A new Language Academy is being set up by the Department of Education in conjunction with the Gibraltar College.
Making the announcement during his budget speech in Parliament Gilbert Licudi, Minister for Education, Justice and International Exchange of Information, explained this would see a range of languages being made available to children and the community in general, as part of the College’s current Continuing Education programme.
Education, he emphasied, was one of the cornerstones or pillars of any society.
“We have always believed that investment in Education is investment in Gibraltar and its future. It is what allows our youth to develop as citizens ready to make an important contribution to Gibraltar. It is, ultimately, what allows Gibraltar to thrive,” he told Parliament.
Describing the move as an exciting innovation and for the first time, foreign language sessions, including Spanish, will be specifically designed to cater for children of school age after hours. This will follow the current Evening Class model delivered by the Gibraltar College, except that sessions for children will start at an earlier time.
Mr Licudi also announced the Department of Education was working with the Gibraltar College to provide training for those teachers wishing to obtain a qualification in the Teaching of English either as a foreign or additional language.
“The aim is to build capacity amongst staff to teach both local residents in need of language reinforcement as well as creating a professional cadre that our College can access to meet the demands of a growing international demand for English language classes and tuition,” he said.
Mr Licudi announced the Department of Education’s budget for 2015/2016 was £44,767,000.
“This compares with actual expenditure in 2011/2012 of £28, 407,006. This represents an increase over four year of almost 60%. It is an extraordinary increase which speaks for itself. It encapsulates the level of commitment and investment that the Government has been prepared to make in Gibraltar’s youth and in Gibraltar’s future,” he said.
Mr Licudi affirmed that it was the youth of today who would be the driving force of Gibraltar’s economy and “be responsible for our general well-being in years to come”.
“That is why this investment has been necessary. Over the same period, the complement in Education has increased from 607 in 2011/12 to 712 this year, again, an important increase in the level of human resources available to meet our children’s needs.”
Mr Licudi also confirmed that this coming September would see a more formal curricular offering for Year 3 (last year of First School) and Year 4 (first Year of Middle School) for Gibraltar Studies. The Department of Education, he said, was currently working on a programme of study for both these years to ensure that “our children” are well versed in Gibraltar, its history, environment and context.
On Mandatory Scholarships, the Minister said that 2015/16 saw 411 – ranging from first degrees to advanced doctoral studies – and 15 Discretionary awards. This amounted to a total of 426 new Scholarships – a year-on increase of 40 awards and the number of students who had benefitted from Higher Education during 2015/16 numbered 948, as well as financing 57 applications for Distance Learning courses.
With responsibility for the Prison, Mr Licudi told Parliament, that officer morale was high and prisoner indiscipline cases were low “with most cases being of a minor nature”.
This year, he said, would see improvements to educational programmes on offer include the availability of a full time teacher for juvenile prisoners.
“When required, taught classes are provided every day, five days a week.”
Mr Licudi also said a new counselling programme would also be on offer entitled “Cycle of Change”. The programme is broad in scope, covering a variety of topics including: social and/or family history, one to one counselling, building self-esteem and grieving.
Prison management, he added, remained very committed to the ongoing rehabilitation of offenders and the enhancing of educational and vocational opportunities to all those in custody, with a view to breaking the re-offending cycle and successfully reintegrating offenders back into society
INTEGRATED CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
This year will see the phased introduction of the Integrated Criminal Justice System, a software system, known as Cyclops, which will link up all of the main organisations that for part of the justice system into one information management system.
Mr Licudi explained this was a significant investment and once the IT platform was completed and fully operational it would positively transform the way departments and organisations in the criminal justice system interacted with each other.
“It will enrich and enhance communication and the processing power of everyday deliverables. This will include custody arrangements, case management and intelligence processes. The project is being steered by my Ministry and implemented by the various departments involved in the scheme. This includes the RGP, Courts, Customs, Government Law Officers, Prison and the Probation Service.,” he said.
Mr Licudi confirmed the first phase of the project was nearing completion and he expected it to go live in the next few months.