Education and the EU
Social Policy and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi
speaks at the launch of the EU pilot project Web and Multimedia
Training for Medical English at the Elanguest English Language
School. Dr Gonzi contends that there might have been points up for argument
during the EU debate, but one thing agreed upon by all is the educational
advantages membership offers.
For the past two decades, relations between Malta and
the EU have featured quite high on Maltas political agenda. These
last 20 years, we have constantly debated what form of relationship
Malta should have with the EU or, better still, whether it was, on balance,
advantageous or disadvantageous for Malta to apply for membership. Obviously
there are areas where one could argue on the advantages or disadvantages
of membership, but there was one area which nobody here in Malta argued
I am referring to the EUs educational programmes, i.e. Leonardo
Da Vinci, Socrates and Youth. Both sides of the political spectrum supported
wholeheartedly Maltas participation in these programmes as it
was obvious that Malta will reap immense benefits from this participation.
And Maltas participation in these programmes in the last three
years was extremely beneficial to practically every sector of the population.
Today we are focusing on only one of the EUs educational programmes
and, hence, we need to review Maltas participation in this programme
over the last three years. Maltas main benefits so far from Leonardo
da Vinci rested on five actions:
- Mobility Projects
- Pilot Projects
- European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
A brief look at Maltas participation in the 5 Actions within Leonardo
da Vinci shows the following results:
1. Mobility Projects
a. Malta accepted wholeheartedly our participation in these programmes.
In just three years, about 500 Maltese workers, trainers and vocational
education students benefited directly in this programme, and because,
these 500 people were multipliers, many more also benefited. Notwithstanding
the novelty of the project as well as the initial difficulties evident
in any new venture, our workers immediately perceived the benefits.
So much so that, this year, the Leonardo da Vinci staff is being faced
with a demand for participation which is higher than the supply. Hence,
the qualitative benefits of Maltas participation in Leonardo da
Vinci are self-evident.
b. Maltas participation in the Leonardo da Vinci, especially the
Mobility Action was highly multi-sectoral. It was not limited to any
particular sector of the labour market and, in fact, it included hospitality
workers (chefs, waiters, receptionists, housekeepers) health care professionals
(ranging from nurses, to radiographers, physiotherapists) social workers,
psychologists, trainers of people with special needs, workers from the
manufacturing industry, taxi drivers, bus drivers and so on.
However, a lot of work still needs to be done in this area, especially
in one particular sector. Not enough small enterprises are participating
although the Leonardo da Vinci National Agency and the Small Business
and Crafts Directorate within the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs
are collaborating to enhance this participation. In the next round of
applications for Mobility within Leonardo da Vinci, it is now anticipated
that more Maltese enterprises will apply. I am sure that this participation
will be beneficial to our small scale enterprises as they would be exposed
to work practices and new technology in use in similar enterprises abroad.
The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, known
as CEDEFOP, has also been offering opportunities for study visits abroad.
Maltese experts and/or practitioners in vocational education are meeting
their European counterparts to share ideas and experiences and adopt
their experiences in Malta. About 20 Maltese experts have already benefited
from this experience which will surely rub off on their colleagues to
the benefit of our students, and, ultimately, on our labour skills.
These study visits are also funded by CEDEFOP.
Malta is also participating in the EUROGUIDANCE network, which is the
EU information network for guidance practitioners, workers, students
and trainers alike. This network offers information on professional
opportunities and training courses in the EU member states to Maltese
people. In the last 6 months in which EUROGUIDANCE has been in operations,
we have received over 150 queries on these subjects.
As from 1st of May next year, our vocational students and workers who
participate in the Leonardo da Vinci Mobility measure will be eligible
(like all other participants from the 25 Member States) for EUROPASS
which is an official certificate stating their participation in Leonardo
da Vinci. Obviously such a certificate enhances their employability
and progression in their careers. The EUROPASS in the Member States
carries validity and hence, even our workers and students will be in
a better position to exploit work and training opportunities in the
5. Pilot Projects
This action is perhaps more relevant to you today and, hence, I will
dwell a bit longer on this Action. It is appropriate to stress that
this Action is competitive and centralised. It is competitive because
all projects submitted from the 31 participating countries have to compete
with each other on standards, relevance and content. Only the best are
selected. This Action is largely centralised because the ratings and
selection are conducted by the local Agency in collaboration with the
European Commission in Brussels.
Hence our Maltese application for Pilot Project had to pass the local
initial selection test here, and, through a sterner selection test in
Brussels. Our applications (notwithstanding our lack of previous experience
in this matter as it was submitted in our first year of participation)
passed the Brussels test with flying colours and was selected for implementation
and funding. The selection of this project is a further proof that Malta
and the Maltese (notwithstanding the smallness of the country) are able
to complete equally and creditably with everyone else.
Hence, congratulations to the promoters of this project and their partners!
However, I take this opportunity to encourage other enterprises (no
matter how small) to participate in these Pilot Projects. If you have
the will and initiative, the EU will provide you with funds to assist
in the implementation of your project. We all know that the Maltese
are very enterprising and entrepreneurial but may lack the resources.
The Leonardo da Vinci provides you with golden opportunity to exploit
your entrepreneurial skills and innovative ideas.
Once the European Commission was convinced about the utility and the
feasibility of the project, it committed EUR334,863 to Elanguest English
Language School for this project.
However, we cannot say that now it is all over and the project can be
archived. The promoters can now market their product and get financial
benefits out of it. They invested their time and initiative (plus the
EU financial investment) and now they can utilise and profit from their
investment. Surely an example to be followed by other entrepreneurs.
If the Elanguest English Language School were successful, I see no reason
why others cannot.
In fact, Malta has two other pilot projects at implementation stage
and we will surely celebrate the completion of other current projects
soon. Three projects in three years is definitely a success, but, as
always, we should not rest on our laurels. It is now up to all of us
to exploit all opportunities within Leonardo da Vinci and other programmes.
We have the ability to exploit as many opportunities as possible and
it is our moral duty to do it.
I am sure you all agree that now that Malta will soon become a member
of the EU, we need to exploit all possibilities of participation. The
Government has provided the infrastructure (ie. The setting up of the
Leonardo da Vinci National Agency in the European Union Programmes Unit
within the Ministry of Education), but the Maltese entrepreneurs need
to take up these opportunities.
One final word. Hearty congratulations to the Maltese promoter of this
pilot project Web and Multimedia Training for Medical English
ie. the Elanguest English Language School and its overseas partners
for its success and wish them well in their next steps. Also a word
of thanks to the staff at the Leonardo da Vinci National Agency for