Academics rubbish post-secondary reform proposed by MATSEC

A group of academics in the field Maltese and English argue that the proposed reform will weaken both national languages

MATSEC announced a reform of post-secondary subjects last week
MATSEC announced a reform of post-secondary subjects last week

A group of academics and institutions in the fields of Maltese and English have come out against a post-secondary reform proposed by MATSEC, for which they said there had been no proper consultation.

The signatories include a number of academics from the departments of Maltese and English at the University of Malta among others, as well as entities including Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti, Akkademja tal-Malti, Għaqda tal-Malti Università and the English-Speaking Union.

Last week the MATSEC Examinations Board proposed a reform of post-secondary subjects, which will include the introduction of a compulsory foreign language as well the possibility for students to select a sport instead of an intermediate subject.

The contentious Systems of Knowledge subject would also go through some change and will aim to better reflect “21st century skills”.

But the proposal has been rubbished by academics, who are calling on the examinations body to go back to the drawing board.

“We ask MATSEC to review this proposal by carrying out proper consultation and by offering a structure that truly helps students in Malta develop as citizens and workers who can prosper as individuals and as members of a community in a Maltese, European and global context, and who can think independently and for the wellbeing of society,” the academics said in their statement.  

READ MORE: A compulsory foreign language and intermediate sports amongst changes in Matsec review

Unlike the educational experience of students in other European countries, the proposed reform, they said, would limit students’ linguistic and literary knowledge by focusing almost exclusively on communicative skills, impose a foreign language at a very late stage, and discourage students from choosing to study their national languages in a holistic way.  

“The proposal is based on the assumption that a structural change at the post-secondary level is needed to allow students in Malta to acquire the skills they need for a society that is both Maltese and European,” the academics said, adding that the reform would in reality achieve the opposite result.  

“Instead of widening opportunities, it limits them; instead of encouraging depth, it promotes superficiality.”

The academics added that while they understood the relevance of communicative skills, they also believed it was important for the country’s education system to help students develop “more advanced, critical and expressive linguistic skills”.

Furthermore, they noted that the proposal to restructure the current Systems of Knowledge curriculum in order for it to reflect an integration of communication and cultural skills “does not make sufficiently clear what level students are expected to achieve through the severely limited exposure they will now have to Maltese and English”.

“This proposal removes the emphasis on writing, on the studying of Maltese and English as languages and on literature,” they said.

“This means that students will not acquire a range of fundamental skills that a sound knowledge of Malta’s official languages would give them and that would help them succeed in their studies and in their careers.”

Furthermore, they said the proposal fails to clearly outline “how students may still choose to study Maltese and English at Intermediate or Advanced level”.

They said that it was clear that “MATSEC was drastically reducing the incentives for students to study one or both of these languages at Intermediate or Advanced level”.

The statement was signed by: Department of Maltese at the University of Malta, members of the Department of English at the University of Malta (Dr Mario Aquilina, Dr Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone, Dr Marija Grech, Prof. Stella Borg-Barthet, Prof. Ivan Callus, Prof. James Corby, Dr Petra Caruana Dingli, Dr Giuliana Fenech, Dr Maria Frendo, Prof. Lydia Sciriha, and Prof. Peter Vassallo), the Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology at the University of Malta, the Departments of Maltese and English at the Junior College, the Departments of Maltese and English at Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School, the Departments of Maltese and English at St Aloysius College, the Departments of Maltese and English at De La Salle College, il-Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti, l-Akkademja tal-Malti, l-Għaqda tal-Malti Università, l-Għaqda Qarrejja tal-Provi tal-Malti, l-Għaqda Poeti Maltin, the English Speaking Union, the Department of English Students Association.

READ MORE: Third language will give students the cutting edge for tomorrow’s world | Evarist Bartolo

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