The Malta Independent 9 December 2023, Saturday
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‘U iwa mhux tal-primarja’

Sunday, 3 October 2021, 12:42 Last update: about 3 years ago

Marco Bonnici

The evolving situation of the massive deployment of teachers in services to take primary classes during the last minute, and the way it has been tackled by the Ministry, supposedly of Education, has once more confirmed the way that the ministry is looking at the primary cycle of education. Ordering transfers on the eve of the start of the scholastic year, and expecting teachers to take a primary class within hours, is a confirmation that the ministry continues to look down to the primary cycle of education, so much that they think that teaching a primary class is an easy task.


The ministry should know better. Even if there are sections of the public that think that a primary class is about child minding (jagħmlu naqra somom, Ingliż u Malti u jaraw li ma jweġġgħux!), the ministry should instead work towards addressing such stereotypes and not reproducing them through its actions. Actions speak louder than words, and the decisions taken by the ministry during the past days exposed the level of disrespect towards the work of primary teachers, not to mention the message portrayed that the services of the affected specialised teachers are dispensable.

Taking the argument further to clarify the distinction, what would have happened if a university lecturer specialised in law was deployed to the faculty of medicine to teach open heart surgery? The argument that they are both qualified university lecturers would not hold in such case. I am sure that there would be a public outcry, student protests and the one who carried out the deployment would probably be shown the university gate. Even if we take the argument a bit further, at the technical level.

Would you allow a fridge technician to carry out works on your condominium lifts or your brand new 30k vehicle? They may both be technicians, with the same level of qualifications, but there is a specialisation which cannot be ignored. For the ministry and a section of its supporters, including the many lackeys in its quarters, it is fine to forget about the specialisation and to carry out massive transfers of teachers overnight.

It is worth delving into some of the specialisations of affected teachers who were forced to stop their services due to lack of planning of the ministry. Administrations in the past years have followed recommendations to tackle early school leaving by focusing on specialised services in primary. The services, which have been introduced as part of a wide strategy, are already leaving an impact. These include the complementary support, whereby specialised teachers work with primary class teachers to identify individual needs of students and then work towards addressing these needs so that students can continue their academic within the same classroom and without the need of being pulled out of classrooms, or worse rising to fall behind and abandon studies. Literacy in primary was strengthened through specialised literacy support, whereby specialized literacy teachers work hand in hand with class teachers to support students who risk falling behind in their literacy skills.

Behaviour issues requiring intervention beyond the classrooms were being tackled by the nurture support, a specialised and equipped space in school whereby specialised nurture support teachers work with students in addressing their behaviour issues and reinforce the positive strengths of students to overcome behaviour difficulties.

Learning difficulties which would hinder learning in the absence of support, such as dyslexia, have been supported by specialised teachers in specific learning difficulties who work in sync with the class teacher and other professionals in identifying the needs of students and in providing support to address the difficulties in learning. Other specialised services include support to hearing impaired students, hospital classes and subject specialists who provide an in-depth experience to students about a number of subjects including science, art, music, etc.

A rushed decision in panic carried out by the Ministry, supposedly of Education, was a major blow to the specialised services outlined.It shall not only affect teachers but shall have an impact on students and the same ministry’s early school leaving strategy through the dismantling of the support provided for years to tackle student dropouts. But as some may say, “u iwa mhux tal-primarja”.


Marco Bonnici is President, Malta Union of Teachers


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