The opening of Billabong High EPS International School, the first such school in the island of Male, brings joy to parents, throwing flashbacks to the pioneering days of English education in the 1960s. Expectations are running high that the current initiative will give children a safe atmosphere to develop mentally and physically.
There is a high level of public dissatisfaction with the existing government-dominated school system. With 95% of students who join the system ending up as failures, the public's opinion appears justified. How did we arrive here?
Experts cite three contributory factors for the impasse:
- Too rapid expansion: The government followed a policy of building schools to pamper voters, disregarding its own capacity to staff and manage them. Gaps in the supply of teachers were filled with temporary teachers –mostly school dropouts.
- Suppressing private initiative: During the past 2 decades nearly all private and community schools were either nationalized or given 'government aid.' The so-called government aid acted like a 'kiss of death'. In return for getting a couple of free teachers, community and private schools were forced to adopt the government's ineffective strategies and inadequate fee structures. This was the policy that killed off the once-prestigious EPS and MES schools.
- Law on Children: The ill-conceived and inappropriately implemented law on the rights of children prevented teachers from disciplining children. As a result school bullies took control of the classes and vitiated the learning atmosphere.
Parents hope all this will now become history. They hope the new school will be the beginning of a string of such high quality schools in the country, brining to an end the dangerous atmosphere in the country's schools.
The Billabong High EPS International School established at the former EPS School building, is a joint collaboration between Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd of India and EPS School. According to Principal Hassan Nashid some 600 students have been enrolled in the school, which will operate on a single session basis. The fee structure is very reasonable considering the high amounts parents dish out for private tuition. Preschool fee is US $ 150 per month while students between grade 1 to 9 pay between US $ 200 and US $ 300. The staff includes Canadian, US, UK, Irish and South African nationals in addition to Maldivian teachers.