Education Minister Dr John Cortes has outlined plans to ensure the education system encourages children to use both of Gibraltar’s languages.
Speaking during the budget debate, Dr Cortes expressed concern over the “threat of losing our bilingualism”.
“Being bi-or multilingual has recognised benefits to intellectual and social development, to and is proven to delay the onset of dementia.”
“Llanito is also part of the essence of what it is to be Gibraltarian,” he said adding: “It is an intrinsic part of our culture, of who we are.”
“Sadly, for a number of reasons, many of our youngest cannot hold a fluent Llanito conversation.”
Dr Cortes said the Government will work to ensure that the education system encourages children to use both languages.
“My four year old granddaughter’s rendition of “Itsy-bitsy Araña’, learnt at St Joseph’s Nursery this year, certainly gives me hope for the future,” he said.
With regards to the Government’s plans to “revolutionise” schools in Gibraltar by either rebuilding or refurbishing all of them, Dr Cortes reported to the House that work is progressing apace at Notre Dame which the Government plans to open this coming September, and at the Comprehensive Schools, where it plans to inaugurate the two new co-education schools in September of next year.
Work on St Anne’s School will commence in the autumn immediately after Notre Dame moves.
He said that having listened carefully to the views of the schools, the Government will this year be commencing work on a new St Martin’s School, a new Bishop Fitzgerald School and a new Governor’s Meadow School, in keeping with our manifesto commitment.
“I will be meeting with the respective head teachers tomorrow to discuss the plans and timescales in detail, with 2019 the target year.”
The Government will also be proceeding with the plans to build a new Gibraltar College, he said.
In addition to the schools infrastructure, Dr Cortes said the Government is working on a fully revised curriculum for 2019.
Curriculum 2019 will contain around 15 vocational pathways designed to cater for a range of vocations not currently covered in Gibraltar’s education system.
“We are not yet doing enough for students who are either not academic or academically inclined or who, quite aside from their ability, want to take up alternative courses,” Dr Cortes said.
“When I have attended the schools on exam results day, and shared in the excitement, my mind has always been with those who did not get to the stage of sitting exams. Where are they? Where are the young people who left school early, or who do not stay on for A levels? What are they doing? And most importantly, what are we doing for them?”
Curriculum 2019 will ensure that they all have the option of progressing further in a range of subject not possible now.
Additionally, the Government is working on a specific Access Curriculum providing a pathway for students with Special Educational Needs regardless of where they are in the education system.
A working group of representatives from the three secondary institutions and St. Martin’s school have been working with the Advisory Service to develop this pathway.
Dr Cortes further announced that he will shortly be appointing the statutory Education Council to advise him and the Education team on matters relating to education.
This is something that is provided for under current education legislation.
A working party set up to revise the 1974 Education Act has now completed its task and the final draft will shortly be discussed with stakeholders before publication as a Bill in the autumn.
Turning to his responsibilities as Minister for the Environment, Dr Cortes said the challenge to the environment of the future that EU exit poses cannot be understated.
“As Brexit looms near, our focus and priorities are realigning to ensure even greater recognition of this importance,” he said.
“As the Chief Minister and I have both stated on more than one occasion, Gibraltar must and will maintain EU environmental standards as a minimum.”
“This is vital, not just for our own quality of life, but for our international reputation and standing,” he said.
The Government will shortly publish a 25-year environment plan, Dr Cortes announced.
This, Mr Speaker, is environmental stewardship and multi-generational responsibility, setting standards not just for ourselves, but for future generations too.
We are the first Government to fully embrace long-term environmental management, with all our policies and actions aimed at improvements beyond the short four-year terms of Parliament. Nature doesn’t come in four year tranches.
Much of what we do on environment takes time, but reaps much longer-lasting benefit.
This strategy will be Gibraltar’s blueprint over the next twenty-five years and will demonstrate its ambitious environmental aspirations.
This strategy will be Government led, but will depend on civil society to seize the opportunities presented and assume its responsibility to play its role in the delivery of environmental leadership.
The Strategy is divided into three parts; governance, management and implementation.
Each topic within these parts has corresponding objectives which will carry Gibraltar’s environmental agenda forward to 2040 and beyond.
“It will set targets in many areas, such as on reduction and cessation of the use of non-essential single use plastic, like plastic bags, bottles and straws; it will include the time limits for diesel-fuelled vehicles and internal combustion engines set by the Chief Minister in this Budget, it will set targets on carbon emissions and other pollutants, identify incentives for energy efficiency, and much more.”
“The community is now fully willing to embrace these initiatives than it was even a few short years ago,” he added.
“I was, for example, very pleased to see support for the principle of limiting the future use of diesel powered vehicles in the Chamber of Commerce’s latest annual report,” Dr Cortes said adding that businesses are already embracing these initiatives.
He flagged the The Hunter Group’s work with Aquagib to provide a refill scheme, spearheaded by the Nautilus Project, as an example.
This year Aquagib itself is studying locations for water fountains to further reduce the need to buy small plastic bottles of water.