The Malta Independent 19 September 2020, Saturday

Updated: Substantial changes to education legislation proposed by government

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 4 July 2016, 10:51 Last update: about 5 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Education Minister Evarist Bartolo today proposed substantial changes to the education legislation in Malta, stating the importance of keeping the law up to date in order to reflect new challenges, problems and opportunities of today's world.

The Prime Minister and Minister Bartolo both said that these new pieces of legislation will grant more autonomy to educators, involve communities more and will also involve wider consultation when it comes to future policies.

These changes come in order to have the legal principles and structures in place to implement the Malta Education Strategy for the next ten years (2014-2024). The strategy will aim to establish greater synergy between all institutions and departments within the Education Ministry, Central Government, other ministries, the EU etc. 

It also intends to improve the quality and effectiveness of the country's education, ensure a fairer, more inclusive and more democratic educational system, increase the level of student achievement and improve the transition between early childhood to primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary education.

The new package of legislation intends to modernise local legislation in order to cater for developments and to better address the challenges in the education sector in a simpler and less paternalistic way.

Among others, the issues addressed include the role and function of the education central authorities and other commissions established by law. It also addresses the rights and obligations of parents in the provision of education to their children, students' rights and increased student involvement, better functioning and management of State Schools and Colleges, the reduction of bureaucracy and inefficiency, etc.

Three separate pieces of legislation will be introduced to regulate the different players in the educational system, thus it is being proposed that the University of Malta, MCAST and the Council for the Teaching Profession (which will become the Educators'  Council) receive their own separate pieces of legislation, the National Commission for Further and Higher Education will be governed by a standalone act, and the new Education Act will deal solely with the main principles underpinning education in Malta and state schools. The new Education Regulatory Act will deal with regulatory aspects, in particular ensuring that quality in education is safeguarded and also subjecting state schools to quality surveillance.

The Education act, Education Regulatory Act and the  Professions in Education Act are currently open for public consultation.

The Professions in Education Act will regulate Kindergarten Assistants (KGAs), teachers and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs). Currently, KGAs and LSAs do not require a licence to practice, thus it is being recommended that these are awarded a licence. The Council for the Teaching Profession will be renamed as the Educators' Council and its composition will be more embracing to include representatives of KGAs and LSAs.

The new legislation also proposes allowing home schooling by suitably qualified educators. Parents can apply to the Commission for General Education to provide home schooling for their children. Where the Commission is of the opinion that the necessary conditions for the provision of home schooling for a minor have been satisfied, it shall authorise the parent of the child to provide for home schooling to the minor at the parent's expense and subject to such conditions as it may deem appropriate in the best interests of the minor.

The Prime Minister and the Minister also spoke of harsher penalties for parents who fail to send their children to school.

With every new government policy that affects students, a student impact assessment will be carried out, Minister Bartolo also said.

The Education Regulatory Act shall regulate the setting up of a new commission for general education. This commission shall perform the tasks presently carried out by the Department for Quality and Standards in Education. It is being proposed that all schools and educational institutions, including state schools, shall require a license to operate, which licence shall be valid for five years. This new commission will also regulate home schooling. This Act will also regulate the National Commission for Further and Higher Education and shall set up the Permanent Committee for Regulatory Affairs in Education, presided by the minister, to discuss and evaluate the policy, strategy and direction in the education regulatory sector.

Through the Education Act, it is being proposed that an article on the best interest of the minor be introduced, and a Board for Educational Matters which will decide issues when there is disagreement between parents and school authorities on the education of minors will also be set up. 

The proposed laws open for public consultation can be found here.

 

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