A change for the better

We’ve seen what the major issues were and we’ve started down the road to solve them.

More than 1,300 students started free revision classes in four SEC subjects last Monday as the Youth Guarantee project celebrates yet another timeline. Students who didn’t get the right result in physics, maths, English and Maltese in the May, 2014 SEC examination have been given a second chance through these revision classes to better prepare for the September re-sit.

This is a great achievement, especially when you consider that multiple students have opted to re-sit two examinations, and in some cases the maximum permitted, three. These are intensive classes; students who attend revision classes in three subjects will have a total of 18 hours a week of lessons, right up to the examination. Past exam papers for all subjects are provided free-of-charge to all students attending, so that they may have the appropriate material in hand during this intensive programme.

In the past, we had people snigger and question whether or not Malta needed the Youth Guarantee. During the first months in office last year, it was a priority to have a proper stock-take of the situation and releasing all the educational reports, hidden under lock and key in the past, was considered a priority.

People quickly realised that not everything was rosy in our educational system and that we needed policies to combat early school leaving, to widen the system’s role in catering for different learning abilities, to improve literacy levels and to prepare our children with the right skill-sets for today’s world.

We’ve seen what the major issues were and we’ve started down the road to solve them. Free revision classes is one of these policies – a safety net for students who, after facing the prospect of a whole summer on their own when they received their results, now have the right support so they do not give up.

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In recent days we have introduced a number of changes to the students’ maintenance grants; student allowances, previously given to students through the smart card system, have been replaced by direct payments of the same amount. Despite good intentions the previous system failed to succeed. The National Audit Office report on the smart card system, back in 2010, painted a grim picture. It said that the system was beset with problems and mismanagement, and labelled the system itself as “ineffective”.

In its report, the NAO had suggested a system whereby the smart card amount would be given as direct payment as an addition to the stipend, spread over a number of months. We didn’t choose to go down that path for the simple reason that this would not have allowed students to purchase the books and any other educational equipment they needed at the beginning of the year. Instead we’ve opted for a simple system – direct payment. This will allow students to have a wider choice from where to buy and a simpler way to purchase their requirements.

The state invests heavily in the education of our students. By supplementing free education at the University, MCAST and other institutions with these annual grants, we are further empowering students through these changes. The vast majority understand the huge investment the country is making in them and are appreciative of the huge opportunities they are being presented with.

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