State Minister of Education Imad Solih has said that the Maldives’ education system “has failed”, and that this failure had led to a majority of the country’s current social issues.
In an interview with local newspaper Haveeru, Solih reiterated the growing need to overhaul the education system to build a better society “where young people should have better things to do than being ‘addled on the streets’”.
Solih said that everyone would accept the fact that the young people “addled on the streets” were once school students, and that the reason they had fallen into such a state was because of lapses in the education system.
“They are a part of the population which we failed to attend to. But those that we currently attend to should be provided with proper education and training. I believe the failure of the education system has to take the blame for the current depletion of ethics and moral values within our society,” Solih said.
He further stated that compared to the government’s annual investment of MVR 2.4 billion (US$ 156 million) on education, the outcome was poor and unacceptable.
The report released by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on last December ranked the Maldives as number one in the Asia Pacific region on education spending as a percentage of GDP.
According to the report, Maldives spends the highest proportion of GDP on public education (8.1 percent) across the Asia/Pacific region, which is four times higher than countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar.
The Ministry of Education’s expenditure in 2011 amounted to Rf1.7 billion (US$110 million).
Despite the expenditure, Solih argued that the countrywide results of O’level and A’level examinations did not reflect the financial input to the education system, and that therefore changes had to be brought to the system, including new plans and targets.
Solih also stated that the failure of the education system should not only remain a concern of the education sector alone, but political leaders, parliamentarians and the general public should also share the concerns.
“I urge everyone to set aside our political differences and to take a minute to think about the current education system,” he called.
“You simply can’t blame the system” – former Education Minister
Former Education Minister and former Chancellor of the Maldives National University, Dr Musthafa Luthfee had a dissenting view of the remarks made by Solih. He stated that it was very difficult for him to agree to Solih’s remark that the system had failed.
“We built the [education] system over a very long time and it is exactly the same model that is being employed in other countries as well. But I can say that the results we ought to have achieved from this system have not yet been achieved,” he said.
He stated that it was not just the education system that was at fault for the current social issues, and the responsibility of building a better society falls on the shoulders of everyone, including politicians, the government, parents and teachers.
Luthfee stated that before declaring that the system had failed, it was important to understand the challenges it faced.
“For example, our teachers are not as experienced or competent as they should be. In other countries, you can only become a full time teacher with at least a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree and a certain amount of experience,” he said.
Luthfee also highlighted that most of the teachers currently working in the Maldives were foreigners instead of locals, and they keep constantly changing which has an impact on the student’s academic performance.
Referring to Solih’s remark on the large investment in education, Luthfee said that in reality the amount spent on “real education” was relatively low.
“It is easy for one to claim that the country invests a lot of money in the education system. But a large number of teachers in the country are from abroad. A hefty amount of money is spent on their salaries, accommodation and transportation. What we really get to spend on ‘real education’ is therefore relatively low,” he explained.
Luthfee was hopeful on the future of the education sector stating that more local trained teachers are replacing foreign teachers and that the local teaching force was gradually on the rise.
“It is a good sign that almost all the primary schools have local teachers now. A lot of local teachers are coming to teach in secondary schools as well. So the number of local teachers is gradually increasing. But there are still local teachers who need to improve their qualifications as well and they are working very hard on it too,” said the former minister.
Luthfee stated that he sees “progress” within the education system expressing confidence in the system, and through hard work, he said, better results could be achieved.
He also highlighted the success of the government of former President Nasheed.
“When we came to the government, the pass rate of O’ level five subjects was 27 percent. Within three years time we made it 37 percent, which is a 10 percent increase,” he said.
He further added that if the trend could be maintained, the figure would further increase. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during the 2008 elections pledged to put the figure at 60 percent by the end of its first presidential term.
When Minivan News contacted State Minister Imad Solih he stated that he would get back after a meeting. Minivan News was still expecting his call at time of press.
Correction. An earlier version of this article incorrectly titled Solih as Deputy Minister of Education. This has been corrected to State Minister.