The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers is continuously monitoring the developments with regards to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education and Employment. The union is pleased to see that the advice and recommendations it has been forwarding have been taken into account when issuing the most recent list of guidelines for the 3rd term of the academic year 2019-2020.
In summary the guidelines agreed upon were as follows:
- Online teaching is to continue until the end of the scholastic year at all levels in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Working Group.
- Communication with students is expected to be maintained, preferably using official platforms, so as to continue providing an educational service. Educators may use alternative platforms at their own discretion, but support, safety and security can only be guaranteed when using approved official platforms.
- Any interaction with students should take place during scheduled, timetabled slots and should not be extended beyond regular school hours or school days. Also, no pressure should be made on educators to teach via live or recorded streams. Online teaching is to stop at weekends and during holiday periods.
- Communication by management should take place during school hours and should not be extended beyond school hours, at weekends or during regular school holidays, and response to such communication should not be given short timeframes.
- Teachers of students who have just concluded Grade 11 (Form 5), or the 2nd year of post-secondary education, are to be available for their students but need not follow any formal structure, and should keep their interventions within regular school hours and days.
- Teachers are to address the topics on the syllabi which are teachable online; they are not expected to cover the full syllabi. The impact of these lacunae in the syllabi will be discussed in the work groups and addressed in the next scholastic year as required.
- The implementation of the planned and scheduled learning outcomes, including the SEC model, will cease for the current scholastic year and will be postponed to the next one. Teachers in years 1, 5 and 9 will thus continue to implement the present syllabi during the 2020-2021 scholastic year.
- No work is expected to be held on School Development Plans during this time, as focus should be on the provision of online teaching to students.
- Feedback by teachers is to be given in a timely manner, within realistic parameters, to ensure that students remain motivated and scaffolding of the learning process is facilitated. The general public is invited to maintain realistic expectations on the type and extent of feedback provided.
- The rights of teachers to intellectual property, original material, and the potential misuse of such material by third parties, are to be safeguarded and fully supported.
- To ensure that safety online is secured for both minors and professionals, any inappropriate or abusive behaviour will be addressed with a ZERO TOLERANCE approach, and all applicable legislations will be applied and enforced.
- Teachers still finding that certain students are difficult to get in contact with, should liaise with their schools to address the issue, or use the helpline offered at digitalliteracy.skola.edu.mt. They are also encouraged to use the educational resources available at www.curriculum.gov.mt.
The union feels that it should emphasize the importance of ensuring that educators do not make themselves available at all times. Educators should make sure that their work does not extend beyond school hours, or spill over into what would normally be considered a holiday or rest period. At this point in time, it is imperative for our educators to exercise their right to disconnect, so as to nurture their own private and family lives, which have not been exempted from the strain and stress dictated by exceptional circumstances.
Furthermore, the union feels that despite the freedom given to educators to use preferred online platforms, it must emphasize the importance of adhering to those which have been officially approved, as intervention in favour of educators in case of online issues or abuse can only be guaranteed when using approved platforms.
In conclusion, the union commends the work done thus far, and would like to reassure educators nationwide that their proactivity has been noted, that their availability is appreciated, and their willingness to deliver has been exceptional. The union would like to encourage educators to continue with their sterling work without burdening themselves with unrealistic expectations which may lead them to feel that they have not done enough.
The Union of Professional Educators would like to thank its members for the commitment shown to their profession, and for the professionalism exhibited to date in the quality of the work being done and the efficiency of its delivery.