Dr Asim Ahmed,
Minister of Education, Maldives
Acceptance to the new technologies is so high among the people in Maldives that Internet based learning is promoted by the parents in most of the schools. With their own funding, parents have provided TV, smart board, computer, etc to schools, says Dr Asim Ahmed, Minister of Education, Maldives. In conversation with Mohd Ujaley.
Majority of South Asian countries are yet to address the problem of literacy, electricity and acceptance to new technologies, in such a scenario where do you see ICT in education stands?
It is very important to use information technology to enhance the quality of education. Many countries, including Maldives have introduced information technology as a subject in the classroom. I agree, there are many challenges related to infrastructure, however, we are fortunate that Maldives has electricity available in all the areas. We have robust internet connectivity. People’s acceptance to the new technologies is so high in Maldives that in most of the schools here internet based learning is promoted by the parents, with their own funding, they have provided TV, Smart-board, Computer, etc to schools.
Government does not have the capacity to provide all the modern facilities to all the schools. Government provides the minimum basic facilities to all the schools such as good infrastructure, quality teachers, text book, and other essential elements. It is the parents who have taken the lead in promoting ICT based education in schools.
In the last few years, gross enrolment ratio across South Asia has improved but not the quality. How do you look at Maldives in that context?
In Maldives we have 100 percent enrolment, so all the kids who are supposed to be in the school, are in the school. However, we prepare students for Cambridge O level examination and Edexcel A level examination; hence our syllabus is geared towards English medium of education.
Quality of education crucially depends on quality of teachers. We have developed many teachers development programme for both in service teachers and also for the one who wants to enter into the profession. So now universities and colleges are offering degree level training for education professionals. This will improve the quality and will reflect upon the performance of the students.
In Maldives, most of the teachers at the primary level are Maldivians now, at secondary level, we still depend on expatriate teachers. Government has improved the infrastructure in last couple of years to enhance the capacity of the schools. Most of the schools are one session school now; this has greatly improved the quality of the education as now students have time for various other educational activities as well.
[colored_box color=”yellow”]“Vocational education is the area that we want to promote within the general education system”[/colored_box]
In 2000, Government introduced Maldives Accreditation Board (MAB) to standardise the quality of education across the board, are you happy with the outcome of MAB?
So far, we are happy with the outcome. The main purpose of the MAB was to improve the standard of education especially at post-secondary level. In Maldives, higher education is largely dominated by private sector. Government is not investing very heavily in higher education. Government has a National University apart from that much of the higher education is provided by private organisations. MAB has helped us in monitoring and providing uniform standard to all these organisations. MAB has set various parameters for the private organisations to get accredited. Getting accreditation is also important for our certificate to get accepted internationally.
Traditionally, most of the Maldivians have gone abroad for higher education, what is the present scenario of higher education in Maldives?
It is true, but with the establishment of the higher education institutes, many students are able to obtain higher education in the country itself, that too for the fraction of the cost they pay abroad. However, many of the courses are still not available in Maldives, hence people go abroad. But now the private sector is competing with regional centre, suchas Malaysia where majority of Maldivians go for higher education.
Maldives National University has grown up and now it is a fully independent university, they provide education and training in all areas of social science. In science education, we still have to work very hard.
Centre for Continuing Education and Education Development Centre have been merged to become the National Institute of Education, it will continue to provide curriculum, research and other activities and most importantly now they will provide the diploma level courses to the teachers who are in the services. We have teacher resource centre, some of them will now act as training centre for NIE. So there is a lot of development happening in case of higher education in Maldives.
Fishing is considered as the lifeblood of Maldives. Do you have any plan or roadmap to educate and train the local fishermen?
Vocational education is the area that we want to promote within the general education system. Right now we are focusing on O level and A level education. Some schools in the rural areas have vocational streams but we do not have enough infrastructure. Recently, I had the discussion with the Fisheries and Agriculture minister on this very issue. We want to develop vocational courses both in fisheries and agriculture. Our schools will introduce these courses and Department of Fisheries and Agriculture would provide the assistance in teaching these subjects. We will plan the syllabus together and then decide a certificate standard; this is one development which we hope to see yielding good results.
Right now, there seems to be little strain in relationship between India and Maldives. What is your sense of India’s relationship with Maldives?
India is not only the close friend of the Maldives; it is like a close relative and brother of Maldives. Historically, culturally, diplomatically and socially we have had strong relationship with India so we cannot afford to have relation strained with India. A lot of Maldivians come to India to get medical treatment, to obtain education, and a lot of them are settled in India to get education for their children, so these are very important relations and we cannot really afford to have anything which disrupts this tie.
I hope that we will be able to work out any difference that we have. I believe India is a matured democracy and similarly Maldives is very old country. I personally feel these relationships will not be disrupted because of the issue we face that have some immediate impact. There will be long and strong relationship between the two countries. I believe foundation is still very strong, and I hope these good relations will bring good for both India and Maldives.