The chief of the faculty of education, that trains all new teachers joining the profession here, has warned against reducing the standards of teacher training in order to beat teacher shortage. If he felt he needed to give this warning it must mean he knows it is being seriously considered.
What retrograde, third world madness is this?
If there is a problem anyone in business in Malta is aware of, it is the unquenchable drought of trained and capable human resources. The cost of employing people is not growing because of economic success but because of gross shortage of supply. Resorting to immigrants from higher cost jurisdictions kills our competitive advantage. And the quality of some of the new entrants to the job market coming out of local schooling is less than it should be.
Anyone with direct experience of businesses in the technology sectors knows that many companies are now questioning the viability of Malta as a suitable location for their activities. They struggle to find employees of any standard and when they do they are pressed with salary demands entirely disproportionate to the skills of the candidates.
It comes as no surprise that the biggest pain point for the recruiters for the teaching profession is finding teachers who could be teaching IT skills (and math, which is a fundamental corollary). They are simply nowhere to be found.
Quite how reducing training standards to turn around certified teachers quicker is perceived as a proper solution is very hard to understand. If the quality of teacher-training is reduced, the quality of teaching will go down as well. And so will the quality of new market entrants produced by the educational institutions for the frustrated consumption of industry.
This is the single most important function of the state in creating the environment for a sustained and sustainable economy. Of all investments needed to “future proof” the economy – how’s that for a new-fangled cliché? – education is first and foremost.
The problem here is plain and simple: money. A teacher is paid a gross monthly salary of €1,617. After a dozen years of toil they can apply for promotion to assist the head of school and scale up to the princely sum of €1,844. When they are nearing retirement and decide to carry the burden of responsibility heading a school of a thousand students and almost half as many staff they get a gross monthly pay of €1,974.
That final pay is far less than the entry-level salaries demanded by new, poorly trained, barely articulate entrants to the software industries.
There’s something very, very wrong here and this is going to create serious harm to our viability as an investment destination.
Of course there’s a teacher shortage when one of the toughest professions around is paid the least. There is no useful surplus in public finances when these conditions of employment exist in such strategic positions. The surplus in this case is the product of under-investment and under-spending on the most crucial responsibility of public authorities.
Pay those teachers more. Much more. If there’s any expense that justifies borrowing, it surely must be this one. The education they provide is a direct contributor to future economic returns for the entire community. Failure to invest in this is a recipe for catastrophe.