Education system not preparing children for life – Evarist Bartolo

Minister for education says system is not preparing students for challenges that they will encounter at work and throughout their life

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said that Malta's education system was too focused on exams
Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said that Malta's education system was too focused on exams

Education minister Evarist Bartolo has said that the country’s educational system needs to be drastically changed to provide students with a more holistic education and to bring out traits such as creative thinking and confidence to express one’s self.

He said that the educational system is too focused on exams and does not prepare students for life. Bartolo added that the system does not even prepare students for work with not enough being done to develop students’ communication skills and ability to work with others.

 “We must have the courage to have an educational system that is there for the children’s future. We are preparing students for exams but not for life or work,” said the Bartolo.

Bartolo was addressing the parliamentary committee on the 2017 general budgetary estimates for the Ministry for Education and Work. He spoke at length about the various problems present within the educational system but added that the government was slowly making the necessary changes.

The minister also said that the system was also unfair on teachers as it did not bring out students’ full potential.

“I see a lot of good work being done in schools but then, the only way we gauge this is through the SEC (Secondary Education Certificate) exams. This is unfair on the students but also the teachers because it is the only way we have of judging their work,” he said.

Another issue that needed to change, said the minister, was the way society looked at non-academic skills. He said that the country needs to rid itself of the idea that those who fail at certain academic subjects are somehow worse than those who succeed, adding that there were many skills that were just as important and which could provide one with just as good a quality of life.

He was critical of how the country’s trade schools had been ‘broken’ by the fact that they were used as a dumping ground for students who had failed in the standard academic system adding that it was a big mistake that no alternative was opened when they were closed.

On the national budget presented last Monday, Bartolo said that he was proud to be working within a government that was distributing wealth and helping those most in need.

He said that improving children’s life at home was also an important part of education, adding that various studies showed that even children’s diet plays a big part in their development. Moreover, he said that children’s attitudes and aspirations in life are influenced by the situation they face at home, and this was another reason for helping those in society who are struggling.

Responding to criticism by the opposition on early school leavers he said that the government had inherited a situation where there were a significant portion of secondary school students would stay home from school.

“Early school leavers are not those who leave school early. They are those students who have passed through the entire system, and despite this, still had not learnt the necessary skills. The early school leavers we speak about today are the ones that passed though the system under previous administrations, and not the current one,” he said

Bartolo said that the he was happy that the government had employed more physical education teachers in a bid to increase a culture of physical activity. He said that government was working hard to develop social support initiatives and facilities to help students who needed help integrating as well as dealing with other problems that are of a social nature.

Bartolo said that he was proud that Malta was one of a few countries that had 3D printers in schools and that the ministry was investing a great deal in improving the quality of schools. He said that unlike many countries in the EU, Malta had increased spending on education rather than decreasing it, adding that more could still be done.

“There are countries that spend less than us and achieve better results than us, but there are also countries that spend more and do less. We must continue working to improve the system,” he said.

Earlier in the session, Parliamentary secretary for youth Chris Agius reassured motorsports enthusiasts that the government had not forgotten about its electoral pledge to develop a racetrack, albeit warning that this would entail “a huge projects”.

“We are working to make this dream a reality,” Agius said. “This is a huge project which had been shelved for years on end. Whatever we do must be serious, detailed and showing sensitivity towards Malta’s realities.”

Agius said that a request for proposal with a chosen site would be issued.

On the Marsa racing track, Agius said that a memorandum of understanding will soon be signed.

Agius said the government, as announced in Budget 2017, will launch a public consultation on Vote 16, paving the way for 16-year-olds to vote in the general elections and the European Parliament elections.

Backbencher Deo Debattista kicked off his speech with a Nelson Mandela quote, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Debattista said that despite investment over the years, the scourge that is illiteracy is still present.

“A solution is required before we end up with a section of our population that will never be able to keep up with the country’s development. The positive wave that is pushing this country forward may end up being the same wave that drowns those who are illiterate,” Debattista said.

Backbencher Luciano Busuttil, chairman of Sport Malta, gave a rundown of the initiatives undertaken by the government entity. 

More in Budget 2017