Tools for low-skilled youths

The initiatives we have launched focus on a specific area of need, such as early school leavers, illiteracy, languages and absenteeism among many others

Over the past days the European Commission has published the European and Training Monitor 2014 which takes stock of the education sector of European member states.

This report was presented to the media and together with my colleagues we highlighted the strengths and weaknesses pinpointed in the report and what action plans are being implemented to address them.

Our drive to increase vocational education is crucial in improving basic skills attainment, one of the country-specific recommendations. The Youth Guarantee Scheme, despite the Opposition’s insistence that there’s no need for it, is crucial in helping people of different ages to get the basic skills which are necessary in today’s market.

We’ve been praised by the European Commission on the increase in investment in the education sector, however as I’ve remarked in the past, it’s not how much you spend but how you spend it. The initiatives we have launched focus on a specific area of need, such as early school leavers, illiteracy, languages and absenteeism among many others.

Despite a certificate-oriented culture, and possibly even perception, Malta still lags behind the EU average of tertiary education. We need to continue having our youths aspire to tertiary education levels at University and MCAST while making sure that the type of education is continuously improving and flexible in light of the economic realities of today.

I am first to say that since March 2013 we have launched a considerable number of policies and initiatives. We do not change for change’s sake, they were all needed to address key areas of the education system which desperately needed such policies. One has to remember that in the case of the education sector, delaying the introduction of measures would mean losing a generation and whatever way you look at it, that’s not on.

Unemployment levels are among the lowest in Europe, with unemployment in general being in record lows. Through vocational education, apprenticeship schemes and internships we need to continue to work on low-skilled youths to give them the right tools to find good jobs. Social benefits, especially among the youths, should not be an option. We will not allow for another generation to be lost to the vicious social benefits trend and we will work tirelessly that they may be in a position to find work.

In all this we must have cohesion, which is what the Framework for the Education Strategy 2014-2024 is all about. This framework aims to bridge the different policies for them to be a co-ordinated approach in tackling these issues.

To ensure that all children, young people and adults have the opportunity to obtain the necessary skills and attitudes to be active citizens as well as to succeed at work and in society, the ministry is heading towards a new culture of strategy design, policy development and implementation.

This is good, but definitely not enough to publish good policy and strategic documents in different areas, but isolation and the silo mentality is not on our agenda. All strategies and plans under the ministry are to be aligned together to reflect the aspirations represented in the Framework that covers the next 10 years. To this end, in the coming weeks the ministry will be publishing its first comprehensive plan of action, implementation and monitoring.

A new delivery team will facilitate the successful implementation of all strategic measures planned at individual sectorial strategies and plans. The implementation will be co-ordinated and will lead towards a shift in the education scenario in Malta from a centralised to a decentralised system.

It will change from a standardised and a one-size-fits-all system to a flexible and inclusive one, eventually leading to modular learning paths both in general and vocational education and training. We are after a system of education that will cater for our citizens from early childhood education and care to lifelong learning.