Teachers complain about new Maltese Form 1 syllabus

More teachers have come forward to highlight more faults with the new syllabus and to lament the lack of goodwill by the authorities

A new syllabus for the Maltese language to be introduced as of the upcoming scholastic year has raised ire among teachers, as more details emerge as to what they are expected to do under the new system.

Last week, MaltaToday reported on teachers’ concerns with the new continuous assessment system, set to replace periodic testing throughout the scholastic year.

More teachers have since come forward to highlight more faults with the new syllabus and to lament the lack of goodwill by the authorities, who – they claim – are firmly set on promoting the interests of the students “to the detriment of teachers”.

Robert*, a teacher of Maltese in Form 1 and 2 in a prominent boys’ church school, said that if, as claimed by education minister Evarist Bartolo, the aim of the new Learning Outcome Framework was to reduce pressure on students and teachers alike, it was going to be a big disappointment.

“This week we learned that under the new syllabus, I and teachers of Form 1 Maltese like me, will be expected to go through a composition assignment every two weeks, as well as eight poems, five short stories and a novel in one year,” he said.

He said that he had sat down with a number of other teachers to work out a feasible lesson plan to cover the full syllabus and they had concluded they would need a minimum of 120 lessons in a year to cover everything well.

“The problem is, we have only between 80 and 90 lessons each year per class, so already it is evident that the syllabus as proposed is totally not doable,” Robert said. “And we have yet to talk about the time we will need to take care of the assessments, which is surreal.”

Susan*, who teaches at a government school in Zabbar, and who was one of the teachers to work on the plan with Robert, agreed.

“Those calculations do not even take into consideration any sick days we might need during the year, or any days taken up by the school for other activities and events,” she said.

Susan said many teachers had already complained to the ministry but said that their concerns had been arbitrarily dismissed. “One official told us we did not have to go through the whole novel, if that helped to bring the number of lessons needed down,” she said. “Can you imagine the temerity of that? Should we guide the children only through half a novel and leave them to flounder with the rest?”

Robert said that being expected to give and grade an essay every two weeks per class was in itself a near-impossible undertaking.

“I have six classes of 23 students each,” he said. “Grading a 250-word essay by each student is the equivalent of me having to read, correct and grade 34,500 words every fortnight.”

But he insists that is not even the worst issue. Under the new assessment system, grading an assignment is an extremely time-consuming exercise and teachers believe they will not have enough time to do it adequately, let alone to the best of their abilities.

“Let us not forget that this is time outside school hours we are talking about,” Robert said.

“And although all teachers understand and accept that their profession necessitates hours taken up after school, we should not be expected to give every single minute we have every day because officials insist on implementing an unrealistic syllabus and system.”

Silvio*, who teaches Maltese in a church school in Sliema, said that he too had been rebuffed when he raised his concerns with the ministry.

“They told me that I should be happy that under the new agreement, I got a €50 raise and that I should therefore stop complaining,” he said.

He said that he – and many other teachers – were disappointed that parents and people outside the profession were failing to try and understand teachers’ concerns.

“It hurts when people tell me to shut up because I have a long summer break, or because I only work till 2pm,” he said. “They do not see or appreciate the extra hours we spend each day and during the holidays preparing for lessons, researching subjects, drawing up lecturing aids and preparing and grading assessments and tests.”

*Not their real names  

 

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