Eurostat news release shows Malta is stuck in transgenerational low education. That explains a lot (not that we didn’t know it already).

Published: December 13, 2013 at 1:52pm

And this is despite the determined efforts made by one Nationalist government after another over the course of 26 years: throwing open the university gates, increasing the number of courses, paying people to study, setting up and expanding MCAST, building an overseas scholarship system, pushing and pulling Malta into the European Union which has meant better access to education, mounting a relentless campaign for internet access and personal computers in every home, and so much more.

The link to the Eurostat press release (11 December) is below. I suggest you read it – I don’t think it was picked up by the press, but I might have just missed that.

It makes for depressing reading when you put the bald statistics into the context of the ongoing trashification of Malta.

The situation is so bad now, after all the efforts made in education, but just try and imagine how dire things were pre 1987, when even now ignorance in Malta is phenomenal.

When I try to explain how awful the situation was in the 1970s and 1980s, that great swathes of people were so ignorant of anything beyond basic survival that they didn’t even know what simple things like deodorant and shampoo were, others get offended because they seem to take it personally as a reflection on Malta. However, the fact is that this was the situation. In 1986, aged 21 and sitting in the maternity ward’s breakfast room (a boiled egg in your hands, no spoon, plate or cup), I had to explain to a small crowd of curious women what my packet of cereal, brought from home, was.

Lots of people lived literally like savages, and this was after 16 years of a glorious socialist government supposedly dedicated to their betterment.

Education goes beyond institutionalised learning, so much so that Malta is plagued by what might well be a unique phenomenon: uneducated university graduates.


Just read this: Malta has the highest level in the European Union, at 73%, of persistence of low education from generation to generation. And this after 26 years of hard work, free education and paying people to stay in education. What a mammoth problem – it seems insurmountable. And then we try to sell Malta on the basis of its educated workforce, and the government these low-level-education people (in all sectors of society) have elected thinks that the solution is finding jobs for 16-year-olds by having them assemble solar panels for China.

Largest movement from low to high level of education in Finland and the United Kingdom

In 2011, for those with parents with a low level of education, there was a significant movement to a medium level of education in a majority of Member States, with the highest shares in the Czech Republic (83%), Slovakia (78%) and Poland (75%). In Finland and the United Kingdom around a third of respondents had even moved to a high level of education. However, a persistence of a low level of education was observed among half or more of the respondents only in Malta (73%), Portugal (68%), Luxembourg (52%), Spain and Italy (both 50%). The smallest proportions of low level of education were registered in Lithuania (10%), the Czech Republic and Sweden (both 11%).

But the really shocking, stand-out figure, if you go to the table of percentages – and it really stands out compared to the average of 3% for all the other 27 states – is that 26% of Maltese adults whose parents have a high level of education have a low level of education themselves. In other words, in 26% of Maltese families where the parents have a good level of education, their children are sliding down the educational ladder.

30 Comments Comment

  1. Joseph Caruana says:

    “Morru tgħallmu l-iskola, ħalli ma’ tiġux bżonna,” Gonzi said once during an Independence Day celebration speech. No wonder, general election 2013 came, and happened what is now past by us. Ignorance is bliss they say.

    • observer says:

      And, ’tis also said, where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.

      I never thought I would see the truth of it all under the present labour government.

  2. Jozef says:

    Portugal, Spain, Italy and Malta: it would be interesting to see how those percentages are concentrated. I wouldn’t be surprised if these coincide with Aragonese domination.

    Ex-Czechoslovakia and Poland can be considered Catholic, Poland expressly so. Both however Bohemian – typical Catholicism proved as an instrument to evolution, tolerance and never subdued to oppressive rule.

    I’m trying to make sense here, look for clues, otherwise why bother?

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      I think the clue is cultural isolation. None of these countries saw any large population movements in the last 200 years. The others were full of interesting people coming and going, including peripheral regions like the Baltics or Poland.

      As for Malta, we had it all, but we pissed it all away on a whim.

      • ciccio says:

        But why is Luxembourg in our category? It is right there, in the heart of Europe.

      • Jozef says:

        Granted, but don’t tell me we were culturally isolated. We’re supposed to be English speaking, dammit. Southern Italy went from Spanish domination, to French rule and a parallel history of British influence, albeit minor. How is it we reflect the worst traits?

        It could be much deeper than that, an obsession with death at the end of it all, either resulting in self-flagellation or ludicrous make pretend. Having a virtual size, locus, doesn’t help.

        You saw those ‘monuments’, inguardabili is the word. So much for memory, if it exists, or better, allowed.

        It’s what stokes Kenneth Zammit Tabona’s mindset, common good inexistent, beauty something exclusive and priced to remain so. He pervaded Labour because he knew he could, exotic, colourful even.

        Then there’s Astrid and her ignorance of basic geometry, and guess what, both consider themselves defenders of the baroque faith. She feels empowered with Labour.

        i could go on, but the latest proposals by our artists denotes an absolute terror of these watchdogs. One could say both of them are the cause, symptom and consequence of fear of what you call movement. And these, if you please would never consider themselves to lack an education.

        What I recognise is that their thinking doesn’t transcend meaning into space or time.

      • Jozef says:

        Luxembourg’s just a bank.

    • Jozef says:

      Perhaps another factor, this thing set me thinking, Mintoff’s land reform and fragmentation.

      The result being housing estates and at best, terraced suburbs which in the near future shall be left abandoned, no sense of place, no genius loci, no ‘amenities’, in other words non luoghi.

      Places where people automatically shut the door behind them, material needs are automatically wants to conclude their ‘plot’. The way these were concentrated, even due the 80’s rampant clientelism created ghettoes.

      I think it’s time for radical rebuilding, Napoleonic style. There’s acres and acres of urban slums to reclaim and miles of ribbon mixed development to turn back.

      The problem here, is who gets to master it.

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        There is no urbs. And that is where intellectual development takes place. That is where history is made. No city, no development.

        The hard, sad truth is that Malta is a provincial backwater. We made it even worse for ourselves when we opted for independence, and when we made Maltese the official language, and de facto the language of government, and more or less the only language.

        Our world, which was already small, suddenly shrunk to 300 square kilometres and 400,000 people. That’s it. That’s our universe.

        Our intellectuals write about Malta, discuss Malta, work in Malta and mix with Maltese colleagues in Maltese institutions. We fill our airwaves and newspapers with mounds of the most insignificant trifling incidents as long as they take place in Malta.

        We think Maltese and we speak Maltese. It sucks.

        Then we come of age, struggle with our Maltese CV, find some willing Maltese girlfriend, squeeze out a few Maltese kids who are sent off to Maltese schools, and perpetuate the whole thing.

    • ken il malti says:

      The problem is genetic.

      Low IQ parents producing low IQ children.

  3. jackie says:

    These are truly depressing numbers. You picked up on the 73% of children of poorly educated parents being poorly educated themselves. I’m equally disturbed by the 26% of children of highly educated parents who are classified as poorly educated.

    [Daphne – Yes, I picked up on that later and added it in to my post. It’s a stand-out figure, really shocking. Everyone else is in single digits and we are at 26%.]

    Language has got to be part of the problem. If you only speak Maltese (badly), you simply cannot be exposed, to any significant degree, to the great works of science, philosophy and literature.

    I suspect also that the standards of teaching have played a part. I’m actually in favour of ring-fencing certain public professions and turning them into careers to aspire to (through improved pay and high levels of training). Attracting the best possible talent to the teaching profession would be my priority. Pity I wasn’t in charge in 1987. What I could have achieved in 25 years!

    [Daphne – You are right on the matter of language. It is literally impossible to be educated if you know only Maltese. The Nationalist government’s early efforts, at least during its first term 1987 to 1992, were hampered by the hostility of the old guard, who were still there at the time, to English. The antipathy towards the language has remained in a more diluted form but it is there all the same. It is a cross-party problem in which neither the Labour Party nor the Nationalist Party can get past the mental obstacles to accepting that the ‘language of the coloniser’ is the only means of salvation. English is the starting point for education in Malta, and those who won’t accept this are doomed to failure. In the past you had Italian, too, but that is no longer useful.]

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      I’m in favour of a multi-tier system. Education was never meant to be democratic.

      • Jozef says:

        It’s also expensive throwing multiple LSA’s at every class with these results.

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        That too.

        I often wonder how my life would have turned out had I not been sent to a Maltese one-size-fits-all school.

        Most of my childhood was spent in the utter boredom of repetitive learning, sitting through lessons I already knew.

        Then it was off to Il-Muzew in the evening, trying to decipher the strange dialect of Maltese that all the kids in my shit-village seemed to speak, and then, out of irritation more than anything else, challenging is-“Sup” on the finer points of theology.

        By the time I reached adolescence, I had become a liability and an outcast, and had already fizzled out.

    • jackie says:

      You’re right of course. Learning English properly is hard enough without the ideological antagonism. In fact, right on cue, a comment I made in an earlier post, about pre-war pro-fascist sympathies within the embryonic PN, was met with an immediate anti-British reply.

    • Jozef says:

      Not at all Jackie, I just pointed out the intricacies of a historical truth. I trust you will one day visit the upper hall of the Main Guard building housing the AG’s extension. The skeletons in the wall cupboards are truly spectacular, one of Malta’s best kept secrets.

      All I’m saying is that when there’s no pax between the two of us, this country will remain where it is, stuck, as Baxxter rightly says, in the proverbial Maltese.

      If we can’t even spell out history and what really formed our mindset and historic antagonism how do you propose we go about it?

      I keep in mind the inevitability that British influence will slowly fade. Even because our place now the EU, our interests are no longer those of Britain, indeed, going by David Cameron’s wish, it may be the polar opposite.

      What doesn’t change is the geography. Talks of Meditteranean Europe are a reality.

      As for me being anti-British, a paternal ascendence of officers who served everywhere helps my curiosity and objectiveness.

      This place happens to be Catholic and managed to exemplify exquisite art and architecture during rational British rule and sanguine expressive training at the accademia in Rome. You’ll discover not one of our masters missed that one.

      Then, and you will agree, absolutely nothing. The best thing about art and architecture is its instant measurement.

      Surely you’ll understand the potential in bringing the two psyches back together.

      The design of this place is in urgent need. There’s this minor individual in power, you see, confused how to enlarge this place who got himself a couple of bluffers who latinize every sentence to show off.

      I’m not having it. I’m sure you won’t.

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        I think you’ll find I disagree violently here. I’m all for chucking out the Italian psyche. Malta is British, should have been a British dependency, and should do everything possible to climb back into the Anglosphere.

        There is nothing intricate about Malta’s history. You had the populace that would have been quite happy to be subjects of the Empire, or British dependent nationals, and a very powerful minority of Italianate agitators who wanted Malta to belong to Italy. Then came the war, the Italians lost, and suddenly they started agitating for independence.

        As far as I’m concerned, a place this small should never have been independent. We should have been another Gibraltar, and we wouldn’t have all these hang-ups about national identity.

  4. Banana Republic ... Again says:

    May be that’s why Joseph Muscat wants to attract talent through his passport for sale scheme?

  5. Natalie Mallett says:

    Ah so this is why Profs. Edward Scicluna said we need to bring in people of calbre with the IIP scheme.

  6. hmm says:

    One of the biggest problems we have in our educational system is not helping children think creatively.

    And children are moved up each year without even knowing the basics in each subject.

    For political correctness, no kids are repeaters but this has backfired and children have relaxed and aren’t bothered.

    After all they will always move up to the next year irrespective of them really learning. To top it all we are fixated on teaching in the classroom subject by subject and not taking kids out of the classroom to apply their subjects at a multidisciplenary level. What a pity.

  7. Simone says:

    … it was labour who made education compulsory for all up to 16 years of age… it was labour first who paid students for studying… One must admit that mistakes were made, such as the numerus clausus, but to deny labour’s contribution to education is nothing but political blindness.

    [Daphne – Compulsory schooling is a British legacy. No Labour government EVER paid students for studying. On the contrary, the Labour governments of 1971 to 1987 did everything they could to stop people studying, including closing down university departments, going to war on medical students, closing down church schools, sending thugs to attack academics on campus, and putting up barriers to university entrance. Where on earth did you get the idea that Labour governments paid students for studying? Whoever told you that was lying. Nothing could be further from the truth.]

    • Gahan says:

      Labour gave students 50 cents a week when a bus ride was 75 cents.

      Labour was the party which sold the Teachers Training College to Gaddafi.

      Labour NEVER built a new school: Verdala School was a first world war prisoner camp and barracks, Sandhurst School was a military compound and Tal-Handaq School was a cluster of Nissen huts.

      There were no learning support assistants and if one was labelled “stupid”, one ended up in a trade school.

      Percentages can be misleading. If I look at my circle of friends and colleagues, by and large I can easily conclude that their children are much more educated than they are.

      Look at the bright side: in the 1970s we thought we were the centre of the world and nowadays we think we can hold the EU by the balls.

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Where do I start with you people? The institutionalised ignorance and myth-making in this country is just out of this world.

      Free primary schooling was introduced in Malta in 1847 by the BRITISH. Not by Labour. Your mothers could have sent you, but chose not to.

      In 1924, under the BRITISH, schooling became compulsory up to 12 for those already enrolled. Your mothers could choose not to enrol you, and many didn’t.

      Schooling up to 16 was made compulsory in 1946. Your mothers’s attitudes haven’t changed. But now it’s compulsory, so they reluctantly send you off to school.

      In 1946, Malta was BRITISH, with a National Assembly. Boffa only became PM in 1947.

    • Rumplestiltskin says:

      Simone, what island are you living on? Surely, not Malta. If your parents told you that Labour paid students to study, they lied to you.

      Labour made it well nigh impossible for students to study. Many students had to go overseas to do so at considerable personal expense. Talk about re-writing history! How can you let yourself be brainwashed like this?

  8. northerner says:

    On matters of education one should ask teachers who are the real experts and have ‘hands on’ experience.

    The teachers I know all concur that the standard of education in state schools has fallen dramatically in the past 5 years. This coincides with the introduction of the Colleges.

    If the MLP had destroyed university academic standards in the 1970s, the PN, not to be outdone, destroyed standards in secondary schools. The main pretext for the latter disaster was the notion of ‘inclusivity’.

    For the sake of ‘inclusivity’, highly disturbed children with atrocious family backgrounds were taken out of special schools and dumped into ‘normal’ secondary school classes where they create havoc and pulled down the standard of education for all.

    ‘Inclusivity’ and its anti-elitist philosophy also meant the abolition of the Junior Lyceums, which in some cases had very high standards and were the envy of private schools.

    Indeed, could it be argued that the envy of private schools was the cause for the destruction of standards in state schools? They have definitely benefitted from the downfall of the Junior Lyceums in terms of number of entry applications. Unfortunately not everyone can afford their fees which means that poor families that have aspirations for the future of their children will have to send them to the bedlam in state secondary schools.

    If you think the present generation are savages, wait till you meet the next generation.

    • Bubu says:

      The abolition of streaming was the one thing I opposed vehemently in the PN policy for education.

      Everywhere streaming was abolished, standards of education fell sharply. This is one area where the Nationalists became more socialist than the socialists-and as is usual for socialist policies, made a dog’s dinner of it.

  9. marks says:

    I am surprised and disturbed by the 26% of children of highly educated parents who are classified as poorly educated. I wonder why that happens.

    Maybe the highly educated parents just studied their subjects to the detriment of anything else?

    Are there a variety of books in the house? Are the children reading or wasting time playing digital games? Do the parents take the children abroad, and are they exposed to culture eg museums, historical places, theatre, or just fun parks?

  10. Silvio farrugia says:

    So dear Daphne it does not help to give free education and stipends to students.

    In Britain they have to pay about 9 thousand sterling for Uni and have no stipends but it is still part of the top.

    It is a very sad situation. That is why over here, when one does not agree in politics, one is hated by the other side.

    It is ignorance. Also the reason why you find many agreeing 100 per cent with one party and that is why when one says how things are one is called a ‘pinnur’.

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