The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of The Workers, has recently been studying the contents of the 3 Bills put forward in Parliament.
Bill 92 – Education Bill
Bill 93 – Further & Higher Education
Bill 94 – Act to Regulate the Education Profession
Bill 92 – Education Bill of 2019
This bill entails a whole reform of the Education Act and contains particular features of concern.
It sees the establishment of the Board for Educational Matters deciding upon matters concerning education when parents cannot reach a decision themselves or if one or both parents are absent. Such disputes were previously the competence of the Civil Court.
The Head of School through the Head of College Network is being made responsible for the educational decisions of students where the parents are not acting in the best interests of the child. The HOS is being burdened with the responsibility of not only reporting such incidents but to commence proceedings before the Board for Educational Matters. Why is this duty being imposed on the HOS and not on a Social Work Agency? The best approach would be for the HOS to make a referral to a Social Work Agency and the Agency should thereafter handle all matters relating to the case in front of the Board for Educational Matters. If the current drafting of the Bill is retained, all social issues related to students will fall squarely upon the HOS who will in turn shift responsibility onto the guidance teachers. In practice, it will be guidance teachers who will be asked to make representations before the Board for Educational Matters vis-à-vis students whose parents are not fulfilling their parental duties with regards to educational matters. This sounds like adding an unjustifiable additional burden to an already heavy one!
The Bill also proposes to resurrect the Division of Education comprised of several departments, granting the Minister the power to “establish and remove any Department as he may deem necessary by means of an Order in the Gazette”. Such ample discretionary powers are evocative of totalitarian states and completely out of order in a parliamentary democracy as they effectively curtail scrutiny of the executive and its powers.
The Division of Education is being granted widespread power of access to information which both state and non-state schools may not possess.
Pre-compulsory education is being put under the remit of the Division of Education.
The Bill also sees the resurrection of Inspectors and Inspections, granting such officers “the power to enter at any time, without prior notice, in any school, childcare centre, class, or place of
instruction, and inspect and report on the teaching and learning process, educational leadership, learning and assessment programmes, student well-being, the physical environment and the observance of the conditions, standards and policies and regulations established and made by virtue of this Act.” Art 17 (1). The extent of the powers of these inspectors is evident by the wording of the article itself.
The Division of Education is further empowered to obtain any information necessary for such investigations. Furthermore, the investigation procedure is not laid out in the law but is completely left to the Division to establish.
These investigations and inspections are additional to the ones which may be held for quality assurance purposes. In either case, the Division may oversee the implementation of an action plan to address any shortcomings and “shall have the power to take any reasonable action it deems fit in case of failure to implement such action plan.” No mention is made of what action may be taken: closure of schools? Dismissal of SMT? Termination of employment of educators? By the generally wide terms in which the legislation is drafted, it seems that these inspectors will have unlimited powers of investigation and may recommend anything they deem fit which recommendation will carry official weight and will be certainly implemented. What about the qualifications of these “inspectors” and their method of engagement? No mention is made of these matters. Even more worrying is the fact that the draft makes no provision for the contestation of the inspection process or the resulting reports.
The draft indicates a whole devolution of the functions of the Division based solely upon ministerial discretion. The Minister may devolve to Schools or Colleges any function of the Division as he deems fit.
The responsibility of curricular objectives is being transferred onto the schools, including the implementation of learning programmes, inclusion and other policies. This was previously the remit of the DQSE.
School order and discipline are being transferred from the sole responsibility of the Head of school to all educators and staff of the school.
The Bill is empowering the Minister to make Disciplinary Regulations, Policies or Directives which affect not only students but also members of staff. The same document is to include provisions for the discipline of staff and students alike! This is not acceptable as educators are subject to the discipline regulations of the Public Service Commission and should not be subject to an additional set of disciplinary regulations let alone one which encompasses staff and students.
The Bill also provides the Prime Minister with the power of setting up any entities “for the better quality and provision of education and training services”. Is this provision paving the way for dismissing educators from the public service onto a parastatal agency as recommended by the MUT? The detail of provisions in this Bill especially relating to grading structure of employees of such entities to be reflective of those in the public service seems to be paving the way of transferring load, stock and barrel all educators from the public service onto such an entity or entities… the legislative groundwork is already done here…
The Bill ends with several articles granting the minister wide-ranging powers to make regulations, in particular, article 74 which seems to invest the Minister with absolute power and control over educational entities save those already provided for in legislation.
Bill 93 – Further & Higher Education 2019
A Bill entitled “An Act to regulate further and higher educational institutions and education providers in Malta and other ancillary matters.”
The main object of this Bill is to regulate further and higher educational institutions and providers in Malta and to provide for other ancillary matters.
Further education and higher education are assigned the following definitions: “further education” means all non-compulsory formal learning which serves to obtain a national qualification classified up to and including level 4 of the Malta Qualifications Framework, or a foreign qualification at a comparable level; “higher education” means all non-compulsory formal learning or research which serves to obtain a national qualification classified at level 5 of the Malta Qualifications Framework or higher, or a foreign qualification at a comparable level.
The National Commission for Further and Higher Education will be re-established and incorporated as the Malta National Authority for Further and Higher Education and will be responsible for the licensing and regulation of the sector as well as advise Government on this sector of education.
The National Authority for Further and Higher education will accredit education providers, their programmes, issue licenses to schools, renew, refused, suspend or revoke the license and establish the relative conditions and receive fees in relation thereto.
The Authority shall have the power to enter and search any educational premises, to have access to all documentation and to carry on-site inspections etc. Likewise, it shall have powers to request access to any documentation related to Further and Higher Educational establishments whether public or private.
The Authority shall be a Body Corporate with a distinct legal personality and shall be governed by the Board of the Authority. The Board shall consist of 5 to 7 members all of whom will be nominated by the Minister and appointed by the Prime Minister. The members shall have leadership qualities and an understanding of further and higher education. The Prime Minister shall nominate the Chairperson from among the members of the Board. The term of office for members is three years. The Board shall appoint a secretary and a Chief Executive Officer of the Authority.
The Board shall appoint a Quality Assurance Committee whose function will be to carry out quality assurance audits of further and higher educational institutions.
The Authority will also have an Advisory Committee for consultation with stakeholders.
The Authority will have the power to fine infringements of this Act or of any regulation made under this Act.
The Authority shall be funded from the Consolidated Fund as may be voted by Parliament. It will be responsible for the keeping of accounts and ancillary records.
The Authority shall have the power to make regulations in relation to the sector.
Bill 94 – Act to Regulate the Education Profession 2019
The proposed Bill 94 of 2019 introduces two positive concepts: the warranting of KGEs and LSEs and their regulation by means of a professional council. The Bill as proposed envisages that the Council of Educators will be replacing the Council for the Teaching Profession.
Whilst these two developments are in themselves positive, there are many aspects of concern mainly relating to the composition of the new Council for Educators, its raison d’etre and modus operandi.
First and foremost, it has to be noted that the idea to subject the Teachers’ Permanent Warrant to compulsory CPD has not only been resurrected but is now being extended to the Warrant of LSEs and KGEs. This Bill, therefore, re-opens the saga of the permanency of the teaching warrant and now – to add insult to injury – that proposed for LSEs and KGEs. This effectively reduces to nought the professional stability of teachers, LSEs and KGEs. It seems that the ministry’s dim view of educators will now be entrenched by legally enforcing upon them a state of perpetual tutelage.
The composition of the new Council for Educators also leaves much to be desired. The obsolete model of the preponderance of ministerial appointees instead of elected members is being perpetuated. Moreover, the patent conflict of interest of one particular union also being maintained. Naturally, the ministry is quite comfortable having representatives of the MUT on the new Council giving the evident ideological collusion between them.
Another area of concern is the fact that whilst teachers, LSEs and KGEs are in general being subjected to stringent regulations for the award of the Warrant or License to exercise their respective professions, in certain cases the Council is being empowered to dispense of such
requirements. This provision once again nullifies the move towards the professionalization of all educator grades.
Of grave concern is the over-emphasis on the investigation of educators to the extent that the rationale behind the Bill is expressly declared as being the regulation, investigation and sanctioning (punishment) of educators as expressed in the Objects and Reasons found in the Second Schedule to the same Bill. It seems that the controlling and oppressive attitude of the ministry towards educators is now reaching alarming proportions and found itself shamelessly expressed in the proposed Bill. This is in itself condemnable and deserves the utmost contempt of all those who have the well being of educators at heart. Indeed most of the Bill is dedicated to mechanisms of investigation and sanctioning of educators rather than provisions for the sustenance of their professional status, dignity and authority.