A national literacy strategy for all

In Europe the phenomenon of children going through the statutory years of school without obtaining the basic skills which allow them to move ahead is growing.

It is the intention of the Maltese government to do its utmost to ensure that everyone in Malta is provided with the best opportunities for literacy. This goal will be achieved through the National Literacy Strategy for All and complementary National Literacy Campaign, which will target different sectors of society.

They will be implemented in light of Malta's 2010 results in the Programme for International Assessment (PISA). The percentage (36.3) of 15-year-olds who were low achievers in reading literacy was significantly higher than the EU average of 19.7%. In the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the mean reading score of Maltese ten year-olds was significantly lower than the international average.

In Europe the phenomenon of children going through the statutory years of school without obtaining the basic skills which allow them to move ahead is growing. There is also concern about the long-term benefits of intervention programmes and what can be done to ensure that there is not a fade-out effect.

How do we structure programmes that produce the lasting effects that are the goal of educational intervention? Empirical evidence points to the need for comprehensive interventions which span multiple years and target key transition points.

There is a need to reduce the fragmentation of educational services and literacy programmes.  We need to better integrate our strategies and the services being offered in order to improve continuity. The literacy programmes on offer are to be an integral part of or complement the educational programmes in schools.

The National Literacy Strategy for All will propose a number of measures for diverse groups in Maltese society which should have profound and long-lasting effects. The current literacy programmes are to be consolidated and extended further in order to ensure increased effectiveness and added value. A number of new measures which will affect different strands of Maltese society will be proposed.

For the National Literacy Strategy for All to be a success, the commitment of the government, various ministries, departments and other agencies is required. There is also a need for the involvement of different groups within Maltese society and of every individual.

To reach everybody, the National Literacy Strategy for All will feature elements of both lifelong and 'lifewide' education. It will also place emphasis intergenerational education, as espoused by UNESCO. This recognises the strong relationship between children's literacy the literacy of those who care for them. It should lead to better integration of the educational programmes offered by schools and those offered by other agencies for children, parents and other adults.

Teachers, heads of schools and principals are to be empowered to plan and implement their own projects for literacy support to individual students. This is to be achieved through the award of grants for projects proposed by schools.

The National Literacy Strategy for All will describe the various strategies employed throughout the Maltese formal and non-formal educational systems to enable children, young people and adults to acquire literacy skills.

Children and young people are expected to become accomplished in oracy, reading and writing across the curriculum.

The focus of the National Literacy Strategy for All will be on learners' acquisition of and ability to apply the skills and concepts they have learned to complete realistic tasks appropriate to their stage of development.

The National Literacy Strategy for All will seek to make explicit the various measures and strategies employed at different levels and across a number of situations. This should allow for better coordination and integration of strategies to ensure increased effectiveness.

One of the essential elements of a bilingual country is the ability to move easily between languages. This ability enables access to a wide and varied linguistic heritage and provides learners in Malta with a head start in literacy skills that can be further developed and applied to other European and world languages.

The National Literacy Strategy for All will focus on the range of literacy skills required to ensure competence in Maltese and English. In order to develop dual literacy skills, learners need to be given specific learning opportunities that will help to ensure proficiency in both languages. These opportunities should involve providing learners with access to learning materials in both languages with meaningful tasks and within a range of subject-specific contexts, as appropriate. The National Literacy Strategy for All will support dual literacy and seek to ensure that it is fully embedded within the Maltese education system.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education

More in Blogs