Making things happen

Through Education Plus entrepreneurship programmes, we’re removing the rigidity of the system to offer something different to those who see the world beyond the theory

The Armed Forces of Malta teamed up with the Alternative Learning Programme (ALP) to give teenagers an experience of military life
The Armed Forces of Malta teamed up with the Alternative Learning Programme (ALP) to give teenagers an experience of military life

Something we’ve all discussed over the years is why some people succeed because of education and others despite it. Education is imperfect, and was even more so 30 and 40 years ago. It was much more about obedience and following the rules. The misfits, as Steve Jobs called them, or the ones who think outside of the box, are intrinsically allergic to obedience and rules. They are people who see things differently and such people never fit into a rigid education system. 

Fast-forward a few years and you find people who have been wildly successful without a basic education. In fairness, there are many others who have also been very successful through structured education. When you ask the first group what made them successful without formal schooling, a common reply is that they are ‘street-smart’, which is sometimes confused with the ability to analyse, act and solve problems, and work with others towards a goal. 

The truth is the people who succeeded despite an education should be our greatest source of learning as educators. They are the spokespersons of a large group of people who found the educational experience on offer one-dimensional and dry. If we truly want to change things in education, we must provide a valuable educational experience for everyone.

For the past few years, schools have worked hard to introduce an entrepreneurship element in education. Having students take up entrepreneurship is perfect for teaching important skills such as working together, time-management, organisation, drive and being goal-oriented. Business tends to be the arena where flaws are identified and you’re ruthlessly put down by the environment. If you are lazy in a standard job you might get away with it. But if you’re lazy while managing a business you’ll quickly find out you’re toast. This counts for all business operations, including ones which are modest and school-based.

Over the years, entrepreneurship has moved from the post-secondary and tertiary tiers to primary and secondary education. The aim here is to help students learn the different facets of an operation and work as a team. The creatives of the group may be involved in product design, the organisers in planning and management, with others taking care of the delivery of the product or service. Each is learning something from each other. Somehow, it needs to gel. It’s pretty much a model of every organisation and workplace. Things must move forward as we’re all in the same boat.

Through Education Plus programmes we have joined forces with many organisations which provide valuable experiences for our young people. Imagine you’re a student and you and your team have a meeting with the Malta Stock Exchange CEO to ‘sell’ them your services – multimedia productions. This is what happened through Education Plus, whereby Alternative Learning Programme students from the multimedia class were asked by the Stock Exchange to create educational videos about financial literacy. This involved preparing a presentation and trying to sell a product just like any other business transaction.

Students at Blata l-Bajda turned a store room into a music room through an initiative with Ritmika Project and their music teachers. There are many other initiatives, such as creativity and invention workshops in partnership with Creolabs. With the Board of Co-operatives, secondary school students learnt different structures and how a co-operative is set-up. 

In the coming year, Education Plus will also focus on social entrepreneurship and how this can be of benefit to the community. These projects, aimed at empowering all sectors of society, will be held in various localities across Malta and Gozo, both at primary and secondary level.

An educational experience should not be something where people succeed despite obstacles. True, a lot of people have found success outside traditional education by being street smart. But what if we offered something to these people too? What if those street-smarts are given something they can use and add to what they have? It could provide added value to their intrinsic qualities. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. There is a balance to be made. In an age of technology and innovation, succeeding without learning certain skills is getting increasingly difficult. But it doesn’t have to one way or the other. 

Through these Education Plus entrepreneurship programmes, we’re removing the rigidity of the system to offer something different to those who see the world beyond the theory, so that they can learn to work together, to solve problems quickly, have the audacity to go against the norm and drive on when faced with difficulty. These are the skills and qualities that make a good entrepreneur, and through these experiences they will no longer be skills learnt outside the domain of education.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister of Education and Employment

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