The teachers’ union has dismissed the education authorities’ decision to bring in foreign educators as the “easy option”, telling Times of Malta it believed the move was “not acceptable”.

Malta Union of Teachers head Marco Bonnici said they had been flagging the issue for years, however, the Education Ministry continued to “play it down as if the problem was not real”.

“Even recently, ministry officials were claiming they were unaware of any shortages for the next scholastic year,” Mr Bonnici said, adding that the importation of foreign teachers proved the union was right to be worried.

Last week, the permanent secretary at the Education Ministry, Frank Fabri, said a call would be issued for foreign supply teachers as part of efforts to address the teacher shortage.

Meanwhile, following a report in Times of Malta about a call for applications for retired educators, Education Commissioner Charles Caruana Carabez announced he would be launching an investigation into the matter.

Mr Bonnici said teachers were not satisfied with the current number of educators in schools and the union would have expected action to be taken earlier.

Play it down as if the problem was not real

“At this stage, there is no easy solution. The employment of foreign teachers is an ‘easy’ option and is not acceptable. The MUT expects the ministry to address the needs of current teachers and prospective ones rather than importing teachers.”

The union was also very concerned about the new applied subjects being introduced this year, especially because more than half the students chose to go for the hands-on options.

Even if the ministry succeeded in finding teachers for these subjects, it was likely that the great majority were being employed as supply teachers with the minimum level of qualifications, Mr Bonnici said.

The ministry has yet to reply to questions about these issues sent by Times of Malta, despite several reminders.

When questioned last week, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said he would “not rush to the conclusion that there is a shortage of teachers”.

“We will only start considering recruiting teachers from overseas once all the different avenues have been explored and it is found that we still have those shortages.

“We have started talks with the MUT and at no point have we said that we have their consent or agreement. We are discussing,” he commented.

The priority, he added, remained in attracting local people to the profession – the importation of teachers was only being considered as a last resort.

The move, though, would not be the first for the country as non-State schools already employed a number of foreign teachers, he pointed out.

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