On 2 April, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT), an Education International (EI) affiliate, teamed up with youth organisation Aġenzija Żgħażagħ to hold a series of debates encouraging young people to discuss issues related to quality education. During the initiative, facilitated by the Ministry for Education and Employment, schools were invited to send a team of three speakers each to participate in the debates. During the discussion, “”, the students debated specific topics pertaining to education. The audience, composed of students from the same class, voted before, during, and after each topic to assess if, and how, the debate caused them to change their opinions. The teams could choose to present their arguments either in Maltese or in English.
Giving a voice to students
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ was set up in 2011 to promote the interests of young people and provide assistance to youth organisations and young people in achieving their potential. During the educational debate, “Let’s Debate Quality Education!”, secondary school students from 11 different schools discussed topics such as co-education, whether compulsory education should be up to 18 years instead of 16, and whether teachers should be friends or educators.
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ believes that such a dialogue with young people is important as it brings about a more participative approach in schools. Giving young people a voice in education does not only exercise their rights, but also enables them to achieve more, improve their self-esteem, and contribute to a better school environment.
At the debate, each team was accompanied by another group of students from their school, who could also speak and vote as part of the proceedings. The activity also included preparation in advance of the debates in collaboration with interested teachers, school administrators, and officers from the Education Directorates.
Speaking at the debate, the Minister for Education and Employment, Evarist Bartolo, said it was a positive sign to see students debate among themselves on issues such as the obligatory age of education. He said that in the past, Maltese citizens would have been discussing whether obligatory education should be raised from 10 to 14 years of age. ‘Having such debates was important to make sure Maltese authorities are always aware what the best system for our education is,’ he said.
MUT Senior Vice-President Marco Bonnici said: “This activity is part of the EI campaign, ‘Unite for Quality Education’. In fact, we included topics linked to the three pillars of quality education, namely quality teachers, quality teaching and learning tools, and quality teaching and learning environments. MUT is proud to be part in this campaign aiming to give a voice to educators across the globe and, in Malta, involving the Ministry as well as students. As part of the campaign, we demand that quality education for all remains at the top of the agenda for a sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous future.”
Photographic Competition on Quality Education
The MUT Youth Section also launched a photographic competition running from January to April 2014 under the theme “Unite for Quality Education” with prizes to be won. All MUT members were eligible to submit a number of photos on the theme; the selection process including voting through Facebook.