On 15 February 2018, the fifth round table meeting of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) Capacity building project III took place in Malta. At this occasion, representatives of Malta Union of Teachers (MUT), partner to the project, as well as Maltese education employer organisations including the Ministry of Education and Employment and representatives from the Catholic Education of Malta met with EFEE and ETUCE to discuss the current state of play of social dialogue in Malta with a focus on how can social partners support teachers, trainers and school leaders. The ESSDE partners were joined in the discussion by representatives from the University of Malta, the College of Arts Science and Technology and the Institute of Tourism Studies of Malta, the Independent Schools Association and the trade union confederation For.U.M and Malta Employers Association. Discussions were enriched by the social partners from Greece: ETUCE member organisation OLME, and the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious affairs of Greece.

The topic, listed among the themes of the new ESSDE Work Programme 2018-2019 allowed Maltese and European Social Partners to share their views on the current state of the national and European social dialogue in the efforts to enhance the professional profile of teachers, trainers and school leaders, by improving the quality and effectiveness of initial education, early career support, and focus on continuous professional learning and development. Despite the ‘reform fatigue’ reported by several representatives from the trade union side, Malta is one of the few countries which has risen its educational budget in the last few years. This has gone in parallel with policy reforms in several sectors ranging from early childhood to VET and with the signing of a recent sectoral collective agreement. This agreement improves the working conditions of teachers and educators and aligns them with their professional needs to make the teaching profession more attractive. Recently, the national and European Semester’s focus on professional development of teachers in Malta also coincided with the introduction of an Institute of Education for teachers, where educators themselves are contributing to the development of their continuous professional development.

Discussions were further supported by the presentations on the European ‘relaunch’ of social dialogue, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the contribution of the ESSDE to education policy initiatives at European level made by the project expert (ICF). Participants benefited from the presentation of the current situation in Greece made by Greek social partners. Despite still suffering the conditions set under the Economic Adjustment Programme from Greece, social partners are on the same side to defend the quality of public education.

Closing the event, ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken, commented: ‘the fruitful discussions held today clearly show how a positive industrial climate is essential to face the increasing societal challenges which have an impact on education, such as digitalisation, rising extremism and radicalisation of young people and the inclusion of migrant and refugees. An attractive teaching profession which is rewarded in its working conditions as well as in its professional aspirations is crucial for all students, who are to benefit greatly from qualified teachers that feel materially, psychologically and socially supported.”

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