There are three categories of schools in the Maldives: government, ward community and private schools. Although education is provided largely by the Government, the community and the private sector also play an active role. The Government supports community and private schools by providing a certain percentage of teachers depending on school size, and by providing infrastructure, facility support and financial subsidies. In order to minimize the differences in schools, 135 community schools in the atolls were converted into government schools in 2005.
In the capital, Malé, formal schooling is preceded by two years pre-primary education in the lower and upper kindergarten. This form of pre-primary education is now increasing in the atolls, especially in highly populated islands. The alternative to this form of education is the edhuruge. Modern preschools and the traditional edhuruge provide the first organized learning opportunities for 90% of pre-school aged children.
Primary education begins at the age of 6, the age at which children enter a seven-year cycle, starting in Grade 1 and ending in Grade 7. Universalizing seven years of basic education was one of the landmark achievements of the country. Assessment in these grades is at school level on the basis of continuous assessment in Grades 1-3, and school-based examinations held three times a year in Grades 4-7.
Secondary education in the Maldives consists of Grades 8–10 (lower secondary) and Grades 11–12 (higher secondary). Secondary education was provided only in Malé until 1990, but it has since been extended to the atolls through the gradual addition of Grades 8–10 classes in some atoll education centres and atoll schools based on set criteria, and by the establishment of two regional secondary schools. In 2005, the criteria for introducing Grade 8 in existing primary schools were revised so that more students could get easy access to 10 years of formal schooling. Introduction of higher secondary schooling in the atolls began initially in two atolls in 2001, followed by another one in 2002. Further expansion of higher secondary education in the atolls has continued, and altogether 24 schools are currently offering higher secondary education across the country.
The MOE is responsible for the formal education system and for a large number of the non-formal and occupational training programmes in the Maldives. NFE has played a major role in establishing the high literacy rate of the country. Much of the tribute for this success goes to the Centre of Continuing Education (CCE), which coordinates and implements all NFE programmes in the Maldives.