Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education & Employment, wrote this for us while Shadow Minister and a lecturer in communications at the University of Malta. Here, he writes about how the education curriculum in Malta is struggling with bi-lingualism. His sentiments are as pertinent today, 2014, as a couple of years ago when he penned this.
Malta has two official languages: English and Maltese. Thousands of Maltese children are being brought up in families where English is not spoken regularly. We have also thousands of children living on these islands whose first language is not Maltese. Although we are officially a bilingual society Maltese and English are taught in our schools as if these are two native languages that our children acquire automatically through schooling and socialization.
We have a one-size-fits-all language policy for all our children and schools. This has not worked as on average only 56% of our students walk away with passes in the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) in English Language and Maltese. At least 44% of our fifth formers still do not manage to become competent in English Language and Maltese after at least 12 years of schooling. SEC and Junior Lyceum examiners still refer to poor spelling, weak grasp of grammar and syntax, poor reading habits and lack of imagination and creativity in their year reports on students’ performance in English Language and Maltese SEC and Junior Lyceum examinations.
To change all this we need to design appropriate curricula, examinations, syllabi, content and pedagogical methods in the teaching and learning of English and Maltese.
The Maltese SEC and MATSEC examination needs to be split into two different papers: a language component and another in literature. Our students should be given the option to choose one of these papers and a pass in the Maltese Language SEC and MATSEC exam should be enough to qualify them for a course at the University of Malta. Steps should be taken to modernise the teaching of Maltese and choose content that is more relevant to the young people going through their education now.
Forcing thousands of our teenagers to do a Maltese SEC syllabus that is closer to a pre-industrial Malta 80 years ago than to their daily life makes them hate Maltese literature and gives them the sensation that Maltese is a strange and remote language.
We have very good writers who are creating literature that is very relevant for young people growing up today but this literature is kept away from our schools.
Teaching material and methods have been developed to help foreigners learn Maltese but our schools do not make any use of these experiences. The same goes for the teaching of English where the success we have achieved in teaching the language to over a million foreigners has not been transferred to our schools to teach our own youngsters.
We should use the know-how and experience we have built in the sector of the teaching of English as a foreign language to improve the teaching of Maltese and English in our primary and secondary schools.