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2.5.8. Internal Efficiency: Repetition by grades, survival rate to grade 5 & Coefficient of efficiency

The major internal efficiency concerns are dropouts, repetition, and learning achievement. The number and proportion of dropouts has declined in recent years, especially in Male’ Primary schools. This helps reduce the cost per grade 7 graduate.

Similarly, in atoll schools, a larger number, and percentage, of students are completing extended cycles. Rather than dropouts, the major problem in certain island schools is the "force-out" problem that occurs when a full 7-year education is not available at an island school and other opportunities do not exist nearby. Many students participating in the "special classes" are there because they have exhausted the formal grades of schooling available in their communities. The NFEC’s condensed education programme has helped some of these students achieve a grade 7 equivalence.

The problem of repetition continues to be a major source of internal inefficiency. Also, the automatic promotion policy has shifted repetition from grades 1 and 2 to grades 5, 6 and 7 where the costs of repetition are often higher. The fact that the students in grade 5 may fail to have even basic literacy and numeracy skills suggest that automatic promotion, without proper in-school re-meditation, will have "wasted" four years of instructions for some students.

Table 15: Internal Efficiency Indicators (%), 1996

(Male + Female)

 

Gr. 1

Gr.2

Gr.3

Gr.4

Gr.5

Ave. 1-5

Promotion Rate

91.5

90.2

92.4

93.3

77.8

71.0

Repetition Rate

7.8

6.9

8.0

8.3

22.2

11.1

Dropout Rate

0.7

2.9

-0.4

-1.6

0.0

18.0

Survival Rate

100

99.2

96.1

96.6

98.3

Years input per graduate

Pupil-years

1,085

1,066

1,045

1,053

1,264

Coefficient of efficiency

-

-

-

92.5%

89.2%

5.6

The survival rates have been calculated using the 5 internal efficiency indicators and are given in Table 15. The results show that the survival rate to grade 5 is 98.3% indicating that there is considerably high level of internal efficiency and little waste at the Primary level. However, it should be noted here that the data shows lower survival rate in grade 4. This being cumulative cannot happen. Further data on dropouts for the grade 3 and 4 dropout rates are negative. Their inconsistencies cannot be meaningfully explained. At best, can be attributed to the admission policy, which allows children of appropriate ages and academic levels to join primary schools at any grade level.

Percentage of pupils having reached at least grade 4 of primary schooling who master a nationally defined basic set of learning competencies

The Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) project is under way and is due to be completed soon. Once the project is completed we will have the required data for this indicator. However, various tests have been administered to evaluate student achievement. The results of one such test administered in 1997 – 98 to grade 4 children are reported here. There is a good idea of the achievements of children at this level in Dhivehi, Mathematics and English. Current work being done by the Ministry of Education and future policy will ensure that an indicator on these lines will be used by Maldives.

Improvement in learning achievements

The real measure of internal efficiency is how much learning takes place over the period of pre-primary and primary education. With no standardised measure of achievement, and variable capacities among schools for in-school assessment of learning, it is difficult to state with assurance the degree of success or failure that may exist. For diagnostic and accountability purposes, a common measurement of learning achievement is necessary, preferably at grade 5. Also, grade 7 learning attitude will need to be assessed in order to have an equitable means of admission for secondary education. To institute such testing will require a major strengthening of the professional capacities of the Department of Public Examination or of the Primary and Secondary schools themselves. The latter is preferable in the long term but the upgrading of the DPE is the only reasonable option for another 5 years or so.

Starting during the last few years the Ministry of Education has embarked on a regular evaluation programme under which, among other activities, pupil achievements in selected curriculum areas are being tested in selected schools in Male and also in the atolls. This programme will be extended to other schools in Male and the atolls. Accompanying this is a programme of supervision of atoll schools which also looks closely into pupil achievements in selected areas among other relevant aspects such as school management, availability of resources. . The physical features, which have been briefly described makes such visits very time-consuming and costly. Reports of the measurements and evaluation and of the supervisory visits are available.

Pupils’ achievements in Male’

A few results are available on the level of achievement of children in Primary Schools in a small sample of schools. A major objective was to test whether pupils completing the 5-year cycle have acquired the competencies to continue.

Grade 5 Sample Tests: English and Dhivehi were administered to a random sample of grade 6 students in three leading schools. The tests were based on the expected achievements at the end of grade 5. The following results show a high level of achievement.

Table 16: Pass percentage in Languages

 

Female

Male

Total

Dhivehi

86

73

82

English

65

52

59

However there were very significant differences between the schools, with one school having 100% passes in Dhivehi whereas another had only 79%. There were differences of a similar order with respect to the performance in English.

Grades 4 and 5 Tests in Mathematics: The tests were administered to all students in grades 4 and 5 in four schools in Male’. Based on tests prepared by the respective schools the Ministry of Education constructed the final test papers. The tests were regarded as an integral part of the regular school-testing programme.

Table 17: Test result in 4 schools

School

No. of Candidates

No. of Candidates Passing

% Passes

No. of Candidates Failing

% Failures

Grade 4

         

A

354

322

88.5

32

11.5

B

352

328

93.3

24

6.7

C

275

205

74.5

70

25.5

D

365

323

89.2

39

10.7

Total

1 346

1178

87.5

165

12.5

Grade 5

         

A

425

384

90.4

41

9.64

B

376

337

90.6

39

9.4

C

352

274

77.8

78

22.2

D

372

306

82.3

66

17.7

Total

1 525

1 301

85.3

224

14.7

The Table 17 shows that while special attention needs to be paid in some schools, on average they are good. But it should be noted that this is based on a small sample.

The performance of children in several atolls is also good. However in some subjects the performance is not satisfactory. For example, the performance in English is very poor. The magnitude of failure is alarming and is undoubtedly due to the quality of the teaching or perhaps the lack of it altogether.

The Ministry of Education conducted tests in 1989 as part of a survey of 14-year-olds. Tests were based on national syllabi for grades 1 – 5. The children were those in school as well as out-of-school (see Annex 2). These results are not exactly comparable. They however indicate same improvement. But there is some more evidence for recent years.

As long as teachers have to make judgments about students' performance and progress, assessment and evaluation will play essential roles in education. Assessment is an integral and important part of the teaching - learning process. Assessment in the primary school system is still dominated by traditional testing and evaluation. However, attempts in a piece meal manner have been undertaken to institute continuous assessment. While the teacher can no longer retain the old title of "disseminator of knowledge" today's assessment must reflect the knowledge, skills and value gained through each and every learning style. Assessment in the secondary school is dictated by the orientation towards the GCE examination from London University.

In response to some of the above issues the MOE is adopting policies that include the following:

In the context of improvement of curricular relevance to prepare students both for further education and for emerging employment opportunities and to develop appropriate values and attitude, the Master Plan particularly stressed overweighing of the primary curriculum on facts, and the need to give more stress to conceptual thinking. Problems of transition are also noticeable between some grade levels. Also there is a need for the primary curriculum to reinforce the family, cultural, and religious values of the Maldivian people, especially as the teaching in English increases. The relevance of the curriculum at lower secondary level to the increasing number of students studying at this level is increasingly questioned.

The Ministry of Education’s policy is to review both primary and lower secondary curriculum frameworks in terms of needs for vertical and horizontal integration, increasing relevance to students needs, and stressing family and cultural values. This review is linked overviews of examination procedures and to preparation of courses for teacher training.

Supervision of atoll schools

Increasing supervision of atoll schools is a part of the Ministry of Education’s programme to improve quality. (There has been and continues to be a supervision program for Male’ schools.)

During 1998 two supervision programmes were carried out one in Noonu Atoll, Raa Atoll from 7- 13th March and the other in Thaa Atoll from 5- 11th June. Some information from the March visit is given below as an example of the efforts made by the Ministry to improve quality.

During the March visit, tests in Mathematics, English and Dhivehi were administered to samples of students from the schools visited. The students were selected from grades 4 and 7. The tests were based on the normal standard expected after completing grade 3 and the minimum standard after completing grade 6. The intention was to test the adequacy of the attainment levels of the students completing the respective grades. The marking was done by the teachers of the respective schools, in accordance with the guidelines and marking criteria set by the supervising team. The results are given below in table 18. A pass is to be taken as obtaining minimum of 40% in the respective paper.

Table 18: Performance of a sample of pupils in selected atoll schools in Mathematics, English and Dhivehi (%)

School

Passes in Mathematics (%)

Passes in English (%)

Passes in Dhivehi (%)

Grade 4

     

Alifushi

31

0

26

Kandolhudu

19

0

 

Maduvaree

24

0

64

Meedu

53

0

75

Inguraidu

18

0

53

Total passes

28

0

41

Total tested

     
       

Grade 7

     

Alifushi

58

17

88

Kandolhudu

40

18

95

Maduvaree

7

17

95

Meedu

30

18

98

Inguraidu

30

12

80

Total passes

32

17

93

Source: Report of Raa Atoll Supervision Trip. Ministry of Education.

As the supervision report comments that the poor performance of the pupils in English it is due to lack of proper instruction because of the unavailability of trained teachers and less exposure to the language, for mathematics it is poor concept building and in the middle school level, the medium of instruction being in English, for Dhivehi it is the inadequacy of learning experiences in the language skills. (P.12)

2.5.9 The Literacy Programme:

The Literacy and Neo Literacy Programme, which seeks to create an educated citizenry through achieving universal literacy for adults stems from a growing awareness on the part of the planners that no meaningful development can take place without the informed, intelligent and meaningful participation of the masses who are seen not only as the beneficiaries but also as the agent of the process or change. With the belief that basic education of the masses is a necessary precondition for development, a national programme for literacy a nationwide six-year programme of functional literacy was formulated and announced by the President on 1st January 1980.

This programme was launched on 24th February 1980. In 1986, a comprehensive review was undertaken, after which Atoll-wise elimination of illiteracy was decided. Non Formal Education Centre that is one of the professional branches of the Ministry of Education, delivers literacy training in one atoll a year through a network of volunteers identified by the atoll chief. The volunteers provide one-to-one instruction for a two-month period in basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills. At the end of the tutorial period, the students take the literacy test.

When the programme was launched, the literacy rate was estimated at 70%. At the policy level, the programme was overseen by a national council headed by the President; and at the administrative level it was managed and monitored by the Ministry of Education and by the Atoll Chiefs and the Island Chiefs. This ensured that the entire Government machinery was dedicated to its support. By the time Jomtien Conference took place, the literacy rate had reached 90%. The one-atoll-a-year process is still in progress, and will be continued till the present 98.84% reaches 100%. The following table (Table 19) from the report of the national census of 1990, gives the position with respect to literacy in various atolls.

Table 19: Literacy rates (Age group: 10-45 ) for the atolls of Maldives, 1990

Atolls

Total

Male

Female

Republic

90.50

90.00

91.00

Male’

96.00

95.60

96.10

Atolls

88.40

87.40

89.30

South Huvadhu Atoll

93.80

92.60

94.80

Male’ Atoll

92.50

93.40

90.30

Mulakatholu

92.40

91.20

93.50

Addu Atoll

92.30

90.30

93.70

Faadhippolhu

92.10

92.40

91.70

Foamullah

91.80

90.20

93.30

Felidhe Atoll

91.20

91.80

90.40

South Maalhosmadulu

91.20

90.40

92.00

North Nilandhe Atoll

90.30

89.50

90.90

North Huvadu Atoll

90.00

89.40

90.50

Kolhumadulu

88.90

87.00

90.60

Ari Atoll Uthuru Gofi

88.10

87.70

88.60

North Maalhosmadulu

87.20

85.80

88.50

North Thiladhunmathi

86.80

84.40

88.90

South Thiladhunmathi

85.00

83.70

86.10

North Miladhunmadulu

84.80

83.30

86.10

South Nilandhe Atoll

83.00

80.90

85.00

South Miladhunamadulu

83.00

81.60

84.20

Hadhdunmathi

81.60

80.00

83.10

Ari Atoll Dhekunu Gofi

79.10

78.20

80.00

Source: Chaudhury, Rafiqul Huda, and et.al. Analytical Report on the 1985 and 1990,

Population and Housing Census of Maldives.

The Table 19 shows that as of 1990, the country as a whole had a literacy rate slightly over 90% with the rate for the females being higher. It is only 3 atolls that have a higher rate for the males. Of the 20 atolls, 10 have a rate higher than 90%, 9 have a rate between 80 and 90% with the lowest being 79.1. At the beginning of 1990 therefore Maldives was in a very favourable position with respect to literacy.

The analysis referred to above examines the limitations of the census data on literacy. It was not feasible to carry out an actual test and there could be a response bias over-estimating the actual literacy position. The analysis makes the following comment.

Since 1990, the country has concentrated on removing the illiteracy. Teachers in the atolls were expected to conduct literacy classes when they were not teaching in school. Special directives were given by the Ministry of Education in this regard. Each teacher including the head of the school was requested to conduct at least one literacy class. The present position is that if any illiterate requests literacy instruction it has to be provided. It is mandatory. Special instructions have been issued in this regard. The Table 15 gives the literacy rates as of 1997.

Figure 15: Literacy Rate 1997

Two points are clear from the above tables: First, the ratio of literacy is high through out the country. Second, there exist not much gender difference in literacy. However, all this refers to ‘crude’ literacy of 3 r’s. Information on the magnitude of functional literacy is lacking. On the whole, the contribution of the indigenous system was such that Maldivians were already a highly literate people by the time international attention were focussed on illiteracy. Gender Differences were also not significant. The policy focus as regards to adult education was to eliminate the marginal illiteracy and provision of post-literacy and continuing education facilities using the non-formal modes for improving the quality of life.

2.5.10 Non- Formal Education : Expansion of basic education and training in other essential skills required by youth and adults

A system on non-formal education and training was developed during the 1950s in response to the widespread literacy needs of those Maldivians with little or no access to schooling. The Non-Formal Education Unit was established in 1979 in the Ministry of Education’s Education Development Centre to plan, implement, and evaluate literacy activities broadly defined. The mission is "to enhance the quality of life of the Maldivian people by providing self-developmental opportunities to those who miss regularly formal education through strategically selected programmes of community and adult education and to empower members of the community with the skills needed for productive employment and advancement." The objective stated for the fourth plan (1994 – 1996 ) continue to be relevant, which are as follows:

Non- formal Education continues to play a vital role in the education sector.

The Condensed Education Programme is helping a number of early school leavers to gain valuable skills needed for further training and active participation in community affairs. The training programme on early childhood care and education by the Non-formal Education Centre has contributed significantly towards the expansion of preschool education into the atolls. Accordingly there are several institutes which offer non-formal education and offer several types of the form of continued learning. The following table gives the participation of children in some of the courses conducted by the Non-formal Education Centre (NFEC).

Table 20: Number of people trained – 1994 to 1997

Activity

1994

1995

1996

1997

1. Condensed Education Programme (CEP)

126

235

61

42

2. Skills Development Course for Atolls

167

246

357

328

3. Early Childhood Development Courses

42

71

79

116

4. Distance Education English Language Course

Na

72

59

73

5. Skills Development Courses for Male’

166

293

296

332

Total

501

917

852

891

Source: Data supplied by NFEC

The CEP is the 3-year course in basic education offered to youth and adults which is equivalent to the 7-year basic education in the formal school system. The demand for it is decreasing reflecting the increasing access to the formal school system. The skill development courses for the atolls are conducted on the atolls. The number of different courses conducted was 27. Enrollments in these courses, which have been conducted from the 80s, are given in Annex 3. The Early Childhood Development Course is also meant for people on the atolls and is conducted in the atolls. The large majority of the participants are females. The output from this course serves as pre-school teachers on the atolls.

Apart from the above courses, the NFEC also conducted "Awareness Courses" on the atolls. These courses were in areas such as home-gardening, nutrition, cultural games, first aid, reef fishing, home science, mother and child health.

The Institute of Hotel and Catering Services was started in 1987. From 1990 it had been conducting a variety of short-term courses open for people with experience in the related areas. No academic qualifications are required as pre-requisites. The following short courses were conducted in 1990.

Table 21: Enrollment in selected short-term courses in IHCS – 1990

Course

Male

Female

Total

Practical Pastry Course

11

0

11

Housekeeping Skills

10

0

10

Hotel Reception and Front Office

25

0

0

Asst. Housekeepers Dev. Prog.

11

0

11

Office Procedures in Hospitality

0

14

14

Basic Japanese Language

11

7

18

Special Catering Procedures

0

33

33

Total

68

54

122

Source: Data from IHCS

Similar courses have been conducted in the following years with new courses also coming in. French and German course have been added with advanced work in Japanese. Some other examples are: Commercial Cookery, Food Service Operations, General Hotel Services, Health, Safety and Hygiene, Customer Relations. Courses have also been conducted on the islands in Basic Pastry and Housekeeping Skills in 1998. Including 1990, the total trained in these short courses was 1325 comprising 477 females and 848 males.

The Society for Health Education (SHE) conducts counseling services through individual and group counseling and through a telephone help line. Trained counselors make annual visits to all secondary schools in Male’ conducting sessions for students. Field trips are undertaken to provide similar services to atoll schools. Play therapy sessions are conducted for children who require support. SHE along with a government company manages a recreational enter for children. It has a regular monthly publication and its audio-visual productions are regularly carried by the national broadcasting and television services. It has also published a wide range of books. It runs a Family Planning Centre offering a variety of services. A mobile health team provides such services to the atolls. It maintains a Thalasaemia Laboratory and since its inception has screened 22,706 people, mainly in the age range 15 – 25 years, including 4441 people from islands other than Male’.

Radio programmes:

The Voice of Maldives broadcasts a programme called the "Radio Haveeru." The "Radio Haveeru" is a series that consists of seven different programmes, one for each day of the week. Each programme is 15 minutes in length and is broadcasted twice daily. The programmes covers areas such as General Health, Ilmee Ali, History and Culture, Teachers’ World, Easy English, Easy Dhivehi, World Across.

The Television Maldives telecasts various awareness programmes. Among them most notable are Faruvaa (a health programme), Kaththiri (a programme on population education), Kamana (a programme to promote empowerment of women), and a Children’s Programme

2.5.11 Effectiveness of the EFA strategy, plan and programmes

Where Maldives is concerned, EFA formed an integrated core in the National Development Plans starting in the late 80s. Hence the effectiveness of the EFA strategies is related to the effectiveness of the National Development Plans as a whole. It is in this light that Maldives looks with considerable satisfaction at the findings of the mid-decade review by UNICEF, which shows the very satisfactory progress made by Maldives in not just providing "near universal primary education" by 1995 but also providing other services to children such as safe water, immunisation, etc. These achievements were for the country as a whole and not just for Male’.

The strategies used by the Ministry of Education, referred to earlier, take their place within the broader national goals and objectives as would be clear from the following two national objectives listed in the Fifth National Plan, 1997 – 1999, which have been pursued in their essence since the early 80s.

Nursery and pre-primary education are not within the formal education system. When pre-schools were started in Male’, the government paid the salaries of the teachers. It also trained the teachers. Its cadre includes a Pre-school Supervisor for Male’. The medium of instruction in these schools was and continues to be English. The practice of subsidizing the Male’ preschools has since continued. It is natural that a demand for pre-schools of the Male’ type should arise in the atolls. The traditional Edhuruge while providing many essential services obviously could not develop a competency in English, which is what most parents sought. While financial constraints have prevented the government from extending the same subsidy for the atolls to establish pre-schools, the government is now contributing to training the teachers and provision of educational materials. Several policy reviews during the last decade have questioned the sustainability of the subsidy to Male’ pre-schools in the light of both the inequity of not extending similar support to the atoll and the very obvious financial constraints in doing so. While substantial numbers of children in the atoll have access to a pre-primary formal institutional provision, the strategy of promoting and encouraging the expansion of early childhood care and education cannot be deemed to have been fully effective. A review of this strategy is needed with a view to expediting the expansion of ECCD.

Where the provision of an extended 7-year basic education is concerned, an essential part of the strategy was the enhancement of the physical infrastructure. As the UNICEF review indicates and the Education Sector Review of 1995 confirms a 5-year primary cycle is a reality in all inhabited islands. The provision of the extra physical infrastructure needed to convert them to provide the 7-year cycle had obviously to be done. It is this component of the strategy that has been very successful. To quote the Education Sector Review of 1995:

For middle school education, grades 6 and 7, incomplete schools continue to exist in the atolls. Dramatic progress has been made in reducing their number in the last five years and the goal is to guarantee all children access to seven grades of instruction by 2000. (76)

Hence the upgrading of the physical infrastructure, provision of teachers, increasing the capacities of the AECs and APSs and extending support to improve the capacities of the private and community schools were well-conceived strategies which have shown their impact as is evidenced by the enrollment ratios. There is also evidence of a "a financial policy which promotes a more equitable distribution of basic education opportunities".

The Maldives is quite confident that any present shortfall in physical provision for extended basic education would be met by 2000 by pursuing the current strategies. The following table indicates the magnitude of the shortfall as of 1998. 24% of the Schools need to be upgraded to provide access to basic education ( up to Grade7 ) in all Schools.

Table 22: Schools without grades 6 and or 7 by atoll – 1998

Atoll

Total no. of schools*

No. of schools without G6/G7

Haa Alifu

17

6

Haa Dhaalu

21

8

Shaviayani

15

5

Noonu

15

4

Raa

15

6

Baa

15

6

Lhaviyani

7

2

Kaafu

10

0

Alifu

8

0

Dhaalu

11

6

Vaavu

5

0

Meemu

9

1

Faafu

5

1

Dhaalu

8

1

Thaa

14

6

Laamu

17

6

Gaafu Alifu

11

7

Gaafu Dhaalu

21

5

Gnaviyani

11

0

Seenu

19

4

Total

254

60

Note: * Includes nurseries, Lkg and Ukg.

Source: Educational Statistics – 1998. Ministry of Education, Republic of Maldives. Adapted from tables the pages 15 – 34.

However, where quality is concerned, it has been indicated serious shortcomings particularly in the atolls. A major issue in this regard is the availability of the required types of trained and qualified teachers and the quality of the teachers in the atolls. A very critical aspect is that the medium of instruction in grades 6 and 7 is English. In a situation where the teachers themselves are very weak in English, the achievement results cannot be very satisfactory. The achievements in Dhivehi are in striking contrast to those in Mathematics and English indicating that whatever deficiency exists the problem is certainly not with the children.

A national curriculum has been in operation since 1984. Institutional provision exists for on going curriculum revision. Pupil texts and teachers guides have been regularly produced and upgraded. Institutional provision exists for teacher education but for reasons arising from the very special geographical features of the Maldives, the in-service education of teachers is severely constrained. The policy has been to completely replace expatriate in the primary cycle. This policy will be gradually extended to other grades as well. Maldives has to work with the existing national teachers and improve their quality over the long-term.

A very recently adopted strategy to support quality improvement has been the launching of a systematic programme of supervision extending to the atolls and initial work on preparing national standards for achievement in selected subjects at grades 4 and 5. Supervision of atoll schools has started in a planned way with adequate staff and tests have been administered and analysed and shortcomings recognised. It needs to be noted that professional staff is also in short supply in the country. Increasingly supervision will have to be carried out by local staff. Though some expatriate staff is currently being used the section is headed by a national.

It is recognized that none of these strategies by itself is likely to make a significant impact on improving the quality of teaching/learning. It is their co-ordination if not their integration into a coherent package that is likely to have a significant impact. An achievement oriented school culture has to be built up. Future strategy will keep this angle in mind.

Using non-formal means to support the achievement of a 7-year basic education has been a very successful strategy. The NFEC conducts the Condensed Education Programme (CEP) which enables out-of-school youth and adults to complete the equivalent of a 7 –year cycle in 3 years.

The NFEC and other government institutions have responded to the needs of youth and adults by conducting a large variety of short courses designed to enable, particularly the youth, to acquire new skills needed to enable them to play a very useful role in Maldivian life. Many of the courses are such as to enable them to be productive citizens of the country. It is significant that the private sector has also responded by conducting courses to enable the youth, some of whom are employed, to further their knowledge of English. An NGO is playing a very active role in educating women in particular and the public in general about aspects of health that are of particular significance in the Maldives. It is also noteworthy that these efforts are not confined to Male’ but are being slowly but surely extended to the islands.

In summary it may be stated that the overall strategy was well conceived and implemented very satisfactorily. The principal achievements during the decade are deemed to be the following:

PART III

EFA: PROBLEMS AND ISSUES

In the context of having achieved near universal basic education for all children and universal literacy without any gender bias, the problems Maldives face relate to matters of quality. The normal problems that any country faces have been exacerbated by the distribution of the Maldivian population into about 200 islands scattered across a vast area in the Indian Ocean.

As of 1990, the country had less than 1% of its population with an educational level higher than upper secondary education. Only 8.62 % had completed 7 years of education. Male’ had a slightly better position than atolls. The low level of educational attainment of the adult population and in particular, the national labour force, is a formidable obstacle to economic and social development. A key role that education can play in the economic and social transformation of the Maldivian society is to encourage and provide opportunities for lifelong education. Any moment in life should be seen as a time for learning. Learning should not be--based on the studies - work - retirement sequence. The education system must promote continual learning throughout life either within the formal or non-formal system.

A census has been taken in 1995. In the context of the data on school enrollment, it could be safely assumed that the percentage of the population with at least grade 7 is significantly larger. But Maldives does not have a tertiary education provision leading to a first degree. Maldivians have to go abroad to get their first and subsequent degrees. Now there are an increasing number of Maldivians with first degrees, Masters’ and Doctoral degrees. But it is likely that as a percentage of the total population, the increase is perhaps marginal.

Secondary education has been provided on Male’ now for about four decades and on the atolls for about the last decade. In terms of numbers the total provision is still quite small. Hence while there should certainly be an increase in the percent of the population with secondary education, the increase is not adequate as is shown by the necessity to recruit foreign workers for middle level skilled work.

A recurring issue has been the imbalance between Male and the atolls in respect of educational provision. The very widely dispersed islands with sometimes so low a population as not even to support a single school makes it practically very difficult to provide the needed services. Essential services are provided for a group of islands or an entire atoll as is feasible. The Atoll Education Centre (AEC) and Atoll Primary School (APS) are such initiatives. Hostel facilities, for children have also been experimented with. Health services are also being provided on this basis. The inhabited islands have recently been linked by a telephone system. The Ministry of Health in a recent training programme for local personnel on maternal health has utilised the telephone system for "tele-conferencing". The philosophy underlying this training programme was that local people should be able to identify their health problems, gather and analyse the required data, design and implement their own solutions with their own resources. The project extended for over year and was regarded very successful. In general, the distribution of the population into small isolated groups between whom transportation of raw materials, goods, fuel, etc. and communication is difficult implies that economic activities and the associated infrastructure developments are likely to be concentrated on a few relatively large islands. In about a quarter of the islands the total population is less than 1000.

A few more major constraints exist for pre-primary and primary education: finance, human resources, and management. The rapid increase in pre-primary and primary students nationwide will place a substantial financial burden on government unless the financing system is modified. Government may not continue to fund Male’ pre-primary education and Government primary schools, and continue assistance to community and Ward schools and the private sector without a substantial increase in the share of the Government budget allocated to education. Even with increased efficiency, more funds must become available (from parents or Government) or expenditures may have to be cut. Education receives highest priority in Maldives and the expenditure on education by the country is one of the, if not the highest in the region as a proportion of the GDP and the national budget.

Yet the country requires more resources. The Government strategy to reform the education system is to achieve universal primary education(Gr 1-7) by 2000, expand access to lower and upper-secondary schools, continue external and internal post-secondary training, and invest more in quality of education. The cost implications of these policies are substantial and would push the currently high level of sector expenditure to an unsustainable growth rate and create significant financing gap. If sector requirements are met the education budget needs to grow at 8 percent per year, much more than the expected growth of public spending and GDP at about 6 percent. The resources have to be found – domestically and from other sources.

A major problem the Ministry of Education had to face, was therefore, the shortage of trainable persons for the teaching profession. Even if funds are available, the supply of trained Maldivian teachers will be insufficient to meet the requirements of the educational system over the Master Plan period. More innovative schemes are required and most programmes could be expanded. The obvious strategy the Ministry had to adopt both on account of the demand and also on educational considerations was to recruit existing personnel, even if the quality was low, so that access may be provided with immediate effect. Unlike other countries that may have adopted similar policies, the training of teachers was extremely difficult due to the shortage of professional staff again arising from the shortage of people with the needed high level of educational attainment. Maldives is making a very determined effort to break this vicious cycle by an appropriate mixture of recruiting expatriate staff and more training abroad for the increasing number of Maldivians now qualifying for such studies. The training of atoll teachers poses particular difficulties. The atolls are served by an On-site Teacher Education Programme that is the most prevalent mode. Other modes are short upgrading courses and 10-month regional in-service teacher education programmes.

While this shortage of trainable persons with high educational levels affected the quality of the teachers, it has also affected all other areas such as curriculum development, evaluation, supervision, management, research, etc. Here quality staff is available but not in sufficient numbers.

The ultimate constrain on pre-primary and primary education during the next ten years may be the MOE’s own capacity to project needs, plan reforms and initiatives, and implement change. The ability of the MOE to manage an ever larger and more complex educational system will be the key learning achievements that occur in pre-school and grades 1-7.

Maldives also faces particular problems arising from the relatively small size of its total population. The size is not large enough to sustain an economically viable tertiary system to produce the high-level manpower the country needs. Apart from other disadvantages such as relevance of the courses, foreign training is very costly and the country may not be able to bear the cost of foreign training for all who require it.

Lastly, the statistical base and the information system need many improvements. For e.g. data on expenditure are not available by levels of education. Equally importantly, time-series data on a variety of indicators are not collected and maintained. Such information is crucial for efficient planning and management.

3.1 Strengths and Weaknesses

The public demand for basic education is very strong. Empirical evidence for this was cited earlier. The National Development Plans state explicitly that the provision of basic education for all children has the highest priority.

The report on the Third Education and Training Project cited earlier makes the following observation about the island communities’ contribution to education.

The second source of finance is the island communities that contribute to education through ad hoc arrangements such as fundraising or through payments in kind. Many island community schools have been upgraded on a cooperative basis with the indigenous workers providing labor and local construction materials. It is difficult to assess the community contribution, as there is no consistent policy plan on school contribution by private sources. In the past decades, individual and community contributions have been significant, reflecting the strong social demand and interest in education.

It is the normal planning processes of the country that reflected the keen interest and support for education by putting forward the goal of a 7-year basic education for all as far back as the late 80s. Hence there was no need to mount special public awareness programmes for EFA. It is the Maldivian people who wanted it and those who were elected to govern them naturally responded.

The current National Development Plan has identified for all the programmes and projects the principal Ministry or Department which has the primary responsibility for implementing each and the other Ministries and Departments which have to play a supporting role. Naturally the Ministry of Education is the lead agency for EFA. Over the last few years there has been a very significant institutional development of the Ministry of Education. While still short of adequate numbers of professional staff, the major sub-systems such as curriculum development, teacher education, evaluation, supervision, research are all functioning with very adequate physical infrastructures. Its plans have been developed after many relevant studies and policy reviews. The Ministry is gradually computerizing the functions and providing training to its Management and administrative staff in the use of new technology. The capacity of the Ministry is limited by the problems referred earlier.

The bulk of the work that needs to be done is in the atolls. The government has created a special Ministry of Atoll Administration that works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education. Limitations of certain traditional practices have been recognised such as the capacity of the Island Chief to take valid decisions relating to the educational and other changes which are taking place. Assistance is being provided by posting professionals to the atolls to assist in the administration.

On the whole, the system of education in Maldives is characterised by a few major strengths and a few weakness, some by which could be listed as follows.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

It is necessary that the weaknesses are attended to by appropriate short term and long term policies and plans of action, and the system is strengthened further. Some intended directions for future action are briefly outlined in Part IV.



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