Saturday, October 10, 2009

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Sri Lanka lies about 400 miles (645 kilometers) north of the equator. The country has a total land area of 65,610 square kilometers. About 74 percent of the population of Sri Lanka is of Sinhala descent. The largest minority groups are the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils, which together account for about 18 percent of the population. The remaining population includes the descendants of Moors (Arabs), Burghers (Dutch), Malays, and Veddas. The population of Sri Lanka (1991 estimate) was 17,240,000, yielding an estimated overall population density of 263 people per sq km . Sri Lanka is divided into nine provinces and 24 administrative districts. Each district is headed by an appointed district minister. Principal Cities Less than one-quarter of Sri Lanka's population lives in urban communities. Colombo had a population (1990 estimate) of 615,000. Most of the foreign trade of the island is routed through Colombo, and the city has been an important fuelling station for ships that pass through the Suez Canal. Buddhism, which was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC, is the prevailing faith. As practiced in Sri Lanka, Buddhism also exhibits elements of both Hindu and Islamic traditions. About 69 percent of the population is Buddhist, 15 percent is Hindu, 8 percent is Christian, and 8 percent is Muslim. The official language of Sri Lanka is Sinhala, spoken by more than 80 percent of the population. Tamil, a Dravidian language of southern India, is spoken by people living in the northern and eastern provinces. English, the official language of the country until 1957, is still widely used. In Sri Lanka schooling is compulsory for children from 5 to 15 years of age. Free education
to the university level is provided by the state. In the late 1980s, Sri Lanka had about 10,200 elementary and secondary schools, of which most were government institutions. The state schools were staffed by about 140,100 teachers and contained more than 3.8 million pupils. The University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Colombo, founded as the University of Ceylon in 1942 and renamed in 1978, is one of the country's major institutions of higher education. In the late 1980s more than 34,000 students were enrolled in the country's ten universities.

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