The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Teachers crisis needs to be tackled with more long-term initiatives – Education Faculty

Thursday, 12 September 2019, 08:56 Last update: about 9 days ago

The lack of teachers crisis the country is facing needs to be tackled with long-term initiatives, the University’s Faculty of Education insisted yesterday. It was reacting to an article in the last issue of The Malta Independent on Sunday, in which the education minister said the government was to bring in foreign teachers to fill the gap.

Reacting yesterday, the faculty said that while it is true that the teaching profession does not seem to be that attractive any more, the current situation has to be considered in view of the greater variety of higher education courses that students can choose from, many of which lead to more lucrative and better-paid jobs.

It said it “continually invests time in promoting its courses in schools and career fairs. This has actually borne positive results as the number of students enrolling this year in the Masters in Teaching and Learning has more than doubled.

The Faculty also acknowledged that “an alternative pool of teachers may need to be temporarily tapped to make up for shortfalls in the school system, such as through employing foreign qualified teachers.”

It did, however, emphasise the importance of seeking same requirements in terms of qualifications for recruitment. 

But at the same time, the Faculty stressed that “this crisis should be tackled by the authorities through more long-term initiatives.

“We reiterate these should include stronger, ongoing teaching career promotional campaigns, allocating a higher stipend to teacher-trainees as has been done in other areas of shortage, and working further to increase teachers’ salaries and better opportunities for carrier progression, to reflect the challenging (often hidden) demands of the profession. The Faculty thus invites those in the sector to respect teaching as a profession and in no way consider watering down teacher-education programmes as this will have long-term consequences on our young generation.”

The Faculty highlighted how it has, over the past 40 years, “believed in and continues to be committed to ensure through its teacher-education programmes, the provision of quality education for Malta’s future generations”.

It noted also how it has been internationally recognised through OECD studies, as well as the Commonwealth Sustainable Development Goal for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education opportunities for all, that well-formed teachers are essential for a quality education.

As such, the Faculty yesterday clarified the facts about its teacher-education programme, as follows:

·         In 2016 the Faculty of Education implemented a strategic reform in its initial teacher formation through the launching of the Master in Teaching and Learning (MTL). This reflected trends in successful teacher education programmes internationally, such as in Finland. It is thus not the case that the Faculty’s programmes are ‘done in the same ways just because it has always been done so’ as has been reported.

·         The Faculty of Education reiterates that its teacher education programmes are “serious”,  with their quality affirmed by the foreign external examiners and experts in education who are regularly invited to review its courses and the quality of teachers produced.

·         The assertion that teacher-education programmes are “only about education and the philosophy and sociology of education” is inaccurate. The MTL programme is actually based on school realities, discussing issues related to the social, emotional and educational needs of learners. Subject pedagogy is part of the core programme and focuses on how teachers can cater for learners’ individual characteristics, to maximise their potential, by going beyond learning basic subject knowledge. Thus, Faculty graduates are equipped with the awareness of issues pertaining to children and young people in today’s society and with the skills to ensure equity, equality, respect for diversity and inclusion. The goal is to form teachers who will enhance students’ holistic development and not just the academic aspect of the curriculum. This is why we have always been concerned about the engagement of supply teachers in schools who are being recruited with minimal requirements.

·         The Faculty of Education has also been quick to respond to teacher needs in the education sector by offering, for example, teacher-education programmes in Vocational Education to form graduates who can teach the various VET subjects being introduced in schools, as well as programmes on how to teach Maltese as a foreign language in order to cater for the many foreign students in our schools.

·         The Faculty of Education is also responding to those who wish to make a career change or upgrade their status by offering a number of its MTL courses on part-time basis. People working in industry have the opportunity to train to move into the teaching profession, whilst unqualified teachers have the possibility of furthering their studies to professionalise themselves as well. Recognition of prior learning is also being applied to candidates to acknowledge learners from diverse background and work experiences. The Faculty has also, launched an M.A. course to retrain current qualified teachers to teach VET and Applied subjects.

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