The Malta Independent 16 July 2018, Monday

Opinion: A future built on education

Chris Said Sunday, 6 August 2017, 12:00 Last update: about 13 months ago

I would not be contesting the election to become leader of the Nationalist Party were it not for the love I have for my country and my determination to make it a better place for our children and grandchildren.

I dream of a country where all of us feel the need to always do what is right; where people work hard, knowing that it's only through hard work and determination that one moves forward in life; a country that values honesty and respect, where people can disagree without being disagreeable and where we embrace differences, learn from each other and where reason wins over emotion.


I dream of a country where we cherish our environment as much as we value our property, where laws are there to be respected and where the common good always comes first; a country that never closes its eyes in front of what is unethical, let alone tolerate the illegal and the unlawful. I dream of a country that celebrates the successes of its most talented people but constantly pushes forward those lagging behind. Above all, I dream of a country that cares for the most vulnerable.

If elected Leader of the Nationalist Party, I will make it a top priority for the party to come up with its most ambitious and far-reaching educational manifesto, meant to raise a new generation of Maltese youngsters who are not only skilled enough to keep moving the economy forward but who are also empowered with the values and integrity to always seek what is right.

It is for this reason that, of the 20 thematic areas I earmarked in the last few days, for which the Nationalist Party will be appointing a special representative to serve as a liaison between the party and the sector, four are directly linked to education - from primary education to secondary, tertiary, vocational and life-long. Only through education can we guarantee a better country for all.

Through foresight in education we must guarantee that our school system produces young people with the right skills for the industry of tomorrow. As a country, we need to look ahead and ensure that those starting school today will be equipped with the skills that will be needed in 20 years' time. The objective is not for these young people to find a job upon completing school, but to fulfil their potential by finding the right job.

We need to expose our students to the world from a young age, to widen their horizons and perspectives, to instil in our children a sense of adventure and curiosity and to foster in them a sense of entrepreneurship as a means of making dreams happen. Assisting Master's and PhD students to study abroad is a crucial step forward and we need to do more. But we also need to ensure that students at a formative age - even at primary and secondary level - have opportunities to travel, to discover new cultures, to learn, share ideas and realise that there is much more that brings together people from different backgrounds than that drives them apart.

It is also through a well-oiled system of life-long learning that the country must provide ample opportunities for all adults to never stop acquiring new skills, not only to remain active in the labour market but to be active citizens and live life to its fullest. In this way, life-long learning will also foster more inclusivity and constant inter-generational dialogue and collaboration.

I dream of a country where more and more people feel the need to involve themselves in grassroots politics, civic organisations and democratic platforms, a country where issues are debated intelligently and respectfully. I want to lead a government that is constantly kept on its toes by a most discerning population. I do not want to be able to win elections simply by moving people from the private sector to the state payroll on the eve of an election or by promising everything to everyone during an election campaign. I want to win elections because the people embrace our programme for change and what it means for the future of the country.

As a former Parliamentary Secretary responsible for public dialogue, I want to see more of it - especially between decision-makers and young people. I dream of a country where parliamentary debates are complemented by a structured dialogue between all those concerned. It is not enough to elect Parliament every five years - citizens need to be kept involved in decision-making throughout the legislature.

One cannot speak of bettering education without mentioning the teaching profession. Teachers serve a unique role in society. Their responsibility is unparalleled and it is for this reason that I want the Nationalist Party to come up with policies that empower and enrich teachers, to attract more young people to the profession and to make a lifetime in teaching truly worthwhile.

If I am elected leader of the Nationalist Party I will - in my first few weeks in office - establish a policy team focused on education that will start working with teachers, students, parents, unions and other stakeholders to set the party's agenda for the future of education in Malta. We will do the same for other important sectors - such as energy, health, the environment and the economy. Yet, education needs to come first: everything depends on it.


Chris Said is contesting the election to become leader of the Nationalist Party.


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