Hithadhoo school to become Maldives’ first Arabic medium school

Nooraanee School in Hithadhoo will become the first in the Maldives to teach classes exclusively in Arabic from next week.

The Ministry of Education has confirmed that the school in Seenu Atoll will hold all grade one classes in Arabic, other than English, Dhivehi, and Islam.

Minister of State for Education Abdulla Nazeer told local media that all the teachers had been trained, and facilities prepared to begin teaching 32 grade one students in Arabic from Sunday (January 11).

The ministry had previously announced that two schools had been designated to conduct classes in the Arabic medium, with Nazeer telling Sun Online that a second school in Haa Dhaalu Kulhudufushi was to follow in 2017.

The government has pledged to mainstream Arabic education, with Arabic lessons having been introduced in 20 schools in the past year, as well as the introduction of Quran as a subject for grades 1 – 7 in all schools during the 2014 academic year.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has also pledged to broaden Islamic knowledge in the national curriculum

Following the introduction of the first classes last February, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel said that Arabic language will bring a “special happiness” to the people of Maldives, will strengthen the Islamic faith, and will introduce good behaviour.

With the exception of Malé’s Arabiya School – which uses both languages in classes, the medium of instruction of all schools in the Maldives is currently English. Only Dhivehi language and Islamic studies are currently taught in Dhivehi.

Arabiya school also discussed switching to Arabic only classes from grade four onwards with the government last year. Officials from Arabiya were said to have been concerned that teaching in both English and Arabic was affecting grades.

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The parlance of paradise: Preserving the Maldivian language

While over one million tourists visit the Maldives every year to gaze out at turquoise waters while sipping coconuts beneath palm trees, Maldivians have a far better understanding of what their guests seek – a perception inherent in the Dhivehi language.

Dhivehiraajjege understand that it is a view of the Moodhu that tourists hope for – the clear shallow waters between the beach and the reef – as opposed to the Kan’du, or deep sea. Similarly, visitors would hope to be served with a Kurumba – a ripe coconut filled with juice – rather than having a dried up Kurolhi fall onto their heads from the tree.

Even the tree itself, the giver of shade and Kurumba to thirsty tourists, represents more than the sum of its parts to the Dhivehi speaker, with the iloshi traditionally used to make brooms, the fann used for roofs, and the Ruhgulhi to make drums.

“It is our identity. When we say ‘I am a Mal-dhivehin’ – the Maldivian and Dhivehi – you can’t separate it,” explains President of the Dhivehi Academy Ashraf Ali. “This is the only factor which shows the cultural and linguistic identity of the Maldives.”

President Abdulla Yameen has recently called upon all state institutions to adhere to the 2011 National Language (Priority) Act, which created the Dhivehi Academy – charged with continuing the preservation and development of the language.

The President’s Office quoted Yameen as saying that the Dhivehi language was one of the “greatest privileges of our nationalism”, describing it as a “social obligation, as Maldivians, to give precedence to our national language”.

Ashraf explained that the preservation of the local language – spoken by less than 400,000 people – is beset with difficulties, but maintained that Dhivehi was “changing” and “evolving” rather than declining, with the Maldives’ youthful population lacking the same fluency in their Dhivehi as their elders.


“They’re mixing into English language because the medium of instruction in the education system is given in English. Mostly the students don’t have enough time to discuss and to talk in Dhivehi language,” said Ashraf.

The restriction of Dhivehi to Islam and Dhivehi classes has left many young people feeling as if their mother tongue is not an official language, he suggested, arguing that English is seen as the key to a career.

A number of Arabic and Urdu words have been introduced into Dhivehi in recent decades, and Arabic has recently being introduced up to grade 7 in some schools – with plans to make expand into all schools. Young people are now seeing both Arabic and English as equally foreign languages.

“This generation don’t understand the Arabic, so they are mixing English. When they use English, the elders are saying ‘why are you destroying the language’, but the young people respond, ‘why did you mix with Arabic and Hindi’?”

Many more words detailing different types of ocean remain in use only amongst fishermen, who perceive the currents and swells of the Indian ocean far better than the younger generation for whom fishing has become a less common vocation.

One of the tasks performed by the academy is dealing with this evolution of the language in the Bas Committee, which also developed the official Dhivehi dictionary – published in 2012. Meanwhile, the Qavaaidhu Committee deals with issues relating to grammar and rules. An official English-Dhivehi dictionary is planned for next year. Furthermore, the academy is tasked with ensuring that Dhivehi is the primary language used across government institutions.

Events organised by the academy such as national competitions promoting the language have increased in popularity in recent years, with Ashraf suggesting that this growing interest may have been an unexpected side-effect of the country’s democratic advances over the past decade.

“The system has changed – the governance. Mostly people want to go to the People’s Majlis, so they have to speak in Dhivehi,” he said. “If they come up from these competitions they feel they will have something to show in the future.”

Language of love

The impact of the 2011 legislation was also described as providing greater knowledge of the language. The academy provides workshops and courses across the country, as well as a book fair which the academy has decentralised in order to spread its work into the atolls.

Work to preserve the country’s most prominent dialects has also taken place, with around 60% of the records of regional dialects – including the Addu, Fuvamulak, and Huvadhoo dialects – now preserved in Malé. A book featuring some of the preserved works in the Addu dialect is planned for publication later this year.

“It’s very difficult – the books are very expensive. That is the main problem for Dhivehi writers – they don’t have any kind of subsidy to better show their efforts. Maybe that is the one reason why the language is not well developed today.”

“The main problem to preserve the language is we don’t have enough facilities – even the human facilities…Still we don’t have any ability to do Dhivehi cartoons, Dhivehi comics. These are the challenges we face to preserve our language. We plan to have these things, but we don’t have any support within the academy.”

Ashraf also pointed out that, in order to survive in the 21st century, Dhivehi must adapt to sweeping technological advances – an objective that he is confident will receive the full support of a new generation of Maldivians.

“Dhivehi language must be a technology friendly language. That capability is not there in the last generation – now this generation, they have this capability so they have many ideas.”

“To preserve and develop the national culture, we must know the language. Every Maldivian must know the language for the culture and for his own country,” said Ashraf, whose major concern was simply that teaching methods had left students bored with their mother tongue.

“You should love the language in order to develop the language,” said an optimistic Ashraf.

Pointing out that the Dhivehi vocabulary has at least eight synonyms for the word ‘love’, Ashraf clearly feels that this is something Maldivians have a great capacity for.


Government introduces Arabic lessons as part of Islamic education drive

The Ministry of Education yesterday introduced Arabic language as an optional subject for grades 1 – 12 in twelves schools.

At a inaugural ceremony held in Hiriyaa School yesterday, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said the government will mainstream Arabic education in the Maldives, focusing particularly on Islamic education and the study of Quran.

Jameel said the introduction of Arabic language will bring a ‘special happiness’ to the people of Maldives, will strengthen the Islamic faith, and will introduce good behavior.

Stating that different ideologies have to be introduced into the education system in order to ensure the peace and stability of the country, Jameel pledged to introduce Islamic ethics as a subject in all schools within the year.

Reading and writing of Arabic script have traditionally been taught in the Maldives at a very young age, either at home or from private teachers. Most people, however, have little or no understanding of the meanings of Arabic language – an issue of concern often raised by local religious scholars.

The schools in Malé city which have introduced the new subject were Thajuddeen School, Muhyuddin School, Dharumavantha School, Aminiya School, and Hiriya School.

In Addu city, the new lessons have been introduced at Maradhoo School, Feydhoo School, Hulhudhoo School, and Shamsuddin School. In Baa Atoll, pupils at Thulhaadhoo School and Naifaru Madrasatul Iftitah will also have the option of taking Arabic lessons.

The ministry has said that the first twelve schools were chosen based on the fact that Arabic teachers were already present within the schools’ staff, and that the subject would be introduced in all schools within the year.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, Minister of Education Dr Aishath Shiham said that Arabic language is “very close to our hearts” and that learning the language is very important.

Jameel, Ahmed, Education State Ministers Sheikh Abdul Aziz Hussain, Sheikh Ali Zahir and Dr Abdulla Nazeer took model Arabic classes for Hiriya Schools students yesterday.

The introduction of Arabic language in all schools of the Maldives is part of the government’s stated education policies. The government has also pledged to prepare a scheme for the introduction ‘economically beneficial’ foreign languages within the first hundred days of the government and to choose two islands within this period for the establishment of Arabic medium schools.

With the exception of Arabic-medium Madhrasatul Arabiyyathul Islamiyya, the medium of instruction in all Schools of Maldives is English language – local Dhivehi language and Islamic studies are taught in Dhivehi.


Education Ministry unveils detailed hundred-day plan

Ministry of Education has unveiled its road map for the first hundred days of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration, joining many other ministries and government institutions.

The nineteen-point plan was announced at a ceremony held at Sultan Park yesterday.

The four priority objectives of the plan are: introducing Quran as a subject for grades 1 – 7 in in all schools within the 2014 academic year, introducing civic education, giving an allowance equivalent to salary for professional staff who take leave for further training, and providing opportunities for students in Male’ to train in six different areas from ‘Maldives Polytechnic” – the Ministry’s training institute for technical and vocational education.

Among other objectives, the ministry has planned to set professional standards for teachers and assign health assistants for schools through island health centers and provide counseling at schools.

The ministry also plans to establish Special Education units in five schools, and two dedicated regional Special Education centers. A child protection policy is also set to be passed within the first hundred days.

According to the Ministry, the government will choose two islands to establish Arabic medium schools within 100 days.

Plans to provide higher education and training opportunities include a campaign to familiarize students with training and career opportunities. In addition to this, the government will be signing agreements with five companies to provide apprenticeship programs and will seek local and overseas higher education opportunities for students with minimum three A Level passes.

Regional campuses of Maldives Polytechnic will be established and a scheme for introducing ‘economically beneficial’ foreign languages will also be designed within this period.

Sociology is planned to be taught in a selected number of schools and a special program to make students more aware of Dhivehi language and culture will also be introduced.

As part of this plan the ministry is seeking to assign Quran teachers for all Schools before the academic year 2014. The ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr. Abdul Muhsin Mohamed said that the ministry is still short of 26 Quran teachers to achieve this this objective.

According to Muhsin the ministry will find teachers for other subjects as well within this period. He said priority will be given to local teachers even though a number of foreign treachers are on stand by to fill in for approximately three hundred vacant posts.


Education Ministry pledges to introduce Arabic to more schools

The Ministry of Education has pledged to introduce Arabic to more schools in the next academic year.

Speaking to the press today, Minister of Education Dr Aishath Shiham said Arabic will be available at “many” schools throughout the Maldives next year.

In addition to Arabic, the Education Ministry intends to expand civic education in the curriculum and introduce Like Skills Education as a separate subject to educate students on life skills such as conflict resolution and responsible citizenship.

The government intends to equip five schools in Malé with facilities to educate children with special needs and establish two centers in the atolls to train children with special needs, Shiham said.

The Education Ministry is still seeking 74 Quran teachers in order to ensure that all schools are able to offer Quran as a subject, Shiham also said.