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An examined, educated choice

This article was published in the Times of Malta on Friday, 18th January, 2013:



We frequently speak about education as a guarantor of a good job and better work opportunities, two issues which are definitely linked and correlated. You cannot attract better quality investment, you cannot create better jobs with better wages, if you do not have an educated and skilled workforce able to grasp fill these roles and grasp these opportunities. This is something the Nationalist Party in government understood years ago and through the vision and stewardship of politicians of the like of Ugo Mifsud Bonnici and Louis Galea revamped the whole education system to meet the demands of modern society. This process is being continued to this very day with the introduction and expansion of post-graduate scholarships, the investment in vocational training, and the concept of life-long learning. Our advancement in education has neither stopped nor been derailed, on the other hand, opportunities in this sector have much expanded also thanks to our membership in the European Union which Joseph Muscat and his party so vehemently opposed.

But education cannot be seen only as a utilitarian tool to get "what you need for your job". We need to be careful not to let education digress to a utilitarian exercise of learning how to get through exams. And we should not focus our energies solely on how many students make it through exams or the quantity of students entering University, MCAST or other educational institutions. It is much more than that. It is a process in which children and youngsters learn to think and reason, where they get into the 'forma mentis' to become critical thinkers. It is a process in which are our youngsters should be inspired to cultivate not just their knowledge but their holistic self: mind, body and spirit.

This is especially important because education has another important role which is rarely touched upon: safe-guarding democracy.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education,” had once said US President Franklin Roosevelt.

We'd do well today to remember these words today and make an effort to choose wisely. An examined and educated choice is the only safeguard democracy has from becoming a tyranny of the ignorant.

And an examined choice is not based on theatrics. It is not based on midnight launches, on witty satirical bill-boards, on catchy headlines, on striking poses.

It is based on policy. It is based on the how and the when. On the decisions which are going to affect our daily lives. On what we need to do today the build our future. On how we are going to reach sustainability in all the sectors of the country: the economy, the environment, our limited resources. On the strategies which will shape our children's future. What will we do to improve our health, education, work opportunities, environment and overall quality of life? What policies are we going to implement to maximise our resources and our potential?

It is on those policies that we need to base our decision. It is those policies which we must discuss and analyse. Otherwise, we can embrace apathy and just base ourselves on the covers, on the marketing, on pictures and fancy logos.

With one serious consequence: that if we are to choose who is to run the country by who makes the best headlines rather than by who guarantees the best policies, we will get a country which hits the headlines.

Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Italy and other neighbouring countries have hit those headlines. And those headlines were not good.


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