The Overseas School of Colombo will be celebrating its sixtieth anniversary in September 2017. An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of the present, the memories of the past and the hopes of the future. It is apt therefore to look back at the journey that the school took on its way to become one of the premier international schools in Sri Lanka.

The ‘Colombo School for Overseas Children’, by which the school was called at the initial stages was opened on Monday 23 September 1957 with Mrs. O.D. Lodge as its first Head. The inception occurred with the closure of the old Royal Naval School. It was situated at the bottom of the Queen’s Street with the address 40/1, Queen’s Street, Colombo 1, with the telephone number 5177. It catered mainly to the children of Embassy staff and UN personnel. The term fees amounted to Rs 250/=. In 1961, the school leased the premises at no: 16, Dharmapala Mawatha which was then known as Turret Road, to house the students from Grade 5 upwards. The total student enrollment was about 150 with 20 teachers.


In 1967, due to the commencement of the building of a new hotel, The Intercontinental on the Fort site, both junior and senior schools were combined at Dharmapala Mawatha. In the same year, the school became a member of the International Schools’ Association in Geneva. In 1969, with the closure of the Hill School which catered to the needs of the up-country planters, due to the exodus of the British planting community in Sri Lanka, the two schools were amalgamated and the number of students increased to over 300. The Dharmapalamawatha location was not spacious enough to house increasing enrolment and therefore the school moved to the premises at no: 47, Muttiah Road, Colombo 2, where all sections of the school were accommodated.

The school which took up its new name as ‘Overseas Children’s School’ continued to grow in stature and performance and gradually the number of students increased to 588 by April 1982. As such, the primary school was moved to a new site at Coniston Place, Colombo 7. In the same year, the school was informed that the land was needed for plans to develop the property. In 1983, the Board of Directors of the school met the President of Sri Lanka to discuss a grant of a land for a new school building. Thereafter, a 99 year lease agreement was prepared for a site for a new school in a 5-acre extent at Fonsekawatte, Pelawatte, Kotte, which was the new administrative capital of the country. The foundation stone was laid at 11.32 am on 09 January 1984. Later that year, the senior and middle schools moved into the new campus, while the Primary School moved later at the beginning of the new academic year. In 1984, the school expanded its curriculum too, to include the International Baccalaureate.

On 29 July 1987, the day of the signing of the Indo-SL Peace Accord, the new school premises were attacked and set on fire and much of the contents were damaged. Almost all of the school records were destroyed because of the fire. However, the restoration work were carried out in an accelerated pace and the school reopened on schedule on 1st September 1987. A landmark achievement was the granting of the accreditation status from the European Council of International Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and schools in 1990. Meanwhile, the development of infrastructure too continued with the building of the new gymnasium in 1992, swimming pool in 1995, auditorium in 2005 and the state-of-the art sports facility in 2009. The school took up its new name ‘Overseas School of Colombo’ in 1996.


Today the school follows the International Baccalaureate fully with the Primary Years Program from grades 1 to 5, Middle Years Program from grades 6 to 10 and Diploma program in grades 11 and 12. The present student enrolment is about 400 with a very healthy teacher-student ratio of 1:9. The students represent 40 countries and aptly the school motto is ‘Unity in Diversity’. It has always harnessed its diversity as a big strength. Its mission is a commitment to guiding the community toward international and intercultural understanding and to develop the whole person as a responsible learner, striving for personal excellence within a culturally diverse environment. The school has also been offering scholarships to deserving Sri Lankan students to pursue their secondary education following the IB programmes. It is heartening to note that these students have done well in their academic courses and are continuing to shine in their chosen universities.
In line with the school’s vision of being a model of excellence in education through nurturing and empowering its community of learners to achieve global success, the present Head of the School Phil Joslin has identified four targets of excellence to be achieved. They are:

1. OSC shall provide a learning environment that promotes excellence according to the identified benchmarks.

2. OSC will be the school of choice for the international community and for the internationally minded local families.

3. OSC will monitor and maintain a balanced approach to the three core educational domains of Affective, Cognitive and Psychomotor learning.

4. OSC will continue to develop a forward looking technology program that promotes stability, consistency, and standardization in all areas of technology instruction, support, and infrastructure.

Albert Einstein said “The value of education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think”. The curriculum at OSC is geared towards critical thinking and developing the whole person. In addition to the academic subjects the students involve themselves in many other activities such as social service, sports and creative arts. Some of the service projects that the students are involved in are Rehabilitation Center for the Communication Impaired, Care for Paws, Deaf-hearing exchange, Hope for kids, Housing & Habitat, Recycling & sustainability and SOS Village interaction. Sports activities include Athletics, Swimming, Football, Badminton, Volleyball and Basketball. In addition there are whole lot of other activities such as robotics, wall climbing, cross stich, mine-craft, yearbook, chess, theatre, painting, singing and COMUN.

The Overseas School of Colombo is blessed with a green and spacious campus and over the years the school authorities have contributed immensely towards the development of its infrastructure and classroom facilities and to create an environment where all stakeholders feel safe, supported and respected. It is an environment where teachers and adults are excited and passionate about learning.

The anniversary celebrations will commence at 8.00 am on Friday 22 September with a special assembly and all alumni are invited to attend.
Nimal de Silva

The author joined the school as a faculty member in 1981 and left in 1995 to take up an appointment overseas. Later he rejoined in 2008. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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