Educational reforms in Malta: Challenges and opportunities for improvement

Understanding the challenges and opportunities for improvement in the Maltese educational system 

Image via Giovanni Gagliardi
Image via Giovanni Gagliardi

With emerging global problems, such as the advent of new zoonotic diseases attributable to animal-to-human disease transmission, which can lead to global shutdown of economies, do you think scholars have a role to play in mitigating and responding to such calamities?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries in America, Asia and Europe appreciated the significance of reforming their education systems. In particular, colleges with renowned life science professors participated in vaccine discovery and development, in addition to implementing protocols for curbing the coronavirus infection chain. What’s more, learning institutions with advanced technologies implemented virtual learning, especially in nursing and medical schools, which was crucial to meeting the demand for frontline workers.

So, can Malta’s education system produce graduates with the requisite knowledge and hands-on skills to meet the human resource deficit in crucial fields such as STEM? According to the 2021 Statista Research Department, in Malta, the proportion of individuals aged 25 and older with upper secondary or tertiary education between 2007 and 2016 increased to 45.2% from 26.6%. Such a positive change suggests that the rate of students who drop out of school has reduced significantly.

In this case, a probable underlying rationale concerns the ease of accessing affordable help from online essay writers, which has been instrumental to Maltese students who undertake side hustles to support themselves and their families. While undergraduates and postgraduates in Malta think outside their boxes to attain academic qualifications to be competitive in national, regional and international job markets, do they get the necessary support from their education system?

A lack of autonomy in higher education administration

Why do you think many colleges in countries with mid- and high-income economies offer scholarships to their citizens and international students? Even though an initiative for funding education can be costly, administrators and academicians acknowledge its role in helping the institution and the entire learning system gain global recognition. Many colleges in Europe and America implement such programmes without direct or indirect state and federal governments’ influence, except for financing. For example, a faculty or department can decide to offer scholarships to bright students as the administration can budget the funds from internal and external sources. 

However, the management of learning institutions in Malta has remained centralised. Such an administration approach suggests that schools manage neither technological nor fiscal resources. Without this autonomy, the learning institutions cannot implement virtual learning without consultation and approval from the government. Although governing boards, also referred to as trustees in some countries such as the United States, oversee students’ well-being, determine tuition prices and safeguard schools’ public image, they are unavailable in Malta. The Ministry of Education’s direct hierarchical college administration has contributed to the reluctance to implement this important entity that can bring transformation. 

Limited time to consolidate every stakeholder’s input

Whether you’re undertaking undergraduate, postgraduate, or post-doctoral studies, you’ll probably have a meeting with the teaching staff and administration at some point. Usually, it’s a chance for students to air their ideas and grievances and for the school, department, or faculty to respond by promising to fulfil the raised needs or offering alternative solutions.

The same applies to parents or guardians who attend academic meetings for their children. They capitalise on this consultation to suggest mechanisms or ideas that can improve the school's status in academic and co-curricular activities. In some instances, some parents promise to link the school to an exchange program as long as they attain specific performance, like topping regionally in academics or sports. 

Do you think Malta colleges benefit from such consultations? In this country, a high workload attributable to the centralised management of learning institutions impedes heads of schools’ functions. For example, these administrators must attend meetings organised by the education authority, even if they occur abruptly. Besides being present whenever required, they must compile reports and be answerable to the government. At the same time, they must meet with other quarters, specifically the community and parents and/or guardians. Such expanded responsibilities mean they cannot fully implement ideas raised in any of the meetings, regardless of whether they can improve students’ academic performance. 

Opportunities for education reforms in Malta

Since heads of schools converge in government meetings, they have a chance to collaborate. For instance, some might decide to share their leadership approach to achieving excellent academic performance and time management. What’s more, they can take advantage of their direct contact with the government to propose policies for reforming education. For example, they can champion schools to interview teachers. The only remaining function of the central government would be offering contracts.

Despite the evident challenges in Malta, heads of schools can capitalise on their interactions with pertinent stakeholders to initiate reforms in education. For instance, they can advocate for policies to include trustees and government representatives on the management board. Such an initiative would allow heads of schools to concentrate on academic affairs.