Higher-degree research being undertaken by Virandi Wettewa

Degree: PhD


Associate Professor Nigel Bagnall

Thesis title:

School Choice in Sri Lanka: the case of Sri Lankan International Schools



Project description

Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural state comprising of four major ethnic groups speaking three languages. Post colonial Sri Lanka endorses free state-managed education in the vernacular languages. State owned, semi-governmental and private schools follow the National Curriculum under the Ministry for Education. In 1961, Sri Lanka banned the establishment of any new private schools in the country. Private schools started by Christian missionaries during British rule were seen to evoke colonial pro-elitist sentiments and symbolize a driving force for social stratification.

However since this ban on private schools, there has been a profusion of institutions claiming to be ‘International Schools’ existing within a loophole in the legal framework. This research looks at the ramifications that international schools have for the state as well as the various stakeholders via a mixed method study conducted in four contrasting case studies and the Ministry for Education, Sri Lanka. The research explores the popularity, concerns and rationale behind this growing industry in contemporary globalizing Sri Lanka. The theoretical basis lies on Bourdieu’s concepts of Social Reproduction Theory and Cultural Capital. The verdict however lies on the understanding that English proficiency and foreign credentials allow for a competitive edge in neo-liberal times but grounding oneself in the local is crucial if education is to be truly global.

Virandi Wettewa has experience pursuing her tertiary education in three continents. After being awarded her BA (Hons) in Geography from Southampton, UK, she moved to Sydney to follow a Masters in Development Studies at Sydney University. She has previously conducted research in the field of arranged marriages and was positioned as a Consultant Research Associate for the Social Scientists Association of Sri Lanka, working on an ESRC UK funded project on worker rights in the garment industry. She is presently working in the capacity of a tutor, guest lecturer and research assistant at the University of Sydney.


  • Trevor Miller Grant Recipient, University of Sydney, 2014
  • Alexander Mackie Fellowship Recipient, University of Sydney, 2013
  • ANZCIES Travel Scholarship for Outstanding Research Paper, 2013
  • Shackleton Prize for Geography, University of Southampton, 2008

Professional and community roles

  • Member, Australia New Zealand International and Comparative Education Society
  • Member, Comparative and International Education Network, USYD


Conference presentations