Every year when Cambridge O' level results are announced, it's chest thumping time for Maldives Education Ministry officials, claiming their school system is the best in the world. True, Maldivian students display individual brilliance that compares with the best in the world who take these exams. But what is conveniently forgotten during the celebrations is the inconvenient fact that 73% of the 7000 candidates fail the exams. So, which of these two pictures represents the real school system of Maldives?
Looking at the results this year, six students were placed 1st in the list of world top 10. Five of them belonged to the so-called elite schools of Male, even though five of them were citizens of other islands. In addition, 33 students were included in the world top 10. This is an increase over last year's figure of 25.
That's the good news. The bad news is that only 27% of the 7000 candidates passed the examination. Further, 22% of the candidates brought a "U" set, meaning they did not score any marks. Another worrying trend is the decreasing pass percentage of Dhivehi and Islam.
Many ordinary Maldivians believe that the brilliant performances at Top 10 level is more due to inherent talent and private tuition rather than anything done by the schools. They believe the actual contribution of the schools is the 27% pass rate. This of course is a very harsh judgment.
Whatever the reason, there is a widening gulf between the handful of world beaters and the vast majority of students who come out as failures from the schools. An interesting question is, how will the new policy of establishing elitist private schools affect the situation?