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5.12.19 12 13.7.2023 Alexiei Dingli and Rose Marie Azzopardi Prof Alexiei Dingli, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Prof Rose Marie Azzopardi, Professor of Economics, are the lead researchers on this three-year project OPINION Evolving our educational system E ducation is dynamic, continuously evolving and shiing to cater to the needs of the generations it serves. A comprehensive un- derstanding of this dynamic landscape requires a holistic ap- proach, viewing education from local, regional, and global per- spectives. is interconnected view helps to understand how policies, innovations, and meth- odologies in one domain can in- fluence other areas, sometimes continents apart. If we look at Malta's deploy- ment of the National Minimum Curriculum through the imple- mentation of the Learning Out- comes Framework, this signif- icant pivot is much more than a policy change. It's a trans- formative leap in the approach to education. For instance, it fosters interdisciplinary learn- ing, departing from the siloed approach and merging elements to create novel study area com- binations. Such shifts reflect a global trend towards integrating diverse fields to nurture well- rounded learners. e Maltese educational sys- tem has been experiencing a significant reform, emblematic of the global shift away from the 'one size fits all' model. e idea is to adopt a more comprehen- sive and equitable structure tai- lored to students' unique learn- ing abilities. Initiatives like "My Journey" have also been imple- mented to improve student out- comes and combat early school leaving. is significant change takes us closer towards creating an education system with finer granularity, acknowledging the individual differences among students. However, while the National Minimum Curriculum active- ly pushes for such changes, the effect of such a reform is taking time to percolate slowly through the system. A crucial part of this reform is focusing on a contin- uous assessment framework, moving away from the conven- tional approach of high-stakes, end-of- year exams. is focus on ongoing evaluation allows for a more accurate representa- tion of students' academic per- formance instead of a snapshot view from an annual exam. Yet, this shift comes with its own set of challenges. Not everyone has accepted such a system. Whereas the midyear exams no longer exist, some ed- ucators retained the old system but stopped calling them exams, thus rendering the exercise less effective. As a result, students are still under pressure, which means we need to do everything we can to assist educators in adapting to the new system. Towards the end of compul- sory schooling, the secondary certificate is no longer based on just the examination; 30% of it is a School-Based Assessment—a welcome move which imparts trust in the educators and once again reduces the pressure on the students. But if post-secondary institu- tions don't accept such a sys- tem, such a good initiative will lose its efficacy. Issues like these need careful attention; we must pull the same rope and not shoot ourselves in the foot. Despite these changes, drop- out rates remain a concern. Even though today, more stu- dents continue their education beyond compulsory schooling, we must examine what happens after that stage. It is a known fact that several students who enter post-secondary school with a lower education level tend to discontinue their edu- cation prematurely. is fact is unsurprising since many would have passed through 12 years of compulsory schooling without gaining much from it. So the challenge lies in refining com- pulsory education to become a system that can cater to stu- dents with different inclinations and abilities. Not everyone thrives in a typical academic setting; our education system must acknowledge and address this reality. From a European Perspective, the EU focuses a lot on technol- ogy and digital pedagogy in ed- ucation. Working groups have been instrumental in advancing shared policy goals and foster- ing collaboration. Yet, the tran- sition to digital education hasn't been smooth sailing. A substan- tial number of teachers are still uncomfortable incorporating digital tools into their curricu- lum, seeing them as an add-on rather than an essential compo- nent. us at the primary lev- el, the focus on digital rests on the teacher while in secondary schooling, one lesson per week is not enough to create digital citizens. As the demand for workers with digital skills continues to grow, it is crucial to prioritize digital literacy education at all levels of schooling. Digital lit- eracy should be added as one of the core subjects rather than treated as a separate interven- tion. e pandemic has only emphasised this need, revealing stark digital divides that must be bridged. A crucial step in the evolution of education is linking academ- ia and industry. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Ama- zon have made significant con- tributions by providing funding schemes that support educa- tional initiatives, research, and innovation. is symbiotic re- lationship benefits both parties, with industry gaining skilled professionals and academia get- ting much-needed funding. Yet, Malta has a unique challenge. Limited local resources and an absence of large corporations necessitate alternative solu- tions. Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly tools like chatGPT, is changing education forever. ey provide unprecedented access to knowledge and learn- ing resources, reducing depend- ency on rote learning. While this AI influence is welcomed, we need to ensure that the hu- man element of education isn't lost in the process. Education is much more than just the ab- sorption of information. It's about understanding, applica- tion, and transformation. As we embrace AI in education, we need to concurrently foster uniquely human skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, and empathy. Many of which are highly sought by employers to- day. Whilst we acknowledge that the evolution of education is a complex, multifaceted process, we have to keep in mind that it's a journey that requires continu- ous reflection, adaptation, and innovation. But things are accelerating now, and we must take swift yet bold actions. By observing these changes from a holistic perspec- tive and grounding our under- standing in specific contexts, we can contribute to shaping a fu- ture of learning that is inclusive, adaptable, and prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. e Human Capital Research Project, sponsored by the HSBC Foundation, is in its second year of research and analysis. e main aim is to develop strate- gies which will inform econom- ic actors and educators as to the type of economy and skills- set we need to focus on, given the changes expected where the fu- ture of work is concerned. e project is co-led by Prof Alexiei Dingli, a Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Prof Rose Ma- rie Azzopardi, an Economist focusing on the labour market. As the demand for workers with digital skills continues to grow, it is crucial to prioritise digital literacy education at all levels of schooling

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