465 – $600)
Yes August Yes Yes Yes None
Malaysia £550 – £1,450
($720 – $1,900)
Yes January Preferred Sometimes Yes Under 65
Myanmar £600 – £1,500
($800 – $2,000)
Yes June Preferred Sometimes No Under 52
Mongolia £630 – £1,000
($875 – $1,400)
Yes September Yes Sometimes Yes None
Nepal Voluntary No April No Sometimes Yes None
South Korea £1,280 – £1,600
($1,670 – $2,000)
Yes March No Yes No Under 62
Taiwan £1,335 – £1,735
($1,700 – $2,220)
Yes September No Sometimes No Under 65
Thailand £740 – £980
($1,000 – $1,280)
Yes May No Sometimes Yes None
Vietnam £920 - £ 1,500
($1,200 to $2,000)
Yes August No No Yes Under 60

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Living Costs

The civil war left its mark on the country, and there are still signs of recovery ongoing today. But Sri Lanka has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and there is much to enjoy in this vibrant country. The low cost of living makes it a perfect place for backpacking TEFL teachers or those on voluntary contracts, and while those in paid positions aren’t likely to earn a huge wage, if you live like the locals it’s easy to get by. Sri Lankan cuisine is often on the spicy side, with Middle Eastern, Dutch, and Portuguese influences making it varied with so many wonderful dishes to try. You’ll likely be familiar with dahl curry already, but look forward to sampling kottu roti bread, hoppers (thin, crispy pancakes), gotu kola mallung aromatic salad, and many aubergine dishes. Sri Lanka was called Ceylon until 1972, so it’ll be no surprise to find out that the country is one of the biggest tea exporters in the world. Sharing a homecooked meal or a cup of tea with the locals will become one of your favourite and most authentic experiences while in Sri Lanka.

  • Accommodation: £379 – £541 / $520 – $742
  • Utilities: £72 / $99
  • Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £10 / $14
  • Monthly transport pass: £13 / $18
  • Basic dinner out for two: £8 / $11
  • Cappuccino in expat area: £1.82 / $2.50
  • A beer in a pub: £1.13 / $1.55
  • 1 litre of milk: £0.85 / $1.16
  • 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.10 / $1.51

(living costs sourced from Expatistan)


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