Teens were asked to define family values, so they said ‘Christmas lunch ‘ – exam report

Social Studies examination report from MATSEC reveals how students presented Christmas lunch as a traditional family value and that the great majority of candidates fail to grasp the meaning of family-friendly measures

The tradition of having Christmas lunch at a specific restaurant was confused with values of the traditional family
The tradition of having Christmas lunch at a specific restaurant was confused with values of the traditional family

Candidates sitting for the Social Studies examination in May last year struggled with defining “traditional family values”, an examination report reveals. 

“In various instances students confused habitual family ‘traditions’ with values of the traditional family, claiming that their family had the tradition of eating Christmas lunch at a specific restaurant, instead of explaining what the traditional family is,” the report states. 

But according to the report, a few candidates did convey ideas that are normally associated with traditional family values, including the notion that “marriage is for life”.

The great majority of candidates failed to grasp the meaning of family-friendly measures. “Instead of indicating measures that can achieve work-life balance, most candidates wrote about social benefits, counselling, support to grandparents, public parks, family outings and dinners, good relations among family members, and in some instances animal friendly measures and the importance of being friendly with neighbours.” 

Only a few referred to help to working parents through flexible or reduced working hours, teleworking, parental care, maternity leave and child care centres. 

Candidates also failed in this question to elaborate on the social changes that have led to the formation of different family types. 

“Many candidates tended to list new different family types rather than reflect on the social changes which have brought them about” and “quite a few referred to the industrial revolution, globalisation and political programmes as causes of social change”. 

In one question examination candidates were requested to define ‘culture’ and describe the main elements that help identify Maltese culture. 

The majority of the candidates gave some examples of the elements that constitute culture, but at times struggled with identifying the four main elements that identify Maltese or any culture, that is, language, customs, technology and values, thus rendering their definition of culture problematic. 

Some candidates relegated culture to just “il-quccija” (a family tradition), “l-ikel Malti” (Maltese food) and/or “l-ghana” (folk music). In line with this, statements such as “l-ghana taghmilna Maltin” (folk singing makes us Maltese) or “il-fatt li ahna nghinu lill-proxxmu jaghmilna Maltin” (helping others makes us Maltese). The report considered these examples as an indication of the “weak command some candidates had over the subject matter and underscore the poor analytic and critical skills of the examination candidates”. 

The report praises candidates who referred to the process of globalisation and cultural pluralism. 

It also notes that candidates did not understand the role of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (a government department) in the industrial relations framework, and industrial disputes in particular. When asked to write about the role of the social partners, terms such as ‘collective bargaining’, ‘collective agreements’, ‘industrial conflict’, ‘industrial actions’ and ‘industrial relations’ were very rarely used. 

On the other hand some essays were replete with incoherent phrases such as: “unfortunately not all work is pleasurable and that is why we have social partners”; “social partners are forms of cooperatives”, “if a group makes a pressure on their bosses and on the place of work, the bosses will end up giving in”; “a strike is when all the workers rebel against their work”. 

In an essay on the challenges facing young people some candidates made sweeping statements, such as: “iz-zghazagh ma jafux fejn ser jaqbdu jaghtu rashom”; (young people have no idea on what to do with themselves) “iz-zghazagh tal-lum tilfu il-valuri taghhom” (young people have lost their values); “all the problems they [youth] encounter are never taken seriously by anyone in the older generation”. 

In contrast to the above, some candidates offered insightful content and discussed a number of current challenges such as, ‘cyber bullying’; ‘tough competition at work’; ‘examinations stress’ and ‘obesity’, in their work. Most of these candidates also made reference to the ways through which such challenges may be addressed. 

On a positive note the report observed that candidates seem to be “acquiring more civic sense”. This was expressed in the answers with statements such as the following: 

“It is our duty to look after the environment”. “It is our duty to achieve better education which is translated into progress for the country”, “We can do voluntary work to help and encourage those in need” and that  “greater diversity in the population can result in more people capable of acquiring high status jobs and careers in sports, art and the performing arts”.