Malta should re-introduce trade schools instead of raising the compulsory age, the head of the Union of Professional Educators (UPE) has proposed.
Graham Sansone spoke to Lovin Malta after the Chamber of Commerce called for the mandatory education age to be raised from 16 to 18, a proposal that was met with fierce criticism by the Malta Union of Teachers.
He confirmed that he too has several issues with raising the mandatory education age, including the simple fact that there aren’t enough teachers to cope with the increased demand it would entail.
This is over and above infrastructural concerns that there isn’t enough physical space to cater for so many more students and general economic concerns that raising the mandatory education will result in a decline in tax revenue from 16-18-year-olds in the labour market.
Indeed, Malta has an estimated early school-leaving rate of 16.7%, down from 23.8% in 2010 but still the highest percentage in the EU.
“It bothers me that the Chamber of Commerce came up with these proposals without consulting education stakeholders,” Sansone said. “The wise thing to do would have been to speak to people who know the sector inside out, so they could have had firmer proposals.”
“Unfortunately, the Chamber of Commerce’s proposals are a case of management by crisis.”
Sansone proposed a comeback for trade schools, an alternative form of secondary education focusing on teaching students a trade that was phased out and eventually replaced by MCAST and, more recently, vocational subjects at secondary schools.
“These schools don’t necessarily have to teach students carpentry and plastering, although those are essential skills too. However, they can also teach things like IT, scientific research, programming, gaming and graphic design.”
He said that while these schools will still teach students compulsory subjects (ie. English, Maltese and maths), their focus will be on a particular topic, similar to the School of Performing Arts in Santa Venera and the Sports School in Pembroke.
“For example, one trade school could specialise in finance and another one could specialise in languages. If a student wants to become fluent in French, they don’t need the secondary school syllabus but constant exposure to the language.”
“Our education system needs these specialised hubs.”
While past trade schools suffered from a stigma that they only attracted “low achievers”, Sansone said he’s confident this impression of them can be turned around.
“We often wrongly associate trade schools with low achievers, but we should think in the complete opposite direction to attract smart students.”
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