Education Secretary Clifton Grima said the promised "significant" pay increase for educators was "still under discussion" but could not say when it would be completed.
Ahead of the 2022 general election, on 2 March 2022, Prime Minister Robert Abela, speaking at a Labor event in St Lucia, announced that if Labor won the election, educators' salaries would increase "significantly".
Grima confirmed that what the government "promised it will fulfill".
Talks are taking place between the Malta Teachers' Union (MUT) and the Ministry of Education to decide on a new sectoral deal that will include a better financial package for educators, Grima said.
When pressed for more details on what a "significant pay rise" means, he could only say that the two sides are still discussing the matter. Also when asked when the industry deal would be finalized, he said "when the time is right".
Educator shortages, improving quality, teacher supply, salary, lowering college entry requirements, and civics to help 16-year-olds gain the right to vote are among the issues Grima addressed in an interviewThe Malta Independent no domingo.
Preparing students for the real world
In an education reform policy document written by the University Students Council (KSU), only 4% of 651 respondents said they believe the government is doing enough to improve the education system in Malta.
Asked if this percentage is fair and which themes the government highlighted as priorities, Grima said: "People need to understand and appreciate that work has been done and more work is being done in various aspects of education.”
He mentioned that education should also start very early, even before the student reaches school age.
"I think one of the most important points is that people feel there is a leap... from [the school desk] to the outside world, the world of work."
"I am someone who always says that the educational system should not train workers, but citizens, individuals who have the necessary skills to adapt to the path they want to follow in society."
He added that the ministry wants to put more emphasis on continuous learning so that people can ask questions and adapt to different situations.
He said that the education system should not only focus on exams, important though they are, but also train students in other ways to ensure they succeed in whatever path they choose.
lack of educators
Before the start of the 2022/23 school year, Grima publicly stated that there is no shortage of teachers in public schools. When this was mentioned to him, he said he still supports the statement.
"The reality that day was that for the first time in years the Department felt confident saying, after the work done over the summer, that the state schools had all educators at the start of the school year."
Right after the start of the school yeareurydiqueReport showed that Malta hasan average of one teacher to eight students. However, MUT estimated the actual number to be around 20 students per teacher and reported that many classrooms are overcrowded with students, often violating minimum classroom requirements in schools.
Although Grima still stood by his earlier statement, he said that"100% agree with MUT's comment that we need more educators" because MUT "has addressed the whole situation."
“Today, when every classroom has a teacher, when the teacher is on sick leave or you have a teacher on maternity leave, you realize in these cases how important it is to have more and more teachers”.
“We also need to understand that the education system has evolved over the years. If before there was a teacher with 30 children, today the classes have decreased and I agree with the number proposed by the MUT because this is the reality.”
“You also have to understand that the government invests; We constantly have open calls for educators for one role or another. To give you an idea, we have around 4,000 LSEs helping to help our children.”
"It's not the right amount, to be the right amount, we need more."
under qualified educators
Grima was asked about educators getting the job without having the necessary prerequisite for a Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL) and whether this discourages students from taking the MTL. He was also asked what this says about the quality of education in Malta, where students are being taught by educators who are not properly trained.
Before continuing, he highlighted that the education system has no reset button, and in order to improve, the government must actively work to build what already exists, improving what it can and changing what is not good.
To put it in context, he mentioned that in the past someone graduated with a Bachelor of Pedagogy and became a qualified teacher, today you have to graduate and then do your MTL.
He highlighted that, after graduation, the student can choose from several master's degrees, which may not necessarily lead him to the path of teaching.
“It is necessary, therefore, to understand that the profession of educator competes with a very competitive market and the economic engine of our country. All markets seek to offer the best conditions to attract talented workers.”
He then raised the issue of how people who find an apprenticeship but have not completed an MTL degree are hired as substitute teachers.
“Therefore, teachers with different qualifications teach in our classes. This does not mean that you are inferior in quality to other educators.”
“We work and insist so that the same educators who today provide teachers can, through different ways and means, acquire all the necessary qualifications so that they can obtain the certificate of appointment of permanent educator”.
He mentioned that many of these assistant teachers do an excellent job and should not be overlooked as they are also educators.
"We must support them so that they can follow the path that will allow them to achieve the right qualifications."
Following the same theme, Grima was asked if he was aware of situations in which substitute teachers extended their contracts for many years in a row, sometimes for more than 12 years, without ever being offered a permanent contract, which would result in differences between a substitute teacher and a regular teacher.
Grima said he was very aware of these cases and explained why this happened.He said: "If a person is a teaching assistant in their fourth year as a government employee and can show that they have started a path at university that will lead them to acquire the required qualifications, the contract becomes permanent."
“I will make it clear that those fourth year students who demonstrate that they are receiving pedagogical training and who have invested in themselves to have the necessary qualifications to obtain a certificate of permanent appointment, that person will receive a permanent contract.”
He spoke of the importance of encouraging educators to improve the quality of education they provide "to ensure they have the necessary standards to provide the best service to children".
He said that it is the difference in qualifications that causes this gap between teachers and regular teachers.
"We must ensure that those who enter our classrooms have the necessary quality to provide the best education for our children."
"In my speech, I always distinguish... between good education, which leads to the full development of the person, and education, which is not good."
"The educator is at the center of all this."
Quality education: incentives for educators to improve
When asked whether current incentives to help educators improve the quality of their teaching, such as continuing professional development (CPD) sessions and courses offered at the Institute of Education, are sufficient or whether the government should provide more and better incentives Grima said:"There are already incentives for people to invest in themselves... It's never enough."
"I'm telling you, it's never enough, especially in an industry as sensitive and important as education."
He reiterated the highly competitive market and strong economy in Malta when he said "this is the reality". “We have an economy that wants increasingly qualified human resources. And our educators are a quality resource.”
He spoke about his experiences working on collective agreements with MUT,which therefore helps you to understandthe point of view and the various aspects of the unions represented by these educators.
He cited as an example the junior college agreement last year on the qualifications one obtains and how they can help an educator improve in their field.
When asked for more information about the industry deal and the increase in teachers' salaries, Grima responded by talking about the importance of this industry deal that affects not only educators but thousands of families as well.
“Let's not make the mistake of saying that the sectoral agreement refers only to the financial package. There are other conditions. The financial package is very important, but there are other aspects, such as the environment… and respect for educators.”
He added that the previous sectoral agreement signed in 2018 was the best sectoral agreement signed in this country.
Pressed on how that industry business was being scrutinized at the time, he said: "Yeah, but the reality is, look where we're coming from when I'm talking about this industry... you're coming from."
He recalled that, when Evarist Bartolo was Minister of Education, he presented a timetable in Parliament showing that educators had made less progress. So the 2018 industry agreement was a breakthrough.
"Perfect? It's not, but we have to build on that."
"But yes, as a government there is an obligation and what we promise we will do."
When asked whether a "significant" increase meant an increase in the pay scale or an increase in allowances, he did not say whether either measure would be implemented while negotiations are ongoing.
He added that both the MUT and the government have the same objectives and believe that improving teachers' conditions through salary increases is the most important thing.
"We need to agree on a formula that together will achieve the results we want... A package that satisfies everyone."
“Both sides have education requirements in their hearts. Ultimately, our children spend a large part of their day with these educators, and our education system is an incentive to provide educators with the best tools to support our children's development.”
Junior college entry requirements
In March 2022, it was announced that students applying to the junior college would need no more than three passes in the core subjects of Maltese, Mathematics and English.
Asked if this is lowering standards and if this is being done to reduce unemployment, Grima said“To go to university you always needed Maltese, maths and English. Those requirements are still there.”
He said the University of Malta had approached the ministry because it wanted to change the entry requirements for joining the faculty. He added that the ministry shared the university's argument at the time that missing a subject should not jeopardize one's chances of further education, especially as these mandatory subjects still need to be completed later.
"The most important thing I asked first is that a person who wants to go to university still needs Maltese, maths and English and the answer was yes."
He doesn't agree that this lowers the standard, at the very least it provides the "opportunity to have more people reach the necessary standards to be able to go to university".
He said it was fair to raise the issue of early school leaving, but that it has dropped by 10% over the past 10 years. He added that while Malta's early school leaving rate is in line with the European average when it comes to postgraduate students, Malta is above average.
Choosing political education for 16-year-olds
In 2018, the minimum voting age in national and European Parliament elections was lowered to 16 after both sides of the House of Representatives unanimously voted in favor of the constitutional amendment.
Grima was asked if the government had considered including civics in schools to educate students about what it means to be an active citizen in a democracy.
"Do you think a 16-year-old is incapable of reasoning? Because I think he is capable of reasoning, capable of judging."
"Today, 16-year-olds have every opportunity in the world to access information that we didn't have in my day."
Asked whether the implementation of some form of citizenship education is on the government's agenda, he said that one of its mandates is to have specialists from the sector discuss the contents that will be shared with students.
However, he added that, because young people have access to so much information, they should be able to choose who to trust to lead the country.
During the prosecution of two 16-year-old boys charged with assault in connection with a violent attack in Valletta last week that broke a child's leg, Judge Donatella Frendo Dimech said existing criminal laws regarding minors were being updated. bail order.
While 16-year-olds can get married, run for public office and even vote in national elections, they are still considered minors when it comes to crimes, she said.