The government has launched a pilot project to explore the possibility of issuing educational certificates on the blockchain.

The project will see diplomas at MCAST, training certificates at ITS, and equivalence statements, accreditation and licensure from the NCFHE, all issued on the emerging technology this year.

Malta is the first country in the world to take the leap, and a government spokesman said future applications of the technology were also being explored.

“This is a new step we are taking and the eyes of not only the EU, but the world are on us,” Alex Grech, a consultant at the Education Ministry said.

The project is being run by Learning Machine, a US-based innovation firm which works closely with MIT.

What is blockchain and isn’t it something to do with virtual currency?

The blockchain is a type of ledger or decentralised database that keeps records of digital transactions. Rather than having a central administrator like a traditional database, such as the case with banks, the blockchain ledger has a network of replicated databases, synchronized via the internet and visible to anyone within the network.

The government recently set up a task force that is reviewing the best way to introduce virtual currencies and the use of the blockchain in Malta.

Just as the blockchain can be used for digital transactions, experts are looking at different uses of this online database.

“Lots of things have changed in education, but one thing that remains is the need for a certificate. With the blockchain we can take the power of the certificate away from the institution and in the hands of the learner,” Dr Grech told Times of Malta.

He said that one of the benefits for learners was joint ownership of credentials – once an educational institution issues a certificate on the Blockchain, the certificate becomes jointly owned by the issuing institution and the learner themselves.

The learner would also no longer need the permission of the issuing institution to share their certificate with third parties, as this would now form part of their own digital wallet.

The system is both transparent, and secure as the blockchain is “impervious to hacking and fraud”.

It was also future proof.

“Think of Syrian universities and 5 million displaced Syrian who need to prove their credentials, this system does away with all of that.”

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