Walking the talk

Malta’s competitive advantage lies in its bilingualism and it is clear that the local community has an important role in the educational experience of foreign students 

During a certificate awarding ceremony, I was pleased to hear an early school leaver express his gratitude for “the love and respect” shown by EFL teachers who were contributing to the Youth.Inc programme. The Youth.Inc programme is open to young people aged between 16 and 18 and is based on the principle that in education everyone deserves a second chance

It was their commitment which made “all the difference” the student said. It is this relationship of mutual respect that has been created between the young person and the teacher which ensures the success of programmes such as these.

During the past months three English as a Foreign Language (EFL) schools participated in a programme developed by the EFL Monitoring Board, the language teaching industry regulator. The scheme would not have been a success without the active cooperation of a number of schools and it is the industry’s duty to contribute to maintaining educational standards in the country.

The schools’ commitment to this programme underlines the role of schools as active stakeholders in the wider education system, thus endowing them with a sense of ownership. It shows that EFL schools are not just profit making entities catering for individual clients but active actors in the educational system.

More similar community-based educational initiatives are planned in the future. Malta can already boast of one of the strongest regulatory frameworks for the language schools which have earned a global reputation for excellence. But this sectoral excellence goes hand in hand with social responsibility.  

Malta’s competitive advantage lies in its bilingualism and it is clear that the local community has an important role in the educational experience of foreign students. The fact that these students can speak in English in their daily interactions with Maltese people while staying here is a great asset. Students do not learn English only during lessons. If standards in English fall, the whole industry will suffer. 

A major challenge facing the EFL industry is that of improving educational standards, especially English language standards in the wider community. It is only in this way that Malta can compete in this highly competitive sector. Through their involvement in community initiatives schools are showing that they are willing to look beyond their immediate comfort zone.

Media literacy

Just over a week ago, the Secretariat for Catholic Education organised a seminar on Media Literacy Education (MLE). In Church schools this subject was introduced way back in 1981 and in these last few years its relevance and importance both to students and their parents have increased significantly, in view of the fact that we live in a digital, connected and media saturated world.

Rev. Dr Charles Tabone, the Archbishop’s Delegate for Media and Social Communications, stressed the importance of MLE in today’s digital culture. During this seminar the head of department for Media Literacy Education and PSCD (Personal, Social and Career Development) in Church schools, Edward Wright, explained several initiatives that will be taken to strengthen MLE as a subject in its own right and also as a cross-curricular theme. He explained how teachers will be provided with several opportunities for professional training and development. He also launched a new syllabus for students in Forms 1 and 2, which focuses upon equipping students with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes with which they can analyse, evaluate and produce media texts and messages.

These knowledge, attitudes and skills relate to four key aspects of the media, namely media audiences, media organisations/industries and production, representation and languages. He also presented a short MLE course for parents that includes knowledge and skills that are necessary for ‘Digital Parenting’ in the 21st century.

Dr Ġorġ Mallia, a university lecturer in the Faculty of the Media and Knowledge Sciences spoke about the impact that the various media, both the traditional and the newest forms, have on children and adolescence. He said that we must understand how our students interact with the media and how, in turn, the media shape and mould our students’ ways of thinking and acting.

The director for Catholic Church schools, Dr Roseanne Cuschieri, said that such a project was growing and becoming successful because school administrators, teachers and parents were realising the crucial importance of possessing media literacy skills in our digital culture.

I cannot stress further the importance of MLE as an effective means to promote a better lifestyle. The Secretariat of Catholic Education and Curia Communications is working on a new syllabus for Media Studies at Levels 1, 2 and 3. The Media Centre delivered a presentation and this will be useful to teachers in the teaching of MLE. It will also be most helpful for the construction of the new syllabi of MLE and Media Studies as a vocational subject which could then be offered to students in both State, Church and Private schools.