Yesterday, I read an article on haveeru daily in which the state minister of education Mr. Imad Solih declared the national education system as failed.
I read the article 2-3 times. I noticed one thing. Just like we always do, we made the bold statement that it failed. We did not go beyond. Since he in the end of his interview called to give a thought, and since I happened to be someone who tries to share what I feel about education issues, I thought to share my thought on this.
I don't like to go on repeating that it has failed. Rather I will put it as, there are serious issues that is leading to what they call as a failure. We need to talk of it and face the truth. Here I will highlight 8 areas that I feel requires immediate attention of stakeholders.
1- Mishandling of lower grades. The primary education in Maldives has been the official foundation of studies. However, there are problems that needs to be given attention in this area. Very often, if not in capital Male' or some high populated islands, the primary sector consists of comparatively less qualified teachers. Here qualified not only refers to the certificates that one holds, but also the handling of students, the connection of lessons to real life the understanding of what is taught and what is in curriculum, the balance of sports and education are included. Not to mention, in many schools 'temporary' teachers has become "permanent-temporary."
2- Top 10- Both in O Level and A Level, it seems we have none in mind other than bringing at least one student to national top 10. Yes, it is well and good to aim high and work on it, yet please, not at the cost of may other students. It is a big secret that students who might produce a bad result are been asked to not to sit for exam or to sit for exams as a private candidate, just to get us more points in national school rankings. Moreover, these kids are been ignored knowing or unknowingly, making our schools, as factories that produced one good citizen and 10 bad citizens. The education sector needs good results, yet, with it we needs to send out to our society a set of graduates who fulfills the nations demands in one way or the other. Simple terms, if Top ten students are gold, we need to accept that even silver and bronze could be used well!
3- Unhealthy competitions- It is very good to have competition between schools so that both students and teachers will be motivated to perform well and try to get the best that they can bring. At the same time, it must not be a war. We, today, in some cases are not even ready to accept the 'other school' as a school. We criticize them, show them they cant perform and simply reject to share any good ideas, concepts, materials or experiences that e have got. At least there are situations where some school heads formally tells the staff not to share anything to the other school strictly, simply to compete. Our competition means and ways needs to change. We need to work for the betterment of all students regardless of which school they belong to, even though we compete.
4- Salary- The big issue. I don't think I have to mention this. At least I hear at times some senior officials of government saying teachers deserves something better. Let me not make a fuss by repeating something that we all know. Very simple as this, teachers needs to be paid something that they really deserve. They are what you calls as the builders of the future generations.
5- Efforts to bring local teachers- There are some subjects that we teach in Maldives for ages, yet we don't have any course to train teachers. Teaching is done by not the best performing students most of the time. In Maldives, been a doctor or a pilot is all that counts. The nation needs to value the jobs of the teachers and accept the profession as an important area, With that and also a little of what I mentioned in point 4, we might be able to bring high performing students to this sector. At least a better salary might give the sector a chance to get a grip on the serving quality teachers before they move to another area.
6- Expatriate teachers recruitment- There are situations where I heard some expatriates who has been working here for a long while, asking me 'what kind of teachers Maldives is bringing now a days.' Very honestly this is something we need to really give a thought. If a teacher comes for higher education or A Level school and is unable to speak fluently in English, yet expected to be a CAE teacher, what can I say? When the same teacher who failed in school X where school heads seems to make a fuss, is been sent to another "desperate" school, what else can I say. Teachers who fail in Male' been sent to areas like Addu, Fuvahmulak, Kulhudhuhfushi, and the ones who fail in these areas sent to another (what they call as) a rural island, does not do any good for our education. Now don't expect me to say that teachers recruitment in Maldives is a big business for some in MoE or somewhere else and they love to see more turnover!! People say so, yet I will not say so!!
7- Implementation of the new curriculum- The new curriculum that we are trying to implement seems to be better than what we have been following since late 8o's. The question is will it bring about changes needed? I already heard some raising the question if it will be effective. Some raises the question whether it really caters the need for this ever changing nation. That is not what disturbs me. My question is whether we have teachers to implement the new curriculum accordingly. Are we really aware of the new changes? Are we equipped with all the facilities to do the teaching in a meaningful way. Or are we once again going to see the new curriculum inside a drawer in MoE and continue with the same trend of repeating what we have been doing. I hope it will not be a gift for the Male' schools and elite schools. And I hope we are not just going to toil to produce all rocket scientists in this nation yet, accept the fact that we need a means to cater the low performing kids too.
8- Vulnerability- The education system today is subjected to a lot of, sudden changed without much plans and studies. The two schools that we saw yesterday all of a sudden we see as a single school without even any framework to implement the merge. The subjects we never saw, happens to be a subject for many students like a surprise. The school head changes more than the changes in the current on oceans.
These are some factors that I feel contributes to the problems in our education system that needs immediate attention to avoid a whole system failure.