Strategic Plan for the Prevention of Early School Leaving

Short summary

Addressing ESL in Malta

A consultation document entitled An Early School Leaving Strategy for Malta was published in late 2012 by the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Employment. In April 2013 this document was launched for consultation and feedback was received by the general public, public entities and constituted bodies. A second document for further feedback was relayed to interested stakeholders. Out of this process emerged this Strategic Plan. The aim of this document is to put ESL high on the agenda, to map out challenges and responses and to ensure that the tackling of ESL in Malta is carried out in a concerted effort based on cooperation across sectors and levels. It also aims to contribute to the process of consolidating educational achievement through the drawing up of a Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 10. The latter document forms the basis for the process of improvement in education in the next decade during which time the students develop their personal and social potential and acquire the appropriate knowledge, key skills, competences and attitudes through a value-oriented formation including equity, social justice, diversity, and inclusivity. The actions outlined in this strategic plan are in line with the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 which centres around four measureable targets that both individually and collectively contribute directly towards the reduction of the number of early school leavers in Malta. The Framework highlights the need for Malta to reduce the gaps in educational outcomes between boys and girls and between students attending different schools. It aims at decreasing the number of low achievers and raise the bar in literacy, numeracy, and science and technology competence while increasing student achievement. Another measureable target for our nation to achieve is the provision of support in educational achievement of children at-risk-of-poverty and from low socio-economic status, and reduce the relatively high incidence of early school leavers. A third target put forward by the Framework is to raise levels of student retention and attainment in further and higher education, followed by another target to increase participation in lifelong learning. These four measureable targets form the basis of the present document. The document A Strategic Plan Towards Preventing Early School Leaving in Malta envisages structures that enable stakeholders to monitor implementation for the purpose of revising plans when the need arises, with the specific target of keeping on track in our quest for providing a more meaningful and successful educational experience for all students. 1.5 Guiding Principles This document recommends the following policy principles which should guide Malta’s strategic response to ESL: • ESL concerns Maltese society in general. Facing up to ESL concerns schools, parents and communities, and has to be tackled through a strategic alliance between policy makers, educators, employers, trade unions and civil society, with a view to develop educational solutions that are relevant to students in today’s socioeconomic realities, stretched as they are in a local-global tension that oscillates between local communities, the Nation State, the EU, and the wider world; • the concept of the school as an institution should be revisited. Schools are not enclosed citadels but an important stakeholder within civil society. They need to reach out and build bridges with communities in order to look for solutions to ESL that respond to student diversity and learning needs; • early warning systems are necessary to identify potential early school leavers with a view to intervene as early as possible in supporting the achievement of children at risk. Particularly we need to see that structures and services are in place to address the needs of students living on the poverty line and students from a low socio-economic status; • schools need to be pro-active and creative in addressing ESL issues and in making educational institutions relevant and effective. Schools need to be supported by policy makers and administrators through effective communication channels; •actions need to take place at school, community, sectoral and national level. Education and Training institutions at all levels, from early childhood education and care to further and higher education have a stake in reducing ESL through prevention, intervention or compensation measures; • lifelong learning is an attitude that needs to be inculcated in students from an early age. Formal and informal lifelong learning and adult learning initiatives have a key role to play in addressing ESL, both as a second chance education process that re-integrates early school leavers back into education and training and also in fostering a nation-wide attitude towards continuous self-development, community development, active citizenship, entrepreneurship and employment mobility; • vocational education is not the only solution to ESL but it plays a crucial role in providing a more comprehensive and varied learning programme that responds to students’ diversity of interest and learning patterns; • all educational attainment should be recorded through a proper accreditation and certification system that will enable early school leavers to return back to education and training with the least possible difficulty.

Context of good practice

The main challenges were to collaborate with all stakeholders including inter-ministerial stakeholders.

Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group

Absenteeism was a main risk factor and one of the aims of the policy was to tackle it.

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Author:

Pamela Spiteri

Institution:

ESLU (Early School Leaving Unit) Ministry of Education and Employment

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