MUT: religion syllabus is ‘too heavy’ for Year 6
Curia says it works hand-in-hand with education authorities
The Year 6 religion syllabus seems to be evolving into a university theology course that is too demanding on students, according to the Malta Union of Teachers.
It said religion teachers, who did not have the complete syllabus in hand as yet, were concerned it was too heavy for 10-year-old students and loaded with extra facts to be memorised.
Students had to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Vulgate (a fourth century Latin translation of the Bible).
The union insisted the syllabus should not be drawn up solely by the Curia, without the input of education authorities.
“This new syllabus is very likely to estrange children and their families from religion rather than the other way round,” the union said.
Fr Renè Camilleri, the Archbishop’s delegate within the Secretariat for Catechesis that draws up the syllabus, insisted students were not being asked to memorise details but to know the minimum about important events.
In an age when children had easy access to information, religion could not be taught without making any mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were 20th century discoveries that raised questions about the Bible.
“Are we expected to keep being fundamentalists and just teach them about the Bible?
“They are not expected to memorise facts but are expected to learn the minimum,” he said when contacted.
Fr Camilleri said the Curia did work with education authorities in drawing up the syllabus.
According to the historic agreement between the Church and Government, the Church is given the task to draw up the religion syllabus.
An Education Ministry spokesman said the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education contributed to the development of the religion syllabus.
A Year 6 religion teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Times that last week he received the second chapter out of the 10-chapter syllabus. The target was to complete four chapters by the Christmas holidays.
“The new syllabus contains a lot of new information and we are not being given the time to prepare ourselves,” the teacher said.
While parts of the syllabus specified using examples children could understand, other sections provided “more information” for teachers without making it clear whether students would be examined on that content.
The teacher said the text books to be used by students had not yet been published and the syllabus required students to research in their Bible when not all had a copy of the “expensive” book at home.
“I am not saying it’s all wrong. Perhaps once teachers familiarise themselves it will be better,” the teacher said.
Fr Camilleri said according to the new mentality of the National Curriculum Framework, the syllabus was not about the textbook, which was currently being printed. There were many other resources, such as websites.
The MUT said it had written to the Education Minister and the Prime Minister to point out that teachers were still not equipped with proper resources and that the new syllabus promoted “outdated methodologies” based on learning many details.
The MUT appealed to the Minister to set up an urgent meeting with the Curia about the syllabus.
The union said it did not exclude taking action “to safeguard the professional integrity of its members”.
The ministry spokesman said the directorate planned to “undertake discussions with the Curia to build on the positive experiences and lessons learnt over the years”.
This would ensure the teaching/learning syllabus and related textbooks for Year 6, and for all compulsory school years, led to a fruitful and enjoyable formative experience, while ensuring assessment was formative and relevant.