The education system has seen major changes in the past decade. Despite many claims of reform fatigue, changes have been ongoing at a very fast pace. Based on day to day communication with educators, it is evident that both the system and educators cannot take more. The system seems to be in transition all the time. We are risking a collective fatigue, which would yield to more educators leaving the system and to an increased resistance to change. This will ultimately cause the system to stall.
The Malta Union of Teachers has constantly brought the matter to the attention of the respective Ministry, and there were many public statements on the matter in the past years. We stated that it is time to stop with reforms and analyse the system. Changes, however, did not stop, and no one is analysing properly the system and the effects of all these changes. The only initiative by the Ministry for Education, which was taken after repeated appeals by the MUT, is a recent joint study between the Ministry and the MUT currently being carried out by Prof. Mark Borg. This should provide a holistic picture of the current situation.
The need for change
Change is necessary in an ever-changing world and education needs to reflect changes in society, in the labour market and in technology. It should not only align with an evolving world, but it must also anticipate advancements and developments in society. This puts a lot of pressure on authorities to impose changes on schools, especially as the school as an entity is seen by many as the perfect vehicle to effect changes and promote initiatives.
Educators and the education system have endless expectations. Everyone involved in the system, including students, parents, employers and their delegated officers, examination bodies, agencies working in the field, the media and many other individuals and entities, think that an educator can act upon all demands made by everyone. The reality is that we need to take stock of these expectations. Educators are already making up for many shortcomings of today’s society, including the limited support many students receive from home. In fact, everyday we encounter several cases in which educators have become the sole reliable reference point for their students. Needless to say, this puts a huge amount of additional pressure on the educator in question.
The student-centred approach, promoted for years as the way forward to ensure that all children succeed, went beyond the meaning of the coined catchphrase. The great emphasis on the rights and needs of the student all the time has led to a system that is now effectively bypassing the educator. During the course of our work, in fact, we have experienced several instances of officers in the respective Ministry or employers in the field who put up blinkers when it comes to the needs of educators. The excuse is always that they are there to serve students. In doing so, however, they are disserving and sidelining educators.
We often hear that it is time to stop the current reforms race. However, instead of just talking about it, we need to act fast and stop them. Schools are becoming a rat race of one reform after another while feedback from previous reforms is indicating that the changes did not bring about the expected outcomes. Still we go ahead with more of this charade, which obviously includes changes that are supposedly introduced to modify previous changes which were proved unsuccessful. This must stop. Our appeal to the new Minister of Education is to stop the changes and analyse the educational system.
In conclusion, the MUT can predict that the early outcomes of the joint study, which is currently being carried out among educators by Prof. Borg, shall include a portrayal of the above situation. The test for the new Minister, however, lies not in the effective communication of the outcomes of the said survey but in the implementation of its outcomes. The MUT looks forward to this and will be cooperating fully in the process.
A version of this article appeared on MaltaToday.