Updated | Maths and Maltese exams in secondary schools won't be held this year, MUT says

The union said it would continue to put pressure on the Education Ministry to take measures to address the ‘serious shortage of teachers’

The MUT has said that exams in Math and Maltese  would not be held this year after it failed to reach an agreement with the Education Ministry over teachers' work load
The MUT has said that exams in Math and Maltese would not be held this year after it failed to reach an agreement with the Education Ministry over teachers' work load

Maths and Maltese exams in state secondary schools will not go ahead this year after the Malta Union of Teachers said it was unable to reach an agreement with the Education Ministry over a shortage of teachers in these subjects.

The union said it had issues a set of directives to its members last year, that included teachers not setting or correcting any exam papers.

“MUT is declaring that following a unanimous vote by the affected members and after discussions within the MUT council, the directives will remain in place,” the MUT said.

“This means that this year, Maltese and Mathematics exams in secondary schools won’t be held.”

The union said that the controversy was not a new development and revolves around what it said were efforts by “the ministry to maximize its operations by ignoring a clause in [teachers’ collective agreement] which stipulates that only in exceptional circumstances can [they] be given a lesson load greater than that stipulated [in the agreement]”.

It said that unfortunately, in the case of Maltese and Mathematics, these exceptional circumstances had become the norm.

The MUT claimed that over the past summer, the ministry had continued to deny this was happening, and had even stated that it “did not require any more teachers because there was no shortage in any subject and at any level”.

“It was only after the union brought the issue forward for everyone to see that efforts were made for teachers who had not been employed during the summer were engaged to teach classes that were going to end up with a teacher,” the MUT said.

“This is undoubtedly bad management and a clear example of how the ministry doesn’t make projections about the needs of the sector.”

As a result, the MUT said that in September 2018 it had issued a directive to Math and Maltese teachers on exams, in time for authorities to make the necessary changes.

Instead, the MUT said the ministry had only tried to find a solution on the eve of the mid-yearly exams, and had chosen to get unknown individuals to set the paper themselves, with the consequence that some questions were not in the syllabus and others couldn’t be calculated. 

Following this episode, the union said it had presented the government with 17 proposals to address the present teacher shortage, however these proposals were ignored for months, with the ministry still insisting that schools give teachers more lessons than permitted by their agreement.

The ministry’s efforts to “maximize resources” were leading to schools grouping students of mixed abilities together, the union said, adding that this was not conducive to them receiving a good education.

Rather than maximize resources, the MUT said the ministry should be focused on adding resources. Moreover, it said that rather than attracting more people to the profession, the ministry’s strategy was discouraging those who were interest and even driving teachers away from the profession.

Ministry says it is doing all that it can, asks union to reconsider

In a reaction, the ministry said it had started to implement the 17 proposals put forward by the MUT and which had been discussed on a meeting held on the 12 April.

Moreover, it said that additional measures had been taken to increase the number of available teachers this scholastic year.

“It is incorrect to five the impression that there is a majority of teachers, or that it is the norm for secondary school teachers to have a 25 lesson a week load,” the ministry said in a statement. “Nor is it correct to omit that the last sectoral agreement saw teachers being obliged to teach one less subject a week.”

The ministry went on to state that there were 11 Maltese teachers out of a total of 176, and 25% of Maths teachers who were being required to teach 25 lessons a week. According to teachers’ sectoral agreement, they shouldn’t be asked to teach more than 24 lessons a week.

Furthermore, the ministry pointed to a clause in the agreement which allowed teachers to teach the current load, as long as it was in exceptional circumstances. “Of the teachers working in middle and secondary schools, it is only 3.5% that have this load, precisely because they unique cases,” the ministry said.

In light of this fact, and in light of the fact that “the ministry has taken action and has already engaged new teachers for the next scholastic year, as well as the fact that it has accepted and started to implement the MUT’s 17 proposals”, it was “again asking the MUT to reconsider its decision and suspend the directives”.

“The MUT has failed to mentioned that since issuing its directives, the ministry has taken a number of actions that had never before been taken, including the issuing a call for teachers well ahead of time, which has in fact already led to all teachers eligible to teach Maltese and English to be engaged,” it said.

The ministry added that the call would remain during the scholastic year.

Finally, the ministry said it was also worth mentioning that, upon the ministry’s request, two reconciliation meetings had been held and “after points were clarified, the MUT asked to wait for the ministry’s position on the 17 proposals that were put forward after the meeting of the 9 April”.