The educational journey is in itself an exciting journey.
As all other journeys it deals with the expectancy of reaching a destination in the future but with the unique opportunity of building in the present what we want to achieve tomorrow.
It is not simply about climbing into a train and waiting patiently. It is about moulding the train itself, the speed of the vehicle and the direction it takes.
I thank Prime Minister Robert Abela who entrusted me with the responsibility to steer this Ministry and former Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo for his invaluable contribution in this sector.
Indeed, a healthy list of reforms which have been undertaken come to mind. These include free childcare centres, a renewed scholastic system by learning outcomes and an assessment system spread throughout the year, mid-year exams, SEC and MATSEC exams are now free of charge, free transport for school children of all state, church and independent schools, vocational subjects were introduced in all state schools, new schools, childcare centres and workshops were opened, better conditions for teachers were introduced, and we have seen upgrades at the University and at MCAST, including its infrastructure.
I will strive to continue to build on all that has already been done during these past years: the continuation of works in schools, new childcare centres, schools and other related facilities. I will continue to see that the teachers’ profession becomes more attractive, and that security in schools is strengthened.
It is true that we need to listen more, especially to the teachers, LSEs and all other educators. We will be giving an ear to all stakeholders in this sector. We want to bridge the gap – real or apparent – between the experts in Floriana and all the schools and ministry’s entities spread across the islands. And by stakeholders, I also include what education is primarily all about – our school children.
I heartily appreciated comments from a student in the last days, who came up with a very relevant suggestion to decrease waste in schools. His candid explanation caught my attention. Yes, I will also give thought to all that our schoolchildren have to say about their young days – their school life.
As I have already expressed in other media, I am aware that there are teachers who are finding it difficult to reignite their passion for teaching or students who are struggling with subjects which they believe are not making sense, or parents who are worried about their children’s educational advancement. We are listening to them.
We are going to reach out and make sure that everyone feels part of this positive, collective journey through time which we call education.
We want to provide all learners with the necessary opportunities to develop values, skills and attitudes that cultivate active citizenship and employability in the 21st century. We want to keep closing the gap between the world of education and the world of employment, we want to equip students with critical thinking strategies that value learning as a form of constant growth and nurture both personal and societal values and beliefs.
We will prioritise the provision of a variety of quality learning paths and lifelong learning; areas that encourage social agency and active participation in Malta’s economic and cultural growth, regardless of one’s age, interests, abilities and social background.
We will develop a renewed culture of learning that fosters empathy with the different logics of learning. This will be possible through an improved system of formative assessment and scaffolded learning strategies that encourage and enable all educational sectors, from primary to vocational and tertiary institutions, to work hand in hand for common educational goals. Such goals ultimately imbue students with the necessary skills and experiences to grow into independent 21st century citizens, empowered by a strong sense of identity and self-worth.
We want lower number of early school leavers, more gender equity and a continuously renewed educational system that facilitates training and employment for young people and life-long learners in different stages of life.
My first school visit as Minister for Education and Employment was an EkoSkola event held at San Gorg Preca in Hamrun - the FEE Fest, a 3-day event organised by Nature Trust at the Education for Sustainable Development Hub.
I laud such initiatives especially since they provide an educational outlet which raises awareness on the importance of the environment around us.
This fair, which is now running in its fourth year, provides the opportunity for students to learn more about the environment through the presence of various entities which provide environmental education and education for sustainable development topics. It is organised as part of the EkoSkola Programme.
It is worthy to note that participation of students from around Malta and Gozo in the EkoSkola Programme is at 83%. We’re ensuring that our students are given more possibilities to further their knowledge beyond the traditional aspect of education, by providing them with tools through which they can raise awareness themselves as well.
Wasteserv, Prayer Spaces, Free Trade, PreFab, Young Reporters for the Environment, Learning About Forests, SharkLab, and Nature Trust were present at the fair. The ESD hub, where the FEE Fest is held, was granted to Nature Trust by the Education Department within the Ministry for Education and Employment, to demonstrate best practices and training regarding education on sustainable development.
I think it is also fitting to look back and thank my previous colleagues and all at the various entities under the former Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government portfolio.
It was a beautiful experience, which I will cherish, an exciting journey made more so by all the teams and their hard and dedicated work in all these sectors. Our achievements are our legacies and I am sure that you have more to look forward to in the coming years.