Newly launched strategy aims to half early school leaving by 2020

New strategies on lifelong learning and illiteracy in the pipeline

Malta may not have a problem of youth unemployment but statistics of youth early employment are worrying, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said this morning.  

Launching a strategy to reduce early school leavers, Bartolo noted that a student who has left school without a basic level of education is not just a number but a human being whose future is prejudiced.

"We will not boast with the low rate of youth unemployment that we have because we want youths to further their education as much as possible. At the age of sixteen and eighteen, students still belong in school," Bartolo said.

The strategic plan for the prevention of Early School Leaving (ESL) launched this morning aims to reduce early school leavers by half until 2020.

In 2013, Malta had a rate of 20.9%, which was the second highest in the EU after Spain. Through an EU model based on the three pillars of prevention, intervention and compensation, Malta set an ambitious aim to reach 10% by 2020.

The rate of ESL in Malta has been defined as those young people aged 18 to 24, who do not possess at least five SEC passes at grades 1 to 7, and who are not enrolled in any kind of training or educational programme.

The free childcare policy introduced by the government is an essential component in the prevention strategy, with Education Minister Evarist Bartolo reiterating that the first 1,000 days of a newborn are crucial to the child's future and educational development.

Other measures that the prevention strategy will provide include the introduction of middle schools, education on diversity, development of elearning content, reintroduction of vocational education and the use of new mobile technology, with the latter introducing the use of tablets in classrooms.

The intervention stages will seek to set up an early warning system that will ensure timely action when necessary. Students who leave secondary school without satisfying results will be catered for through reintegration programmes of second chance education, such as those found in ITS and MCAST where both institutions provide foundation courses.

Evarist Bartolo said that this strategy will be complemented by others, including a strategy against illiteracy and another on life-long learning. He said that the government also intended to provide an alternative to those who fail their O-levels or obtain the lowest grades.

"Presently these students are labelled as failures but this is not the case. We need a more humane approach where these students can learn in a more hands-on approach, where they can utilise what they learn in the real world," Bartolo underlined.