Letting hundreds of children down

Saturday, 16 Jun 2012, 05:00


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There are 455 students in state secondary schools that this year sat for no SEC exam – 278 of them are boys and 177 are girls. This amounts to 15% of around 3,000 students that complete their secondary education in state schools every year. 13 years of schooling has left these 455 students unskilled, unqualified and unemployable. Last May Parliament was told that out of 6,966 persons unemployed at the end of March 2012 there were 5,771 (85%) who did not even have a ‘SEC’ standard of education as they left school when they turned 16 or before without succeeding in a SEC exam.

73 of the 455 who did not sit for a SEC exam are statemented as children with disabilities. The number of students in Church schools who did not sit a SEC exam is 10. Six of them are children with disabilities. In independent schools there were three who did not sit for a single SEC exam.

The 455 students are coming from these colleges: Kullegg San Gorg Preca: (83); Kullegg Santa Margerita: (72); Kullegg Santa Klara: (48); Kullegg San Nikola: (47); Kullegg San Injazju: (46); Kullegg San Benedittu: (40); Kullegg Ghawdex: (35); Kullegg Santa Tereza: (30); Kullegg San Tumas More: (29) and Kullegg Maria Regina: 25.

  The 455 students are coming from these schools: Girls’ School Hamrun: (57); Fortini Boys’ Birgu: (37); Boys’ School Gzira: (31); Girls’ School Cospicua: (30); Boys’ School Paola: (29); Boys’ School Birkirkara: (29); Boys’ School Kirkop: (29); Boys’ School Mtarfa: (24); Girls’ School Rabat: (23); Boys’ School Zebbug: (23); Boys’ School Rabat (Gozo): (22); Girls’ School Mosta: (20); Boys’ School Handaq: (20); Boys’ School Marsa: (19) and Girls’ School St Andrews’: (17).

Even a superficial overview of these figures shows us that the problem of educational failure is not concentrated only in socially disadvantaged areas caught in the poverty trap but is distributed on all the national territory. We must also focus on individual schools and support them to improve and make s difference to their students.

Too many children with learning difficulties are allowed to fall behind because they are not given the support they need. If this support arrives, it is too little and too late. Successful education systems support their students as soon as they are aware that they need such support. We must put in place an effective support system for our children with learning difficulties that at the moment are being let down.

We need to develop home-grown vocational education in our secondary schools where we can use the experience and know-how developed over the years by the Malta Qualifications Council (MQC), MCAST, the Institute of Tourism Studies and the University of Malta. Where local expertise is lacking it makes sense to tap international institutions but the Ministry of Education has taken the wrong decision of ignoring local expertise and turning to BTEC exclusively without even considering using the experience and knowledge gained by other countries in vocational education at secondary level.

The best education gives you the necessary skills to solve real problems and carry out the necessary tasks at home, in society and at work. The best education system is based on quality and equality. Children who are allowed to fall behind are being deprived of their human rights. All the young people who come out of school unskilled and unqualified are the result of an unjust system that reinforces social inequality and economic waste.

To succeed in the real world you need to know how to cope with pressure. Education for the real world needs to put pressure on students to succeed. But a good education system also provides students with the necessary support to help them succeed. We tend to put the wrong kind of pressure on our students and deny them the right kind of support.

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