Government launches new strategy on early school leaving for public consultation

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The government on Monday launched a public consultation on a new strategy on ‘Early Leaving from Education and Training’.

Pamela Spiteri, Educational Officer in the Early School Leaving Unit, explained that this is the second such strategy of its kind.

“In 2015, Malta was one of the first EU countries to publish a specific strategy on Early School Leaving (ESL), for students who did not achieve superior secondary level qualifications.  The EU recommends that there be such a policy in every country. The strategy is the basis of monitoring of other strategies and policies in education and elsewhere that affect early school leavers.”

The aims of the first policy applied until 2020, and so this second strategy was drafted.

This strategy uses the term Early Leaving from Education and Training (ELET) as it refers to both academic and vocational learning.

The strategy is based on three pillars – prevention, intervention and compensation.

The measures in this strategy are aimed to reduce the indicators of risk, like absenteeism and lack of academic achievements, she said. “These were created through a national study with students who did not continue attending post-secondary education.  A research project had also taken place in 2018 through EU funds, where information was gathered from various stakeholders. The studies resulted in the recommendations on which the strategy was built.”

The strategy has five measures in each of the three pillars, with the aim of reducing the ELET rate and offer education based on social justice.

She said that a number of measures have already started being planned and implemented.  Right now a project is underway on home school liaisons, she said. This project aims to help parents receive more support, to be able to help their children in school. “As a part of this project, we will also offer more support to teachers. In fact, we will soon issue a call for applications for a fellowship to offer a Masters to a number of teachers, in order for them to be qualified in identifying the students most at risk of ELET and offer the necessary support to parents.”

“At the same time we started the submission process for another project, so that through the help of a chatbot, a specific AI programme would be created to be of help in schools identify the students at risk of ELET and help them.”

Addressing the conference, Education Minister Justyne Caruana stressed the importance of the strategy.

She spoke of the challenges that Covid-19 brought with it, and described the need to neutralise these challenges and create opportunities to move forward.

“While we are building on the good that was created through the last strategy, we are working to reflect both the contemporary challenges that developed over time and also in the challenges brought about by the pandemic that left an impact on our students and on the way they learn.”

“While the rate of early school leavers reduced substantially when compared to other EU countries over the past years, we must still recognise that we have 16.7% of youths aged between 18 and 24 who did not achieve five O-levels.”

“We want to focus on reducing this percentage,” she said.

The main aim of this policy is to address this situation at a national level. “This is why the policy does not just limit itself to the educational sector but delves into others.”

Referring to the strategy’s compensation pillar, she said that a few days ago the ministry announced the creation of recovery sessions in summer, so that students who suffered from absenteeism due to the Covid-19 situation can, over summer, receive recovery compensatory sessions for the time they lost.

“The measures we want the measures we have created to go on until 2030. “

“Education is a key to move forward individually and build on our potential, but is also the key for the country to move forward, especially when we are today speaking of economic recovery post pandemic.”

The most crucial phase of a person is the educational phase, she said.

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