[WATCH] First step in addressing teacher shortage is admitting we have a problem – Education Minister

While not as bad as in other EU member states, Evarist Bartolo said that better conditions and more respect for the vocation are an essential part of the solution

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Yannick Pace
25 September 2017, 1:14pm
Education minister Evarist Bartolo government needed to work harder to improve teachers' working conditions and to ensure the teaching vocation received the respect it deserved. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Education minister Evarist Bartolo government needed to work harder to improve teachers' working conditions and to ensure the teaching vocation received the respect it deserved. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
'Teachers need more respect and better working conditions'
There is no hiding from the fact that Malta, like many other EU countries, was experiencing a shortage of teaching staff, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said this morning.

He said that despite the fact that Malta was faring better than many other countries, where educators’ average age was significantly higher than in Malta, the profession needed more respect, as well as better working conditions in order for the situation to improve.

The minister was speaking during a visit to Hamrun Middle School, as some 56,000 students and 9,600 educators returned to school this morning, as most of Malta’s schools opened for the new scholastic year.

Bartolo said thanked teachers for the work they did, adding that he was saddened to hear people saying that those working in education only did so because of the longer summer holidays and shorter working hours.

“People who say things like this don’t know what they are saying,” he said. “They have no idea how much time is spent working outside of work hours.”

The minister insisted that the government would continue with its mission to make Malta’s schools more aesthetically pleasing while also ensuring that they are well equipped and fit-for-purpose.

Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima at the San Gwann Primary School
Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima at the San Gwann Primary School
Turning to the country’s problem with a shortage of teaching staff, Bartolo said that more needed to be done to attract young people to the profession, while warning that a booming economy, and therefore more career opportunities would make this more challenging.

In order to qualify to be teachers, students must complete a first degree in a whichever subject they would like to teach, before reading for a two-year teaching Masters’ degree.

“If we don’t have a good supply of students reading for the first degree in the first place, the second degree is going to be even more challenging,” said Bartolo.

Despite competition from other sectors, the minister said there were a considerable number of people working in other areas who wished to become teachers.

“At the moment, there are no conversion courses to help them, so we want to use the Institute for Education that’s been set up by the ministry to make sure that we can provide the professional development needed to have more teachers,” he said.

Bartolo also stressed the need for schools to work together with children’s families and society at large, adding that while education could improve people’s lives government policy aimed at the redistribution of wealth was necessary to allow children to be raised in better environments.

Earlier this morning, parliamentary secretary for youths and sports Clifton Grima paid a visit to San Gwann Primary School where he visited a number of classrooms. Grima entertained some of the children and stressed the importance of children enjoying their time at school.

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Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...