Sri Lanka is hailed internationally for its high standards of education despite rather modest levels of economic growth. Historically, much of this achievement was underpinned by economic revenues generated by the labours of the plantation community whose own achievements in education fell well below the national norm. In recent years, however, educational participation among this community has increased, Why and How? A day in the life of Vickneswari, the daughter of labourers in a tea plantation, provides the starting point for an analysis of educational progress among the plantation Tamil plantation community of Sri Lanka. The analysis is embedded within historical, political, social and economic relations which stretch beyond the confines of the plantation in which Vickneswari live - within a plural society, in which the political interests of estate people have gradually become more central to the mainstream politics of Sri Lanka and within a national and global economy in which plantation production has become less central and less profitable over time.