Maldivian Education: No room for the Arts?

Drawing, this is probably the only thing that comes to a Maldivian's mind when Arts Education is discussed. Maldives is one of the few countries, which provides free education in government installed public schools.

The government providing free education across all the tiny islands of Maldives is not an easy task, and is admired by many all over the world. Though the government has made educational accessible to the whole population, the education system has neglected one of the most important areas in Education and learning; and that is the Arts.

Every year, we see students who take the Cambridge Exams bringing in brilliant awards and accomplishments. As someone who was enrolled into the public education system, I can tell you a little secret on how this is accomplished.

Each year, teachers make it their number one priority to print out past papers, possible examination questions, and from there on, we memorized the best possible answer that the Cambridge examiners have published. For someone with a good memory, and a strong will, it is easy to memorize the answers and write it all on the exam paper with a few changed details.

I blush with pride, whenever I see students bringing in such awards. But at the same time it is important to know, how the education system has manipulated our brains. We were taught that the smart ones opt for the Science stream, while the ambitious ones go for the Business Stream. With that said, let us focus on the Arts; the stream where students who opt to study it are categorized as the “odd ones” or the lazy and the dumb.

As students we are taught facts about science, the importance of science, the value of business, how business contributes to society. Nonetheless it is disappointing in the least to say that Arts Students are not encouraged in the same way. Arts is not necessarily History and Geography. Arts is everything from music, to writing, and languages. The Arts give us the explanation as to why and how history has shaped the present, it teaches you how geographical factors effect individual lives, it teaches us to write in different perspectives, to analyze questions, to investigate factors that effect an individual’s life.

The neglecting of Arts Education has left us with a few shallow facts and no clue as in to how these facts can benefit our lives. Studying abroad, after my O’ levels, I struggled at first, because all I knew was to answer past paper questions. Studying in an environment where Arts Education was a priority, I have seen my peers (who are very diverse, intellectually and personality wise), flourish in different areas of studies. Elaborating on my last sentence, I saw the girl who was struggling in Biology improve her marks because Arts education taught her to write with clarity, to understand the question, and how to convert shallow facts into proper sentences.

In a country filled with over achievers, and students with hidden potential, it is important to emphasize on the importance of Arts Education. In a country where primary and secondary education is accessible to all, it is important that we allow students to learn instead of study. It is important that students learn how to use their talents to benefit them in their lives. And lastly, it is important that we are not filling brains with empty facts; it is important to learn, on how knowing the economic theories could maybe one day help in our country’s economic policy, how the history taught by your teacher should be a lesson in what to do and what not to do to maintain peace and stability. It is important to learn how geographical barriers can decrease accessibility to good employment or maybe even health care. It is important to know how to write with clarity, how to answer the question, instead of content dumping because that time could be used to answer another question. Lastly, it is important to know the pros and cons of whatever it is you are debating, it is important to know what you are writing about, because these students will be the policy makers, rulers, musicians, artists, businessmen, doctors and scientists of this beautiful country.

Not everyone can grasp scientific concepts or business concepts. Some flourish in creative environments. Encourage them instead of discouraging them. One day, they might be a nationwide architect, an internationally revered artist, a musician who may one day perform internationally, an actor who works in international movies. Some students may not be able to understand what history or chemistry or accounting is, it doesn’t make them stupid or lazy, it just makes them different.

As humans we are all created differently. The fact is that, in a world with more than 7 billion people, each finger print has a different pattern. We aren’t meant to study the same curriculum and blindly follow a crowd, we were created differently, meaning we excel and flourish in different environments. As humans, it is important that we follow the scientology and the psychology of humans, which repeatedly tells us that we are unique. This is why emphasis should be placed on the importance of Arts education.

Mr. President, as two people who have studied economics, I take it that you will agree when I say that “Resource Efficiency” is something that you want to achieve. In order to create a society in which all resources including labour is used to their fullest extent, it is important that you equip the creative (or the Arts Students) with the resources they need. Emphasis in the Arts Education is important because it is vital that a section of the population does not go to waste because they were neglected.

Mr. President, in order for you to create a high functioning society, where people make positive contributions, you need the Arts community as well.