Catchment area: Catching the Addu City

Two years back, I told you that there is a grave mistake in our education system which needs to be fixed. Now that story is gone.

A new era, a new situation and a new case is now on the table. Now the big talk is the catchment area talk.

This is a new policy implemented by the education ministry in Addu City under which, the students were entitled to enter the secondary schools of the geographical area they belong to. Under this system, Hithadhoo students will be divided between Hithadhoo School and Muhibbuddin School. In the other wards of city, the students should join the schools in that particular area. Sounds very fair. Yet problem arises when many students or more specifically their parents wants the kids to join Muhibbuddin School. So the catchment area has become a big issue. Here are some arguments on both sides.

Some arguments for Catchment area policy:

-The government of Maldives wants the education system to be in a way that from grade 1 to 10, the students should be able to study in a single school.
-Government has already established secondary schools in Addu enough that they could accommodate students under this policy.
- Given the present situation, the secondary schools in Addu can not be established if students are given option of the schools they wish to go.
-No school or no student could be given a special priority, and thus the entrance criteria to all schools should be same.

Some arguments against Catchment area policy:

- I will know where my kid should study!! Ministry simply can not decide the future of my kid!!
- New Schools are new to secondary education: my kids can not be sent there for "test driving". In other words parents do not have faith in the new policy or new secondary schools.
- Muhibbuddin has established resources. The already existing secondary schools in Addu city still lacks many resources.
- No other secondary school in Addu so far proved a success. There are many schools in Addu city where they have been teaching for secondary level, yet so far not much a success was seen.

Now the questions is, is the catchment area right or wrong? Well. excuse me. I am not the right person to say it. I was a teacher in Muhibbuddin School and also a teacher in Hithadhoo School (a newly established secondary school).  So I'd rather not enter into that argument and just present what I see here and what I wish to see.

Facts that I could see around:

-Muhibbuddin has almost 2 decades of preparing students for O Level. It sure will be an under estimate to say the newly established schools could be better or even equal to Muhibbuddin School.
-New secondary school policy under which student study from grade 1 to 10 is good and has to be established at any cost. (I am not saying at the cost of the student's future)
 -The teachers in the new secondary schools are qualified and perfect for the job just like in  Muhibbuddin School.
-If the new secondary schools are left to stand on their own, and students are given the chance to join any school, the already established secondary schools too will be abolished.
-The resources in new secondary schools are not as week as some think. There is pretty good resource for a secondary set up, though there is a lot more that could be done.

My belief.
I am not saying miracles do happen in this 21st century. Yet, I believe, we need to do what has to be done for the betterment of all the students.

The first thing we need to do is to stop the unhealthy competition in Addu schools and move on in a way that we'd compete as a city, and not as individual schools. This will  be good for both schools and students. The worse case that the secondary education in Maldives has faced is the famous Top 10. I am not saying it is bad to mark the success of the students, yet, it is leading to the sacrifice of too many. Throughout the nation, the schools are not allowing the low performing students to sit the CIE in the name of school, but rather asking them to join as private candidates, so that they get more points for "best schools award". With the introduction on technical science in schools, this has become ever easy. Don't expect even  Muhibbuddin School to be a darling when it comes to it!!!

Second thing we need to do is to implement the catchment area. Yet that is not enough. We must come up with a mechanism under which, all  the secondary schools in Addu city can learn from the lesson of Muhibbuddin over the past 2 decades. Let me tell exactly what I feel. We all are preparing the students for CIE. We all want our students to get good results. We all wish our performance to improve day by day. If then, let us break the invisible, yet strong walls between schools. We need to accept the fact of Muhibbuddin's success rather than trying to bring a school in Addu down to knees. What I really wish to see is a day when the same scheme of work is used in all secondary schools of Addu city,and at least once a month, all the subject teachers in Addu city get together and do a mass coordination for the whole month.

At last, the left outs. A lot of students are going out of our education system as failures. If you could believe me, with this present unhealthy competition in Addu city schools, the  number is going to be increasing steadily. The technical science is a good concept. Yet, no school in Addu city, is equipped with any sufficient resource to cater the low ability students. As a last thing, let me ask you. Just like you think of top ten, will you not give a thought to the kids of this city who are sacrificed in the process yet ignored by all. Will you only bother the catchment area?