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In leaps and bounds, with purpose | Rosianne Cutajar

PL candidate Rosianne Cutajar writes: Let us stay on course to build, step by step, on a plan for our country’s growth that continues to do us all proud

11 May 2017, 1:21pm
Labour’s raft of educational priorities  is a fine example of how quality education must walk hand in hand with social purpose and recognition of hard work
Labour’s raft of educational priorities is a fine example of how quality education must walk hand in hand with social purpose and recognition of hard work
There has never been a happier time for education in our country. If the past four years of Labour in government have offered a quantum leap in the quality of our education sector, Labour’s priorities for the next five seek to boost our students’ experience on their journey in learning, while achieving more and better educational access to those who need it most. 

Only a few years back, I have a very clear memory of my parents having to foot the bill for eleven or so Ordinary Level exams on my behalf. While the expense may not have seemed much for higher-earning families at the time, it was certainly not easy for lower-income families like mine to accept the fees as another fact of life, along with the rest of our educational expenses.

Labour’s raft of educational priorities, unveiled by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister Evarist Bartolo earlier this week, is a fine example of how quality education must walk hand in hand with social purpose and recognition of hard work if it wants to achieve its goals. In a measure without precedent, targeted for lower-income families, a new Labour government will do away with all fees for MATSEC and SEC exams for all students, across the board. Exams will now take place at the same school where students will have been getting their education all along. This will allow them to sit for their exams in an environment they know and feel comfortable in. 

Moreover, transport for all our students, whether they hail from state, Church or independent schools will now be totally free of charge — a measure that is going to take the burden off the parents, ease traffic on our roads, and give our students a better sense of personal autonomy.

There! In a single breath I have spelt out a small revolution in how, as a government, we plan to accompany our students and their families on their journey in education, seeing it grow stronger and healthier in the next years. We are confident in the success of this approach because better prospects for our students will go hand in hand with better working conditions for our teachers. I am lucky enough to be able to look at the world through the eyes of both student and teacher. Our teachers deserve better recognition and respect in today’s society. That can only come by if the profession is treated with the dignity we all agree it deserves. 

For this reason, Labour in government will trigger the process towards increased salaries for our teachers, assistant heads and heads of schools and the reduction of teaching and working loads for our educators. Supply teachers, supply LSAs and supply Kindergarten assistants will also see the process in place towards turning their fixed contracts into indefinite ones. We believe that having happier educators and assisting the parents will make for a better education for all our kids.

And here comes the snag, because best-laid policy plans, however much thought and effort has been put into them, risk being unravelled in the blink of an eye. Let’s keep in mind that our plan for taking Malta’s educational sector to the next level is based on the kind of careful fiscal planning and economic empowerment that Labour in government has shown to be possible. 

Only this week, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil turned up with a haphazard “proposal” to introduce free childcare across the board to all mothers, regardless of whether or not these are in employment. This is nothing but a crass populist move. The free childcare service introduced by a Labour government was a carefully-planned and costed measure, meant to entice more women into the world of employment, a move that was hugely successful. Let us now stay on course to build, step by step, on a plan for our country’s growth that continues to do us all proud.  

DealToday
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