A few weeks ahead of the new scholastic year, Malta’s state school teachers have been hit with the news that foreign supply teachers will be recruited for certain subjects to cater for a worrying teacher shortage.
Frank Fabri, the Permanent Secretary at the Education Ministry, admitted yesterday that the pool of qualified Maltese teachers for certain subjects like maths and IT isn’t enough to cater for the shortage and that foreign supply teachers will have to be hired as a result.
Just as all state school teachers need to be in possession of a Maltese O-Level, so too will all new foreign recruits have to obtain this O-Level within a stipulated period of time if they want to renew their contact.
As they will be supply teachers, they won’t be expected to have the pedagogical knowledge required of fully-fledged teachers.
“Many maths teachers currently teach 25 lessons a week so more supply teachers will lighten the load for them,” Fabri said, drawing parallels with how Maltese hospitals hire foreign doctors and nurses to make up for the dearth of supply in the local workforce.
This announcement hasn’t gone down well with Malta’s teachers’ unions. The Malta Union of Teachers recently decried this as an “easy solution” to a problem that should be fixed by increasing teachers’ salaries and incentives and by improving their working conditions and courses and protection measures.
Now the Union of Professional Educators, which is affiliated with the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM), has similarly decried the solution as a short-sighted one and called for a drastic increase in teachers’ wages to attract more people to the sector.
It also proposed higher stipends for university students studying to become teachers, financial incentives to discourage existing teachers from leaving the profession and various family-friendly measures such as early retirement schemes.
It harked back to the Labour Party’s electoral manifestos of 2013 and 2017, which included various promises for teachers, such as reducing their clerical work, drastically increasing their salaries, providing them with better physical security, and financially incentivising prospective teachers.
However, it questioned whether the current situation is down to the government backtracking on its promises or the MUT not adopting a tough enough stance during negotiations for a collective agreement.
“Through the intervention of the MUT, all of these proposals were brought to an abrupt halt, which makes one wonder why none of the valid proposals which had been presented were acted upon,” the UPE said. “Had these proposals been acted upon in a timely fashion back in 2013 and 2017, we would not be experiencing the current shortage of Teachers which is plaguing the system and which has created the need to consider employing foreign teachers.”
“If only these proposals had been acted upon and implemented back then, the current crisis in our educational system would have been averted.”