It’s educators on the ground who change education

You may ask: you’re a government minister responsible for education, so why not change things faster and bolder to make sure those ‘sitting for eight hours a day’ examples are a thing of the past?

We must reignite the ’spark’ that lights up someone’s world
We must reignite the ’spark’ that lights up someone’s world

Imagine you’re a two-year-old, crunched down at almost eye-level with people’s feet and about to go on the most remarkable journey of one’s life: understanding the world around you. When you’re at such a young age, it’s akin to being an explorer in the olden days. Every whoosh sound of the kitchen intrigues you.

You learn about the shape of things and what they do. You’re getting to grips with human communication, and learning the intricacies of informal communications. Someone is sad, someone is happy. You can tell just by looking at their face. It is a beautiful journey, both through the eyes of the child and through the eyes of the parents and grandparents who see this happen.

We are born to explore. We’re wired that way. It’s like yawning, crying or sneezing, it’s simply there within us from day one. That ability to explore is evolutionary, which allows humans to improve every generation. A child’s mind is a sponge, absorbing every little detail and processing it so he or she understands the world around him or her.

It’s both remarkably complex and simple at the same time, but it is certainly a wonder to observe. At kindergarten age, the educational ladder helps children learn about human interconnection. The social aspect of kindergarten is so important, because it prepares them for a world where you have to live with others. When another child takes your toy, how do you react to that? How do you help each other and be considerate?

I’ve no doubt that children retain their sense of exploration but there is a feeling that we blow out that candle as the years go by. We ask our children to sit down for long hours. The way some teaching takes place is not aligned with a child’s energy, creativity and curiosity. This is not just the case in Malta, but worldwide. It’s a reality that children are not always engaged, and we cannot realistically ask them to change what they’re hardwired to do. Which is why we have to improve the educational experience we offer.

We must reignite the ’spark’ that lights up someone’s world. This is something that Stephen Hawking writes extensively about, the ability of a teacher to light up a spark in a child’s mind. It is indeed a gift we give our children when we help them see the wonders of the world around us. Education is, in its most basic nature, the world around us.

Take science or physics. I cannot think of an individual, young or old, who is not mesmerised by some of the experiments that one can do. It’s like magic, but with a reasoned explanation at the end. This not only does not kill a child’s sense of curiosity and exploration, but it ignites a spark that expands it. I’ve mentioned science as an example because I know that is exactly what is being done in schools by some really passionate educators today. Over the years results have improved considerably, and through this approach we’re changing the perception of science subjects.

You may ask: you’re a government minister responsible for education, so why not change things faster and bolder to make sure those ‘sitting for eight hours a day’ examples are a thing of the past? We have started doing that. By offering vocational subjects in recent years we’ve caused change at the periphery, and from this coming September these subjects will become mainstream. Vocational and applied subjects will be introduced at a national level. Sitting for eight hours a day can be truly a thing of the past through the promotion of these subjects, which aim to engage students through a learning-by-doing approach.

However, at the end of the day, it’s not government which changes education and ignites that ‘spark’. It’s educators on the ground. Our job is to make it easier for them as much as possible, and there are many challenges. But the end goal is something truly exceptional – helping a young mind grow into its full potential.

We are letting a child see the world for its beauty and marvel, and helping him or her understand the mechanics behind it. We live in an age where, sometimes, the intellectual and the scientific approach is relegated, and the populist what-sounds-good approach elevated. We have to rediscover ourselves. To do that we have to make sure the next generation does not lose its sense of exploration, curiosity and love for learning. We must help them find their spark. After all, every revolution starts with one.