Matthew Caruana

JA Malta CEO Matthew Caruana has stated that Malta’s educational system needs to instil a “growth mindset” within students, focusing on nurturing “ethical and social values”.

Mr Caruana has served as CEO of JA Malta for almost two years, driven by his passion about start-ups and entrepreneurship, and is an advocate for helping the younger generation succeed in a global economy through experiential learning.

On Tuesday he attended a business breakfast held by the Times of Malta, during which Minister of Finance Clyde Caruana was asked a series of questions about the forthcoming Budget. At one point, Mr Caruana asked about Government’s plans for investment in education, to which the Minister said that Malta is spending enough money in the sector, yet is not getting the necessary results. Minister Caruana said that current students are getting similar SEC examination (also known as O-Levels) results to what his generation did, noting that the main problem is that people “do not appreciate education as much as they should”.

Reacting to this, Mr Caruana acknowledged that Malta is not seeing a “return on investment” in education, yet this matter cannot solely be based off exam results.

Following up, MaltaCEOs.mt reached out to Mr Caruana to learn more about how one can alternatively gauge the return on investment in education, together with what must change for students to thrive.

“We need to look at education in a holistic way,” he said.

“Exams, qualifications, and degrees are not the be all and end all. Education should measure those outcomes of course, but the educational sector – including families, schools and the community at large – should bring up a generation of individuals who are also well-mannered, ethical, able to be creative, adaptive, entrepreneurial, financially literate, and innovative,” he affirmed.

Mr Caruana stressed that a “growth mindset” with “ethical and social values” must be instilled within students. Therefore, stakeholders within the sector must ask whether employers are finding people ready for work, whether there is an improvement in active citizen and ethical citizenship, if there is a rise in innovation, and if there is an increase in homegrown start-ups.

He remarked that the current structure of investment put into the education sector is “too content heavy”, urging authorities to “review” the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) system.

“We also need to look into adapting our classrooms and methods of teaching to be more interactive, where the system gives more room for students to work in teams, give presentations, be able to discuss arguments, and bring forward ideas and their point of views,” Mr Caruana highlighted.

He emphasised the need to “instil a love for learning” instead of equating it to a “series of exams”. This passion for education must also be ingrained within teachers and educators, with Mr Caruana adding that there must be an investment in teachers who are “passionate about teaching”. Additionally, teachers must be trained appropriately in order to be able to provide lessons on financial literacy, innovation, and having an entrepreneurial mindset. “We need to make schools more open for more collaboration with other stakeholders who can assist in this aspect,” he continued.

Lastly, he proposed possibly extending school hours and contact hours in the year, as this will enable educators to have “more time to run interesting and challenging programmes with youths”. Currently, primary and secondary schools in Malta operate from Monday to Friday with contact hours of around six hours, depending on the school.

One of the concerns that Mr Caruana expressed during the business breakfast was whether the right education system is in place for Malta’s economy to witness an increase in productivity with less labour.

Malta’s rapid population growth has made local headlines over recent years, with the estimated total population of Malta and Gozo standing at 542,051 as at the end of 2022 (National Statistics Office data), an increase of 4.2 per cent when compared to the previous year. Given the sharp economic growth that Malta has witnessed in the past few years, more businesses have been set up, leading to talent shortages being present. This has prompted many firms, both large companies and small start-ups, to recruit talent from abroad, a situation which has contributed to Malta’s population growth, placing further pressure on the country’s infrastructure.

This has led to Government to revisit Malta’s economic model, seeking to prioritise one that puts more of a focus on upskilling and reskilling talent to increase productivity.

When asked by this newsroom whether Malta can realistically achieve this, Mr Caruana was hopeful, saying it has the “potential” to do so, and is “actually the only way forward”.

“We cannot continue to achieve growth purely by construction and increases in population. Malta has very limited space and we are reaching a point of complete congestion, be it in buildings, traffic, drainage systems, electrical supply, and more,” he stated.

“We need to look at models through which we can achieve growth and sustainable impact without population growth. We need to look more towards innovation and the use of technology, such as automation, together with increased efficiency,” he continued.

Mr Caruana concluded that Malta requires a “robust innovation ecosystem” that brings together all stakeholders and existing components to “work closer together, to collaborate, to communicate, and work in synergy with one another”.

Featured Image:

JA Malta CEO Matthew Caruana

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