An eventual Labour government would reopen consultation on Malta’s new national curriculum framework where it felt ­stakeholders had not been adequately sounded out, Education spokesman Evarist Bartolo said yesterday.

The new curriculum had to better recognise diverse social realities

“This is not about partisan politics. We believe this is a national, not a Nationalist curriculum and there are a number of positives. But there are also plenty of shortcomings that need to be addressed,” Mr Bartolo explained.

He also voiced concern about the impact public sector budgetary cuts announced by the government last week would have on the draft curriculum.

The cuts will shave approximately €40 million off public expenditure across all ministries, with “programmes and initiatives” earmarked for the greatest reductions – 0.21 per cent.

“Will the cuts affect all programmes or initiatives? What implications do these cuts have for the draft curriculum?” Mr Bartolo asked.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the government assured Mr Bartolo that the draft curriculum had been shielded from the budget cuts, with the education ministry trimming expenditure from elsewhere.

Mr Bartolo expounded on some of the PL’s unease concerning the draft curriculum. Feedback submitted by the December consultation deadline, including Labour’s, is currently being considered by the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education.

“Who do we want to address with this new curriculum? Are we comparing our system to what’s happening at a global level? We cannot afford to be insular,” Mr Bartolo said yesterday.

The new curriculum and the government’s e-learning platform, for instance, needed to be linked together. “An e-learning platform is not simply a means to an end. It completely revolutionises pedagogy, and the curriculum must recognise this.”

According to the government, the draft curriculum already does so, presenting eLearning “as a cross-curricular theme rather than a stand-alone component.”

Mr Bartolo insisted that the new curriculum had to better recognise diverse social realities. “In regions such as the inner harbour area, up to 31 per cent of children are at risk of poverty. How can you prescribe a school there and a private school the exact same curriculum?”

The government suggested Mr Bartolo look at current emerging practices within schools in vulnerable communities. Cospicua’s education action plan, it said, was to serve “as a template for a national strategy to address the educational needs of vulnerable communities all over the country”.

Mr Bartolo decried the “fixation” with only gauging scholastic achievement through academic success, saying that vocational learning deserved more recognition as a “different but equal” way of learning.

In its response, the government dismissed Mr Bartolo’s claim that the draft curriculum adopted a “one size fits all” approach, saying that it “lays the groundwork for the flexibility schools urgently require” and accused Mr Bartolo of lacking “an in-depth understanding” of the curriculum document.

Language proficiency, which Mr Bartolo said was still being taught through “antiquated pedagogy”, had to be emphasised. Students needed to leave school with a solid grasp of Maltese, English and a third language, lest they ended up “disadvantaged throughout their adult lives”. There was also, in Mr Bartolo’s opinion, not enough emphasis within the curriculum on science education at a primary level.

This concern tied into a broader criticism Mr Bartolo made of the draft curriculum: its disjointed approach to educational assessment.

“We’ve replaced the Junior Lyceum exam with a national benchmarking exercise, but haven’t genuinely reformed the Sec (‘O’ Level) or Matsec (‘A’ Level) system. A child’s education needs to be considered holistically,” he said.

Mixed-gender education within state schools, disciplinary issues and boys’ declining educational attainment when relative to girls’ were also issues that the PL was eager to address further, Mr Bartolo added.

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