Malta
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Valuing educators through better compensation

Educators returned to their classrooms this week to welcome thousands of students after the summer break. 

The State sector alone employs almost 8,000 educators for 35,000 students from kindergarten to secondary school. More are employed with Church and private schools. 

But as the summer lull subsides, teachers, LSEs, KGEs and school administrators will get back to being educators, social workers and punching bags for the frustrations students carry with them from home. 

Being an educator has never been an easy job and it has been made more complex with the expectations that society has of them when dealing with children. 

Educators are expected to teach academic subjects; understand children and encourage them to work to the best of their abilities; adapt to the different learning needs of students; be attentive to children’s emotional and behavioural attitudes; deal with uncooperative or over exigent parents and problematic students; motivate students and listen to them. 

To top it all up educators enter their classrooms having to handle a fresh round of educational reforms with all the uncertainty this brings about. Indeed, many educators speak of reform fatigue following two decades of constant change that have left very little time for evaluation. Many times, these reforms are drafted by bureaucrats and academics that no longer have a connection with the ever-changing realities of the classroom, causing frustration among educators and school administrators. 

The current administration has promised the new education strategy will be drafted from the bottom up and several consultation meetings have already been held at grass roots level. Hopefully, the outcome will be a better reflection of today’s realities and expectations with all the necessary ancillary resources being made available to help educators implement change. 

Within this context, the collective agreement that is being discussed should deliver a boost in morale. Greater respect and appreciation must be shown towards educators at a time when much more than teaching of subjects is expected of them. The call for respect towards teachers is also directed at parents and children’s guardians, who through their actions or words can erode the trust educators should enjoy. 

Implementing support measures and creating better work conditions are important and the educational authorities have to ensure these are delivered. But the truth of the matter is that what counts most is the compensation educators receive for their work. It is through better compensation that values such as respect are reflected in a concrete way. 

It is crucial that in line with pledges made during the election last year, the monthly pay packet and allowances of educators are improved substantially. Five years ago, when the current collective agreement was negotiated, many educators were left with a sour taste in their mouth since what had been promised did not materialise as expected. That mistake should be avoided this time around. 

Educators are a crucial cog in the social and economic tapestry of any country and their work should be valued accordingly, including monetarily. 

Government may have the temptation to keep a tight hold on the screws given the EU’s pressure on governments to control spending and reduce deficits. But it would be a mistake if collective agreement talks get bogged down because of stinginess. While the government has the duty to safeguard its overall financial situation, it has no other option but to offer educators higher wages. 

If anything, the screws should be tightened on discretionary spending such as persons of trust and jobs that are invented for people close to power. 

Educators deserve better compensation and adequate support to carry out their complex job. 

At the start of the new scholastic year, educators would like to hear that collective agreement talks will soon come to a close and their financial predicament in the coming 12 months and beyond is better than yesterday’s.