[lg policy] Malta’s secret weapon

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Nov 11 16:48:30 UTC 2015

Malta’s secret weapon

The community has an important role to play in the promotion of
bilingualism as the home and early years settings are influenced by what
happens within it
Evarist Bartolo
11 November 2015, 7:23am
Print Version <http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/printversion/59071/>
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Malta has a long-standing bilingualism. Many have wondered about how we do
it. We cannot take things for granted. We need to ensure that we have a
clear strategy to sustain our nation’s ability to communicate in many
languages. A key ingredient in our success has been our ability to create
the right environment for young children to acquire and learn languages
from early on.

With the above in mind, earlier on this year we conducted a diagnostic
process of our current language education situation in conjunction with the
Council of Europe. This has instigated a number of initiatives to
consolidate our position, starting from the early years. We have issued a
consultation document to strengthen the measures taken in the crucial early

The policy promotes the bilingual development in Maltese and English of
young children (0-7 years), in Malta and Gozo. It stems from The National
Curriculum Framework (2012) and the National Literacy Strategy for All in
Malta and Gozo (2014) and is intended to provide national guidelines for
bilingual education. Within this framework schools are to be supported to
develop their own language policies to meet the specific needs of their

The policy strives to provide learners with opportunities to develop
positive attitudes towards Maltese, English and other languages and
competences in Maltese and English in different settings. The policy offers
direction in the promotion of bilingualism to early years educators;
curriculum developers; managers of early years education settings; early
childhood teacher educators; continuous professional development providers;
and parents and caregivers.

The home environment

The role of parents is vital. A child’s first language, culture and
personal identity are inextricably linked. The role of parents and
significant others is central to the child’s language learning. They serve
as models for the child’s use of language and attitudes towards
bilingualism. Parents and significant others are to foster positive
attitudes towards Maltese, English, and other languages; engage in
meaningful dialogue with children; give priority to the home languages;
expose children to Maltese and English consistently; and support school
language education policies and practices.

Early years education

Early years educators are to be supported to provide an enriching and an
engaging environment that supports and extends language learning
opportunities. They should be fluent in Maltese and English and act as
models for age-appropriate language use. Bilingual exposure may involve
tandems of staff using language based on the one-person-one-language
principle. Early years educators are to convey positive attitudes towards
the use of both languages, and to reinforce the children’s self-esteem as
bilingual learners.

The language practices of young children and their families are
characterised by an array of digital technologies. Technology offers the
possibility for children to participate in a rich and dynamic learning
context. The tablets project will be framed within these educational

Managers of early years education settings

Early years education settings are bridges between families and the
community. They should provide children with care and appropriate learning
and language opportunities. Language education in the early years should be
integrated into contexts in which the language is meaningful and useful.

Early childhood teacher educators

The engagement of effective early childhood educators who are fluent in the
languages spoken in a community is critical. Teacher education programmes
should ensure that prospective educators are equipped with appropriate
language competences, knowledge and skills to deliver a programme that is
developmentally appropriate for young children. Early years educators
should also have opportunities for continuous professional development in
both their own language awareness and methodologies that promote

We need to continuously examine our situation. A study of the existing
practices in bilingual education in the early years in Malta should serve
as an impetus for improving policy and practice and the continuing
professional development of those involved in early years teacher

The community has an important role to play in the promotion of
bilingualism as the home and early years settings are influenced by what
happens within it. Awareness raising campaigns on the importance of
bilingualism in Malta should be promoted to ensure that positive attitudes
towards Maltese and English are to be held in the broader community.

Children are also in contact with language and literacy through technology
and the media. The broadcasting media may create further awareness of the
importance of both languages and assure the maintenance of adequate levels
of quality in both Maltese and English in their programmes. In this way,
the links between the family, educational settings and the broader
community may be maintained.


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