Updated at 4.20pm with MUT reaction

Students applying to enter Junior College will no longer need three passes in the core subjects - Maltese, English, Maths - according to a legal notice published earlier this month. They will also no longer need passes in one of three science subjects.

Previously entrants had to attain passes in all three core subjects, but now only a pass mark in one is required. 

A University of Malta spokesperson said any student missing a pass in any of the three would then need to obtain it during their two years at Junior College because Maltese, Maths and English are a requisite to join the University. 

These entry requirements will impact those applying to join Junior College as of this October.

Malta's largest teacher's union, the MUT, said the changes were made without consultation and should be suspended until they are properly discussed.

Early school leavers

The timing of the change raised concerns from the Nationalist Party about whether it was linked to the fact 16-year-olds will be able to vote for the first time in the general election. 

However Education Minister Clifton Grima said it was a decision made by the University.

He told Times of Malta that the change is aimed at addressing the problem of early school leavers. The country has one of the highest rates of early school leaving in the EU.

"The University is autonomous and makes its own decisions but I agree with the move," he said. "It means students will now have two more years to obtain passes in the core subjects."

No announcement

The legal notice was not announced or explained to the media by the University or the education ministry and only came to light via an article by journalist Manuel Delia on Thursday. 

Before the change, students were only admitted to the Junior College, which is part of the University of Malta, if they had passes in Maltese, English Language or Mathematics as well as a science subject.

The requirement for a science subject has now also been scrapped completely.

"Applicants may be admitted to the University as Junior Students at the Junior College of the University if they: either (a) are in possession of six passes in the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examination at grade 5 or better, provided that one of the subjects must be Maltese, English Language or Mathematics," the legal notice states.

"Students missing one or two subjects from Maltese, English Language or Mathematics must attend preparatory classes at the Junior College in order to satisfy the General Entry Requirements as specified in Regulation 12 of these regulations," it continues.

The change marks the first time in years that the entry requirements have been changed.  

'Major consequences'

The Nationalist Party said it was incredible that the entry requirements to the Junior College were changed a few days before the general election, without any discussion or consultation.  

It said the decision would have major consequences on students and the education system.

Such a decision could not be taken for partisan reasons, and if this was another attempt to win votes, then Labour was sinking to a new low in an attempt to grab more power, the PN said. 

For the first time, 16-year-olds will be able to vote in the general election on Saturday.

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