Social studies exam shows greater awareness of gay families

Social studies exam shows greater awareness of gay families, but students still associate solidarity with l-Istrina TV charity or think China is a poor country

Many candidates sitting for the Social Studies O’ level exam have referred to same-sex families when asked how social changes are impacting the family, an examiners’ report shows
Many candidates sitting for the Social Studies O’ level exam have referred to same-sex families when asked how social changes are impacting the family, an examiners’ report shows

Many candidates sitting for the Social Studies O’ level exam have referred to same-sex families when asked how social changes are impacting the family, an examiners’ report shows.

The report said this showed “the increased exposure given in our society to groups advocating rights for minorities and reflecting the legislative changes that have recently been implemented in this regard.”

When asked to list different forms of the family, candidates also showed awareness of nuclear, extended, modified-extended, lone parent and gay and lesbian families as the most mentioned family types.

But a few students also gave simplistic and unacceptable answers such as “families with children or families without children”.

While some candidates argued that increased participation of females in the labour market had led to a change in parental roles. leading to more sharing of responsibilities at home, there were still some candidates “who perceived this as a veiled threat to the bond of the family and as leading to single-parent families”.

When asked to define ‘solidarity’, candidates often used L-Istrina, the annual charity spectacular on TVM, as an example. This was not surprising considering that the Istrina jingle includes the refrain “flimkien b’solidarjetà” (together in solidarity). A few candidates gave the clichéd example of “helping an old lady with her heavy shopping bags”. However, there was a substantial number of candidates who interpreted solidarity, wrongly, as being “a state of solitude”.

Candidates found it easier to name high-income countries than low income countries.  Germany, UK and USA were the most common examples for high-income countries. However, some tended to identify cities such as “Dubai, Los Angeles and Melbourne” rather than countries.

With regard to low-income countries, many candidates gave wrong examples and indicated a lack of awareness of such countries. Some candidates simply wrote Africa or South America. Quite a few candidates mentioned China as a low-income country, which, according to the World Bank, belongs to the upper middle-income group.

There were candidates who produced generalised statements such as “Africa is a poor country” or “low-income countries are poor while high-income countries are rich and have better lifestyles”.

Candidates were also asked to highlight the main four events in Maltese history during the period of 1964-2004. Some chose to discuss these events in general, at times without referring directly to the significance of each event in our history.

In a few cases, candidates did not mention all four events or lacked knowledge about these events in Maltese political history. Candidates showed a high degree of awareness about Independence Day and Malta’s Accession to EU membership while the other two events, like Republic Day and Freedom Day, were not always mentioned.

The dates of the events were not always correct. The riots of Sette Giugno were also incorrectly mentioned by some candidates as being one of the events occurring between 1964 and 2004.

When asked about the opportunities that post-secondary education offers, a number of candidates pointed out free education and the stipend system as a great opportunity for those who otherwise could not afford to further their education.

Only a very small number of candidates were able to discuss the role of social partners in the labour market, referring instead to completely unrelated groups like political parties, joint companies and sectors of the economy amongst others. “These poor responses clearly showed a lack of knowledge on the role of the social partners in the labour market.”

Candidates made relevant remarks about racism and xenophobia as the underlying causes of cultural conflicts. However, some candidates only offered a simplistic explanation of possible causes leading to conflict.

In general the examiners found that students were not well-versed in sociological terms.  “The answers are very simplistic in manner showing limited understanding and knowledge of sociological concepts,” they said.

Many answers were based on common sense knowledge and shared stereotypes. Some answers are also given in “sermon-style language rather than sticking to the facts and to their analysis” and were often based on information acquired from unreliable sources, mostly from the media. “This is reflected in the use of clichés which are used in the media. Answers contain limited reflection or analysis.”

A total of 756 students sat for the social studies exam of which only 2% got a Grade 1 mark while 54% got a mark above Grade 5. A significant amount (15%) were absent in the exam.

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