Safeguarding a national asset – bilingualism

We consider our efforts to improve levels of literacy to be an important factor in ensuring that everybody feels included in Maltese society.

Over a hundred policy measures are being proposed by the National Literacy Strategy for All in Malta so that we continue to ensure that all our children, youths and adults have the opportunity to acquire the competencies required for them to lead fulfilling lives.

Literacy and the acquisition of literacy are complex issues which require a strong commitment from parents, caregivers, highly dedicated professionals and society at large. Our Strategy adopts a lifelong perspective, with a clear priority on the first and early years. It is at this stage that the foundations of literacy which will influence highly their later development are laid down for each child. The Strategy also promotes life-long and intergenerational dimensions by supporting the crucial roles of the family and the community in supporting the literacy development of each child.

Literacy is an important element in the field of social inclusion. We have pledged to promote literacy and the policy measures which are to be implemented will ensure that everybody in Malta has the opportunity to obtain the skills required for them to participate fully in society.

We aim to create a literate community which provides opportunities for learners to make sense of their experiences and to make connections with their histories, cultures and communities.  We aim to increase access to books and the language arts to strengthen participatory democracy.

A policy of bilingualism with bi-literacy in Maltese and English will seek to consolidate and integrate better existing initiatives and programmes in this field to ensure increased effectiveness and impact. Increased language learning methods such as Language Exposure, Content and Language Integrated Learning and Language Tandems will be adopted.

We believe in balanced Literacy Teaching where the technical aspects of reading and writing are taught in the context of making meaning through text and the integration of both oral skills as well as skills in reading and writing.

Through these initiatives there will be increased opportunities for Reading Time in Maltese and English throughout the curriculum, within the frame of reference of the National Curriculum Framework.

Educators at all levels in literacy learning and teaching will be given the proper development opportunities and to keep abreast of new technologies in the teaching and learning of literacy. We will conduct several research studies in Malta and Gozo that will provide a better understanding of literacy practices on our islands.

We have already stressed the importance of literacy and through national initiatives, the media and family-oriented measures, we will create more awareness with the general public.

Our bilingual status is a rich asset for us in many ways, where both Maltese and English are important for us.  We need to continue finding ways of strengthening further this status by ensuring that our children and young people have appropriate exposure to both languages. Our educators need to keep developing and fine-tuning their language teaching and learning methods to enthuse their students and to motivate them to learn more, through the use of technology and beyond. More time is to be devoted to actual reading in both Maltese and English as part of the daily school timetable.

Literacy is knowledge. The campaign being launched is a highly challenging and ambitious project. We seek to create a partnership with various individuals and entities and indeed the whole community, to create a better society.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education