Leonard Bezzina discussed reforms in education while Josef Lauri discussed the broadcasting media landscape in Malta and needs for change there. Scroll below for the education and information chapter of Repubblika’s new manifesto.
3. Training for a participative and responsible citizenship
Democracy comprises a series of institutions and processes, including elections, parliamentary representation and the limiting of power by means of a series of checks and balances.
These institutions and processes are vibrant and bear fruit when they are rooted in a democratic political culture.
Experience shows that the attitude of the citizen towards democracy is as meaningful as that of the institutions. It is necessary for the citizen to understand and appreciate the democratic structure in order to feel responsible for its stability and development.
Today’s world presents a series of challenges to the traditional models of citizenship and sovereignty: globalization, inequality, economic competition, new technologies, environmental challenges and migration are presenting new challenges.
In spite of the temptation to rush to find false, populist or authoritarian solutions, Repubblika believes that democracy is the best, if not the unique tool to address these complex challenges.
We also acknowledge that democracy is a precarious asset, and can only remain alive if it is nurtured, maintained, and passed on to the next generations.
We also understand that the more complex the challenges that define our future become, the more it is going to be difficult for the common citizen to participate. We are already suffering because of the distrust in politicians and institutions.
Many of the problems that Maltese society is facing and will continue to face derive from the weakness of our educational system.
Corruption and mafia find fertile ground in the parts of the world where citizens are not given adequate means to educate themselves. In order that Malta may start writing a new and clean page of its history, it has to wisely develop a strong, reliable and long-term plan for education. This should be started immediately by taking the necessary steps.
The education of the citizen starts at a young age, and intensifies in time. In order for this to occur, new dignity must be give to the fundamental role of the teacher. Society has the duty to understand the difficulties teachers face. The state has the duty to invest heavily in education, and to improve the financial situation of teachers so that more young people may be encouraged to follow this career path. Teachers should also be encouraged to pursue further studies in order for their teaching skills to improve and respond better to today’s challenges.
The physical environment of a school is fundamental; consequently, the Government is duty bound to strengthen and give priority to the building of new schools having sports facilities, laboratories etc. that are adapted to today’s standards.
Education, and the importance it is given in the country, are like a thermometer that gives good indications of values, or the lack of them, that drive civil life.
The fundamental obligation of the state is to ensure that everyone is provided with high-quality education. Respect towards citizens is shown when this principle becomes fact and does not remain the shallow rhetoric of politicians.
The educational system should not be put off in educating children coming from difficult social contexts. They should be given incentives to strengthen research that can provide concrete answers.
The school should change into an environment where from a young age, every person is taught the value of justice, truth, respect for the environment and for persons, and solidarity.
Educational programmes should be reformed to respond to today’s necessities. Young people should be given the tools to understand the world they are living in. Unfortunately, schools often find difficulty in keeping up with the times. It is to be made clear that the critical sense that should lead a person through life is the result of a complex, long-term educational process that is based on educational programmes which have vision.
Repubblika commits itself to helping to form responsible and active citizens who participate in the development of democracy in Malta and who take part in the life of the country.
Apart from formal education, we need to see a change in the will of the Maltese to be informed. The right to information is an intrinsic one, and it derives from the right of free expression. It is not enough to “allow” everyone to say what they like. It should be made possible for everyone to know the truth and the different opinions in a community.
Currently public broadcasting is seized by governmental interests and journalists working in the public sector do not have the liberty to investigate and publish. Private televisions are dominated by the political parties which control the contents of what is transmitted on their stations, and have no scruples in manipulating the truth and even lying, also by remaining silent with regard to facts that they are duty bound to report.
The rest of Maltese journalism depends on publicity, an economic enterprise which is constantly decreasing and providing less and less earnings. In the current situation, Government is exploiting this vulnerability in order to dedicate its publicity spending mainly on the media that back it.
At the same time, Government uses huge financial resources not to communicate through the media, but to exploit social media for propaganda purposes.
Consequently, the following must be considered a priority:
- to change the ways in which public broadcasting is regulated in order to ensure its independence
- to create a distinction between political parties and broadcasting media
- to regulate by law protection to investigative journalists who attract danger because of the work they do
- to introduce the principle of ethical responsibility to regulate government spending on public information
- to create public funds that support journalistic investigations and other forms of journalistic work that provide criticism to authorities and other critical perspectives.