The Malta Independent 9 December 2023, Saturday
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Institutional credibility

Sunday, 19 December 2021, 08:06 Last update: about 3 years ago

Marco Bonnici

Much has been said about the damning report of the Commissioner of Standards in relation to the Ministry of Education. I will not delve in the specific case pending procedures in place including a forthcoming discussion at the MUT Council but I would like instead to analyse a series of practices which are common knowledge to those involved in the education sector but which may go un-noticed unless put in the right context.




The issue of contracts for services and other contracts to providers merits attention. To try to bypass the problem of teachers’ shortage, the ministry is engaging personnel on contracts for services giving them titles which are similar to that of a teacher but with a financial package which is more attractive than that of new recruits in the teaching stream. Whilst this has been initially carried out to introduce vocational and later SEAC subjects, the practice has now been extended also to traditional subjects. These personnel do not possess teaching qualifications as otherwise they would pass through the recruitment channel for regular or supply teachers and yet it is a practice acceptable for the ministry as long as there is an adult in a class and parents do not complain! The issue of contracts to individuals for specific tasks require a thorough analysis and all it takes is to go through the report on ministerial consultancies which has just been published to see the extent of this malpractice.



The engagement of personnel is an ongoing process, but the ministry has recently been engaging a number of personnel to work at its central offices who do not come from the education field. Whilst one would agree that an officer working on financials may not come from the education sector, other officers working purely one education-related aspects need to come from the education field. Whilst these are missed opportunities for promotions or deployment to educators, there is a disparity being created amongst personnel. Some of these grades although possessing limited qualifications and experience are being pegged on the highest salary scales of the public service. This is inevitably creating tensions between these officers and other seasoned officers who are finding new recruits, some of which in their first working experience, already pretending to lead everyone based on the position and salary scale.



Perhaps one of the advantages of an employment with the state education sector is the possibility to be deployed from one school to another. There is an annual exercise involving the process based upon requests of personnel, whilst other transfers are carried out upon the most popular term in the management field: ‘exigencies of the service’.

Whilst manoeuvres in deployment based upon requests cannot be excluded, although they are easier to trace and address due to seniority of personnel, deployments based on ‘exigencies of the service’ are a different story.

Although educators in management grades are well aware about manoeuvres in such deployments, everyone seems to be looking elsewhere when there are flagrant cases of transfers of individuals in the ‘good or bad’ books of the Ministry for some reason or another but which is not based on merits.

This omertà can easily be explained, as the Ministry always keeps a window semi-open for such requests and many would think that when it is their turn, they can obtain a similar preferential treatment. Others, who may not be willing to go through such channels, may rightly be afraid to speak up and prefer instead to safeguard their current placement.



Promotions in the education sector are very limited and this limitation always leads to competition amongst candidates. Whilst this may be seen as a positive factor from a management perspective, it is a source of frustration for many educators especially when the names of the ones who shall obtain posts are already circulating prior to the selection process.

In my role of assisting educators in situations pertaining employment, very often I get a call from a disgruntled educator who would list the names of the ones who will get promoted according to information being circulated, and in most cases it corresponds perfectly with the result! The same happens in the top posts of the sector.

The situation surrounding the above and the recent Commissioner of Standards report are worrying. I will pose some rhetorical questions to conclude: can the same ministry initiate disciplinary action upon an individual when it loses its institutional credibility? Can it terminate an employment during probation? Take any other action to sanction the operation of an individual or group? Can it favour, or refuse to favour, an individual over another for a post? Can it take a myriad of management-related measures with ease when it loses its institutional credibility?


Marco Bonnici is President of the Malta Union of Teachers



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