In its article, the newspaper “Illum” reported that according to figures published by a number of agencies of the European Union, teachers in Malta are being paid much less than eighteen other countries in the same Union, since they are paid much less than the European average.
According to information released by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Executive Agency for Education and Culture, and Eurydice, Malta is in 19th place in Europe in terms of teachers’ salaries, while the salary of teachers in Malta is around €7,500 less than the European average, which average is €25,055. According to this information, in 2020 and 2021, the starting salary for teachers in our country was €17,509, when most of Malta’s neighbouring countries have higher wages than our country. Among them, wages in Italy and Cyprus reach €24,000 while in France and Spain, they reach €26,800 and €30,900 per year respectively.
Having been an educator myself, I can talk about this from first-hand experience.
Politically speaking, when Malta was under the twenty-five years empire of GonziPN, educators were forgotten and put on the side. They did not get one single penny of an increase in their salary. And yet, many Nationalists hammer that under GonziPN, “kien hawn il-ġid”. I also remember at the time a dormant MUT, if it ever woke up! I was in the start of my career at the time and spent around ten years under this regime. It was only a few months before the election in 2013, that educators got a mere increase in salary when finance Minister of the time Tonio Fenech of the ‘gifted’ clock and principal permanent secretary Godwin Grima signed a collective agreement for civil service employees, which totalled €190 million in cost over six years. If I remember correctly, my salary back then, at the scale where I was, increased by a mere €600 yearly! Divide that by 12 months and substract the tax, and you will know how much was my pay increased monthly! I had agreed with Dr Muscat when he blamed this administration for shortage in this profession. At schools, this shortage was already slowly being felt because it was during GonziPN that the number of students enrolling at University to become educators, started diminishing. One of the main reasons was when the possibility to pursue a Bachelor of Arts and a PGCE, as it was in my case, was shredded when Gonzi decided to remove the monthly allowance of the PGCE students. Yet, the situation continued to worsen and up to this day, nothing has changed.
The educators’ salary and their collective agreement was better revised when Dr Joseph Muscat became prime minister, because I call a spade, a spade. I also remember sending him an email, where I expressed my concerns in the educational sector, including society’s treatment vis-a-vis educators. This email was acknowledged by Dr Muscat, who even talked about it during one of his public speeches which is also on record on tv. I was still an educator at the time.
“Illum” also reported that teachers’ dissatisfaction with their wages is a well-known phenomenon in several countries, even though their wages are higher. In fact, if we take a look at England and Ireland, we see that around 40k teachers quit every year. This month they even striked twice “amid a long-running dispute over pay, with union leaders warning strikes could continue into the autumn unless a deal can be reached” The National Education Union in the UK said that “ministers could have easily ended the disruption by offering a better pay deal to help teachers amid high inflation and the cost of living crisis.”
How I see it: there is a shortage in teachers in Malta not only because of the crappy pay. There are other factors. The first is the fact that to reach a better pay according to the hierarchy of scales, as per seniority, takes ages, when, let’s face it, it is at the start of your career when you already need a good pay due to the start of a family or buying a home or a car. The second is that teachers have been stripped of their authority in the classroom. They have been turned into puppets of the educational system, burdened by heavy syllabi with unnecessary, ungrounded knowledge, done by ‘experts’ who have never or have rarely set foot in the classroom and have no clue and lost touch with reality. Thirdly, the imbalanced shift in society from ‘no rights’ to ‘all rights’ to children, have turned educators [and parents] into just a resource. Surely, children have rights too but this shifted society from an authoritarian one to a permissive one, two extremes that are both dangerous. Fourthly, by time, educators were loaded with more paperwork and changes that are forced upon them every year, while the educational system goes round in a loop hole. Fourthly, society as a whole does not treat educators in a respectful way. Comments like “you don’t do anything”, “ah, you have the holidays” or “any one can be a teacher” and any other lurid statement which I heard throughout the years, are not respectful at all. Lastly, the changes in the course per se which were done by the University of Malta did not turn appealing to prospective students.
What else is left? Today, one really has to have a vocational attitude to be an educator. It is a pity because it is such a humble profession, yet powerful, because only through education, together with a moral and spiritual framework, can a society be built.
So when will the new sectoral/collective agreement, which is taking ages, be finalised and when will the government increase the educators’ pay?
Last, but not least, when will society shift to respecting educators, who are an important backbone of society as a whole?