Foreign-born children being raised in Malta must learn Maltese, Education Minister insisted in Parliament on Monday.

“I am firm on this point. The children of those who come to live among us must learn the language,” Mr Bartolo told fellow MPs.

The Education Minister said this was part of the reason that the government was keen to introduce Maltese as a foreign language as a subject in schools.

“It makes no sense to teach children with another native language Maltese as though it was their mother tongue,” the minister said, adding that he disagreed with university academics who had expressed scepticism about the plans.

“Why should Maltese be any different to English, French, Spanish or any other languages which are taught to non-native speakers? I disagree with university academics,” he said.

Last May, a group of seven academic organisations said they were vehemently against government plans to make Maltese as a foreign language a new MQF level 3 examination.

They said that while foreigners should be given the opportunity to learn Maltese, this certification should be kept separate to the Mastsec system.

Mr Bartolo was speaking during a parliamentary debate on the budgetary measures effecting education.

Earlier during the debate, Opposition MP Clyde Puli also spoke about the need to protect the Maltese language.

Why should Maltese be any different to English, French, Spanish or any other languages which are taught to non-native speakers?

The University rector had raised this issue too, he said. Speaking during the opening of this academic year last month, Rector Alfred Vella had expressed his concern saying there was a need for all to learn the language - even those who visited the island to work here.

Read: Alternative Maltese language exam for vocational students planned

Weighing in on last months' Budget speech, Mr Puli said the Budget measures for education were proof that the government lacked economic vision.

“The government is failing to reach its own goals. All this does away with the government’s mask that claimed education was a priority,” he said.

And, if there was a time that also proved this, it was the recent back-to-school season that had been a shambles.

Mr Puli hit out at the government for not sticking to its pledge to build a new school every year.

Several schools were not being maintained properly, and others were not keeping up with the island’s booming population.

The cherry on the cake, Mr Puli said, had come when the government had presented a reform of the Education Act, only having to withdraw it soon after due to a backlash from teachers’ union.

“They said this was a sign of humility, when in fact it was certificate of humiliation. Proof of a lack of planning and foresight,” he said.

On the school transport “fiasco”, Mr Puli said that while the Opposition agreed with this reform, “after all it was us who first proposed it”, the government had made a big mess of it.

Opposition MP Ryan Callus, picked up where his colleague left off, weighing in on the budgetary measures on youth and sport.

Malta had an opportunity, he said, in the 2023 Small Nations Games, which the island will host, to improve the island’s sports infrastructure.

“We can’t work on this in the last few months and weeks - as had happened with the shooting range, just before the event, and a budget that doubled due to mismanagement,” he warned.

Opposition MPs Karl Gouder and Herman Schiavone closed it off for the Opposition. The latter called for the setting up of a Department of Political Science at the University of Malta.