Malta’s strategy to combat early school leaving

For decades, Malta has had a high rate of early school leavers. In 2014, after the launch of the first ever national policy for the prevention of ESL (Early School Leaving), there was a constant and significant decrease in the number of students who leave education and training with less than an MQF Level 3 qualification (ELET). A new National Strategy Policy for Early School Leavers has been launched yesterday. TheJournal.mt examines why this was needed and what it entails.

Why we need an updated strategy

Within the continuous globally changing demographics, research suggests a strong correlation between ELET and students’ wellbeing at school, and their socio-economic and multicultural background. Tackling ELET risk factors in the initial stages of children’s educational journey supports a more inclusive and holistic educational system, which is why this policy adopts prevention and intervention strategic pillars as the first two actions, while the third pillar is a compensation measure that targets post-compulsory education, including adult learning provision. This aims for an increase in student enrolment and retention within this sector.

The 4 principles of the strategy

The National Strategy Policy for Early School Leavers, is based on the principles of ensuring:

  • Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning 
  • Reducing gaps in educational outcomes between boys and girls and between students attending different schools, decrease the number of low achievers, raise the bar in literacy, numeracy, and science and technology competence, and increase student achievement
  • Supporting the educational achievement of children at-risk-of-poverty and low socio-economic status
  • Raising the levels of student retention and attainment in further, vocational, and tertiary education and training; and increasing participation in lifelong learning and adult learning.

The importance of quality childcare services

Childcare centres should offer customised services and quality care to all children, especially children at risk of social exclusion. Activities at these centres target all areas of child development, including social, emotional, physical, intellectual, communicative, and creative aspects. Professionals are trained to maximise engagement in a safe and enjoyable setting, while offering varied daily programmes that include stimulating play activities.

It is thus important that free childcare services should be eligible to all children within the target age range.

Instilling literacy trends in younger generations

Literacy is based on a group of cultivated skills that serve as a basis for learning, communication, language use, and social interaction. It ranges from the fundamental ability to read, write, listen, and understand, to higher level processing skills, where learners will be able to deduce, interpret, monitor, and elaborate on learning matter. Literacy acquisition is not only a cornerstone of academic responsibility, but it is also the basis for future learning and participation in society and employment.

Eliminating barriers in examinations

Examination boards should take into consideration the bilingual nature of our society and should be more flexible in allowing students to opt for their language of preference when sitting for their examinations. Furthermore, more communication and open dialogue needs to take place between MATSEC and our schools to determine what could be the best path towards academic success according to necessity.

Creating Outreach Programmes

Post-Secondary institutions and adult learning providers should embark on an outreach programme to monitor students who are at high risk of dropout. The outreach programme should be run by professionals who seek to provide the right support for difficulties the students might encounter.

Notwithstanding all the efforts, there will always be students who disengage from the educational system. It is thus vital that we develop an action plan to offer a second chance education programmes in all post-secondary and adult learning institutions, targeting those students who disengage themselves from mainstream education.

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