Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Should MPs have a minimum educational qualification?

The Maldives is a young democracy that has undergone several political transitions in the past decade. The role of the parliament, or the People's Majlis, is crucial in ensuring the stability and development of the nation. The Majlis has the authority to enact, amend and revise laws, as well as to oversee the executive and the judiciary branches of the government. Therefore, it is important that the members of the Majlis are competent, qualified and capable of fulfilling their duties.

However, what constitutes a suitable qualification for an MP? Should there be a minimum educational requirement for candidates who wish to run for the parliament? This is a question that has been debated in many countries, including the Maldives. Some argue that MPs should have at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent, while others contend that education is not a necessary criterion for political representation.

According to the Constitution of the Maldives, the eligibility criteria for an MP are as follows:

- Be a citizen of the Maldives
- Be a Muslim and follower of Sunni school of Islam
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Not have a decreed debt that is not being paid as per schedule
- Not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or he has been pardoned for the offence for which he was sentenced
- Not have a mental disorder

As can be seen, there is no mention of any educational qualification in the constitution. This means that anyone who meets the above criteria can run for the parliament, regardless of their level of education. However, some may argue that this is not sufficient, and that MPs should have at least some formal education to be able to understand and deal with complex issues that affect the country.

One of the arguments in favor of having a minimum educational qualification for MPs is that it would ensure a certain standard of knowledge and skills among the legislators. MPs are expected to draft, debate and pass laws that affect various aspects of the society and the economy. They also need to scrutinize and hold accountable the actions and policies of the government and other institutions. Therefore, they need to have a good grasp of various subjects such as law, economics, politics, social sciences, environment, etc. Having a minimum educational qualification would ensure that MPs have at least some exposure and familiarity with these topics.

Another argument in favor of having a minimum educational qualification for MPs is that it would enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the parliament. MPs are representatives of the people, and they need to earn their trust and respect. Having a minimum educational qualification would show that MPs are serious and committed to their role, and that they have invested time and effort in acquiring knowledge and skills relevant to their work. It would also signal to the public that MPs are competent and qualified to make decisions on their behalf.

However, there are also counterarguments against having a minimum educational qualification for MPs. One of them is that education is not a reliable indicator of intelligence, ability or performance. There are many examples of successful leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and activists who did not have formal education or who dropped out of school. Conversely, there are also examples of educated people who failed or caused harm in their fields. Therefore, having a minimum educational qualification does not guarantee that MPs will be effective or ethical in their work.

Another counterargument against having a minimum educational qualification for MPs is that it would exclude many potential candidates who may have valuable experience, skills and qualities that are not reflected in their academic credentials. There are many people who may have acquired knowledge and skills through informal or non-formal means, such as self-study, work experience, community service, etc. There are also people who may have faced barriers or challenges in accessing formal education due to various reasons such as poverty, discrimination, disability, etc. These people may have valuable insights and perspectives that could enrich the parliament and benefit the society.

Moreover, having a minimum educational qualification for MPs could undermine the principle of democracy and representation. MPs are elected by the people based on their choice and preference. The people have the right to choose who they want to represent them in the parliament, regardless of their educational background. Having a minimum educational qualification could limit the pool of candidates available for election, and reduce the diversity and representation of different groups and interests in the parliament.

Therefore, having a minimum educational qualification for MPs is not a simple or straightforward issue. There are pros and cons on both sides of the debate. However, one thing that can be agreed upon is that MPs need to have certain traits and skills that enable them to perform their role effectively and responsibly. These include integrity, honesty, communication skills, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, etc. These traits and skills can be acquired through various means, not necessarily through formal education.

Furthermore, MPs need to have a genuine interest and passion for serving the people and the nation. They need to have a clear vision and mission for their work, and a commitment to uphold the values and principles of democracy, human rights and justice. They need to be accountable and transparent to the people, and responsive to their needs and aspirations. They need to be willing to learn, improve and adapt to the changing circumstances and challenges that they face.

Therefore, rather than focusing on the minimum educational qualification for MPs, perhaps it would be more productive and meaningful to focus on the qualities and skills that MPs need to have, and how they can be developed and assessed. Perhaps it would also be more democratic and inclusive to let the people decide who they want to represent them in the parliament, based on their own criteria and judgment. After all, MPs are not employees or experts, but representatives of the citizens.

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