Published on February 21st, 2013 | by Annabel Hili0
KSU Education Spokespersons Debate: Live Updates
Parliamentary Secretary for Youth and Sport Clyde Puli, Labour spokesperson for higher education Owen Bonnici and AD spokesperson for education Mario Mallia are taking part in a debate on campus this morning. The debate is the first in a series of two debates organised by KSU.
11:23 KSU president Mario Cachia introduces the debate, which will be moderated by Daniel Benson Camilleri.
11:24 Mr Camilleri explains that the debate will offer students to listen and ask questions regarding education and related topics.
11:25 Dr Bonnici opens the debate, thanking students for attending and taking an interest. Education is a ladder which gives citizens the opportunity to move forward. Everyone should have the right to an education, and his priority was to increase the rate of students pursuing higher education.
11:28 Mr Mallia introduces himself as a teacher and the head of Church school. “Education must be seen as a form of emancipation”. The biggest challenge faced in the past was offering equal opportunities in the field of education. While this has now been achieved, it is important to ensure that everyone’s needs are addressed.
11:33 Mr Puli says education is one of the main pillars of the Nationalist party. He points out a number of initiatives including childcare and interactive whiteboards. Joining the EU had also had a positive impact on education in Malta due to the funding Malta is receiving.
11:36 First question is about tablets. What are the parties’ aims in distributing tablets to children?
11:37 Mr Mallia says nobody in their right mind would be against the introduction of tablets. However, he says PN and PL were playing ‘Father Christmas’ and turning the electoral campaign into a market, promising freebies incessantly. The tablet proposal is a gimmick, he says.
11:39 Mr Mallia points out that there are some Learning Support Assistants that still don’t have a laptop, and this shows that the two parties are lacking a sense of priority in this respect.
11:41 Mr Puli refers to the Smart Learning programme to rebut Mr Mallia’s allegation that tablets are a gimmick. As part of this programme, 20mil euro have been spent on interactive whiteboards, laptops for teachers and other educational initiatives.
11:43 Dr Bonnici says progress in IT is a necessity for Malta to move forward, as well as to further education. He picks on the word ‘Smart’ used by Mr Puli, saying it brings to mind SmartCity, which was supposed to create 7,000 jobs but didn’t.
11:46 He says tablets will be given gradually, starting from students in year 4. He says teachers should be ‘on board’ with reforms being made, criticising the fact that teachers did not have a copy of the recently released National Curriculum.
11:49 For some reason, students are lagging behind in certain aspects of education despite high investment in the field.
11:51 A question on the autonomy of the University. University depends on government funding, being a puiblic institution, so there remains a sense of ‘obligation’ to the government, the moderator says. He refers to a letter published in The Times on the subject.
11:54 Dr Bonnici: one of the most recent laws passed in Parliament was regarding education and the autonomy of University, specifically turning the University into a legal entity. The University should be autonomous in its role of providing education on a post secondary and tertiary level. With regard to financial autonomy, the government’s role is to keep financing the institution. There is however a need for the University to move forward in the field of research.
11:57 Mr Puli says stipends incentivise students to continue their education, and therefore they must be safeguarded. Although he believes in research, however stipends absolutely cannot be cut to fund research. The PN will strengthen stipends, as they are a necessary means to ensure students continue studying.
12:03 Mr Mallia: Stipends are a means of making university education accessible to all. On autonomy of the University, he says AD is completely in favour of this and in fact has proposed to reduce the number of government representatives on the university council.
12:05 The University is a leader, it shouldn’t follow the state or anyone else. The university should not however be run with a utilitarian perspective, as it has been at times in the past. Education cannot be tied to simply getting a job. ” We need students who are looking to change the workforce and be the workers of tomorrow, rather than simply satisfying today’s job market.”
12:10 Mr Mallia warns of the dangers of thinking subjects like Sociology and Creativity are useless within today’s world of work, when compared to say, Engineering. “We need to be careful not to make this mistake.”
12:11 Next question: The Bologna Process. What is its relevance? Bonnici says that although 83% of students over 16 are continuing their studies, by the time these students are 19, half of them have dropped out.
12:13 Dr Bonnici calls the Bologna process revolutionary. ”We need to be serious about the Bologna process – We need to analyze what is happening. Why are 1/2 students at 19 not continuing their studies?”
12:16 Dr Bonnici refers to a report by Dr Suzanne Gatt on higher education in Malta. “How can Malta participate further in the Bologna Process? “
12:18 Mr Puli points out that in 1999, just after a PL government, 43% of 16 year olds furthering their studies, and this number had almost doubled to 83% today. He also says that PN reopened MCAST after it had been shut down by a Labour government.
12:21 Mr Puli attacks Labour on their track record regarding stipends, quoting several letters and articles in which various members of the Labour party promised not to touch stipends before converting them into loans. “How can we trust Edward Scicluna?”
12:28 Mr Mallia says it is important to examine why students drop out. Student questions are about to begin.
12:29 Student question for Dr Bonnici: Labour are proposing to give stipends to students that fail exams and repeat a year. Don’t you think this is encouraging students to be lazy?
12:30 Dr Bonnici: A labour government is committed to keeping and strengthening stipends, as detailed in the electoral programme. He points out that PL leader Joseph Muscat is a product of the stipends system. He also reiterates that the last government to lower stipends was a PN one in 2005. The question as yet remains unanswered.
12: 35 In response to the question, Dr Bonnici says the aim of this is to reduce the number of students that drop out.
12: 38 A student who was unable to participate in the 2005 Commonwealth Games as he was denied a licence by the Malta Cycling Federation takes Mr Puli to task on this.
“You are the person responsible. Why did I have to go through this injustice, when my participation could benefit both me and Malta?”
12:43 Mr Puli: Sporting authorities are autonomous. It is not the state’s role to interfere in the workings of sporting bodies. However, in the past five years the government has implemented various projects to benefit Maltese athletes.
12:50 A student asks Dr Bonnici: “Dr Muscat said ‘Malta taghna lkoll’ in response to allegations that the University debate was hijacked by the Labour party. Five years ago, after a predominantly Nationalist showing at the leaders debate in 2008, students were called ‘hamalli.’ ”
Firstly, students are a source of creative energy in the country. Secondly, I was present at the debate and I think everyone there was a student. PL will give importance to all students, and our aim is that every student benefits from our educational system.
13:00 Mr Mallia criticizes PN and PL for trawling educational institutions in an attempt to rally support in a “tribal” fashion. He appeals to party leaders to stop disrupting classes and using students just to look good on the news.
13:09 “There seems to be a consensus regarding financial and legal autonomy of the University. A week ago, at the Insite debate, both Dr Gonzi and Dr Muscat expressed approval of the fact that the Church has the right to a representative on the University council. Just yesterday, at the MCAST debate, both leaders also agreed that Malta should be a secular state. Is there a contradiction in this regard?”
Mr Puli says there is no contradiction.
Dr Bonnici: “No, it’s not. Give to Caesar what it Caesar’s. I don’t see a contradiction in including the Church on the council.”
Mr Mallia says the point of AD’s proposal is not to exclude anyone, but to have a more inclusive society. The church should not have preference over anyone else. The point is to have a representative to speak for such groups, though the church should not have preference over these groups.
13:14 In his concluding statements, Mallia stresses on the importance of inclusion. “While we have progressed in education, let’s not forget the groups in society that don’t have the same opportunities as we do. Let’s do our best to give them a voice.” He also highlights the importance of creativity and open mindedness.
13:17 Mr Puli: “Our track record speaks for itself. The PN has created several opportunities in the educational sphere. We want every young person to succeed in their respective fields.” He also refers to the EU funding package Malta recently negotiated.
13:20 Dr Bonnici agrees that educational success depends on sound finances. “However, Standard and Poor’s recently downgraded Malta and this is another reason to believe Malta needs a change in direction.” He appeals for a more inclusive Malta, where even people who disagree can work together.