Vocational education: learning by doing

Children are exceedingly intuitive and value respect, perhaps even if not fully comprehending the principle itself. Reaching out to them can give us insight

It is a time to explore and understand the world around you in order to find the passion you need for true fulfilment.

However the reality among some of today's children and young adults is that they're back to the chair and table they'll be sitting at for the next nine months as they wind up on the receiving end of a one-way channel of knowledge-based waves. We expect them to sit there quietly and nod graciously. We expect them to be silent, and any semblance of a two-way street or interaction is seen as needless and noisy. After five months of this, they sit for an exam, and four months later they sit for another one, and we hope that some of the information we have thrown at them has stuck. They then do it all over again the following year, and for the next 10 years or so.

We then arrive in post-secondary and tertiary education and look confused when there's no creative spark, a lack of innovative ideas and no entrepreneurial spirit. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether children are successful because of the education system or in spite of it.

Let's start by stating that there is no easy or quick solution to the current state of affairs. If we are to change what we have today we must look to the long term, which in education usually means a period of 20 years. Finland, which has built the envy of most education systems around the world, took 50 years to change its system to what it is today. However if you don't swim towards the shore, far away as it may be, you're never going to get out of the water.

MCAST has been a positive experience, and at the post-secondary and tertiary levels we have managed to offer vocational training and education to many of our youths, who have gone on to develop fruitful careers in a number of industries such as aviation and maritime. We must not only keep the solid foundation that is MCAST but continue developing and building, which in the case of MCAST can also be taken literally. However we must also expand and propose new roads and focus policy changes to combat the ever-worrying early school-leaving rate, while making schools and lessons more two way rather than one way.

One of these policy changes is introducing vocational education in secondary schools. Gozo will have the first secondary school to offer vocational education, and we are hopeful that over the coming years we can build on this and offer an increased selection of new pathways that our children can take based on their passions and capabilities.

Offering new pathways does not restrict others from taking more traditional ones, but allows a wider variety for individuals to test their abilities and to find the right mix of talent and passion, which every parent would like their child to experience. Even university students are aware that they also need a real-world education and exposure to the workplace while they are studying.

We must not let our students down. We must ensure that one of the aims of education is to make them employable by giving them the knowledge and attitudes they need. Employability is not just about finding a job after your formal education. It is also about ensuring that the syllabi and curricula also help employability by being relevant and up to date respecting what is happening in the real world.

This new policy direction allows us to address the disconnection that a meaningful proportion of students face at the secondary level. It is a policy direction that Austria has smartly put into practice in past decades, resulting in high exports backed by a strong engineering, technological and manufacturing base. The fruit of such policies needs also to be seen in the wider context: it makes individuals more employable, and vocational education offers new pathways to a wide range of job opportunities. It also exposes our children to a wider educational and more meaningful experience, while offering new possibilities to those that today are being left behind.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education

If the Hon minister checks out the state of the girls Secondary school in Victoria Gozo he will find out that the poor sods have to endure some wicked state of no art atmosphere. And then these girls have a go at hockey in school, great! But there are no hockey facilities anywhere on the flat building galore island. Good luck ! You need it ! L- ewwel pass! ejja ma npoggux it-tfal kolla fl istess keffa! Ghax dik hija ll-aktar haga facli izda l-edukazjoni mhiex daqshekk semplici!