More than a spell checker

The major challenge that the Maltese language is facing is that of becoming irrelevant in the digital world

In 2020 the first phase of what I believe is going to be a major project for the Maltese language will take place. It will revolve around a spell checker, but it is going to be much more than that.

The major challenge that the Maltese language is facing is that of becoming irrelevant in the digital world.

This is a challenge which is not limited to Maltese – many other languages are facing the same difficulties including countries which are much larger than us such as Greece, Hungary and the Baltic countries.

The risk of digital extinction is a reality that is derived from the limited investment made by big tech companies in lesser-known languages.

Tech businesses such as Google are profit-driven entities and their return on investment on the Maltese language is relatively insignificant, especially when for their services, English works just as good.

We have to bridge that gap and this is by far the biggest challenge of the Maltese language in the next ten years, especially when technology will absorb more elements of our lives as time goes on.

Compulsory education

I look forward to the debate on whether to extend the obligation to schooling until the age of 18. It is worth noting that our early school leaving rate is decreasing exponentially, and the vast majority of 16-year-olds do continue their education or training path.

I am the first to stress the importance of building on the different pathways in education with what we have in compulsory education.

Extending the misery for those who are simply not fitting in the system is not the answer. We have to continue to find ways where we can nurture all types of skills and qualities, and not just the academic ones.

This is far from a PR exercise to inflate, in a superficial way, the statistics. Frankly, and I think my record upholds this truth, I couldn’t care less about superficiality in education. We’ve undertaken core changes which will only bear fruit in the long-term in the education system because we believed that these will make a difference in people’s lives, not because they will inflate numbers.

I think I am the biggest critic in education and do believe that statistics can be skewed, and one has to understand the whole context to understand the reality.

I know of fellow policymakers in other countries and the different tricks to boost this rate and that rate. I see it as a waste of time. For example, I am not interested in how many young people start a particular programme, but how many finish it successfully. You can publish the first and get a lot of well-dones, but the actual reality is how many finish that programme, the outcome and where they go from there. At my age, superficiality is pointless and a drag.

One way to people’s hearts and minds

Former US President Barack Obama earlier this week mentioned the importance of humility when tackling issues such as climate change and political debate. When one party, even if all reason is within that side, takes the role of the omnipotent when presenting an argument, it immediately closes off and disconnects its audience.

This is something that has happened in important political moments such as with Donald Trump and Brexit. There was an element of arrogance of one side. This side had all the facts, reason and righteousness but the way it was brought forward was not in a pleasant and bridge-building way.

We’ve seen this in Malta too. Issues such as recycling and plastic use are important and we should promote a culture of sustainability and communicate with those who are not so vigilant on these matters. However, it is very important we do so in a humble and responsible manner because the second people show off their moral high ground and treat those who are not on the same wavelength as them with disdain, is the second people disconnect and double-down in their ways.

If we want issues such as plastic, sustainability and climate change to be issues at heart in every person, we have to build a bridge towards the reasoned approach and not bully and push people into it. Only then will we truly win people’s hearts and minds, and have a way forward to solutions.