24 September 2003

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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 Malta’s 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 on.
I am referring to the EU’s educational programmes, i.e. Leonardo Da Vinci, Socrates and Youth. Both sides of the political spectrum supported wholeheartedly Malta’s participation in these programmes as it was obvious that Malta will reap immense benefits from this participation. And Malta’s 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 EU’s educational programmes and, hence, we need to review Malta’s participation in this programme over the last three years. Malta’s main benefits so far from Leonardo da Vinci rested on five actions:
- Mobility Projects
- Pilot Projects
- European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
- EuroGuidance
- Europass
A brief look at Malta’s 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 Malta’s participation in Leonardo da Vinci are self-evident.
b. Malta’s 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 European Union.
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 their support.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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