A knowledge industry with high standards

Education Malta, a not-for-profit initiative, will promote the internationalisation of education in Malta, encouraging foreign educational entities to establish a presence here

There is a feeling that not enough students are taking up science subjects because of the perceived assumption that these are extremely hard subjects
There is a feeling that not enough students are taking up science subjects because of the perceived assumption that these are extremely hard subjects

One of the industries this country has the potential to grow is education. This isn’t a new idea. Before the election in 2013, during press events, we explained how we saw this industry as a huge opportunity for Malta.

Most definitely, the big pulls are the serene environment and the widespread use of the English language. Also important are the relative affordability of the country, and the well-respected institutions we have.

This is a growing industry and young people are always looking to study abroad. The entrepreneurial-minded among us will also tell you that the fact that the UK is leaving Europe presents us with further growth potential, as freedom of movement regulations would make Malta an easier destination for fellow European students.

The investment of the American University of Malta has made the headlines in the past year, however a considerable number of other institutions have also opened up shop in recent years and are providing a good quality education. All these institutions are regulated through well-respected frameworks managed by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education. Since 2013, the NCFHE has continued to improve the way it operates, making the accreditation process smoother and less bureaucratic, without jeopardising the demand for high quality.

The next step was taken this week. Through a public-private partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, we will be creating a foundation to maximise the sector’s potential. Education Malta, a not-for-profit initiative, will promote the internationalisation of education in Malta, encouraging foreign educational entities to establish a presence here. It will join other national agencies which form part of the European Union Commission, Directorate General for Education and Culture to promote European higher education under the Study in Europe project.

Education Malta will work closely with those private educational entities already established. It will coordinate with the University of Malta, The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology, and the Malta Council for Science and Technology. It will also advise and work with the government on the formulation of policies in the area of international educational services.

A future in science

This week during my visit to Aurobindo, a local pharmaceutical company, I learnt how important it is to convince our youths to take up science subjects. The opportunities in this industry are massive, and there is a feeling that not enough students are taking up science subjects because of the perceived, and wrong, assumption that these are extremely hard subjects. Local pharma companies, like engineering and web development firms, are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their vacancies. We are committed to help these companies and present the opportunities to the younger generation in better ways. This includes industry leaders and workers visiting schools to explain what they do, and start breaking down the invisible walls that exist.

Esplora is one of those projects with the aim of making science more fun and interesting. Esplora is a €26 million interactive science centre designed to provide informal learning in an innovative manner. A total of 56 science shows and 256 hands-on workshops will be carried out in one year. In the Planaterium, a first in Malta, a total of 618 presentations are planned. Outreach sessions will take place with schools. It’s a great place for the family to spend a day and freshen up their science knowledge. These are all initiatives which help plant a seed in children’s minds and teach them to be more curious.

In these areas, I think we need to do more to convince students to take up these subjects. We need to motivate our young to face challenges, and to believe in their potential. Science, engineering and technical areas all have huge potential and a future in this country – it is up to us to help our younger citizens to see it.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment

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