Updated | Teachers’ union on exams: ‘Phasing out benchmark inconsistent with educators’ beliefs’

Decision to announce end of sixth-year primary benchmark exam is inconsistent with educators’ beliefs, MUT claims

MUT president Marco Bonnici
MUT president Marco Bonnici

Updated at 2pm with UPE statement 

The teachers’ union has called out education minister Evarist Bartolo after proposing the end of the benchmark exam for sixth-year primary students.

The exam will be phased out after 2021, as part of a continuous assessment system for primary school students which proposes that children progress ‘seamlessly’ from primary to secondary education.

But the MUT says the removal of the exam will affect children who have not yet endured the continuous assessment system.

“It is clear this decision was taken without much consideration, and largely is inconsistent with educators’ beliefs, and neither does its conform to the 2012 national curriculum framework, which establishes that a benchmark exam at national level takes place at the sixth year of primary education,” the MUT said.

“The proposals is a bolt from the sky at the end of a scholastic year,” the MUT said.

The union said it has never once seen the 25 proposals announced by the ministry, or that these proposals were presented to the NCF. “We will be strongly objecting to such a breach of our agreement with the ministry on new reforms.”

 

The union also accused Bartolo of contradicting himself over just a matter days after “carrying out a crusade” against the removal of exams in Maltese and Maths due to an industrial dispute just days ago. “Yet now he is announcing the removal of formal exams in Maltese, English and Maths,” the union said.

The union also attacked the report presented by the minister on Thursday.

“It is an old report that does not consider the change that is taking place – this report has been gathering dust since June 2018. Changes that are proposed here did not take place during the year because the report was not published. One asks why this report is being presented at the end of the scholastic year,” the union said.

Education minister Evarist Bartolo on the benchmark assessment review

“The MUT has in the past taken to task various administrations for announcing reforms during the summer months, to give educators less time to discuss these proposals. This tactic is once again being used.”

The end-of-year benchmark exams taken by Year 6 students around Malta will be discontinued and replaced by an assessment that could include an exam component. The recommendation is one of 25 drawn up by the Benchmark Review Board set up in 2017.

The phasing out is expected to be in place by school year 2021-2022.

The report stresses that standards must continue to be monitored in efforts to ensure that students are still made aware of their achievements and how they compare to their peers.

Permanent Secretary at the Education Ministry Frank Fabri said consultation took place with all stakeholders. “We come from a culture where children are deemed as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ students according to their exam results, and we must change that,” Fabri said. 

562 parents and guardians of Year 6 children, Year 6 and 7 teachers of Maltese, English and Mathematics from State, church and independent schools, and 388 stakeholders ranging from students to paper setters and markers were consulted. 

‘Increased workload for teachers won't benefit students’

In a statement on Friday, the Union of Professional Educators criticised the government for deciding to phase out benchmark exams without consulting unions' and their representatives. The union said, that despite Minister for Education, Evarist Barolo telling members of the media that all stakeholders had been consulted, teachers were in fact not. 

The union said it had never seen the 25 proposals that were mentioned by the minister. "The department of education's decision to introduce changes that will drastically affect the workload of teachers at the end of the school year. Will cause upheaval for educators, which will translate into more work and stress for educators who are already riddled with excessive workloads,” the union said.  

The union said the increased workloads for teachers would not benefit students or encourage more young persons to join the teaching profession.  

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