Traditionally children aged three and up in the Maldives were educated in Islamic "Makthab" classes, generally using a single large room or the shelter of tree. The children learn simple arithmetic, Dhivehi and some Arabic, and practise reciting the Qur'an. These private schools still exist, but western-style schooling is becoming more pervasive.
The first western-style school in the Maldives is the Majeediyya School, a secondary established in 1927. The school was originally co-educational, but it was felt necessary to create a second school for girls (Aminiyya School) in 1944.
Until 1978 formal education was concentrated in the capital, Malé, but after taking power in 1978, President Gayoom determined that every atoll should have a school. The first was opened in South Miladhunmadulu Atoll in March, 1979.
As of 2002, the President's Office claimed that universal primary education has almost been achieved and the literacy rate had improved from 70 percent in 1978 to 98.82 percent. In 2005, there were 106,220 students in schools, or 40% of the total population.
A National University Act was passed in January 2011 to establish the first university in the Maldives. Institutions offering higher education in the Maldives are: