Uniforms, teachers, and school transport – Minister answered questions from public

Education and Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo answered questions from uniforms to the University of Malta during a Facebook Live. Over the past days, the Ministry’s Facebook page asked people to submit questions related to education.

These are the juicy bits:

On Uniforms:

In 2014, all parents were asked whether they prefer that their children have a uniform or not. Parents indicated they prefer a uniform. However, following more feedback a questionnaire will be sent to parents in state schools in May asking whether they prefer if their children have a tracksuit as their only uniform. Should the feedback show that parents do prefer a tracksuit, an announcement will be made shortly after. The Minister said that the changes will be introduced over a period of time so that parents do not incur additional costs.

On sectoral agreement pay increases for church school teachers:

The Minister was asked by Paul Spiteri when will church school teachers see the salary increases from the sectoral agreement. The Minister said that from next month’s pay-cheque these increases will be added and said that in the following pay-cheques all dues will be paid from January 1st.

On the over-use of tablets and homework:

The Minister shared the concerns by a grandmother who submitted a question about children and the over-use of tablets and gaming consoles. He said that excessive use of digital screen is unhealthy and detrimental to a child’s well-being. He said the new homework policy sought to find a better balance in a child’s life, and hoped that the additional free time will be used for sports or cultural activities.

On the issue of respect for teachers:

Dorianne Falzon asked about how can respect to teachers be improved. The Minister was unequivocal that it is unacceptable when a parents attacks any educator and vowed to work for harsher legislation on those who commit violence against teachers, heads of schools and other school staff. He said that he understands when disagreements arise between parents and educators but a respectful way must be found to deal with such issues. Minister Bartolo added that each and every one of us must work towards more respect for each other.

On the issue of the University of Malta Act proposals:

The Minister was also questioned about the new proposals for the University of Malta Act. He said he wanted to see a more open, democratic and autonomous University. The proposals included more student representation and brings about a democratic shift in the structures of the University of Malta. He said talks are still ongoing with stakeholders.

On opportunities for persons with disabilities:

The Minister was also asked about the future of persons with disabilities after they finish their educational programmes. He said there were ample opportunities present at the moment, including work and training programmes by Jobsplus, the Lino Spiteri Foundation and Aġenżija Żgħażagħ.

On the issue of heavy school bags:

The Minister was asked by Brian Xuereb on the reasons his six year old daughter has to go to school with a heavy school bag. The Minister said that schools have managed to solve this issue, but there are still others which have not. Guidelines were issues on steps needed to be taken to tackle needless items or books which children may be taking with them. Schools are also providing free water to school children can take empty bottles with them, rather than having to carry heavy filled-up bottles with them to school.

On whether trade schools can be brought back:

The Minister was also asked about trade schools and whether they can make a comeback. He said that today there’s already a lot of opportunities available in vocational and applied learning experiences in an array of different programmes.  He vowed to expand similar programmes so they can be more accessible to young people.

On Maltese as a foreign language:

Marien Belsten asked the Minister on whether the Ministry can look into offering more possibilities for foreigners to learn Maltese as a foreign language, especially at MQF Level 3 and 4. The Minister acknowledged that adult courses stopped at MQF Level 2 and said that just as there are other languages being taught at higher levels, MQF Level 3 and 4, he sees no reasons why Maltese shouldn’t join languages such as Italian, French and Spanish at this level. He said there is a lot of demand for Maltese as a foreign language from foreigners, both at compulsory schooling and in adult courses.

On the Free School Transport Scheme:

The free school transport scheme was also another question posted to the Minister. He said that at the moment work is being carried out on this initiative and in the coming time more details will be provided. Not much will change for church and independent school students and parents, except of course that the service will be provided free of charge through public funding. He said that this initiative will include the notable addition of adult supervision on board the vehicle.

Watch full clip (stream starts at 2m17s):