Academics are insisting the proposed reform to the Matsec system will limit students’ opportunities and instead of “encouraging depth”, it will “promote superficiality.

In a joint statement, a group of academics together with a number of Maltese and English language organisations, said the move to introduce a compulsory foreign language came without there being any proper consultation. 

Among other things, they argued, the changes to the post-secondary system currently in place “will reduce the importance of the learning of Maltese and English in Malta”.

“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. However, we believe that, if this proposal is implemented, it will achieve the opposite.

Instead of widening opportunities, it limits them; instead of encouraging depth, it promotes superficiality,” the academics, which included a number from both the Maltese and English departments, said. They are also backed by a number of organisations that work to safeguard both languages. 

Flagging three main problems with the proposed changes, the academics argued that the move will limit the linguistic and literary knowledge that students in Malta can acquire by focusing almost exclusively on communicative skills.

The change also imposed a foreign language on students “at a very late stage of their education” and in so doing, discourages them from choosing to study their national language, Maltese, and Malta’s co-official language, English, in a holistic way, they said.

“While we understand the relevance of communicative skills, we believe that our education system should also help students develop more advanced, critical and expressive linguistic skills that are not simply communicative. 

“Matsec is proposing to restructure the current Systems of Knowledge subject to ‘reflect an integration of communication and cultural skills’, which includes exposure to Maltese and English in exclusively communicative contexts. The proposal 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,” they said. 

The reform also removes the emphasis on writing, on the studying of Maltese and English as languages, and on literature. 

“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,” the academics went on. 

In view of these concerns, the group are now calling on the authorities responsible to revise the proposal “after proper consultation”. 

The group of academics is made up of lecturers from both the Maltese and English departments at the University of Malta as well as those from the Junior College, Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School, the St Aloysius College and De La Salle College. They are also backed by National Council of the Maltese Language, the Akkademja tal-Malti, the University Maltese Association, the Maltese proof-readers’ association, the Għaqda Poeti Maltin, the English Speaking Union and the Department of English Students Association.

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