Thilanka Seneviratne1, Kosala Somaratne2, Deelaka Bandara1, Vindya Alahakoon1, Dilan Bandara1, Randima Munasinghe1, Nabil Ilyas3, Thilini Subasingha4& P. V. R. Kumarasiri5

1Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; 2Base Hospital, Rikillagaskada, Sri Lanka; 3Teaching Hospital, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; 4Lady Ridgeway Hospital, Colombo, Sri Lanka; 5Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka


Introduction: English is the medium of instruction in the medical faculties in Sri Lanka, although the majority of the students who admit to the medical faculties completed their secondary school education with Sinhala as their first language. This disparity presents a potential barrier to their assimilation of knowledge in medical education.

Objective: To assess the medical students’ perception of the medium of instruction in medical education.

Method: The medical students of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, enrolled from 2013 to 2017, whose first language is Sinhala were included in the study. Perceptions about the medium of instruction in medical education were assessed through an anonymous self-administered questionnaire, which used a five-point Likert scale for responses.

Results: From the total of 837 medical students, 665 (79.5%) participants had studied the General Certificate of Education – Ordinary Level (GCE O/L) in Sinhala and 172 (20.5%) in English. Eighty-eight percent (87.8%) had obtained an “A” grade for English Language in the GCE O/L examination. Over half (53.4%) of students responded that if medical textbooks were available in Sinhala, it would have increased their understanding of medical concepts. Nearly two-thirds (61%) responded that they perceived their performance in clinical examinations would have improved if those were carried out in Sinhala.

Conclusion: The findings reveal the positive perception of students towards using their first language in medical education. Specifically, students feel that concepts of medicine would be better understood if medical textbooks were available in Sinhala and that they could have performed better if examinations were done in Sinhala, their first language.

Keywords:         Mother Tongue, Native Language, First Language, Sinhala, English, Medical Education

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