MDP launches higher education policy, pledges raising enrolment rate to 40 percent

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) unveiled its higher education policy in simultaneous events across 19 islands and two cities on Friday (June 14), pledging to raise the enrolment rate from six percent of school leavers to 40 percent in the next five years.

Launching the policy in the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani atoll, former President Mohamed Nasheed said that the MDP’s objective was to usher in “a golden age” for higher education in the Maldives.

“We cannot let students finish their education after they complete O’ Levels. A student who wants to pursue higher education, even if he barely passed, will have that opportunity,” the MDP presidential candidate said.

The government would allocate MVR 500 million (US$ 32.5 million) in five years to issue student loans, provide scholarships and conduct training programmes, Nasheed said.

He added that island councils would be tasked with assessing the types of scholarships and higher education opportunities most needed for development of the island.

The Maldives shares its six percent enrolment with Somalia and Bangladesh, while developed countries such as South Korea have a rate higher than 90 percent. Neighbouring Sri Lanka meanwhile has a 15 percent enrolment in post-secondary education.

The MDP proposes in its sixth “mini-manifesto” to introduce an education fund, provide student loans with long-term repayment schemes, open new universities, colleges and institutes with campuses across the country, and conduct skills training programmes.

The party’s policy targets include the construction of two hostels or dormitories in the Male’ region, improving the Islamic studies faculty, establishing an Information Technology College, and setting up institutes for boat building, maritime training, medicine, fisheries and sports under public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

Other targets include inaugurating an education savings scheme with the government to match deposits by parents, providing plots of land to private education institutes, giving grants for financially-disadvantaged students, securing opportunities for 2,000 students to study medicine, covering course fees for students with special needs and issuing MVR 118 million (US$ 7 million) worth of student loans from a development bank during the next five years.

According to the policy, the monthly repayment for the student loans would not exceed eight percent of a borrower’s monthly income.

Moreover, the policy proposes upgrading the polytechnic institute to ISO 900 standard and establishing new faculties at the National University.

In addition to the proposed higher education opportunities, the policy also includes special projects to train 300 science teachers, 300 Quran teachers, 500 nurses and 200 pharmacists as well as an MVR 80 million programme for the improvement of lecturers.

The ‘Hunaru‘ skills training programme meanwhile targets the creation of 17,350 jobs.

On the MDP’s achievements during its three years in government, the mini-manifesto noted that the country’s first national university was inaugurated in February 2011, the first national polytechnic institute was opened in April 2010, a research center was established in Faafu Magoodhoo in collaboration with Italy’s Milano-Bicaco University, a TIVET (technical and vocational education training) authority was set up, a ‘Hunaru’ programme was commenced to train 8,500 workers in late 2011 and four private colleges were registered.

In addition, the government resumed work on a new building for the National University’s hospitality faculty, opened a hostel at the Kulhudhufushi campus, issued student loans worth MVR 300 million, facilitated significant increases in the number of scholarships offered by friendly nations, secured more than 60 tuition-free scholarships from the Bangalore Garden City College and compiled a report with World Bank aid on proposals for providing opportunities for post-secondary education.

Last week, President Dr Mohamed Waheed pledged to establish a housing policy for the people of Male’ as part of his campaign for the upcoming presidential election.