Welcome Address - World Teachers' Day - 5th October
Dear Colleagues and Students,
Today, 5th October marks the World Teachers’ Day – A day that UNESCO, since 1994 celebrates to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. We are celebrating this day in these particular circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, October 5th is also the day when we open our academic year and welcome back, albeit mostly remotely, our continuing students to the start of this academic year. A few days later we would also be able to greet our new students. Welcome.
On this day, UNESCO highlights the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Education in which teachers are recognized as key to the achievement of the 2030 Education Agenda. To mark this occasion the Faculty has commissioned two young, promising students to install their art work on the Faculty’s entrance walls both of which celebrate aspects of the SDG 4 Education Agenda. During the coming weeks we will officially inaugurate these works and dedicate them to the leadership and courage that our former students and colleagues, who now lead our schools, have shown during these trying times of the pandemic.
This is in line with this year’s UNESCO’s theme for the World Teachers’ Day, Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future. Teachers throughout the World, and not least here in Malta are experiencing unprecedented challenges in ensuring the right of every child to education. In such times, one can choose to look at the shortfalls of the system and/or at those who have failed to provide such support successfully. We choose to celebrate the successes of those educators that during this pandemic have shown resilience to continue contributing to providing quality education to all students notwithstanding the challenging times facing the nation. We have many examples of teachers who have shown leadership in providing remote learning, finding innovative ways in supporting the vulnerable student population, ensuring the safe re-opening of schools and seeing that the learning gaps in the curriculum are being mitigated.
These successful professionals could do such a great job also because in their initial professional preparation as educators they were given a strong foundational preparation. We as a Faculty are proud to call these teachers our alumni. We are proud that we (and by this we mean to include those who have come before us, those who had the vision to bring teacher education to University and fight for a professional status) did a good job in preparing our students, not only to teach in times when things are normal, but also in times of crises when resilient, innovative and creative thinking is required. We are proud to have contributed to a generation of educators with strong principles who are able to evaluate the needs of the students under their care and address them, despite all odds.
Throughout the years the Faculty has strived to offer programmes that offer robust foundational preparation of teachers. These programmes have always aimed to provide a strong introduction to critical knowledge, skills and practices that assist prospective teachers to develop a fundamental understanding of high-quality learning and performance. Through our MTL programme we continue to seek to strengthen these aspects. At the same time, we are aware that our students would require further support during their initial professional practice years. It was for this reason that in these past weeks the Faculty has presented MEDE a document which proposes an induction programme to follow our newly qualified teachers during their first two years of preparation. During this period, which will effectively extend our involvement in professional teacher education, would include support and mentoring of beginning teachers by more experienced colleagues, assist beginning teachers in making a better transition into the classroom and contribute to the next stage of their professional development to be able to meet the needs of diverse learners, establishing and maintaining effective environments for learning, and not least negotiate the many non-teaching administrative tasks associated with the role of teaching (Gambhir, et al 2008). The Faculty is also becoming even more visible and participative in schools through professional learning programmes aimed at reinforcing the opportunities teachers have to enrich their practices, collaborate with peers and engage in further learning, growth and development.
During this coming academic year, we need to continue supporting our students to meet the challenges facing them to successfully finish their degree programme so as to enter our schools as proud, confident professionals. We also need to continue with the re-dimensioning of our MTL programme and continue strengthening the other degree programmes that the faculty offers to ensure, amongst others, that our programmes promote diversity, inclusion, understanding, acceptance and social responsibility in continuing dialogue with the school communities. We also need to strive to develop in our students the required competences, not least their digital ones, to be able to provide quality education to our young learners in schools.
We would therefore like to close this short address by welcoming colleagues, both academic and administrative staff, and students to the 2020-21 academic year. We wish you all luck, health and a fruitful learning experience. We are sure that notwithstanding the challenges that this pandemic is putting in our way, together we will come out stronger. Happy Teachers’ Day.
Dr Colin Calleja Dr Michelle Attard Tonna
Dean Deputy Dean
Faculty of Education