The first Institution for formal Technical education in Sri Lanka was established in the latter part of the year 1893. This Institution was known as the Government Technical School and was housed in a renovated coffee store situated at close proximity to the Ceylon Government Railway Terminal building at Maradana in Central Colombo. The Institution consisted, of a small workshop, laboratory, lecture room and a class room and the student enrolment of the first batch was only 25.
The Technical School later became the pioneering institution for science education in Sri Lanka. Prior to the establishment of the Ceylon Medical College, Chemistry, physics, Biology & Science, for medical students were conducted at Ceylon Technical College. Courses in Science for school teachers were also provided and they too became the pioneers of teaching Science in the general Education system.
In 1906 the name of the Technical school was changed to that of Ceylon Technical College. By this time the college had started supplying technically competent people and was providing skilled workers to government technical departments. Facilities to develop Technical Education in Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering fields and also in Telegraphy, Surveying, Chemistry and Physics were provided. Eventually, the science section of the Ceylon Technical College became the nucleus of the Department of Science of the Ceylon University College started in 1921.
The Ceylon Technical College was re-organized in 1933 and started preparing candidates for the external degrees in Engineering of the University of London. Until the Faculty of Engineering of University of Ceylon commenced in 1950, the Technical College continued to hold regular classes for the external degree of the University of London. The facilities at the Faculty of Engineering Workshop of the Ceylon Technical College were fully made use of, by the Faculty of Engineering from 1952 to 1960 until the faculty moved to its new premises at Peradeniya.
In 1908, the Ceylon Technical College started classes for commerce students and progressed over the years to become the centre for Management and Business Studies. Evening courses in Accounting at professional level were started in 1943 and degree level Full-Time Courses in Commerce was started in 1946. In 1951 a professional course in valuation was started. In addition, classes were also conducted to provide instructions for those taking up external examinations of the British professional institutes in the disciplines of Secretaryship, Transport & banking. Middle level courses in Accountancy, Marketing and Stenography were also provided.
In the year 1953 the Arts and Crafts section of the Ceylon Technical Colleges was transferred to a new department known as the Government College of Fine Arts. In 1960,the Full-time Technician courses were transferred to the newly established institute of Practical Technology at Katubedda. This institute was upgraded as Ceylon College of Technology in 1966, and it became the University of Moratuwa in the year 1972.
The first junior Technical School was established in Galle in 1957. This year was of significant importance for Technical Education because of the introduction of Sinhala medium courses. These courses were commenced with certificate courses in Shorthand, typewriting and Book keeping. By 1963 even the Diploma courses were being conducted in Sinhala medium.
Significant feature of the growth of Technical College system is that, 31 out of 32 Technical Institutes have established after the independence of Sri Lanka, in particular from 1956 to 1998.