The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Education remains a priority

Owen Bonnici Friday, 23 October 2020, 07:19 Last update: about 2 months ago

Last Monday’s budget has confirmed this government’s commitment towards economic growth as this has been and will continue to be the source of all generated wealth by which the government continues to strengthen our standard of living - pensions, reducing poverty, more expenditure on health including more free medicines, and further strengthening the education sector. Above all, a firm commitment to prepare and be prepared for any crisis that our country may, as in fact our country did go through.

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As a result of the experience during the pandemic, for the future, more attention will be paid, to see that this economic growth leads to a better quality of life for our families. Education plays an important part of our quality of life, as was also emphasised at the historic cabinet meeting held early in August at the Malta Chamber of Commerce during which a new economic vision for the country was presented.

During this meeting the Prime Minister set his five main principles that this Government committed himself to work on, with a bold statement that one of the five principles that can lead to a medium and long-term vision of our country is education. In the long run, education leads us to a strong economy.

One has also to look back to the outcome of the Summit held between the European Leaders, last July, which led to the Maltese Government obtaining an allocation of funds for Malta and Gozo amounting to more than two billion euros.

These funds are spread over programs financed by the traditional budget (MFF) of the European Union and by funds from the new recovery and transition instruments (RFF) launched by the European Commission against the backdrop of major environmental and crisis challenges -COVID-19.

Through these funds, the Maltese Government will continue to strengthen the necessary investments in sectors such as the environment; climate change; research; innovation and digital technology; education; our country’s security; the social sector and agriculture and fisheries, among others.

Again, education features in this plan, being one of the country’s most important sectors and which has a strong impact on the employment sector – employability of the students being our future work-force.

European funds which will go towards projects such as ERASMUS+: the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe and Horizon 2020: the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, amongst other projects.

The budget also delves about the vision in the technological field for our country, again featuring education. This vision must cover research and innovation and incorporate the adoption of innovative and future technologies, and the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects which will continue next year, including in areas such as education, health and transport.

Infrastructural investment plays an important part in this sector. In fact the budget speech underlined achievements but also consolidated what has been announced in the past weeks.

This year we have already seen the completion of the new Primary School in Qawra and the completion of another phase of the Żejtun Secondary School. We are days away from inaugurating another interesting project – the completion of the restoration of the School of Arts in Valletta.

But this is just the tip of our infrastructural plans and projects. More works are at hand with the construction of two new schools - the Primary School in Rabat, Gozo and that of Msida. Other projects include extension works and a major project of modernization of the Santa Lucija Secondary School and St. George's Primary School in Qormi.

Next year will also herald new investments in education: a new sports complex at the University of Malta, which will include, among others, facilities for the performing arts; an indoor track for athlete training; a full size football pitch; an Olympic track and a new building for the Institute of Physical Education and the School of Performing Arts.

Improvements and the building of more facilities at MCAST are part of next year’s projects. These at MCAST will provide access for students, employees and the surrounding community to sports, recreational, and educational facilities.

This investment in educational infrastructure is necessary to have a better educational future for our children and future generations.

The education sector featured highly in the Budget speech. Again we find that this Government is committed to see to education campaigns including an ambitious educational program focusing mainly on improving the health of employees at their workplace.

The Government is committed in continuing to provide learning opportunities for all children, young people and adults to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace and in society. This is being done in the framework of a strategy for our education system, which should lead to a further reduction, gradually, in the rate of early school leavers; the increase in adults aged 30-34 with tertiary level qualifications and a greater participation in adult learning.

The closure of schools and educational institutions due to the pandemic has shown us the importance of the internet and online access for every student. This Government will therefore be providing free internet access, for a full year, to those students who choose to continue their studies after completing their secondary school studies. To further enhance the educational experience for our children, the Government will also be offering online sessions, for parents, to work with teachers to contribute and provide a better education for their children.

The current public consultation ‘Towards 2030 - Reaching out to, working with, and supporting young people’, will complement national policies in related areas such as education, employment, justice and health - areas that all have an impact on young people.

Education features in other important sectors as well. In fact the budget speech announced that all members of the Disciplinary Forces will continue to receive training over the next year, both in Malta and abroad. The Academy for Disciplinary Bodies will continue the accreditation process with the National Commission for Advanced and Higher Education (NCFHE) and the first accredited course will be the basic training of Police Corps recruits.

This sector has never been given its deserved attention more than during this Government’s legislature. As the Minister responsible, I again pledge my commitment to see that this sector is given its due priority to benefit all our children and generations to come.

 

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