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Investing in Europe’s youth
Improving our education and training systems is critical because it promotes social mobility and remains one of the best means of preventing social exclusion
8 March 2017, 7:49am
This resolution generated a lot of interest and the discussion was very enlightening. Participants contributed to this debate by sharing their experiences and actions and it was generally agreed that inclusion should start from early stages and that there should be more emphasis on early childhood and care. This would help tackle early school leavers before they actually leave compulsory education.
Schools must cater for the different skills that each individual student has. Teachers have a very important role and we must ensure that platforms for their continuous development are easily accessible. Digital education could facilitate new ways of learning and this emphasises the importance of students’ participation in all educational programmes at all levels, and this from the early stages.
An important strategy is that of learning how to recognise the strong points of the children and help them analyse their potential. Ministers emphasised that there should be more European exchanges of students in order to help them get a general understanding of the EU environment.
A mutual understanding and cooperation among all is needed now more than ever in order to enable us to face challenges both present and future, at national and European levels. The main aim of every education system should be to unite rather than divide and therefore we should seek that everyone is included. Although comprehensive school systems exist throughout European states, inequalities are still rising.
Recently I wrote about deploying an innovative curriculum and increased collaboration with the relevant employers and stakeholders. Through our association with market leaders, we have introduced the concept of job exposure at an earlier age and opened up the possibilities of traineeships.
We need to introduce a comprehensive education reform. Some schools are working on different autonomous packages and we will have to train our teachers to identify and improve certain diagnostic skills from as young an age as possible.
The discussion on disadvantaged students was equally important. Areas with disadvantaged children have to be identified as early as possible and these areas have to be given priority and special assistance.
EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics states that inclusion should start from the early stages and that there should be more emphasis on early childhood and care.
The Education Council discussed the contribution that education and training can make to social cohesion and the promotion of common European values, in the framework of the European Semester 2017.
Ministers from the EU states addressed in particular possible measures to mitigate educational inequalities due to the socio-economic disparities, as shown by the 2015 PISA results. They also considered how the education and training programmes of the EU member states might be improved through the establishment of national and European objectives.
There were a number of us who emphasised that education policies play a fundamental role in promoting inclusion. Respect for diversity in the European Union and the fundamental values of the EU and the European education model must be preserved. Ensuring inclusive high quality education should also be seen in a life-long perspective covering all aspects of education.
Improving our education and training systems is critical, not only because it can generate economic benefits and reduce unemployment, but also because it promotes social mobility and remains one of the best means of preventing social exclusion. Education in itself cannot do all, it needs economic, social and financial support through ‘inclusion in diversity’, which is Malta’s EU Presidency focus for education.
Evarist Bartolo is Minister of Education and Employment
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