[lg policy] Education: Which is to be Malta=?windows-1252?Q?=92s_?=learning language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 6 15:48:58 UTC 2011

Education: Which is to be Malta’s learning language
by Elaine Attard

Article published on 05 December 2011

The Education Ministry will soon bring together linguists and
educators to decide which should be the language of learning in
Maltese schools. Education Minister Dolores Cristina was speaking
about the issue during a conference concluding a seven-month
consultation process on the National Minimum Curriculum framework.

“We need to decide which language, Maltese or English, should be the
language of learning. Learning in two languages concurrently might be
too complicated. I am sure it will be an interesting debate. Maltese
cannot be marginalised and used only during Maltese lessons. No one in
his right mind would do away with their national language if we
respect ourselves,” she said. Educators and linguists will be asked to
recommend which language should be used at different stages of the
education system, she said, paving the way for a language policy.

The opposition’s spokesman for education Evarist Bartolo also spoke on
the importance of languages, however, he insisted that both our
national languages, Maltese and English need to be strengthened.
“The fact that we are a former English colony does not mean we have a
better grasp of the English language. Far from it, we need to work
harder to polish it. Maltese might need to be taught in one way and
English in another,” he said.

He thinks that each student should be exposed to at least three
languages, ideally from Kindergarten level. The national minimum
curriculum should set the road map for the immediate future of the
education. It is not just a roadmap for the younger generation but
should aim at the lifelong learning of all the population, he said.

Minister Cristina said the policy aims at developing children’s
potential to its fullest, helping them develop a love of learning,
instilling various skills on multiple levels and encouraging young
people to continue their education beyond obligatory schooling.
Education should be a continuous process, ideally not a bumpy ride, so
that it becomes a positive experience for every young person.

Mr Bartolo said reform in education was inevitable as the change was a
need and not simply desirable. He added that a light should shine on
giving education the functional role of sustaining economic

Education is also a human right and necessary for social justice, he
said, adding that it can be a tool to start solving problems, to make
a difference.

“We cannot afford to put all students in one basket and think that all
are motivated to learn. Let us remember that 31% of Maltese children
are at risk of poverty and policies are needed to address issues other
than just their education. What happens in classrooms is not always
determined by what policy makers say,” he said.

He spoke of the need to address discipline and behavioural issues
developing in schools. “Teachers are frustrated and worried that
disciplinary and behaviour problems are becoming common occurrence. I
hope we are still in time to address such problems. Let us not take
shortcuts and let’s listen more to teachers' concerns,” he said.

On the general aspect of the reform, he warned policymakers to be
careful: “Too much change at one go might pose risks to teachers.
Tired soldiers do not win battles,” he warned.

Mr Bartolo is also not very keen on hybrid subjects, which mix
different subjects such as history and geography. Some academics are
against teaching hybrid subjects such as citizenship because children
coming from difficult backgrounds who lack hard knowledge which is
acquired through exposure to, let’s say, culture, may be

Alternattiva Demokratika spokesperson Mario Mallia highlighted the
need for students to voice their concerns more so they can learn how
to express themselves. Critical education should be happening in a
more structured way, he said. Unfortunately, inter-curricular subjects
tend to emphasise individualisation, undermining the sense of
community. He also called for an education policy on gender and
multiculturalism. The curriculum reform needs to be linked with a
reform of the SEC examination system he added, saying that a wider
evaluation system is needed as currently the SEC exams are a
bottleneck which limits students rather than empowers them. Agreeing
with Mr Bartolo, he said that economic development should not be the
test for this new curriculum and called for further dialogue to keep
fine tuning the new curriculum as it will be implemented.


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