As part of its 100th Anniversary celebrations, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) held an international conference today entitled “Malta Education in the EU Context”. This included a presentation of a study and analysis on the Malta Education proposal conducted by researcher and statistician Dr Vincent Marmarà on behalf of the MUT. It also included an intervention by the Minister for Education Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Ms Susan Flocken, the current European Director at European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and a key-note speech by Prof. Kirsti Lonka, Professor of Educational Psychology at University of Helsinki, Finland. The latter’s topic was related to “Trust and Responsibility – a successful strategy for Finnish teachers and schools”.
As part of the research, Dr Marmarà found that 80.5% of respondents confirmed that they agree with the principles underlying the proposal ‘Malta Education’, which proposes a shift from the current Public Service Department to a Public Sector entity responsible for Primary and Secondary education. The MUT is looking at Malta Education as the setup to achieve better financial and working conditions for all educators without the current constraints associated with the Public Service. Such shifts have already been carried out at the University of Malta, MCAST and ITS. Apart from this, 92.3% of respondents agree that educators in primary and secondary schools should have salaries, allowances and conditions of work comparable to educators in post-secondary institutions (such as Junior College – UOM, MCAST and ITS) based on qualifications and experience.” Also, according to the study, 87.5% of respondents agree that the MUT should present the proposal to the Ministry for Education for discussion. A number of suggestions received through an open-ended question are also being submitted to the Union for close analysis.
Speaking during the conference, MUT President Marco Bonnici stated that “following the results of this survey, the MUT will now formally correspond with the Minister for Education and other concerned entities to start discussions on this proposal. Apart from this, the MUT is creating a working group within the Union to analyse the feedback received, to invite experts involved in the creation of other similar entities and provide their experience, and to continue receiving feedback from members and educators especially those working within entities similar to the one we are proposing. This working group will also be working on a report on the matter to be submitted to the MUT Council.”
“At this point we need to issue a word of caution. Here we are not reinventing the wheel and our suggestions will be based on best practice and experience. Also, a change from public service to public entity is not same as the privatisation of education as some are suggesting misleadingly. At MCAST, for example, even though we’ve had some issues in the past and we continue to have them from time to time, no one can deny that as an entity it is a success story especially regarding conditions of educators. The latest Collective Agreement between MCAST and the MUT, signed last year, is testament to this. Also, we need to continue making it clear to all concerned that school hours and holidays are not up for discussion and scaremonger tactics being employed by some are just that, designed to create a doom and gloom situation for their self-interest.”
During her intervention, the European Director at European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) Ms Susan Flocken thanked the MUT’s engagement in the work of the education trade union movement in Europe and for the MUT’s commitment in defending teachers‘ rights, both as regards the professional issues of teaching as well as the bread and butter issues of unions, such as decent working conditions, salaries, pensions and affordable housing. She also discussed issues being faced by educators and society, such as digitalisation and ICT, nationalism, xenophobia and populism and the important quest to distinguish between fake and true information, privatisation and profit-making education, migration and environment protection.
“To further support this goal we need increased public investment in education and training to equip the teaches with the necessary skills and competence to teach in these challenging environments and to be able to respond to the needs of the individual student and promote equality.”
Meanwhile, the MUT anniversary activities started last month with the inauguration of its new premises in Ħamrun and will continue until 6th December with an activity involving H.E. Dr George Vella, President of the Republic. The MUT thanks all its members, past, present and future and will continue to work for the benefit of all educators.