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I Par Descriptive Section


This country report provides a comprehensive review of the progress made in achieving the EFA goals in the Maldives since the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA) at Jomtien in 1990. The report looks at the problems and obstacles encountered in reaching the EFA goals and proposes strategies to be adopted by the year 2000. Further, it provides empirical data on various EFA activities/targets and analyses the data on the basis of the core EFA indicators. It is hoped that this report will help policy makers, planners and administrators both within and outside the government, to refocus attention on ‘basic education’ and to give a renewed momentum to the Education for All process.

This report has been prepared by the National EFA 2000 Assessment Group with assistance and advice from a number of parties, including technical assistance from a UNICEF-sponsored Consultant, Mr. D. A. Perera in February 1999.

The draft report prepared in February 1999 needed further revision. Mr. Qutub Khan (UNESCO, Bangkok) who visited the Maldives in September 1999, assisted the National EFA Group in revising the second draft. Professor Jandhyala Tilak (NIEPA, New Delhi), whose services were provided by UNESCO, further assistance in finalizing the report in October 1999.

To write the report, the National EFA 2000 Assessment Group and the external consultants drew on the following sources:

The report is structured into 4 main sections:

Section I: Education and Socio-Economic Background.

Section II: EFA Status and Trends

Section III: Problems and Issues.

Section IV: Policy Directions for the Future

Section I describe key social, economic and demographic elements with which basic education relates, by which its form is determined and on which it itself has an impact. This section gives a general background to the education system and highlights the major organisational and structural features of the various levels and types of the present education system in the national context of EFA.

Section II assesses the EFA status and progress of Basic Education since 1990. It highlights trends and progress in access and participation, internal and external efficiency, availability of physical facilities, teachers and teaching/learning materials, and financial commitments to education. This section also assesses the efforts initiated towards resource mobilization in support for EFA in both the formal and non-formal education systems.

Section III discusses the problems and issues faced in achieving EFA related national goals and objectives. It discusses both quantitative and qualitative issues and problems for the various levels and types of education, based on a variety of empirical evidence.

Section IV identifies those targets and strategies that may be needed to draw up a National Plan of Action for the future.

The comprehensiveness of any education sector review depends to a large extent upon the availability and appropriateness of the database and the willingness of educational administrators and practitioners to share their expertise and insights. This report is limited, first, due to unavailability on a variety of aspects for the whole reporting period. For instance, population distribution by single year age groups is lacking and therefore it is not possible to calculate the gross enrollment ratios for most of the years under study. Furthermore, the national accounting system does not provide disaggregated figures on public expenditures by levels and types of education. While the need for such accounting has been recognised, systems are not yet in place. Thus, the available data does not give a clear indication of the government expenditure on basic education. Some tentative estimates have been made here. There are some more limitations and they are mentioned at appropriate places.

On the whole, the attempt here is to present a comprehensive idea of the recent trend and current status with regard to EFA in the Republic of Maldives.


The National EFA Co-ordinator wishes to acknowledge the considerable assistance and co-operation received in the preparation of the report from the several experts provided through UNICEF and UNESCO.

In particular he would like to thank Mr. D.A Perera, Mr. Qutub Khan and Prof. Jandhyala B.G. Tilak for their valuable advice, information, comments and support extended us on behalf of UNESCO and the South Asia and West Asia Regional Advisory group consulted for EFA: 2000 Assessment. The National Assessment Group wishes to express their deep gratitude to the Hon. Minister of Education Dr. Mohamed Latheef for the continuous support and valuable advice extended to them during the process of compiling this report. The National Assessment Group also thank the Deputy Minister of Education Mr. Abdul Hameed Abdul Hakeem for his invaluable contribution and comments which facilitated the timely completion of this report. Furthermore, the co-ordinator would like to thank his fellow EFA Assessment group colleagues for their inputs, comments, support, and the pleasure of having worked with them.

Part I

Education and Socio-Economic Background

Education and training system in a society must be analysed in terms of external and internal environment. Focusing on efforts to solve educational problems alone is not sufficient. It is important to look at relationships between educational activities and social and cultural traditions of the population served, local political realities, trends in economic growth, and needs of skilled manpower.

1.1 Geographical Hiostircal and Political Setting

The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago of 1190 coral islands situated in the Indian Ocean, approximately 670 kilometres south west of Sri Lanka (Figure 1). The archipelago covers about 90,000 square kilometres of ocean but the land area is limited to less than 300 square kilometres. The islands are grouped into 24 natural atolls, which for purposes of administration are grouped into 19 units also called "atolls". . The islands of Maldives are small, averaging 16 hectares among those surveyed. Only 3 islands have a land area greater than 3 sq. Km and 33 islands have a land area in excess of 1 square Km. All islands are low-lying with none having an elevation above sea level in excess of three metres. The climate is tropical and humid with only limited monsoonal variations. The average annual temperature is approximately 28o C and the average annual rainfall is about 1520 mm. Of the total 1,200 only about 200 are inhabited. The coral reefs around some of the islands are such that it is only a small boat that may reach an island. Only 33 of the inhabited islands have a land area of more than 1 67 islands have a population less than 500. Only 30% of the islands have a population of more than 1,000.

It is believed that Maldives was originally settled by the Aryan immigrants from India and/or Sri Lanka in the 4th or 5th century BC. Islam has been the official state religion in the Maldives since the middle of the 12th century and the present population is virtually 100% Sunni Muslim. The national language is Dhivehi that has affinities with several languages in India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

The general context for development in the Maldives includes a tradition of political stability and cultural homogeneity in terms of a common history, language (Dhivehi) and religion (Islam). The Portuguese (from Goa) ruled Maldives for 17 years in the sixteenth century. The country was a British protectorate from 1887 until full independence was gained in 1965. The relative freedom from domination of foreign powers in the country's history is a key factor in the survival of an education system that is unique to the Maldives.

The government is headed by the President of the Republic who is elected every 5 years. The Citizen’s Majlis is the country’s legislative assembly consisting of 48 members, 40 of whom represent constituencies and 8 of whom are appointed by the President.

1.2 Demographic Trends and Related Social Changes

With an estimated total population of 259 thousand (1997), the Maldives is classified as a developing country with GNP per capita of US $ 1180 (1997). The Maldives has a young population that is growing relatively fast. The gross rate of population increase is 2.75% (census 1995) falling from about 3.2% over the previous decade. The population grew from approximately 96,000 in 1965 to almost 260,000 in 1995. By international standards the population growth rate of 2.8% is relatively high, reflecting both a decline in the mortality rate and a relatively high fertility rate. Continuing rapid population growth that is among the highest in the world is a major problem. If the rate of growth in population is not reduced, population will double over the next 20 years, severely straining the natural resource base, diluting the impact of economic growth on per capita incomes and savings and investment, and increasing the already burgeoning demand for social services. The implications of a rapidly growing population for the education sector are manifested through increased enrolment and demand for more school buildings, teachers and educational material. A significant demographic feature in the Maldives is that the population is very young - close to a third of the population is in school and demand for education is strong and rising. The increasing population density, especially in the capital, Male’ (where 25.5% of the total live) is a matter of concern. According to the 1995 census, 17.3% of the population are under 5 years of age and 46.5% under 15 years of age. Thus there is a high dependency ratio (the ratio of total population to working age population) which poses serious challenges to development efforts, including the provision of education for the young. The sex ratio (males per 100 females) according to the 1995 census is 104. Although the population to be served is still small in absolute numbers, the ease of reaching a small population is set-off by its geographical dispersion.

Potential for marginalisation of youth in the near future looms large to the emergence of a significant proportion of youth in society. Unless appropriate steps (including the provision of further education and training) are taken, unemployed youth with no access to jobs, housing or training may crowd Male' and the more populated islands.

Maldivian society also faces emerging social challenges and problems, though on a limited scale, of drug abuse, HIVIAIDS, increased rate of crime and violence, dangers posed by religious fanaticism / Islamic fundamentalists, and the invasion of alien and negative values. Growth of these problems could shred the social fabric of a unified and homogeneous society that has lived together in peace and harmony for thousands of years. While many factors responsible for these problems are beyond its scope, the education system can play a major role especially through various forms of preventive education, values education, education for tolerance and through non-formal and informal education.

A looming conflict in what is now heralded as the "information age" pertains to the growing role of the media as an agent of socialisation. For some students, schooling is being marginalized as they gather more and more of their knowledge, attitudes and values from watching television programmes and from other forms of mass media. It appears that the mass media may soon overtake the school and home as the most influential sources on the mind and character of the child. If the school and homes fail to promote adequate dialogue with these young people, an empty space is left into which the mass media will move. The conflict is occurring due to the differing aims of those on two sides of the argument: media production for entertainment searching for markets; education continuing on its chosen path as though the media did not exist. Co-operation between the two is necessary and possible. Through such co-operation the powerful tools of the media should be better utilized to enhance learning in schools.

1.3 The Economy

Maldives has shown impressive economic growth in the past 15 years. The real GDP, through the expansion of mainly fisheries and tourism and associated services, grew by nearly 9 per cent per year during the 1980s. Growth slowed to an average annual rate of 8.3 per cent during the period 1990-1995. Economic growth has produced significant improvements in the standard of living despite growth in population of 2.8% in the last five years. Tourism and fisheries constitute the principal economic base of the country. Changes in the last two decades have seen less reliance on the primary sectors and more on tertiary sectors such as tourism and services. This has led to the need for a greater output of skilled manpower that has serious implications for the development of secondary and post-secondary education. In 1997 tourism and fisheries jointly contributed 30 per cent to the GDP. In case of fisheries, limited research is being undertaken and much more need to be done to estimate available stocks of ocean and reef fish and to understand their migratory and biological behaviour with a view to harvesting these valuable resources to the fullest extent and on a sustainable basis for the benefit of future generations. Among the formidable challenges posed by these changes in the fishing industry are those pertaining to education and training. The skill level required of those engaged in the industry and in ancillary activities has increased considerably and will increase further as another generation of fishing vessels is developed. A supply of fishermen familiar with modern fishing techniques, of engineers specialized in diesel engines and in refrigeration techniques, of factory workers familiar with modern technologies including quality control will be required. A serious human resource constraint, given the importance of the fisheries sector in the national economy, is the dearth of qualified managers, administrators, marine scientists and biologists, adequately trained technicians, research assistants and other qualified middle level staff. Already this shortage in skilled manpower is being partly supplied by expatriate labour. In terms of its contribution to the GDP (.19.1 per cent in 1997) tourism is now the most important sector of the economy having overtaken the fishing industry. Less reliance on the primary sectors and more on a tertiary sector such as tourism call for a labour force with higher levels of education and training to staff the tourism sector. The challenge, facing the education and training system of the country to supply a sufficient number of skilled workers to this sector is indicated by the large number of expatriates (6,574 in 1995) employed in the tourism industry. There is potential for Maldives to develop service industries in addition to tourism. The country's time zone is strategically placed in relation to the Indian subcontinent, and off shore banking and financial services could be developed.

Maldives is a small dependent economy, easily affected by global developments, especially those related to the flow of tourists and the price of tuna. Recent experience has underlined the importance of the need to quickly adjust or to develop new policies to mitigate the consequences of adverse world market developments or to seize new opportunities as they arise. Such adjustments often have educational and training implications. The challenge posed by changes and potential in fisheries and service industries call for an increased output of persons with higher levels of schooling and training. The propensity and maintenance of a society which the fishing and service industries help support, create structures demanding higher levels of educational qualification.

1.4 Education

The large number of widely dispersed, small, island populations greatly increase the cost of providing educational services and the necessary infrastructure. A town or city with a population of 250 thousand could be serviced by a single university, a few secondary schools and a limited number of primary school. A similar provision in the Maldives with its population scattered over 200 islands would not be practical. The inherent constraints imposed by distant and small populations adversely affect the provision of infrastructure facilities and services. The inability to achieve even minimum economies of scale makes uneconomic the operation of not only small scale economic activities but also secondary schools, post secondary institutions and institutions of higher learning. Transport within the Maldives is expensive. It is costly because of the distances involved, because of the small amounts of goods entering into trade and the small number of people wishing to travel which makes scheduled transport service uneconomic and also because coral reefs and the absence / lack of harbour facilities often make the loading and unloading of merchandise difficult. Development is seriously constrained by lack of qualified manpower. While the country has a high literacy rate and has nearly universalised primary education, there is an acute shortage of people whose educational attainment is above the basic levels of literacy and numeracy. Unless this constraint is overcome Maldives will remain dependent upon the use of expatriate labour.

The Maldives has had a long history of semi-formal religious based education for the masses and this is reflected in the continued high social demand for modern-day education. The traditional system consisted of children gathering in homes called ‘edhuruge’ to learn the Holy Quran, Dhivehi language, and the Arabic script and to learn to recite the Noble Quan. The first challenge to this traditional system occurred in 1927 with the establishment of the first government school in Male’. This school was first limited to the education of boys but later in 1944 a section was opened for girls and young women. Instruction in this school covered Dhivehi language, Islam, Arabic and Arithmetic. Under the leadership of the President of the nation’s First Republic, significant educational development took place in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. By 1945 each inhabited island had a traditional school (maktab) providing instruction at the lower primary level.

A dramatic change in the education system occurred in 1960 when the government introduced two English medium schools in Male’ as a part of a conscious effort to prepare its citizens to meet the increasing development needs of the nation. However, this resulted in two distinct forms of education systems existing side by side and as a result, the traditional system was relegated to a second-level status. But until recently government schooling has been concentrated mainly in Male’.

The most recent historic development in education in the Maldives occurred in 1978, with the decision to move to a unified national system of education and to promote a more equitable distribution of facilities and resources. The policy focus was on providing Universal Basic Education for All and thus the strategies involved the formulation of a unified curriculum for Grades 1-7, improvement of teacher training and the establishment and upgrading of new schools in the atolls. Two government schools (one Atoll Education Centre (AEC) and one Atoll School (AS) were established in each atoll and today these schools represent the availability of high quality basic education for the children in their locales.

Recent educational development of the country in characterized by rapid increase in enrollment and number of educational institutions. During this period, the provision of basic education remained the main priority of the sector for a number of years. In this respect, many schools have been newly constructed, a national curriculum has been introduced, textbooks and teacher guides have been developed for all the basic education grades (grades 1-7).

School enrolment has risen rapidly (from 15,000 in 1978 to 101,081 in 1999) and education's share of total Government expenditure in the last 5 years has been an annual average of 11.4 per cent. Access to primary education (grades 1-5) has been universalised. Present plans for education emphasise the universalisation of 7 years of basic education, expansion of secondary education, strengthening educational management information system, increasing curricular relevance, establishing national capacity for secondary teacher education and post- secondary education and the strengthening of partnerships with parents and the community to support educational expansion and development. Adult literacy rate is over 98%.

1.5 Disparity between the capital island and the Outer Atolls

The disproportionate growth of Male', the capital, relative to the other atolls is an issue of major concern. Between 1974 and 1990 Male's share of the population increased from 13 to 26 percent, due primarily to internal migration from the atolls supplemented by the employment of expatriates. Inward migrants are estimated to be 48 per cent of Male' population. The relatively better employment, education and health care facilities are the major reasons for this drift to Male'. Male's education facilities are recognised as a major cause of internal migration. Until recently the only secondary education provision was limited to Male'. In 1989, 42 per cent of enrolment in schools in Male' were atoll children. In-55 per cent of these cases, the parents had also come to Male', many being employed by the Government. The remaining 45 per cent stayed with relatives or friends. Male' has no residential school facilities. The superior quantity and quality of education in Male' compared with the atolls is a major economic, social and equity issue. The cause and impact of this disproportionate division of educational opportunities extend beyond the education sector and relate to other economic and social policies.

1.6 Organization of the Ministry of Education (MOE)

The Ministry of Education is responsible for education of its citizens in the Republic. Specifically it is responsible for provision and supervision of state education, formulation of education policy and design of the curriculum content, development of syllabi and preparing teaching materials, training teachers, registering and supervising educational institutions and computing education statistics and holding examinations and awarding certificates

The MOE works directly under the president of the Republic. The Minister of Education is assisted by a Deputy Minister. He receives policy advice from the National Education Council and the Advisory committee on basic Education. The Figure 2 gives further details.

Figure: 2

1.7 Structure of the Education System in the Maldives

The primary education system is a 5-year cycle which children in the Maldives are expected to begin at age 6. This is followed by the 6th and 7th year of education which is referred to as the "middle school" or "extended primary" cycle. In Male’, this primary - middle school cycle is preceded by a 2 year cycle of pre-primary education (lower kindergarten and upper kindergarten years). In the other atolls this form of pre-primary education is now becoming common, especially in highly populated islands. Thus the formal grade cycle of 1-5 (primary level) and 6-7 (middle school level) together make up what the Ministry of Education (MOE) calls the basic education cycle. Secondary education in the Maldives consists of Grades 8-10 (lower secondary) and 11-12 (upper secondary). The structure of the system is shown in the Figure 3.

Schooling is provided by government, community and private sectors. The administration of the atoll community schools is the responsibility of the Island Chief. In 1998, community schools provided 43 percent of places in the nation as a whole and 48 percent in the atolls but most of this provision is at the primary level. The proportion of government places increases by level with the government providing most of lower and almost all upper secondary schooling. The Government’s intention is to provide basic education (Grades 1-7) for all by the year 2000. Net enrolment in Grades 1-5 is over 90% but the gross enrolment ratios are inflated by high rates of retention in the last years of primary (Grade 5) and extended primary (Grade 7) levels. Not all children on the islands currently have access to schools with grade 7. Lower Secondary, once the monopoly of Male’ institutions, is now being extended to the atolls through the gradual addition of Grade 8-10, classes in some Atoll Education Centres (AEC’s) and Atoll Schools (AS’s) and most dramatically by the creation of the two regional secondary schools, one in the north and one in the south, while the upper secondary education remains limited to the Science Education Centre. Though a small programme at present, it is anticipated that upper secondary education will soon experience the increasing social demand pressures for greater access already evident at the lower secondary level.

Figure not available)

EFA decision making and management

With regard to EFA decision making and management, no special mechanisms were felt necessary since the country was already committed to universalizing basic education and improving the quality of the provision. The country developed Three-year National Plans, the latest one being for the years 1997 - 99. The planning process is initiated by the President who appoints an Advisory Committee, consisting of selected Ministers, to formulate the broad policy objectives for the three year plan in the context of an accepted vision for the country’s development. The different Ministries and Departments which work directly under the President are then called upon to submit their plans within the given policy framework. The plans are again scrutinized by the Advisory Council that gives the approval to continue the plan work. The final output of this process is a National Development Plan that indicates the specific programmes, projects and activities and which Ministries and Departments have the primary responsibility for implementation of the specific activities.

While education is included under the social sector in the Three-Year National Development Plans, the Ministry of Education has developed a Ten-Year Master Plan for Education for the period 1996 - 2005. The earlier Master Plan covered the period 1985 - 1995. Education sector review, the education policy review and several other studies were conducted as a pre-requisite for the formulation of the current Master Plan.

Specially for the purpose of EFA: 2000 Assessment, a national core group was constituted, which assumed the responsibility of preparing the country report based on ‘General’ and ‘Technical’ Guidelines provided by the UNESCO.


    1. Goals, targets and strategies

2.1.1 Introduction

Traditionally Maldivians have placed a high priority on education. Formal schools, as understood now, were started in the country long before. The country had an indigenous system, one component of it being Island Community Schools. These schools have been established and managed by the Island communities. Funds are provided by the community members through people’s accounts or through ad hoc fund raising. Some of these schools also receive government grants. Community contributions also come in the form of voluntary labour for construction, part time or full time teachers and various donations in cash and kind. Some of these schools charge fees, some don’t, or some of those pupils who have the capacity to pay fees pay the fees, others don’t. No one is denied education in these schools if he cannot pay fees.

With the introduction of formal schools in Male and later in the atolls, the national policy has been to continue to utilise the Island Community Schools with suitable modifications and adaptations while at the same time introducing new formal schools. (see also Annex 17 for more information on Community Schools).

The indigenous system was under the direct control of family and the community. The payment of certain charges by the family, such as, a share of the fish catch for education was an accepted feature. Even today the community contributes significantly for the maintenance of these schools. However, since the introduction of the formal school system under which the government schools provided free education, many communities started relying on the government schools for educating their children.

The Maldivian formal school system consists of Government schools, Community schools and Private schools.

2.1.2 Early Childhood Care and Development

The Republic of Maldives attaches importance to early childhood care and development of children. Prior to the advent of modern day pre-schools, the traditional Edhuruge discharged this function. Edhuruge is a home-based educational service provided by respected members in the community. In general it is free. Family members help the teacher. Gifts may be given. Even where a symbolic small fee is charged, no records are kept of those who are unable to pay. Attendance in Edhuruge is flexible. Children may attend short sessions three times a day at times convenient to

them and the teacher. The age of the children for admission ranges between 3 – 15 years. Because of this wide range, a child to child approach is generally adopted with the older children assisting the younger. Each child is assigned work according to his/her own ability. Use of indigenous learning materials (e.g. a sand tray) is a unique feature. While the immediate function of the Edhuruge is to help children read the Holy Qur’an properly, and to develop a love for the Qur’an and religion, the Edhuruge is more than a Qur’anic school. The teaching of literacy and numeracy is also an important component of the Edhuruge and it leaves a powerful impact on the literacy level of the nation.

Among the weaknesses of the Edhuruge are the limitations of the learning experiences, too much emphasis on rote learning, the inadequacy of the teachers, the limited space and inadequacy of furniture and lack of stationery and learning materials. Despite the introduction of modern types of schooling the Edhuruge still survives and still provides the first formal learning for more than half the population in the country. The National Development Plan 1994 – 1996 has identified areas of intervention within a policy of "maintaining its uniqueness as a voluntary community education service". It is also part of the government strategy to, "encourage home-based and community-based approaches to early childhood development". The Edhuruge in the Maldivian society holds a special and historical place that has stood the test of time. …The strengths of the Edhuruge far outweigh its weaknesses and any attempt to provide assistance must be made entirely on the felt needs of each individual Edhuruge, its teachers and the community it serves."

Pre-schools provide education at the lower and upper kindergarten sub-levels. Currently there are 137 Pre-primary schools in the country, with an enrolment of more than 12 thousand children. Community and private schools constitute in bulk. The pre-primary schools are administered entirely by the private sector. However, the government organises and provides teachers training and some subventions primarily in the form of teachers’ salaries. There is a increasing demand from the atolls for the establishment of pre-schools at a wider scale. The government strategy is, "however, to strengthen the programme of assistance to traditional pre-school centres to promote and develop early childhood care and education".

According to the fourth National Plan (1993-1996), the government intends to:

On the whole, it may be mentioned that pre-primary education is in the process of evolving from an elite alternative, primarily restricted to Male’, to more commonly available opportunity for all the smallest populated islands. Quality distinctions between Male’ and the atolls are significant, and substantial differences exist between the best and worst pre-school programmes in most of the atolls. Nevertheless, substantial improvements have been made in both the quality and the broader availability of pre-primary education.

2.1.3 Primary Education: Universal access and completion

With the advent of the World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien in 1990, the concept of an "expanded vision of basic education" had had significant impact on the national education policy and this is reflected in several plan and policy documents of the Republic, such as: (a) the Education and Human Resource Development Plan (1985 – 1995), (b) the Second National Development Plan (1988 – 1990), and (c) the recently formulated Framework For Action for Meeting the Basic Learning Needs will constitute sectoral objectives for the Third National Development Plan (1991–1993).

To briefly note, the following major objectives are listed in the documents:

  1. Provide universal primary education (grades 1 – 5 by 1995);
  2. Provide extended universal primary education (grades 6 – 7 by 2000);
  3. Make education more relevant to the local environment;
  4. Increase trained and trainable manpower for national development; and
  5. Improve quality in education while sustaining quantitative growth.

The concept of a seven-year basic education for all since then has influenced Maldivian policy and educational planning.

The high priority given to basic education is clear from the following statement in the Fifth National Development Plan:

Highest priority will be placed on ensuring that all children in all locations enter school and complete a basic learning cycle of 7 years by the year 2000.

The objective was reiterated by the President of Maldives in his annual Presidential Address at the opening of the Citizen’s Majlis (Parliament) in February 1999.

Specifically the following are the major strategies and policies identified for the fulfillment of the objectives of the government for the basic education sector:

It is felt that each of these objectives, and their strategies and policies, will remain relevant for the near future particularly during the ten year period of the Master Plan. Even if universal basic education is achieved by the year 2000, issues of quality and equity will remain. The Master Plan will emphasize the facilities and personnel requirements necessary to achieve the quantitative components of the universalization goals. Equity of access will be improved as atoll schools and the schools attended by the less advantaged students in Male’ more closely approach the quality of Maldives’ best schools.

To provide special education and appropriate vocational skills for children with special educational needs, the Fifth National Development Plan (1997-1999) has identified the following objectives:

2.1.4 Improvement in learning achievement

With the introduction of reforms in the national curriculum since 1984, students in each grade were required to achieve certain specified learning standards in each of the subject. While no quantitative targets were set, teachers were required to ensure that students attain the objectives of the national curriculum. A standardized test is administered at the end of grade 7 to select children to grade 8 in atoll schools. This test could be considered as a proxy indicator of the achievement levels of the students at that level.

Recently, the Ministry of Education has made grade 1 teachers accountable for the acquisition of a certain standard of literacy in Dhivehi by all children-leaving grades 1, other than those with specific learning disabilities. The Ministry of Education has also conducted a test to measure the achievements of children completing grade 4 in selected subjects. Standardized tests have been conducted in both Male and the atolls.

2.1.5 Non-Formal Education

There are youth and adults who have not been able to profit from the formal education system. But opportunities are provided to them through non-formal education. Provision is made for youth and adults who could not attend formal schools, to complete the extended basic education at an accelerated rate. Under the Condensed Education Programme (CEP) being implemented by the Non-formal Education Centre (NFEC), out-of-school youth and people beyond the school age can complete the Grades 1 – 7 in three years corresponding approximately to Grades 1-3, 4-5 and 6-7 respectively. The course is usually offered at an Atoll Education Centre and is usually taught by primary teachers in the evenings. The NFEC has produced books and curriculum materials for the CEP for which the demand is quite high. The CEP serves a unique role in preparing atoll students for teacher training, secondary education and for vocational training opportunities.

Apart from the programme mentioned above, the NFEC conducts courses in Thaana and Arabic Calligraphy, Dhivehi and Thaana typing at the Centre in Male. In addition, several short skills development courses are conducted every year in the atolls in collaboration with Atoll Education Centres, atoll schools and community-based NGOs. Courses conducted include: Embroidery and Sewing, First Aid, Carpentry, Undertakers Course, Calligraphy and Lettering. The NFEC also runs short courses on pre-school teaching especially for atoll personnel who are engaged in pre-school education. Since the inception of this course in 1990, 432 people have been trained of whom 381 are women. The NFEC also publishes a monthly magazine, "Community News" which is distributed free to all the islands. This was started in 1978 and has since been carried out without a break. It carries articles on a wide range of topics of interest for the youth and adults.

There are several institutions in Male’ which, among their other more formal courses, cater to the needs of youth and adults with a basic education or sometimes only with functional literacy skills. The Institute of Health Science conducts a 6-month course for Family Health Workers where the entry qualification is grade 7. However, the Family Health Workers are due to be replaced by Community Health Workers for whom the entry qualification is grade 10.

The Institute of Hotel and Catering Services runs several short courses ranging from

6 days to 4 months in such areas as Commercial Cookery, House-keeping Skills, Pastry Work, Health Safety and Hygiene. There are altogether 11 such courses where the only entry qualification asked for is "experience".

The Maldivian Institute of Technical Education conducts a variety of 1-year courses in areas such as marine and automobile engineering, building construction, electronics, welding and refrigeration where the entry qualification is grade 7. They also have the

following short courses where the entry qualification is "functional literacy": Safe usage and basic maintenance of domestic electrical appliances (16 days); Domestic electrical installation and maintenance (28 days); Domestic plumbing (21 days); Fibre craft (21 days); Power generator maintenance (21 days)

Educational programmes particularly in the fields of population and health education have been the regular features of the non-formal education system. Population education programmes have been targeted at students of primary and secondary schools, out-of-school youth, teachers and community leaders and adults. Where school children are concerned, the strategy is the integration of population education into Environmental Studies (at Primary level), Social Studies (at middle school level) and Dhivehi language and Islamic Studies (at secondary level) textbooks. The integration of family education concepts into the school and teacher training curriculum and emphasizing parent education in the training of teachers were also a part of the strategy.

2.1.6 School Health Programme:

The Ministry of Education and Health jointly launch the following activities in schools as a part of school health programme: Medical screening of children and follow-up, Parental Health Education Programme; and Provision of Health Information for the Teachers. This programme is now operational in 105 schools out of 204. Under this programme 118 teachers have been identified as School Health Focal Points and have been provided adequate in-service training. The NFEC publishes an annual magazine, "Holhu Ashi" which concentrates on essential topics that are directly related to community development. Other avenues are made available to individuals and families through the extension work of other Ministries and, in particular, by The Voice of Maldives and TV Maldives. The Society for Health Education (SHE) is an organization started in 1988 by a group of Maldivian women. It is an Associate Member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The current thrusts of its activities are on health education, Thalassaemia family planning and counseling. The services of SHE have been extended to the capital and 71 islands in 11 atolls. The Foundation for the Advancement of Self Help in Attaining Needs (FASHAN) is a non-governmental organization that started in 1988. This organization focuses on community development on drug abuse prevention, gender sensitization and other related social issues. The primary objective of the organization is to work in partnership with island based organizations in mainstreaming the Maldivian women folk into socio-economic development of the country, addressing issues of illegal drugs and working to contain the spread of AIDS through awareness, education and counseling.

2.2 EFA: Plan of action

The Educational and Human Resource Development Plan 1985 – 1995 stated explicitly the intention of the Maldives to provide universal basic education and extend it to a period of seven years. Hence no particular need was felt to adopt a special strategy or plan of action. The normal policy reviews and planning exercises were already in place and addressing the issues and were considered adequate to meet the requirements of the World Declaration on Education for All. Among the goals which have been listed in this Plan are the following:

To promote social justice and equity by ensuring universal primary education and equal educational opportunity for all citizens.

To promote in individuals a spirit of independence and self-reliance such that they may seek to enhance the quality of life by seeking ways and means of improving their own health, nutrition and well-being.

To provide life-long education for all citizens so that each individual becomes a self-learner and continues to apply his intellectual capacity; technical skills and learn to cope with new technologies and discoveries and develop an appreciation and understanding of changes now occurring in the social and economic life in Maldives.

Plan of action for the education sector includes the

    1. Development of a unified national basic and extended basic system combined and harmonized with literacy and adult education;
    2. Development of infrastructure support for education: curriculum development, teacher training, textbook and material production, physical upgrading of schools, and non-formal education programmes including education radio and television;
    3. Expansion of the capacity of Atoll Education Centres (AECs) and Atoll Primary Schools (APSs) to accommodate grades 1 to 7;
    4. Enlargement of the capacity and upgrade the quality and relevance of private and community schools;
    5. Utilization of all means of non-formal and formal education to achieve universal basic and extended basic education in a cost-effective manner;
    6. Pursuing of a financial policy which promotes a more equitable distribution of basic education opportunities;
    7. Encouragement and promotion of the expansion of early childhood care and education;
    8. Sustenance of the high literacy rate by conducting functional literacy programmes for new literates.
    9. Expansion and diversification of non-formal education programmes to develop essential skills required by youth and adults, and
    10. Strengthening of the Educational Media Section of the Educational Development Centre (EDC) to develop effective programmes to supplement and enhance formal and non-formal education.

These specific strategies have, by and large, been followed since then. The high priority placed on education by the Government and the public has facilitated the implementation of these strategies. This is reflected in the support extended by the communities to establish formal schooling. The increasing assistance from the government, utilizing foreign assistance as well, has led to a quantitative and qualitative improvements in the physical infrastructure thus enabling the enrollment of more pupils in better schools. Government has also provided more and better teachers to the atolls though much remains to be done to reduce the regional imbalances.

2.3 Co-operation in EFA

The bulk of the education services are financed by the government of Maldives mainly by the Ministry of Education. However, some specific education programmes and activities services are provided and financed by other ministries, particularly the Ministry of Health.

The Edhuruges are financed and maintained exclusively by the community. In the island these communities contribute in both kind and labour in setting up new schools and maintaining the existing ones. On occasions communities have even supported an expatriate teacher. Communities have also established and maintain their own private schools, which follow the national curriculum. The government extends support to these private schools.

In public primary schools, education is free. However, parents have to bear the costs of textbooks and school uniforms. The practice in the Community schools is flexible.

While the Maldives had clearly defined goals from the 80s, it has profited greatly from the World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien in 1990 and the follow-up actions, which have been undertaken by UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank. The conviction that there is international support for the goals the Maldives had set itself was a great source of encouragement which has been translated in real terms into the assistance the Maldives has since received from these agencies. The expanded vision of basic education expounded at the Conference has led the Maldives to develop further its own vision in this respect. The emphasis on learning achievement, at a time when the Maldives was grappling with the problem of serving the remote and widely dispersed island populations, was a timely reminder that increasing access has to be accompanied by improved quality of teaching/learning. This still remains an issue as would be evident from the data submitted in the sequel. But the issue is being addressed.

Both bilateral and multilateral international organizations have supported the Ministry of Education, particularly in relation to basic education. Of particular reference among them include multilateral organizations such as UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, the World Bank, IDB, ADB, UNCDF and ILO. Bilateral assistance flows from countries such as Federal Republic of Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Brunei, Egypt, Malaysia, India, Qatar, Libya, Pakistan and Kuwait.

Available data for the first few years in the 1990s reveals that donor contributions to primary education are likely to increase.

Figure 4: Donor Contributions to Primary Education (000 US$)

Source: Windham, Douglas M. Education Sector Review: Republic of Maldives. 1991, Male’, Maldives.

2.4 Investments in EFA since 1990

Parental and Government Expenditure on Education

The expenditure on educational services at the pre-primary, primary, and extended primary levels are borne chiefly by the Government and parents. While the community, Ward, and private schools, as their names indicate, were established and, in some cases, the school's construction financed by community members, Ward leaders, or private individuals, they are now almost fully dependent on Government (community) or Government and fees (Ward and private).

At the pre-primary level, relative Governmental and parental burdens vary with the location of the school. Government schools do not provide preschool classes but Government currently supplies trained teachers and special subsidies to the Ward and private pre-schools in Male’. Outside of Male’, Government subvention of preschool is limited to the occasional provision of a workshop for preschool teachers. Parental contributions to pre-schools thus consist of fees and the purchase of uniforms and supplies.

The distribution of financial burdens between Government and parents is somewhat complex at the primary and extended primary levels because of the many different types of schools involved and the differences between Male’ and the islands. Government plays a major role in capital investments. Currently, almost all schools in Male’ enjoy facilities either constructed or re- constructed, furnished, and equipped by Government. The exceptions are some of the older Ward and private schools that apparently are waiting their turn for reconstruction. In the atolls, Government, with donor assistance, continues to attempt to upgrade community school facilities to an adequate level.

Government per-student support for annual operating costs varies with type of school. In general, the recurrent budgets of Government schools in Male’ and the atolls are met totally by Government. All three types of non-Government school receive two types of operating aid. The first type consists of a cash subsidy. The cash subsidies, with one exception, depend on enrolments and age of institution and there are separate formulae for Ward and communities schools, on one hand, and private schools, on the other. The priority schools, 20 large community schools, are the exception. These schools receive funds by budget category on the basis of a fixed amount per student. The cash subsidies are intended to defray overhead expenses and assist with the purchase of supplies, library books, and other educational materials.

The second and much more significant source of subsidy to non-Government schools is the secondment of teachers. Ward and private schools are allocated twenty percent of the teachers needed to operate class sizes of 30 while Government attempts to supply one teacher for every class of 35 in island schools.

Parents of children at the grade 1 to 7 level also make substantial sacrifices for and investments in schooling. Parents' indirect costs may involve moving their entire households to Male’ to register their children in Government or Ward schools where they believe their children will have a better chance for admission to subsequent levels of schooling or sending their children away from home at an early age. Their direct costs include uniforms, books and supplies, tuition, which is almost universal in Male’ and on the increase elsewhere, as well as fees if the school is a private or Ward school. Ward and private schools, in contrast to Government schools, charge fees, although the fees structures must be approved by Government. Current fees vary between Rf. 50 and Rf. 175 per month depending on grade level. Except for a few, Community schools, in contrast to their urban counterpart, the Ward school, do not charge fees and for the most part depend totally on Government for their operating funds.

Table 1: Estimates of parental investments in Education (1995)



(in Rfs)










Textbooks and stationery





80-100/month per subject

Ward School Fees

50 – 75/month

Private School Fees

50 – 110/month

Source: Windham, Douglas M. Education Sector Review: Republic of Maldives. 1991, Male’, Maldives.

Although a large majority of parents fund the direct costs of schooling affordable there are a few, (especially those with large families) who cannot afford it. Such parents could apply for assistance from the MOE where there is a mechanism for providing textbooks and uniforms from the Education fund operated by the MOE. For this the applications are studied case by case and in addition endorsements or verifications from the respective schools. Island communities have also from time to time sponsored a teacher for training or hired an expatriate teacher for the school but such activities are difficult to sustain because of the less stable or less adequate family incomes in the islands.

The national accounting system does not provide the disaggregate figures on public expenditure by levels and types of education. While the need for such accounting has been recognized, systems are not yet in place. It is possible, however, to get some idea of the government expenditure on basic education. The expenditure for the bigger Male schools appears separately in the recurrent budget. Since some of them are entirely primary and some entirely secondary it is possible to separate the expenditure. Also the schools on the islands which offer the secondary education have relatively small secondary enrollments vis-a-vis the primary enrollment. They also do not have all of the specialized workspaces needed by a secondary school. Hence the totality of that expenditure may be distributed in proportion to the primary and secondary enrollments. The crude assumption is that there is no significant difference in unit costs between primary and secondary in the island schools. They also could not be adjusted for price increases, i.e., they are in current prices. Based on such rather unscientific assumptions, estimates are made and are shown in Figures 5 and 6 (see Annex).

Figure 5 & 6: Estimated public expenditure on primary education (5-year cycle)

Subject to the serious limitations describes above, one can say that about 40% of the public expenditure on education goes to primary education in the Maldives.

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