[WATCH] Malta does not have a teacher shortage, Edward Scicluna insists

The Finance Minister says that the overall picture shows that the ratio of teachers to students across Malta is high

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna delivered a very managerial assessment of the teacher shortage
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna delivered a very managerial assessment of the teacher shortage

There is no shortage of teachers, Edward Scicluna has said despite the Education Ministry recently hinting that teacher numbers may need to be boosted by foreign educators.

The Finance Minister made the shocking remark on TVM’s Xtra this evening, where he fielded questions on a range of subjects.

Asked about the pay packets of educators and the problem of attracting people to the profession, Scicluna explained that Malta had a high teacher-to-student ratio when the overall picture is taken into consideration.

“You won’t hear this from the ministers concerned but we do not have a teacher shortage… I cannot exclude that in some subjects and some schools there are shortages but the overall ratio of teachers to students is high,” Scicluna said.

He explained that there were classes with very few students, hinting that the problem may be the result of an unequal spread in student populations.

The Finance Minister did not elaborate but appears to have been echoing the findings of a National Audit Office report four years ago that highlighted the discrepancies between schools that had high student populations, and others that had a handful of classes with very few students in each class.

The NAO report had made the case for some primary schools to be amalgamated, making better use of the available human resources. The report found that 30 primary schools out of 68 had a total student population of less than 200 across all age groups.

Only recently, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said the government was considering getting foreign teachers to plug the shortages in the educational system.

Bartolo faced a backlash and the proposal was opposed by the Union of Professional Educators, one of two unions representing educators.

Moneyval

Scicluna was also asked about the recent Moneyval report that found serious shortcomings in Malta’s fight against money laundering, especially at police level where the low rate of prosecutions is alarming.

Scicluna admitted that the police may have difficulty in attracting the right resources to help them combat complex financial crimes.

“Restrictions on funding and recruitment [as a result of the government pay scales] means the police find it hard to attract the necessary talent,” Scicluna said, adding that this is why the government intends creating a new financial crimes agency.

“We are looking to foreign examples where no one agency has a monopoly on prosecutions… a separate agency will help attract professionals for whom the police structure will not work,” the finance minister said.

Scicluna remained tight-lipped on the Budget which he will present on 14 October, when asked whether the middle class will be given a financial boost.

“Pensioners will remain in our sight and so will the middle class. I want to ensure that the middle class has no new burdens,” he said.

Reacting to the Nationalist Party’s proposals to reduce the tax on part-time work to 10% and introduce a flat 10% tax on overtime, Scicluna said these were proposals made by the Labour Party in its manifesto.

“These were our electoral pledges and what we promise we will implement, but an electoral programme is for five years,” he said, adding that the country had to ensure that it introduced measures that it could afford.

Scicluna said 2020 will see government finances register another surplus.

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