The Union of Professional Educators (UPE) took aim at the Malta Union of Teachers and the education ministry over the recent news that the two were in talks to employ foreign teachers.
Last Sunday, The Malta Independent that discussions between the two were underway to employ foreign teachers in specific subjects. A ‘crisis’ resulting from a shortage of teachers has persisted for several years, with directives being issued and a recent altercation resulting between the education ministry and the Malta Union of Teachers about mathematics and Maltese exams, due to the lack of teachers available to teach the subjects.
The UPE said that in the Labour Party’s 2013 electoral manifesto, there was a promise to improve teachers’ working conditions by providing more autonomy to teaching staff and reducing the amount of clerical work, while also proposing incentives for various educational grades to progress their careers which would have adequately filled the void the country is currently experiencing, the UPE said.
“Furthermore, according to the proposals presented, teachers would have been consulted and would have been given the opportunity to participate in the advancement of the educational sector by voicing their own suggestions.”
The UPE said that the PL’s 2017 manifesto saw more specific proposals presented, which were made to increase teachers’ salaries and improve working conditions to attract younger prospective teachers at university, among other things.
“It becomes evident that the intentions of the government were good and that the manifesto was amply in favour of our educational staff. Through the intervention of the MUT, all of these proposals were brought to an abrupt halt, which makes one wonder why none of the valid proposals which had been presented were acted upon.”
The UPE argued that if these proposals were acted upon in a timely fashion back in 2017 and 2017, Malta would not be experiencing the current teacher shortage, and the crisis would have been averted.
The union questioned whether any planning has been done to see how the increase in foreign workers will effect infrastructure here in Malta. “One tends to forget that teachers are also a mother or father figure who understand the social and cultural dynamics of the class.” Maltese students might also have trouble communicating with teachers who do not have a solid command of the Maltese language, he said. He pointed out other issues such as adding stress to the country’s road and healthcare infrastructure.
The union said that Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry Frank Fabri had insisted that the foreign workers will need to study Maltese over a number of years and up to O-level standard. “UPE questions what will happen in the meantime when they need to communicate while at school.”
Graham Sansone -Executive Head of the UPE explained that Fabri has declared the entry requirements for the foreign teachers will be equivalent to those of a supply teacher. Sansone indicated that supply teachers would have a degree in the subject, but would not be qualified teachers.. “Why hasn’t the ministry opened its calls to the Maltese labour market?”
He spoke about the need to incentivise youths to become teachers, such as paying teaching students who are conducting teaching practice during their studies on a pro rata basis.
These people being employed – foreigners – -will be thrown into the country and we fear a culture shock. We have countries like Australia and Canada, when one applies to go work there, there are exams of the culture and of the language as well. Are these thejjiniet happening.
Has the proposal currently is, is not sustainable and would be on society and on our children. Will be in a situation where our children, while these teachers learn maltese, will have difficulty communicating, will have difficulties with life at school and difficulties to understand the culture of these children. These are our concerns.
The Union head also brought up another issue, which he described as a scandal within the education sector. He mentioned that certain teachers, or rather trainers, are being employed precariously in state schools. He said that there are around 8-10 teachers, who teach certain particular subject, like welding, being employed on a self-employed basis, paid €11.65 an hour, but not receiving any sick leave or leave days because of it. He argued that the ministry is meant to be an example employer and that this should not be done. These people do not get paid time off he said.
He said that it is not a question of being against the law or not but said that the government should have a social conscience.
Sansone mentioned fears that such contracts would be given to the foreign teachers, and that this, in conjunction with pushing for supply teachers from abroad, could lead to pressure being placed on actual grade teachers, who would then become too easily replaceable.