Minister of Education Dr. Aishath Ali, Mayor of the Addu City Abdulla Sodiq, Member of Parliament, Councilors, State Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
And a very good morning to you all.
It gives me great pleasure to deliver the keynote address of the 5th International Teachers’ Conference in Addu City, the first ever teachers’ conference organized outside of Male’ by the National Institute of Education. It is my privilege to address this distinguished gathering of academics.
I take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Education, Dr. Aishath Ali, and the members of the organizing committee for having this important conference.
Those working in the field of education bear an immense responsibility.
A country’s education system is its bedrock. The quality of its schools, teachers and curriculum are the great determinants of how our next generation will be shaped; the knowledge they will possess; the skills with which they will be equipped; and the attitudes and values they will embody.
How that generation turns out will have implications on every sphere of a nation’s public and private life. It is our obligation to ensure that this upcoming generation receives the best possible education that they can.
The theme of the 5th International Teachers’ Conference - “Education in the Global, National and Individual Context” demands educators to consider our field from a global perspective, paying attention to international best practices.
In doing so, we must consider the examples of countries which are renowned for their quality of education.
Recently, I had the opportunity to observe schools in Finland. Whilst there, I was extremely impressed by the country’s education system. Part of the excellence of their system is rooted in the high esteem in which teachers there are regarded.
Those wishing to enter the teaching profession in Finland must undergo rigorous preparation and must have attained at least a Master’s degree before they can begin teaching at even the most basic level.
Such high standards of entry ensure that Finland’s students are the beneficiaries of an education provided by only teachers of the highest caliber.
Further, I noted that Finland applies very unique teaching methods in their classrooms. Students were encouraged to work independently and in small groups, on carefully designed tasks, with teachers guiding the learning process, rather than standing in front of the classroom giving instructions.
The atmosphere was positive and lacked the panic of exam pressures, since students are only expected to sit their very first national tests at the end of Grade 12.
These teaching approaches are intended to nurture a love of autonomous learning in students and to equip them with the critical thinking and social skills that will help them grow into well-rounded adults.
Whilst unconventional, they have yielded their results, evident in the routinely high placements achieved by Finland in global charts ranking educational attainment.
In considering Finland’s example, there is much that we can learn and apply to our local context. Gathering from this experience, we will study the examples of other countries which are similarly well-regarded for their quality of education.
This is because it is increasingly salient that we vastly improve our own education system.
Despite the Maldives’ many strides in the education field over the past several decades, much work remains to be done.
Comprehensive studies conducted at the national level make evident the necessity of raising our overall quality of education and the state of our classrooms.
Part of this entails doing more to remove regional disparities in access to a good education, and being more proactive in ensuring that children with special education needs, disabilities and those who are socially and emotionally vulnerable are not left behind.
Another part entails an overall re-evaluation of what we understand to be the purpose of education. As the 21st century progresses it is becoming clear that curricula stressing rote memorization of knowledge, will not suffice.
Further, students who achieve academic excellence on paper but lack critical thinking and social skills will struggle to reach their potential and are not guaranteed professional success.
The task demanded of educators is to craft curricula and implement teaching methods that will help students keep pace with our rapidly changing world and mold them into well-rounded adults, possessing the social, practical and communications skills so necessary in today’s workplace.
Finally, it is paramount that we always strive to abide by the principle of equity. It is important to stress that equity means fairness, not sameness. Far too often in our schools, priority is placed on achieving uniformity: all students receive the same instruction; do the same activities and are given the same timeframe to complete them. Further, they are assessed against a common-criteria, despite their different interests, aptitudes and abilities.
This is both unfair and inefficient from an educational perspective. It is unfair to both high achievers, who are not being adequately challenged to reach their full potential, as well as to those who struggle academically, and are left behind.
It is exceptionally unfair to those with special education needs who end up being ignored outright.
Our schools must cater to the needs of all students.
Those who are gifted, those who might find academia challenging, and those who have special needs – have the right to demand their teachers’ sincere attention and best guidance, to not only increase their knowledge of subject matter, but to help them develop holistically into responsible and self-sufficient adults.
These are the sentiments that underline the new education policy of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Government.
This Conference, being attended by educators from different parts of the world, provides an invaluable opportunity to exchange views and experiences gathered in the field of education. Undoubtedly, we face many challenges.
But I have no doubt, that the collective wisdom that is represented here is equal to the task ahead. I wish you every success.
Thank you very much.
And have a wonderful time in this beautiful city of Addu.