Updated 11.25am, adds unveiling of study

It was “unlikely” Malta would manage to slash the early school-leavers’ rate to 10% in line with the European Union’s 2020 targets, researchers have concluded.

Carmel Borg, who heads the National Observatory for Living with Dignity, told the Times of Malta ahead of the study’s publication today that as things stood now and unless the criteria was redefined, Malta would reach the set target by 2022.

The observatory comes under the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.

Prof. Borg, who carried out the study together with lead researcher Milosh Raykov, insisted when contacted that “predictions are fluid” and there could be other factors, such as the redefinition of certain terms, that could lead to a sudden drop in numbers.

The study follows up on the latest National Statistics Office figures, which, last October, showed that although Malta’s early school leaving rate had dropped to 17.7% in 2017 from 20.3% in 2014, it was still far from the 2020 target.

For years, Malta’s numbers have been among the highest across the EU, with Eurostat data showing that one in five Maltese students leave school by the age of 18

The Europe 2020 strategy is the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for each member state. It emphasises smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as a way to overcome the structural weaknesses in Europe’s economy, improve its competitiveness and productivity and underpin a sustainable social market economy.

Contacted for a reaction, an Education Ministry spokeswoman said Malta had achieved “a steady and constant reduction in the early school-leaving rate over the past years. From 23.8% in 2010, the rate has now gone down to 17.7% in 2017. We are confident that, on the basis of these steady and significant improvements, Malta will continue this positive trend within the remaining three-year period and achieve its 2020 target.”

In recent years, the government often insisted that while efforts to address problems in the education system started a while ago, it would take a number of years before the impact of the changes made were reflected in Malta’s performance in EU reports.

The study being unveiled on Friday is also expected to highlight issues with labelling in schools after a number of the early school-leavers interviewed by the researchers claimed they felt “shortchanged” by the education system, noting that this often did not properly acknowledge their learning difficulties.

Ahead of the publication, the researchers also said their work showed that divorce was increasingly becoming the reason behind some students’ decision to drop out of school without any qualifications. 

Study unveiled

Speaking at the unveiling of the study on Friday, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said that the work provides “relevant evidence” that would help with the understanding the reasons behind early school leaving.

“I hope that these important insights are taken into consideration by politicians and policy makers, who have a mandate to secure the best future prospects of each and every one of them, with concurrent benefits for economic growth and social cohesion,” the President said.

She insisted that ensuring that students did not abandon their studies before securing the necessary qualifications was especially important because it aided in breaking the cycles of depravation, poverty and social exclusion.


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