Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech recently pledged that a new PN government would increase teachers’ salaries and improve their working conditions.

Education is one of the main pillars of every society. A well-educated person is able to make his or her own decisions and to develop informed opinions on a whole range of issues.

All of these are essential to be successful in life.

As a country, we should be investing more in education as it is vital that our children have the education that they deserve. They are our future. A lack of high-quality education will result in a poorer society and a weak economy. Delivering an outstanding education for our young people can be the foundation of a thriving and successful country for the next generation of Maltese citizens.

Having the best educational experience, as a country, means investing in our teaching professionals. No, they are not our modern-day babysitters or childminders! Teachers spend many hours each day teaching and inspiring our children, correcting, assessing, marking work,and preparing lessons – often at unconventional hours. They are not just simply educators but, as Grech said: “Teachers are the ones who form the hearts and minds of our children.”

A teacher’s job is not just any job. It is a vocation. Not everyone can become a teacher. Motivating and managing a classroom of youngsters requires a wide range of skills and gifts as well as considerable stamina. Many, many hours are spent outside the classroom. In fact, most teachers put in around 60 hours of work a week of teaching, preparation, marking, keeping their skills and subject knowledge up to date, attending meetings and courses, liaising with parents to let them know how their child is progressing and fostering children’s social development during breaks and playtimes.

Many teachers struggle to find the time to attend to their own children’s needs at home because of the hours spent outside the classroom in preparation and marking. Yet, there is still this illusion that teachers teach for a few hours and have a lot of holidays. Because of this lack of knowledge about the challenges involved in the job, teachers don’t receive the widespread respect they are due.  

Teaching is a demanding job. And with low wages, high stress levels, increasing paperwork and low status in the community, it is no surprise that many teachers are leaving the profession and that the number of students choosing the teaching profession is decreasing every year. The reality is that there is a lack of teachers, especially in the primary and secondary sectors. Malta is currently struggling to attract enough teachers to the profession as well as retaining them within the sector.

A lack of high-quality education will result in a poorer society and a weak economy- Julie Zahra

COVID-19 has put additional stress on educators. We all know how difficult and challenging it was for teachers to adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic. They had to adapt to online teaching or hybrid systems resulting in more preparation time and adaptations of work in order to teach their students effectively in these challenging and ever-changing circumstances.  

Recognising this crisis in the teaching profession, the Nationalist Party is pledging a radical reform of teachers’ salaries and conditions if elected to office.

Teachers in many other countries are better paid and in countries where teachers’ salaries are at a good level, the teaching profession is respected and acknowledged as an admired career path. For instance, professional teachers in the UK are well paid and, compared to the amount of work that they do, teachers in Malta work just as hard and put in as many hours but the pay is demeaning. The cost of living is on the increase in Malta and salaries are not reflecting this. Like any other highly- skilled graduate professionals, teachers are more than ever entitled to salaries which reflect their training, commitment and workload. 

For the future of our country, we urgently need to address the shortage of teachers both by encouraging more students to enter the teaching profession and by attracting others to make a career change into teaching. Better pay is an important element in this, since people giving up other careers to take up teaching need to know that they can support their families on a decent wage.

Better pay will improve teachers’ morale and confidence, increase the number of currently serving teachers and provide the long-term continuity of staffing that our children need to develop their full potential.

In turn, improved salaries and career structures will help society to respect the teaching profession and to recognise their vital contribution to the future of Malta.

Nationalist Party plans include improving the starting salaries of teachers and revising the salary structure so that regular increments reward people for staying in the job long term. We will also look at working conditions, to see if extra non-teaching staff can help to relieve some of the burden of paperwork which teachers often find themselves doing late in the evenings and at weekends. A combination of these measures will go a long way towards solving the crisis in recruitment and retention in our schools and colleges.

When combined with our plans to invest in school infrastructure, and to expand access to the internet and technology for our youngsters, the Nationalist Party offers a comprehensive and realistic plan to transform Maltese education. And a healthy, thriving education system is truly the key to all our futures.

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