Apart from the health sector, the pandemic of the Coronavirus showed that another sector which people cared for and highly affected the majority of us was education. With students out of classes, exams at a risk, and teachers delivering scholastic material online, society is now more appreciative of the value of educational sector and its resources.
Our educational sector needs a series of reforms. We have to address challenges in equipment, resources, training of teachers and lecturers, LSAs and management, working conditions and perhaps wages.
Up until a month ago we were experiencing an economic boom which was not always however matched up to what our labour force had to offer. Our economy has been experiencing a mismatch in planning, coordination of resources, common goals and decision making for decades, and the results of this are mostly felt during an economic boom, when investments and employment are at high rates, and educational institutions are lagging behind, trying to produce more prepared labour force which the economy is thirsty for and in the fastest way possible.
For example, if one looks briefly at prospectuses of higher education institutions they all offer a variety of courses, across different levels, and possible progressions. First reaction? Wow, this is great for an island which aims to become an educational hub in the Mediterranean.
In reality, when one looks closer, we realise that the number of students applying for such courses is minimal, for the traditional ones like engineering it is going down yearly, while for the new courses, they may take years to start attracting numbers of students. Reasons for this vary; either the sector is not attractive, employers are offering a more attractive package then studying, the attitude and behaviours of current student generations have actually changed from when our decision makers were at school. Or maybe, most importantly, are these courses providing what our industry actually wants and needs?
These different thoughts shape my everyday thinking as I struggle to understand why we are in full employment, but various industry sectors are begging for people? Why some sectors are not even meeting their demand with foreign supply, and why some companies are establishing their own academies internally.
Is it time to have a seat around one big table and try to figure out which sectors we would like to invest in? By no means should we be adopting communist principles but we should adopt practical ones. We should ensure that we invest in that human capital to the best of our abilities.
Investing does not only mean creating employment opportunities. It also means putting education at the forefront of the possible options one has to consider throughout life, not only until we are sixteen years of age. Lifelong learning should be more catered for, encouraged, and understood by employers.
Investing in human capital also means that education is offered in a flexible way adapting to the needs of the century. If this pandemic took everything away from us, it showed us that the majority of educational programmes can be done online, including teaching, assessment, enrichment, and working while caring for our loved ones.
We have to distance ourselves from the pandemic that hit the world, and still think about other matters, and hope that once we are back on our feet, we are stronger to continue moving forward. In my opinion sustaining economic growth involves a more inclusive decision-making process which would cater for further needs of the common good being addressed.