What are we learning at school?

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For generations, the education system in the Maldives has been about learning the values and morals that one should live by. You attend school and sit in classroom as teacher after teacher reads to you or gives you homework from the textbooks. Education has been so centered on book learning that, for the greater part, youth lacked life skills by the time they graduated; in many cases, resulting in unemployed youth scourging the streets in numbers.

While the exam-oriented education system benefited the book learners, a great number of students suffered every year due to the lack of equity in the all-equal school environments. The students who preferred kinesthetic learning were often left behind in trying to cover the prescribed syllabus in a certain time frame. For these students, education fell short of paving a brighter future for them. It failed to guarantee job security for them to build their future.

But the past three years have seen revolutionary changes in the education system in the Maldives. Making good on the presidential pledge to create a better and more inclusive education system in the country, the government introduced a new curriculum to the schools. This new curriculum, based on holistic education, focused on the students’ strengths and interests in defining their career paths. The once left-out majority of kinesthetic learners found themselves surrounded by choices between careers they had never thought were possible.

In an interview with Maldeeb, Education Minister Dr. Aishath Shiham stated that the introduction of B-TECH programmes have opened numerous gateways for students to pursue their interests, whether it be photography, hospitality or healthcare. The Education Ministry’s initiative has led to countless businesses taking students under apprenticeship programmes and developing their character and skills based on their interests and strengths.

“It’s hard to say what our biggest achievement is. But the fact that we can provide better services to the citizens in terms of education is a great achievement. We are educating students to serve the nation in different sectors. Take the healthcare sector for instance. We have trained about 450 students in pharmaceuticals to work under ‘Husnuvaa Aasandha’ [the State welfare medical scheme with unrestricted coverage] in the healthcare sector in the islands. The fact that we can give every student an opportunity to give back to their country in some way is in itself a great success”

In working with different sectors, the Education Ministry has successfully bridged the gap between the kinesthetic learners and the job market. Today, every student is assured education that will guarantee them a career of their choosing; in which they can give back to their nation. The Ministry’s initiative doesn’t end with students; but involves training teachers to be better equipped to teach.

Since 2014, the Education Ministry has conducted numerous training programmes for teachers, ensuring that every teacher has at least a Diploma in teaching. While 1200 teachers were trained in 2015, the ministry is currently conducting training programs for 3000 teachers. Minister Aishath Shiham said that the ministry’s aim is train teachers to provide better education in the schools. “We have trained and created jobs for Special Education Needs teachers to cater for the SEN students in the schools”.

Education as most Maldivians knew it, has changed a great deal. Today, it is not only about book learning, but learning based on skills and interests. And it is not only the students who are learning, but the teachers as well. The Education Ministry has till date provided about 4000 higher education opportunities to students and teachers to better the education system and create a community of well-versed youth who can better serve the country in their respective fields. In fact, education today is not about sitting in a classroom reading out loud from a textbook, but chasing your skills and excelling at what you’re good at. That, is what we are learning at school today.

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