2,283 reasons for co-education

The real pity is that co-education hasn’t been done before now. Malta is among the last countries in the world to change this on a state level; in the ones that haven’t yet changed it’s mostly because of religion

One of the most pleasurable things an Education Minister does is to leave the office and go into schools. I do my best to visit as many schools as possible and to attend their numerous initiatives. It’s great visiting them because many educators, heads and principals talk with passion and dedication about the many initiatives our colleges undertake.

During such visits we mostly discuss the aspirations and issues facing that particular school. Occasionally, I have some time to speak to the students in the classes. During one such visit, at a primary school in a small town, I was having a discussion with Year 6 students about how they were doing and which subjects they liked, when I thought I’d make it a bit interesting by asking them what they thought about co-education, the concept whereby they remain in mixed classes when they’re promoted to Form 1.

When I asked the question the room fell silent and they stared at me like I was a maniac.

I wasn’t sure I had not said something wrong.

All of them had been in mixed classes since infancy. They hadn’t really known anything else.

The real pity is that co-education hasn’t been done before now. Malta is among the last countries in the world to change this on a state level; in the ones that haven’t yet changed it’s mostly because of religion.

Of course in Malta, co-educational experiences have already taken place. During the previous administration, the National Sports School did have mixed classes and this school, which will be moving to Pembroke quite soon, is among the best there is. In the previous scholastic year, we launched the Alternative Learning Programme for those students who did not apply for at least one ‘O’ level. These students were placed in a programme where they had vocational training and, yes, they were mixed as well. It was a side note of the ALP but last scholastic year, without much fanfare, we had fifth formers who were in co-ed classes. No frogs were reported to have rained.

This year 2,283 students will be promoted to Form 1 and start their secondary schooling. For all colleges, except St Clare’s, this year will be the first time as a co-ed. Following many meetings, preparations and maintenance projects we are only a few weeks away from this important milestone.

Another very important milestone is the introduction of middle schools, whereby Forms 1 and 2 will be in different buildings to Forms 3, 4 and 5. In my view this is a significant piece of policy-making that will make a big difference in the long-term.

College principals have been working with all those involved – from heads of school to parents – to make sure everything is set. I’d like to thank them publicly for all their hard work over the past months. They work tirelessly behind the scenes and do a lot of the heavy lifting.

But I can assure you of one thing: the last people to notice will be the children. They don’t know any different.

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