Commitment to further education and training of the Maltese workforce
For many years education was considered a formality, in that it was a formal process. Kids went to school and ended with ‘an education’. Thankfully that mindset no longer exists, or does it?
Reading through a public consultation on the EU’s structural funds allocation to Malta for the period 2021 – 2027 some thoughts came to mind about how education and the service education renders to the economy started to form. I know want to capture these thoughts and share them alike.
I have a strong connection with education. For many years it was a love-hate type of relationship. Though for over twenty years this has evolved into a love-question relationship.
And this is the thing. Education is about questioning, but somehow, questioning education is not an easy task because it is emotional, sensitive and very costly.
Let me start from my ‘love’ side of the story.
I love education in its totality, and not in its formal form. Not surprising to those who know me well enough. I love the education one gets from the streets of Kolkata, townships in South Africa or Favelas in Brazil. I love the education one gets from spending summers waiting tables in seaside pizzerias or counting nails in village core hardware stores. I love the education one learns when meeting new people, speaking new languages and understanding new cultures. I love the education one gets from following in the footsteps of those who have preceeded you and, from the exchanges with those who will supercede you.
I am an experientialist.
I love the focus on the context, the purpose. I see this as the missing link between formal and non-formal education; at times the context conflicts with the purpose for the education process and ends up achieveing opposite results from those intended. As such, I do not believe education is a one-size fits-all silver bullet. It needs to be agile, proactive, and context relevant.
Cue in a global pandemic.
COVID taught us much more than we can ever understand.
Pre-COVID, digitisation of in-person services was unfathomed, and work from home only a thing from the movies. COVID taught us of the need to think differently, to think forward.
And while I never want anyone to have to experience another such crisis, why is it that we need a crisis to think forward?
And this is where the ‘questioning’ part of my relationship with education comes into play.
To start off I need to say this before anyone thinks I am an anti-education anarchist. I am not. Some of my formal education teachers have been my biggest influencers. But education was tainted for me by the focus entirely on exams and grading. I lost sight of the value of the education I was getting because, well there was none. It was purely about grades; satisfying parents and school administrations alike.
I struggled tremendously at school and continued to struggle with any form of formal education ever since. It implanted a perception in me that what is most important is the grade and not the outcome. Now I got some very good grades, notwithstanding my dislike – and at times – even panic when sitting for exams, but I cannot say they had a lasting legacy apart from hanging on a wall.
I get the need to benchmark for standardisation purposes, but have we gone too far in focussing on the standardisation process, and not far enough in the standardisation of understanding the purpose. What I mean here is, if as a standard we understood the purpose of education was to enhance people’s lifestyles, wellbeing, etc then education would take on a whole different perspective, even for those struggling most with education attainment.
What’s the point with all this.
Good question. The answer is resilience.
As I go through the public consultation document, Priority Action 1 is titled “enhancing employability and labour market resilience”. This obviously caught my attention so I read on, and while rhetoric takes the right direction, there is no exit in sight. It feels the purpose is missing. As a consultation document I would anticipate more detail on the measures themselves with some insight to the outcomes intended to achieve would be made more visible. And I cannot see much focus on the resilience aspect.
And this is my point.
Resilience is about being able to step up to the plate when the going gets tough. Much of the consultation document was written in the long shadow of a global pandemic (and rightly so), but there is little in terms of novelty. To be resilient one needs to be able to keep focussed while also create new opportunity. And education sometimes forgets that. It is not about the grades, but what you do with the grades (if grades are needed at all). I know some very educated ungraded individuals, and some very uneducated graded ones. In order for a labour market to be resilient, it needs to be able to think on its feet and act accordingly.
The education we provide the labour market needs to reflect this from early on. In a visit I made to Finland about 4 or 5 years ago, I experienced primary education first hand. No classrooms, no walls, no textbooks. Students were learning about the enviornment outside, learning about the benefits of mathematics by engaging in social experiments, and learning languages by speaking to their international classmates. They were given no homework apart from generate new experiences so that we can discuss these tomorrow.
Why can they and why can’t we?
I know the solution is not easy, or is it? There is a saying that goes “where there is a will, there is a way”. We need to “will” it. That is our purpose.
When we provide training and coaching we focus entirely on the will, the purpose of the business that brought us in, and the people sitting in the room. The two have to be aligned. We have designed our entire coaching and training philosophy on aligning the collective and individual “wills” while implementing a delivery methodology that reflects the context and the intended outcomes.
Our methodology ensures no one person, irrespective of their grades, will achieve the same outcome; to become more resilient by seeking the opportunities for growth irrespective of suffering, and sharing these opportunities with others, because it is only through others that one can really grow.