All together now

Our job as educators is to feed on that and help them grow through that curiosity

There is always that palpable excitement during the first week of school. Children find out who their teachers are, which classroom they will be spending their time in, while some even experience a completely new school and new surroundings. They also make new friends – one of the things in life we rarely think about is the randomness of how lifelong friendships are born in the classroom. Especially in primary years, it’s a really exciting, and sometimes daunting, time.

It’s also the first real-life experiences of a child, provoking a multitude of emotions as they start afresh for another scholastic year. It’s the same butterflies in the stomach experience of starting a new job or, perhaps, a new chapter in life. These are important experiences and, as parents, it’s important we allow them space to settle in while also offering a shoulder to rely on.

Children are born with immense curiosity. It’s pretty much an ingrained evolutionary trait. Our job as educators is to feed on that and help them grow through that curiosity. We have worked very hard over recent years to make sure the educational experience nurtures that curiosity and does not kill it. We’re certainly not there yet, but we’ve made improvements. In a short few years, we’ve seen the educational experience change to become a more interactive and digital one as well as introducing vocational aspects – a more hands-on approach – in the mix.

It is along these lines that we will reach all our children, with their different personalities and capabilities. A classroom has become a much bigger challenge than when I used to teach a long time ago. It’s become more difficult both because the backgrounds of children are not the same, but also because, through research, we’ve become much more aware of the different challenges that each child faces in the process of learning new things, increasing responsibility.

It takes a village to raise a child

Whenever there is something wrong with society or an issue comes up, people often turn to the education system and tell us we need more awareness in schools of this and that. It is important to change perspective on this. Schools are there to do a job, but parents are also there to do their jobs. The ultimate responsibility for a child’s education is within the family, primarily the parents. Political correctness has often come in the way of telling it like it is – that parents have to pull up their socks and do the work. Research has shown that schools only affect up to 30% of a child’s education. Yes, 30%. The rest will depend on family, surroundings and the immediate environment. I understand, in today’s world, it is not easy but there needs to be a balanced approach.

We’ve introduced policies, such as the homework one, to make sure we’re the first to walk the walk on the life-balance approach. Basic things, like finding a good book to read or making sure work is done at home, are sometimes overlooked by parents. This is something that teachers and educators tell us all the time – they’re pulling hard at one end but they’re not finding enough support at the other. We must work together for the future of our children, educators in schools and everyone involved in the well-being of the child.

Even worse – and wholly unacceptable – is the situation whereby parents undermine schools and pull against, rather than with. As Maltese, we are a welcoming nation, but it is simply not on to have people from other countries, and different cultures, bully their way through the system. Not being Maltese is certainly no slip note to do whatever pleases. We’ve had many cases, often with educators in specific areas, but there will be no twisting of the rules for anyone. Educators know they have our full and committed support.

A thank-you

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have helped bring in important changes in our education system, from people in policy-making to those in schools. In school transport, we had an optimistic start to expanding free services, but we will continue to work hard to make amends where needed and to make sure all children and parents are given the service. As I said some weeks ago, I acknowledge that there will be some turbulence, but we continue to seek everyone’s collaboration because we’re adamant we will get there.

The positive is that in our first week in operation we’ve already transported thousands more children than last year, and this means there are fewer parents on the roads taking their children to school. It is no consolation to those who have yet to get this service but, as I said, we will not stop until we’ve resolved this, and ultimately this means increasing the supply side to satisfy demand.

Fewer cars on the road is one of the main deliverables of this initiative, and we’re already seeing progress in this endeavour.

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