‘We don’t need no ed­u­ca­tion’

I won­der if the no­to­ri­ous song ‘An­other brick in the wall (Part 2: Ed­u­ca­tion)’ by the leg­endary Pink Floyd still res­onates in our cur­rent stu­dent co­hort eardrums the way it did back in the 1980s when I was still at sec­ondary school.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Can’t for­get the fa­cial ex­pres­sions when we sang this tune in one gar­ru­lous cho­rus as teach­ers walked into class. We must have sounded ter­ri­bly un­ap­pre­cia­tive of the work they do, to say the least. But apart from be­com­ing a bit of a sig­na­ture tune amongst re­bel­lious and de­fi­ant stu­dents, ‘ed­u­ca­tion’ in what­ever shape and size it comes, still re­mains a con­testable af­fair.

Some ran­dom thoughts I would like to share on this mat­ter; • It is very likely that once again the is­sue of stu­dent trans­porta­tion will top the first few weeks of school­ing. I can­not un­der­stand how peo­ple fail to re­alise the rea­son why we get bot­tle­necks dur­ing the scholas­tic year sim­ply boils down to a fun­da­men­tal mo­tive, apart from the messed up in­fra­struc­ture and head­less peo­ple sent out to man­age our traf­fic. All is in a mud­dle be­caue our road network is flooded with nan­nus, nan­nas, mum­mies and dad­dies who think that it would be bad ‘par­ent­ing’ if they don’t drop off and pick up their son and daugh­ter them­selves. This in­evitably en­tails that dur­ing most of the day peo­ple are trav­el­ling all over the is­land flood­ing our roads. We need to in­cen­tivise guardians to make use of vans and buses and for those who can, should walk to school. Be­lieve me you don’t need a magic wand for this one! The on­go­ing de­bate if our chil­dren have be­come koċċuti, undis­ci­plined and rude never ceases to amaze me. These same peo­ple who claim that chil­dren are all of the above were once kids them­selves and prob­a­bly were sim­i­larly ac­cused of be­ing un­man­age­able, dis­obe­di­ent, bois­ter­ous and dis­or­derly – mak­ing it sound as if chil­dren are the de­bauch­ery of so­ci­ety is pa­thetic! Do we want stu­dents to be cour­te­ous and well-man­nered, crit­i­cal but re­spect­ful, dis­ci­plined but able to take ini­tia­tives – let’s start from home! One of the most dif­fi­cult jobs I’ve had in my ca­reer was teach­ing in a sec­ondary school. Even though I loved be­ing there, I ap­pre­ci­ated the stu­dents, I en­joyed the ca­ma­raderie and I val­ued the ex­cel­lent lead­er­ship – work­ing in a school is in­deed a sub­stan­tial chal­lenge. The close prox­im­ity with stu­dents, the prepa­ra­tion, the con­stant pres­sures the sys­tem threw at us, lit­er­ally shat­tered me. Be­ing an ed­u­ca­tor is no funny story and those that joke on teach­ers hav­ing so many hol­i­days I in­vite to have a go at man­ag­ing a class for a cou­ple of months and if they sur­vive they can tell us all about it. Univer­sity and MCAST stu­dents need to be more an­a­lytic, rea­soned and ques­tion­ing – this is some­thing we hear of­ten. We are also told that stu­dents don’t study and read enough. Fair enough. How­ever, it is also up to us that teach in these in­sti­tu­tions to make tu­ition en­gag­ing – it’s what re­ally gets stu­dents en­thused. In­clu­sion is good, it makes sense and we should never give it up. Where and when it doesn’t work in schools, it is sim­ply an is­sue that we are not putting enough ef­fort into it. Whilst I do re­spect the work that is be­ing done in Re­source Cen­tres (the new name we gave to Spe­cial Schools) be­ing ‘to­gether’ is ben­e­fi­cial, valu­able and un­par­al­leled be­cause so­ci­ety is about peo­ple liv­ing as one, grow­ing to­gether and shar­ing and sup­port­ing the lim­i­ta­tions of oth­ers. Some­body please con­vince me that there is no so­lu­tion to chil­dren hav­ing to wake up at six in the morn­ing (or even ear­lier) to go to school. Isn’t this bad for their devel­op­ment? Still wait­ing for the med­i­cal com­mu­nity to give us their take on this. The MUT car­ries a legacy in trade­u­nion­ism. Un­doubt­edly the MUT is one of the most ef­fec­tive and ac­tive unions around. It does well to de­fend its mem­bers and should re­main do­ing so. What both­ers me is that in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem we haven’t found the right bal­ance be­tween union in­volve­ment and med­dling in the way our schools op­er­ate. It is a well known fact that the min­is­ter is more con­cerned that an ini­tia­tive is ap­proved by the MUT coun­cil than by the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters! I won­der if it is time to re­alise that the pay teach­ers get, es­pe­cially at school man­age­ment level is nowhere com­pa­ra­ble to the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as­sis­tant and heads of school have to take on board. Lest we for­get heads of school, apart from the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, spend all their hol­i­days go­ing to and fro to school to pre­pare for the scholas­tic year and not men­tion­ing the work they have to take home. We have brand new state schools be­ing built and oth­ers that have got them­selves a thor­ough re­vamp. State schools are now turn­ing into top notch schools with ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties and high­end re­sources. This is the way it should be. That the state pro­vides sup­port to pri­vate and Church schools is good but not at the cost of dis­re­gard­ing its own. Some are quick to crit­i­cise teacher train­ing that is be­ing de­liv­ered at univer­sity. Ter­ri­bly un­fair. It is def­i­nitely not per­fect but train­ing ed­u­ca­tors within such com­plex and volatile so­cial con­di­tions is a con­sid­er­a­tion we need to make. Some teach­ers would even dare say that what they learn at univer­sity is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what hap­pens in the school com­mu­nity once they are on the job. Well that could be the case, but that is why teach­ers are pro­fes­sion­als so that they can gen­er­alise the skills they learn at univer­sity and adapt them to their par­tic­u­lar con­text, no­body can do that for them. I am one of those who can­not stand the fact that our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is in a con­stant state of re­view – it is be­com­ing a comic story. I do un­der­stand that we need to re­view our prac­tices, adapt to cir­cum­stances but mak­ing a new pol­icy every fourth week is not only ridicu­lous but shows a lack of plan­ning and as a re­sult puts enor­mous strain on our school com­mu­ni­ties. If we re­ally need to move for­ward we need to de­cen­tralise. Lay­ers upon lev­els upon tiers of pro­ce­dures, man­agers and ad­min­is­tra­tors makes op­er­at­ing schools overly costly and pedan­tic. I think that with the right train­ing, im­proved bud­get, more au­ton­omy in de­ci­sion mak­ing and en­hanced ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port sys­tems a large crop of the heads of schools can deal ex­cel­lently well with run­ning their own schools. Would any­one care to sort out the mas­sive school bags stu­dents are made to carry every day on their backs? It is un­think­able that with the dig­i­tal so­ci­ety, ac­cess to com­put­ers and tablets, so­cial me­dia and email we still ex­pect stu­dents to carry around so much stuff. ‘16-year-olds should vote in the Gen­eral Elec­tions’ de­bate is back on the na­tional agenda. If there is a na­tional is­sue that has a hic­cup up­shot it’s this one. None­the­less, it is heart­en­ing that we are talk­ing about 16year-olds that should be given the vote – but that is only a half-baked mo­tion – what about con­test­ing the elec­tions (that is, as­sum­ing we re­ally be­lieve in young peo­ple)?

Dr An­drew Az­zopardi Head of Depart­ment Depart­ment of Youth and Com­mu­nity Stud­ies Fac­ulty for So­cial Well­be­ing, Univer­sity of Malta & Broad­caster – Għandi xi Ngħid www.an­drewaz­zopardi.org

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