The Malta Independent 14 October 2019, Monday

Shortage?

Wednesday, 18 September 2019, 09:47 Last update: about 26 days ago

Ivan Castillo

Our educational system is currently in crisis and many have now reached the end of their tether waiting and hoping for someone to finally take a stand and recognise the dire situation in which teachers, LSEs, students and parents alike have been flung into, without any sign of upcoming respite. It is experiencing a vertiginous downfall, previously predicted by many who at the time were taken with a pinch of salt, and who were subjected to derision at that which seemed to be an over-inflated apocalyptical scenario.

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Teachers have slowly become conspicuous by their absence. Some speak of a shortage, others of a wide variety of reasons for them to leave, amongst which one finds unreasonable workloads, poor working conditions, precarious contracts, lack of respect and physical security at the place of work and most pungently salaries that do not adequately reflect the role, the expertise or even the dignity of these professionals.

Is there really a shortage of teachers? Is this nationwide multiplication of vacancies in schools the result of a shortage, or is there more to this than meets the eye? I personally do not feel a shortage is the case. There are teachers out there, professionally trained members of the workforce who feel compelled to leave the profession because the conditions set before them de-motivated them to the point where they opted to seek greener pastures in places they would not have considered before, and for which they may even be over-qualified, thus nullifying the years of work bent over books with the intention of being a beacon for the next generation.

It may then be argued that, even at university level now, students are not enrolling in large enough numbers to cater for this gaping black-hole which is forming in our classrooms. Quite frankly, who can blame them? If experienced teachers quit because the situation is so confused and precarious, if conditions at work seem to be so difficult to manage by professionals who have cut their teeth in the classrooms, who, I ask, if their right mind, would opt to even attempt to set sail on something which increasingly seems to be a sinking ship.

The solution seems so obvious it is almost ridiculous to think it was never implemented. Restore the profession's dignity to its former glory by providing incentives both physical and financial, to those who are ambassadors of the mother of all professions.  Give these professionals a voice, allow them to be the spokespersons for the role which they have experienced on their own skins, and which they can provide better feedback on than anyone higher up in the hierarchy and who has lost touch with the reality of the educational system by sitting behind a desk in an office.

Instead, what solution is being offered?  Precarious employment opportunities for under qualified teachers with no pedagogical knowledge and importation of teachers from other countries.

Do we really want our children to be trained and educated by people who themselves require training in the area they are teaching? Can we be one hundred percent sure that our children will be able to learn from foreigners, who may or may not have an adequate level of mastery of the English language? Can we truthfully say that our children are all equally able to speak English, if at all?

If the future is to be invested in, if tomorrow's workforce is to be educated with excellence, if the teaching profession is to be made desirable once again, short hands and deep pockets cannot be allowed to be the silent dictators of a system which has been brought down to its knees.

 

Mr Castillo is the minority leader of the Mellieħa Local Council


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