Maldives's 2015 Telecommunications Law mentions the term “information and communication technology (ICT)” without any definition.
The term “assistive technology (AT)” is mentioned in the 2021 Inclusive Education Policy and the 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan without any definition.
The 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan highlights that "distance learning" is the “equity” solution that will ensure the delivery of quality education for the few students disbursed in small islands all over the Maldives.
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan and the 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan only mention the term “information and communication technology (ICT)” and “distance learning”; however, they do not provide any specific definition.
The 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 mentions the term “assistive technology (AT)” and describes its components and the different ways of using it as follows: “the term includes software, tools and equipment that are used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities and CLP. AT is utilized in various performances ranging from skills including reading, writing, information processing, mobility, communication and sensory processes”. The plan also mentions the term "open educational resources (OER)"; however, it does not provide any definition.
Constitution and laws: There is no reference to technology in education in the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Maldives.
The 2020 Education Act aims to ensure “the right to the opportunity to participate in programmes aimed at developing modern technology and special skills within the education system and the right to access to participate in extra-curricular activities”.
Maldives's 2015 Telecommunications Law aims to develop and promote information and communication technologies. Moreover, the legislation additionally encompasses provisions about universal services. Nevertheless, the specific nature or classification of the universal services is not explicitly delineated within the act's provisions.
Policies, plans and strategies: The 2015–2018 ICT in Education Master Plan envisioned that schools would become innovative in delivering quality education. The plan had ten deliverables, including upgrading the IT infrastructure in all schools, developing a national education portal, providing all schools access to quality teaching and learning materials, training teachers in ICT literacy and ICT-pedagogy integration, and developing an online educational management information system (EMIS).
The main mission of the 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan is to provide opportunities to all girls, boys, youth and adults, to acquire knowledge and skills, as well as nurture in their values and attitudes, to thrive and actively participate in nation-building, and live as responsible global citizens in an interconnected world. The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan is developed around four goals: Improved Learning for all through equitable access to quality education; Skills for Youth and Adults through equitable expansion of the TVET programmes, responding to the socio-economic and development needs of the Maldives; Ensuring equitable access to lifelong, affordable, and quality higher education for all; System Strengthening for Efficiency and Quality Schools and Training Services. Policy areas for each goal are identified in the plan, and so are various strategies to achieve the targets defined in policy areas.
The 2019-2023 Government Strategic Action Plan outlines an ambitious agenda for digital development as a critical step towards economic diversification. The Digital Maldives for Adaptation, Decentralization and Diversification (DMADD) Project aims to support the Maldives' digital transformation. Key project components include an enabling environment for improved digital connectivity and competitiveness; digital identification for improved online and in-person service delivery; digital technologies and data platforms for climate resilience; and project management and implementation support.
Expanding upon the overarching vision articulated within the 2015-2018 ICT in Education Master Plan, which aspired for schools to evolve into bastions of innovation in the dispensation of high-calibre education and acknowledging the unparalleled paradigm shift toward technology catalyzed by the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 envisions to a) ensure the availability of educational opportunities to all; b) address the diversity of learners; c) mitigate the digital divide; d)facilitate the capacity-building and empowerment of educators and educational leaders; e) elevate the efficiency and efficacy of the administrative and managerial facets of the education system. The above-mentioned goals are in accordance with the foundational principles delineated within the 2018 UNESCO Bangkok Recommendations for a Regional Strategy in attaining ICT in education.
Digital competency frameworks: ICT competency standards for students are included in the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). The National Curriculum Framework also supports the development of professional development programmes for teachers and principals to execute the successful implementation of the curriculum. The 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 aims to develop and implement ICT competency standards for teachers (ICT-CST) with technical support from different stakeholders. Moreover, the resultant ICT-CST framework is intended to seamlessly integrate into the overarching teacher professional standards, effectively aligning these standards with contemporary technological imperatives.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The 2019-2023 National Resilience and Recovery Plan aims to establish high-quality school systems in two regions to provide quality education, which includes the development of STEM education, coding and robotics, sports education, creative, performing and visual arts, skill lab and vocational education, integrated development of quality SEN components and TVET program. Establishing a satellite classroom system in islands lacking schools to ensure access to education for everyone irrespective of location and population size, institutionalizing remote learning in school systems, and improving access for students by developing the capacity of teachers for continuous remote learning, reaching vulnerable students, and implementing ICT-related developments are also critical objectives of the plan.
Developed through a consultative process with the senior management team of the Ministry of Education, principals, teachers, UNICEF Maldives, specialists in information communication technology (ICT), national COVID-19 response team, public health experts, relevant government agencies and members of the Social Council, the government developed the 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan. The main goals of the 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan were to minimise the loss of learning for students, while simultaneously preventing the spread of COVID-19 from schools into local communities, by providing safe learning environments, and by putting in place appropriate prevention measures in the schools and conducting awareness activities.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: To meet the need of ever-increasing demand for electricity the government of Maldives is aiming to increase the electricity supply in all regions of the country by 20 percent by 2023 and ramp it up to 70 percent by 2030. The government of Maldives has lots of projects that focus on improving electricity supply. For instance, began in 2014 and supported by the World Bank, the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investment in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) project aims to achieve a net-zero target by 2030, one of the most ambitious targets for an island nation. But these projects do not specifically mention access to electricity in disadvantaged areas (rural or remote).
Computers and devices: In Satellite schools, students are provided with the latest technology, including Chrome books.
The 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan highlighted the importance to replace all older tablets with tablets that have built-in SIM cards to ensure connectivity of all students to e-learning. All students (except those in grades 1 and 2) and teachers were provided with Android Tablets.
Encompassed within the thurst area denoted as "Infrastructure and Connectivity," the 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 delineates a distinct initiative referred to as the "Hardware" program. The program aims to equip schools with network toolkits, network cables and accessories by the end of 2023 and 2024. Furthermore, the plan aims to provide laptops/Chromebooks to all government school teachers and equip schools with smart TVs and assistive technology resources by the end of 2024.
Internet connectivity: The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan highlights ensuring the availability of internet connectivity for learning as an important strategy to enhance the learning environment for effective curriculum implementation.
The 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan aimed to ensure that data arrangements of 5GB per month were made for teachers and students, which was later increased to 10 GB per month in collaboration with the Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The "Connectivity" program of the thrust area "Infrastructure and Connectivity" of the 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 aims to effectuate a comprehensive upgrade of the existing internet bandwidth infrastructure across all government schools by the end of 2024. Furthermore, it seeks to extend the ambit of Wi-Fi accessibility beyond the confines of mere classrooms, reaching into additional key spaces within these educational institutions. These encompass staff rooms, hall areas, libraries, laboratories, and other communal spaces existing within the premises of government schools.
High-speed internet is provided in Satellite schools.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan proposes five policies to address challenges in achieving the goal of improved learning for all through equitable access to quality education. One of them is to enhance the learning environment for effective curriculum implementation. To achieve its targets, ensuring the availability of library services and independent learning spaces in all schools is an important strategy.
According to the Ministry of Education’s Circular No: 22-E/CIR/2020/28, the Ministry ensured continuity of education during the pandemic by implementing dual modes of teaching and learning: online classes and telecasted lessons via television, locally known as ‘Telikilaas’. Lessons were also available for asynchronous streaming or download from a web portal (Filaa).
According to the circular, a play-based activity pack was developed by preschool teachers and shared with the parents to be used at home for pre-school children. For Grades 1-3 students, lessons with a focus on literacy and numeracy were prepared and disseminated using digital learning platforms. For students in Grades 4 to 8, teachers were advised to prepare lessons as per the contingency scheme of work and deliver the lessons using digital learning platforms. For students in Grades 9 to 12, the Ministry of Education conducted the Telekilaas lessons. The Ministry of Education also advised that the Telekilaas lessons should not be the sole focus of learning and teaching for specific grades, but should be complemented with daily interactive sessions for students, via Google Classroom, YouTube, EduPage, TED-Ed, Moodle, or any other digital learning platform, approved by the Ministry of Education. The teachers were also advised to ensure that the Telekilaas lesson objectives were achieved using the digital learning platforms approved by the Ministry of Education. Moreover, the teachers were also required to consider sign language and subtitles for children with disabilities and check with the parents and caregivers, on the children’s engagement with the Telekilaas lessons.
Along with general administration work, the Ministry of Education also decided to use G Suite by Google as a platform for teaching and learning. This decision was based on internal comparative assessments in terms of cost, simplicity, and flexibility of alternative platforms. As a result, the G suite setup was implemented in all public schools, and user accounts were created for all students and teachers in the country.
In the beginning of 2022, satellite education was introduced where schools were shut down due to the lack of students and inadequate facilities. The Satellite Hub Centre in Huravee School in Malé City was launched, connecting satellite schools in three islands.
To enhance e-learning, the thrust area of "Digital Educational Resources (DER)" of the 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 has identified programmes and projects that are expected to provide ICT-integrated teaching and learning digital content. These programmes include developing interactive textbooks for key stages 1-5, content adaption for visual and hearing impaired students of key stages 1-3, and creating digital educational resources for social studies, languages, science and mathematics subjects. Furthermore, the plan aims to upgrade the web portal (Filaa).
The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) emphasises the use of technology and media as one of the important competencies to be acquired by students. The know-how of technology and media is considered important for students in their learning and includes the ability to identify the best sources to gather information; question the authenticity of the information gathered; in addition to analysing, synthesising and evaluating information.
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan highlights the need to acquire knowledge, skills, and values required for the successful completion of each stage of education. This includes the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, the curriculum competencies contained within the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), and 21st-century skills for a decent life in an interconnected world, characterised by globalisation and economic integration.
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan also emphasises the need to provide extra support systems in schools for students who need further assistance to achieve the expected competencies in the curriculum and for developing and applying learning frameworks for students with SEN.
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education highlights the role of science in their major activities. The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan also supports the development of science education, especially marine science.
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan, however, does not mention the inclusion of girls in STEM. To reach more girls and women in actualizing their aspirations for education and a career in STEM, a collaboration was formed between UNDP Maldives along with the National Institute for Education, Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology and Women in Tech Maldives, with the support from the Government of Australia.
Developing the ICT capacity of learners is one of the focused programmes of the 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 within the "Digital competence and leadership" thrust area. The programme has two dedicated projects: the digital citizenship project and the coding project. Through the digital citizenship project, the plan aims to conduct the "Be Internet Awesome" program by Google for students in grades 1 to 10 and the "Cyber Wellness Student Ambassador" program for grades 11 to 12 students. Furthermore, the plan aims to conduct a nationwide survey to assess the level of digital citizenship practised by school children based on UNESCO's digital citizenship standards by the conclusion of the year 2023. Subsequently, the plan aims to conduct continuous digital citizenship programmes for students, addressing gaps identified from the survey by the end of the year 2024. Through the coding project, the plan aims to develop and implement a coding program for students to create meaningful software applications by the end of year 2024. Additionally, a pivotal facet of this initiative involves the establishment of dedicated coding laboratories within five distinct geographical regions of the country, a targeted endeavour expected to be realized by the end of 2024. Furthermore, the plan aims to establish full-fledged STEM labs in five different regions of the country to provide access to high-quality STEM education to all students by the end of year 2023.
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan aims to provide support to teachers to improve teaching and learning on high-level cognitive thinking and skills, formative assessment, and corrective feedback via strengthening in-service training and teacher support systems. Supporting schools/teachers on appropriate teaching and learning for the inclusion of children with SEN is emphasised in the 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan. Furthermore, strengthening the curricula implementation through cost-effective and innovative teaching and learning practices (for example, Multigrade Teaching ) is also highlighted in the 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan.
According to the 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan, there is a requirement for intensive teacher capacity-building programmes in student assessment in the new teaching and learning methods (for example, Telekilaas, internet-based mediums or a combination of these mediums). Moreover, in-service training of teachers was also mentioned to maintain competency-based rigorous models of assessment in a remote/virtual teaching and learning environment. The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with UNICEF, commenced an upskilling programme for 2,000 teachers to overcome challenges in online teaching in the Maldives. Moreover, during the pandemic, the Ministry of Education expected to train teachers to become Google Certified Educators, with the help of a core group of local trainers.
With the overarching objective of enhancing the pedagogical landscape by integrating ICTs as instructional instruments and educational reservoirs, the 2021-2024 ICT in Education Master Plan 2 endeavours to effectuate a series of strategic initiatives within the "Digital competence and leadership" thrust area. These initiatives encompass the training and certification of 50 designated trainers and 4,000 teachers, a target set for attainment by the end of 2023. The plan seeks to provide comprehensive professional development opportunities for school teachers, focused on proficient utilization of diverse ICT platforms, scheduled for implementation by the end of 2024. The plan encompasses the execution of specialized training programs tailored to assistive technologies for special education needs (SEN) teachers, a training regimen expected to be accomplished by the conclusion of the year 2024. The plan aims to train computer studies teachers to teach coding effectively and align ICT training programmes of pre-service teachers with the ICT competency standards for teachers (ICT-CST) by the conclusion of the year 2024. Furthermore, upgrading teacher resource centers (TRCs) (established as part of tsunami recovery efforts) with the necessary equipment by the end of year 2024 is also an important agenda of the plan.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The criteria for data protection in the Maldives fall under the right to privacy, which was embedded in the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Maldives and the state Penal Code. The penal code prohibits obtaining private or highly secured information without a license or authority to disclose any such information to a third party.
In 2016, the Ministry of Economic Development of the Government of Maldives announced drafting a new data protection bill that was circulated to the public but has not yet become law.
However, the Data Protection Draft Bill does not mention data privacy from the use of technology in education specifically.
According to the 2020 Education Act, one of primary goals of the education system in Maldives is to “educate children on safe use of the internet”.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
Maldives has adopted the 2017 Children Protection Policy, the 2019 Policy on Prevention of Self-harm and the 2019 Anti-Bullying Policy. The above-mentioned policies take a firm stand against online abuse and cyberbullying but do not explicitly mention student protection from cyberbullying or abuse.
The 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan highlights many programs to improve learning for all through equitable access to quality education. One of them is to strengthen the existing school learning environment to reflect safety and reduce student risk factors through the development and implementation of an anti-bullying policy. The program also aims to conduct awareness and orientation sessions on anti-bullying for the school community, including students, teachers, and parents. However, the 2019-2023 Education Sector Plan does not mention cyberbullying specifically.
During the first week of implementation of the 2020 Maldives COVID-19 Education Response Plan, a handbook for parents on cyber safety was launched to prevent or minimize the risks associated with technology, including cyberbullying.
The National Center for Information Technology functions under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology. The government agency is responsible for the development, promotion and dissemination of Information Technology in the Maldives.
The Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology (MCST) is responsible for providing leadership and an enabling policy and regulatory environment for the development of digital government, digital economy and digital society; and the advancement of science and research for inclusive, sustainable and resilient national development.
The Public Service Media (PSM) was responsible for developing and recording Telekilaas sessions, as the official state media of the Maldives. The Ministry of Education appointed MAXCOM company for the task of allocating the tablets to all schools.
The City and Island Councils are responsible for primary healthcare and preschool education; and educational and vocational programmes for adults.
The COVID-19 Education Responsive Plan was implemented by the Ministry of Education with the support of several partners. The collaborating partners identified are: WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, WHO, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM), the Teachers’ Association of Maldives (TAM), the Public Service Media (PSM), Dhivehi Channel, Munnaaru TV, and all higher education institutions (HEIs) who train pre-service teachers.
The laws, policies, and plans of Maldives do not mention the main responsibilities of schools in technology integration, including the use of digital devices such as mobile phones or tablets.