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KSU Reply to insiteronline’s Education Act review

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Yesterday evening, an article entitled “Reviewing KSU’s uneducated plans for education” by Tim Diacono and Francesca Borg Taylor-East appeared  on insiteronline (http://insiteronline.com/news/reviewing-ksus-uneducated-plans-education/).

The following is KSU’s reply:

KSU would like to clarify a number of points which have been raised in the article “Reviewing KSU’s uneducated plans for education”. We cannot help but feel that the authors of this article have tried too hard to find reason to criticise the content of KSU’s Recommendations for the Education Act Review, exposing their misinformation about the intentions behind this document.

Firstly, it should be highlighted that these recommendations were discussed and agreed upon in KSU’s education policy wing, the Education Commission, which is made up of officially-elected student representatives from all faculties. In this respect, KSU was in fact completely in line with its statutorily-defined policy-making approach. Furthermore, the reason KSU makes its documents public is so individuals wishing to provide further feedback are allowed to do so at their own leisure.

Secondly, one must mention that KSU’s intention was to provide generic recommendations in line with a consultation document provided by the ministry.The consultation document was never intended to be KSU’s holistic plan for Education, the document was merely a follow-up of a number of meetings held with Minister Bartolo specifically on the Education Act and not on Education policy as a whole. In truth, the suggestions serve to indicate key areas of focus which should be given more attention within the legal framework that is the Education Act. The purpose of this was to ensure that the students’ council becomes a key stakeholder in any consultation exercises which are held, thereby securing students’ input in the whole process.

Although aspects of the recommendations are admittedly generic, the authors also attempt to undermine the validity of any concrete solutions which are put forward. The suggestion of strengthening student councils in primary and secondary schools is one initially touched upon in the consultation document provided by the ministry. At no point does KSU indicate that this is the only solution, but it also feels that consolidating this principle within the Education Act would be a beneficial step forward towards improving student involvement.

The authors also choose to shoot down KSU’s suggestion for the introduction of a recruitment office on campus grounds, involving ETC or Agenzija Zghazagh. Once again, while this is in no way touted as a conclusive solution, KSU firmly believes that increasing exposure to the world of work will not only provide students easier access to a job but also facilitate the process of acquiring soft skills to complement the contents of their course. The involvement of ETC or Agenzija Zghazagh, as suggested in our recommendations, also ensures that an entity capable of providing useful advice is also present. KSU is convinced that work experience closely tied to course content is key to improving students’ employability and as such this is reflected in other documents presented to the ministry of education by KSU, such as its recommendations on improving the Government Workphase Scheme. Once more, this section of the recommendations is not a conclusive or detailed report on graduate employability, but merely touches upon recommendations discussed with the Ministry in previous meetings. For a more in-depth study on graduate employability by KSU, we suggest looking at the student perspective written by KSU, as part of the following report commissioned by the NCFHE and the National Bologna Experts (http://llp.eupa.org.mt/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/02/K_Bologna-Report-brochure.pdf)

As regards its suggestions on Early School Leavers and Digital Education, KSU’s recommendations here are more generic given that it has already expressed general agreement, both in other documentation as well as consultation meetings, on the approaches proposed by MEE. KSU’s focus here was simply to reiterate, in more general terms, principles it had spoken about in the past.

Finally, KSU’s point on international standards makes direct reference to closer ties to the NCFHE. The authors completely disregard this fact and miss KSU’s point, which is about ensuring a robust quality assurance framework is implemented and maintained. The suggestions, which mainly focus on ensuring periodic review of courses and programmes as well as regular pedagogical training, are aimed at upholding an international standard of education at the tertiary level.

In conclusion, we feel that this article seeks to put down KSU’s genuine intention of putting the general student body on the radar when it comes to this consultation exercise. One must also keep in mind that the recommendations here are principles which should be included in a legal framework which cannot be made too prescriptive to allow for more feasible implementation on the ground. Lastly, KSU’s efforts to form part of this consultation exercise are more expansive than merely the compilation of this document, but have, and will continue to extend to further activities and meetings in order to follow up completely on the process.

9 thoughts on “KSU Reply to insiteronline’s Education Act review

  1. Jonathan Polidano says:

    What an unbelievable reply! Tim Diacono and Francesca Borg Taylor-East did not miss the point of KSU’s proposal at all! Firstly, KSU wanted feedback, and they got it – was there some unwritten rule in the proposal stating that all feedback must be positive?
    Secondly, KSU’s justification for its proposal, at every turn, was that they were only trying to give ‘generic’ recommendations. As Luke Scicluna argues in a previous comment, students have every right to expect something more than ‘generic’ proposals. We have no doubt that increased student participation is a good thing that the government should strive for. We have no doubt that if the rate of drop-outs goes down, that would also be a good thing. But we would have liked some concrete proposals on how these issues could be tackled, instead of the usual drivel about ‘Hey, Mr. Government, it would be nice if you could tackle these issues somehow…’ There must be at least a few students with ideas regarding these issues, somewhere on campus!
    Thirdly, KSU missed a vital point that the authors were making: many of KSU’s proposals implicitly pin the blame for student drop-out rates, lack of student activism etc. onto the student him/herself. The authors were trying to argue that all KSU’s student-directed proposals are worthless unless proposals are also made for how to alter the education system at a more fundamental level. Funnily enough, KSU forgot to respond to this particular point.
    A word of praise to KSU, though: well done for finding somebody with an adequate grasp of the English language to write this response. At least this time, I was able to read the text without my eyes bleeding.

  2. Luke Scicluna says:

    “KSU’s intention was to provide generic recommendations in line with a consultation document provided by the ministry.” As far as I know, ‘generic’ is usually used in the pejorative sense. I wonder why KSU is proud of aiming at genericness. The way I understand it, KSU is supposed to be closer to the student reality than the ministry – it is the ministry who should provide ‘generic’ observations, and KSU who should provide a more detailed analysis and critique of the same!

    “The purpose of this was to ensure that the students’ council becomes a key stakeholder in any consultation exercises which are held, thereby securing students’ input in the whole process.” So you want a vote? Protest. Organise sit-ins, disrupt or boycott lectures, do whatever is necessary. That’s how you get what you need – this is politics. You’re a students’ union; stop pandering to the administration. “May we vote please, oh kind sirs?” Stop making re-election and a springboard to party politics your main only concerns. Make a noise, that’s how you get things done. Militate on behalf of the students. If you actually bothered to defend the student population you so happily say you represent, you would have a good number of people willing to risk the consequences in order to ensure a greater enforcement of their right to representation at University, people who would speak out on your behalf. Instead, you’re greeted by the very apathy you thrive on.

    It’s also interesting to note the marked improvement in levels of grammatical competence on KSU’s part, especially when considering that the original report was a hodge-podge of bad grammar and buzz words. Rush jobs don’t really give the best impressions.

    Finally, I’d like to thank Tim Diacono and Francesca Borg Taylor-East for their insightful critique. It’s refreshing to see somebody actually give a damn about the farce that student representation at the UoM is.

    • Where's the Beef? says:

      I cannot understand why people who associate themselves with the extremities of the political spectrum are always so eager to engage in aggressive protest about anything and everything. Although this country still has a long way to go in terms of improving the quality and outcome of education, I can’t help feeling students have it way too good here. The sense of entitlement is astonishing.

      In other countries around Europe students protest and organise sit-ins as you suggest because their tuition fees are raised too high, while here you get a stipend because you repeat a year. Goobie pls.

      • Timothy Diacono says:

        And yet, despite all that’s seemingly beneficial to students within our education system (free tertiary education, stipends even at post-secondary level, Smart Cards and now stipends for repeating students too etc.), Malta has the 2nd lowest percentage of students who take up a tertiary level of education in the EU, just above Romania. The fact that this is so despite all the motivational factors mentioned above suggests that something in our educational system is going badly wrong. What do you think that is?

        • Frank Bosey says:

          @Timothy Diacono

          Because there are too few places or universities?

          • Timothy Diacono says:

            No, the problems start earlier than that. 22% of students don’t pursue a post-secondary education, let alone a tertiary one. That’s one of the highest rates in Europe which is doubly shocking since Malta is the only country to offer stipends to post-sec students. Now why is this so? Of course, we’re entering hypothetical territory here but surely blaming the high drop-out rate primarily on the lack of awareness and motivation among secondary students to better themselves is a little harsh. There is a bigger problem here and it resides in these students’ lives at home. If a child’s parents don’t care about his/her education and allow (and sometimes even encourage) him/her to play truant, what chance does that child realistically have?

            You may argue that a teenager is capable of taking decisions into his/her own hands. Fair enough. But education starts from a very early age, from home and if the conditions there are not right then s/he will suffer at school. Eventually the gap between the level of those students and the syllabus will become so large that the child might start giving up, especially if conditions at home don’t improve.

            It is the teachers who need awareness-training far more than the students do, ie. awareness in facets of student behaviour (eg. dirty uniforms, constant missing homework) that can point to problems at home.

    • Luke Scicluna says:

      @Where’s the Beef – (If this appears twice, apologies – the first time I posted it as a direct reply, it didn’t appear at all) First of all, I find it interesting that you cased your argument in my supposedly ‘extreme’ political views. Is this a sign of superficiality to come? We shall see. Secondly, in countries like Afghanistan, innocent bystanders are murdered by American drones. By the logic of your argument, just because we aren’t, we should be grateful because we’re better off than they are, and to ask for anything more would be ‘entitlement’. It’s always futile to compare oneself to those worse off than you – an excuse not to improve. I guess the Afghanis should just ask the US to stop bombing them – why didn’t they think of that? After years of various students and student bodies politely asking to be heard, and being ignored repeatedly, both by the administration and by KSU, it’s clear that unless actual action is taken, nothing is going to happen. Workers are asking for a living wage – are they getting it? No, and they won’t, not until they demonstrate that they are not to be fooled with. The same applies for students. “Ghallinqas ahna ahjar minnhom” is a fallacious argument from the get-go. One shouldn’t ignore positives, yet flaunting positives is no defence against critique. The most effective and only guarantee of political leverage at the UoM is to assert one’s determination for one’s rights. Student representation has always been a key element of the democracy of any country, and should not be discarded. It merits whatever is necessary. We have it ‘way too good’? We have a barely functioning educative system which is breeding apathy, passivity, atomism and indifference, barely kept alive by the valiant efforts of all those members of staff who actually care about their subjects. That’s what we have.

  3. Wham says:

    “KSU firmly believes that increasing exposure to the world of work will not only provide students easier access to a job but also facilitate the process of acquiring soft skills to complement the contents of their course.”

    You’ve missed the argument they gave entirely – which was that people won’t find a job to get those skills unless they have some skills to begin with. Furthermore, I find it interesting that one of the only times KSU decides to sit down and write a response is when they’re immediately threatened (like with the ‘Piece of Sheet’ incident.) I found Tim Diacono and Fran Borg Taylor-East’s article to be compelling and entirely genuine – they did not write it to stir drama, they wrote it on behalf of actual concerns of the students of university. Considering that this is supposed to be KSU’s job, one would think they would be thanking them, rather than attempting to degrade them for voicing their own opinions.

    I can only assume they expected a genuine response in return, but instead are faced with more of the same, which only goes to prove their point further. KSU do not represent the students of UoM, they represent themselves.

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