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«Text: Louise Wheatcroft Field research: Louise Wheatcroft Editing: Lucia Fry Design: VSO Creative Services Cover photo: ©VSO/Shahula Rasheed The views ...»

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VSO Maldives Valuing Teachers

The researcher and author of this report would like to thank all the people who made this

project possible.

Firstly, thanks to all the staff at the VSO Maldives programme office and to the volunteers

involved in the research process for their hard work and support.

Special thanks to the Honorable Dr Mahamood Shougee, Maldives Minster of Education, for making this research project possible and for providing Ministry support; to the teachers, supervisors, head teachers, principals, VSO teachers and to all the education stakeholders for giving precious time to take part in the research and speaking openly and at length about teachers, their motivation and education in the Maldives.

Lastly, a very special thanks to Aishath Akhmeema, Senior Supervisor at ESQIS, for her continual support throughout the project.

Text: Louise Wheatcroft Field research: Louise Wheatcroft Editing: Lucia Fry Design: VSO Creative Services Cover photo: ©VSO/Shahula Rasheed The views expressed in this report are representative of individuals who participated in the research and may not necessarily reflect the views of VSO Maldives or VSO International.

JANUARY 2005 VSO 317 Putney Bridge Road London SW15 2PN, UK www.vso.org.uk ©VSO, 2005 VSO is a registered charity number 313757.




• INTRODUCTION 7 VSO Maldives Education Programme Area Plan 7 Aim of the research 8 Research methodology 8 Structure of the report 9

• CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS 10 Socioeconomic and political overview of the Maldives 10 Education 10 Government education policy documents 11 Structure of the education system 13 External support in education 14 Donor agencies 14

• RESEARCH FINDINGS 15 Factors affecting teacher motivation 15

1. School leadership and management 16

2. Training and professional development 18

3. Availability of teaching and learning materials (TLMs) 22 4.

–  –  –


AEC Atoll Education Centre CCE Centre for Continuing Education EDC Educational Development Centre EFA Education For All ESQIS Educational Supervision Quality Inspection Service MOE Ministry of Education NGO Non-governmental organisation PDU Professional Development Unit TLM Teaching and learning materials UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNICEF United Nations International Children’s Fund VSO An international development organisation that works through volunteers

–  –  –

As the The Dakar Framework for Action (UNESCO, 2000), adopted by the World Education

Forum on EFA, identified:

‘The quality of learning is and must be at the heart of EFA. All stakeholders – teachers and students, parents and community members, health workers and local government officials – should work together to develop environments conducive to learning. To offer education of good quality, educational institutions and programmes should be adequately and equitably resourced, with the core requirements of safe, environmentally friendly and easily accessible facilities; well motivated and professionally competent teachers; and books, other learning materials and technologies that are context specific, cost effective and available to all learners.’ The conference identified as one of its strategies for meeting the goals the need to enhance

the status, morale and professionalism of teachers. This was articulated in the framework as:

‘Teachers are essential players in promoting quality education; they are advocates for, and catalysts of, change. No education reform is likely to succeed without the active participation and ownership of teachers.’ The Maldives has made great progress towards Education For All. Universal primary access exists, but not yet for children with special educational needs. Access to secondary education is an issue. A sharp decline in enrolment occurs at Grade 8 among atoll students, dropping from an enrolment in Grade 7 of 11,913 to 5,673 in Grade 8 (Educational Statistics 2003 Maldives). This is due to a lack of secondary education opportunities in the islands. The government is addressing this problem through population consolidation programmes, designed to encourage movement of island populations to regional urban centres where access will be available.

In terms of literacy rates, this is measured at 97% for adults, compared to 56.3% in South Asia; youth literacy is 99.1% compared to 70.6% in South Asia (UNDP Human Development Report 2003). However, these figures are assessed on ability to recite basic Arabic and Thaana1 texts without necessarily implying a full understanding of the contents. Functional literacy is thus lower. There is a national syllabus and textbooks for teachers and pupils are produced for all the subjects. The challenge now is to improve the quality of the education being delivered.

VSO has worked in the Maldives for nearly 25 years, with strong experience of working with schools and teachers to improve the quality of education. The aim of the VSO Valuing Teachers research project was to gain a better understanding of the teachers’ own views about their profession; factors that affect teacher motivation and steps that can be taken to address these. This research is based on the premise that if teachers are motivated, they perform better, and when they perform better, the quality of both teaching and learning improves.

–  –  –

2. Training and professional development

• Increase the capacity of training departments.

• Increase school-based professional development and funding.

• Provide systematic training of untrained teachers.

• Create forums for discussion of pedagogic topics at all levels.

• Harmonise external and government-funded education development projects.

3. Teaching and learning materials

• Allow teachers greater control over the curriculum, planning and delivery.

• Create a basic resources list to ensure all schools are able to deliver the curriculum.

4. Strengthening community relationships

• Improve communication between school, teachers and parents/community.

5. Teacher workload and conditions

• Ensure all schools have an appropriate number of teachers.

• Reduce the number of after school activities; allocate some responsibility to the community.

• Division of workload should be done fairly and with greater consultation.

6. Student behaviour and student profile

• Implement national and school discipline policies.

• Train teachers and school management in differentiation.

7. School buildings and facilities

• Ensure all schools have basic infrastructure.

• Improve physical environment and conditions to facilitate teaching and learning.

• Consider alternative ways of organising the two school sessions to reduce the issues of primary and secondary children sharing classrooms.

Without doubt, teachers are at the heart of the education system. In the Maldives, the school is also often the focal point for the island and teachers are under great stress to meet the needs of their pupils, their community, school management and the government. The pivotal nature of their role makes them susceptible to pressure. It is important that their needs are also taken into account in order to motivate them in their work, reduce the strain, increase their value and status in the eyes of others and for the education system to be effective and of high quality.

–  –  –

• temporary teachers (untrained; completed secondary education with O-level passes)

• assistant teachers (untrained with a minimum of two O-levels, plus Dhivehi)

• permanent teachers (trained teachers: some Dhivehi medium, some English medium trained)

• primary, middle and secondary teachers

• local and expatriate7 teachers.


In the initial stages of the research, a total of 104 participants were interviewed including teachers (79), supervisors (13), VSO teachers (3) and head teachers (9). The teachers took part in focus group interviews as well as follow up 1:1 interviews with some of the teachers to explore the issues more deeply. (Focus group methodology is detailed in Appendix 2.) Following the initial research, a number of secondary stakeholders were interviewed.

A secondary stakeholder workshop was held in order to dig deeper into the issues and possible solutions according to the different perspectives of people from different levels and departments within the MOE, as well as from stakeholders outside the Ministry (see Appendix 5).

The final layer of the research was in the form of a round table meeting, which involved a range of education stakeholders from teachers to policy-makers, discussing the initial findings and recommendations (see Appendices 6 and 7).

The research has enabled us to build up a picture of the state of motivation and morale of teachers in the Maldives and of the factors that affect them.


The report presents an analysis of the key issues that affect teacher morale in the Maldives today. In the main body of the report, each issue identified by teachers is explored from teachers’ perspectives, secondary stakeholders’ perspectives and then the current policy and practice is examined.

The final section summarises the findings and puts forward recommendations.



The Maldives is made up of 1,200 small islands grouped in 26 natural atolls. Just over 200 islands are inhabited. Of these, 135 each have populations of fewer than 500 people and only seven islands have more than 3,000 people. Over 25% of the population lives in the capital, Male’ (Maldives Vulnerability and Poverty Assessment, 1998). The smallness and dispersed nature of the islands settlement is a unique challenge to the Maldives’ development process.

The government has introduced a population consolidation programme through the development of infrastructures in the larger islands. Because of the geography of the country, the government finds it challenging to resource public services equally.

A highly centralised welfare state, all significant political and commercial activities in the Maldives take place in Male’. The country is divided into different administrative units, including atoll administration centres and island offices, but the real power remains in the capital’s central ministries and departments. The Maldives remains relatively politically stable; President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been in office since 1978. During this time, the country has seen rapid economic growth and development. The 2003 UNDP Human Development Report ranks the Maldives 86th out of 175 countries (with a Human Development Index of 0.751), making it one of only two South Asian countries to be classified as a ‘medium human development’ country. However, despite this success, the demand for political reform in recent years has increased. In response to demands for more political freedom and to the pressure of the donor community, the President has formed a Human Rights Commission. Recent debates about constitutional reform, including calls from the President for freedom of information legislation, a multi-party democratic system and an accountable legislature, signify a period of change for the Maldives.

Civil society organisations are few, new and weak. Currently, there are just three large nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that effectively work hand in hand with the government.

There is little opportunity for advocacy and pressuring government policy. There is almost no existence of unions or organisations of professional and academicians, and therefore there are no teachers’ unions to represent the views and voices of teachers. However, a new law on NGOs was passed in 2003, which recognises associations and gives them legal standing so that they can be held responsible for economic and social assets.

The Maldives is a purely Islamic country, whose social values, cultural systems, religious practices and, largely, the judicial system are guided by the Qur’an and Shari’a Law.

EDUCATION Education has traditionally been and remains highly valued by communities and the Maldivian government. The Maldives outperforms most least-developed countries and those in the South Asia region in terms of access to primary education, literacy rates and equity. The adult literacy rate is measured at 97.0% (56.3% in South Asia); youth literacy is 99.1% (70.6% in South Asia); combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio is 97% (54% in South Asia); net primary enrolment figures are 99% (79%) in South Asia; net secondary enrolment figures are 31% (UNDP Human Development Report 2003).

The pace of development has been rapid. In 1978, the government decided to move to a unified national system of education, providing universal basic education for all. The strategies thus involved the formulation of a unified curriculum for Grades 1–7, improvement of teacher training and the establishment and upgrading of new schools in the atolls. Two government schools (one AEC and one atoll school) were established in each atoll. School enrolment has


risen rapidly (from 15,000 in 1978 to 10,4408 in 2003(Educational Statistics 2003 Maldives )).

Every island has at least one primary school teaching to Grade 6 and each child has access to seven years of schooling. Each atoll has at least one AEC teaching to (UK) O-level (Grade 10).

Secondary schooling to A-level is available in Male’ and the number of secondary schools in the atolls offering A-level education is on the increase. Schools are split into government, community and private. The two former categories can access government-trained teachers and resources. The private schools charge fees and are largely made up of untrained teachers catering for island students who migrate to Male’ or remain in the less-developed islands.

A national teacher training institution was established in 1977, yet 33% of teachers remain untrained. There is a huge reliance on expatriate teachers from the South Asia region, who comprise 36% of the national teaching force. At secondary level, less than 25% of the teachers are local. At higher secondary level (Grades 10–12) the figure is less than 20% (Educational Statistics 2003 Maldives).

Government education policy documents The government has three major policy documents that outline future directions for the development of education in the Maldives, plus the country’s EFA plan.

1. MOE Republic of Maldives Education Master Plan 1996–2005

National objectives:

• Improve the quality of education while sustaining growth.

• Increase the relevance of education to the local environment.

• Increase trained manpower for national development.

• Improve and strengthen the organisation and management capacity of the education system.

• Increase trainable manpower.

2. Ministry of Planning and National Development: Sixth National Development Plan 2001–2005

Key policy objectives:

• Raise the quality of education at all levels.

• Increase community and private sector participation in education.

• Expand and promote information and communication technology in education.

• Strengthen educational policy formulation and management.

• Increase the human resource capacity of the education sector.

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