[WATCH] New think tank on future of education in Malta set up, MUT laments teachers not included

Newly launched think tank will come up with 'outside the box' ideas about education's future

Education Minister Owen Bonnici announces the launch of the new think tank on Wednesday
Education Minister Owen Bonnici announces the launch of the new think tank on Wednesday

A new think tank has been set up to report on the possible avenues which the education system in Malta could take in the future.

The think tank, made up of experts in various fields, is expected to issue a report with proposals on the future of education by 14 September, Owen Bonnici said.

The Education Minister said on Wednesday that the think tank is being instructed to apply "blue sky thinking", and brainstorm ideas without considering barriers such as financial constraints.

"We don't want [the think tank] to ask 'why?' but 'why not?'," Bonnici said.

The think tank will be made up of six persons: lateral thinking pioneer Edward Debono, architect Richard England, Malta Chamber of Commerce president David Xuereb, education permanent secretary Frank Fabri, MCAST chairman Frederick Schembri, Institute for Education CEO Joanne Grima and psychotherapist and multimedia professional Julianne Grima..

"We invite this group of experts to predict the future of education, not only in view of COVID-19's impact, but also beyond this," Bonnici said.

The current circumstances, the minister highlighted, provided "an opportunity we cannot afford to miss."

Asked why there were no teachers as members of the think tank, Bonnici emphasised the aim was to "think outside the box."

"It is made up of distinguished persons in different sectors - some are in the area of education, some aren't," he said.

Questioned by MaltaToday on whether COVID-19 would lead to a re-think of parents' working arrangements - in terms of increasing remote working possibilities to allow them, for instance, to take their children to school and avoid the need for schools transport which operates very early in the morning - Bonnici said that this could be one of the matters the think tank could look into.

Teachers' union refuses to recognise think tank

In a reaction to the launch of the think tank, the Malta Union of Teachers lamented that the group had been set up "behind everybody's back, including the MUT's and other social partners'."

"Therefore, the MUT does not recognise the think tank which certaintly does not reflect experience in the area nor is it representative of the sector," the union said.

It insisted that educators with experience in classrooms were the experts, but were not being included in the think tank. "...You cannot have an analysis without including their vast experience," it said.

Preparatory framework to deal with education scenarios due to coronavirus

Bonnici also announced that work was ongoing to draw up a framework to prepare for any eventuality which the coronavirus could bring about when it comes to education.

"The goal is to be prepared for every scenario which affects all educational institutions and programme [in Malta]," he said.

The framework will be based on international guidelines issued by the United Nations, but adapted for local needs, Bonnici added.

Amongst the issues which the framework group will be discussing are what would happen if schools are unable to open come September and October, how to deal with the psychological impact on children of not socialising with their peers, and whether e-learning could continue being offered post-COVID to students unable to go to school because they are undergoing medical treatment.