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English language lessons at state schools ‘reduced’

File photo

File photo

Updated at 4pm with Education Ministry's reply

Teachers are furious over a decision to reduce the number of English lessons for Form 4 students next year despite the syllabus remaining unchanged.

State school teachers were recently informed that the weekly six, 40-minute lessons would be cut to five in the next scholastic year.

“We were told it was just for next year but it’s still quite bad, what with the disastrous level of English,” a teacher remarked.

A number of English language teachers complained that, since no changes were made to the syllabus, they would be expected to work on the same amount of material in less time.

Insisting on anonymity, they said they learnt about the change after the decision was made and when it was too late for them to express concerns.

“Education officers said they tried to fight it but nothing happened. The e-mail sent to us did not really say anything and we weren’t even consulted,” one teacher said.

The teacher pointed out it would undoubtedly be tricky to manage the time properly since the syllabus remained the same.

“We have nine components to cover – speaking, writing, reading, listening, grammar, drama, poetry, prose and vocabulary – and six lessons was barely enough, let alone five.

“It’s really going to stretch everyone to their limit and, what’s most frustrating, is that we weren’t consulted and we found out after it was decided,” the teacher went on.

What prompted the decision remains unclear but the teachers who spoke to this newspaper think it was due to timetable issues and lack of staff.

The Malta Union of Teachers said it was aware of the issue and was in touch with the Directorate for Curriculum Management.

A spokesman said the change was a result of updates to the timetable system announced a few years ago but was being implemented gradually.

Questions sent to the Education Ministry were not answered by the time of writing.

The Malta Chamber expresses its utmost concern, saying that if correct, this decision "goes against any logic and ought to be revised with immediate effect."

The Malta Chamber has repeatedly said in the past that in an increasingly open economy which depends on excellent communication with international markets, English plays a central and pivotal role in the economic growth of the country. In its ‘Employee Skills Survey’ of 2016,

In 2016, the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) claimed that one of the skills matches considered important by three-quarters employers was the English language, it argued.

"Unfortunately, the level of English has already demonstrably been experiencing a decline among the young in recent years. This decision certainly is illogical as is bound to compound this negative trend.This decision is seen by the Malta Chamber as a change in policy direction."

Education Ministry statement

In a statement this afternoon, the ministry said there will be no change in the number of lessons, or time dedicated, to the English language.

"Not only will English not decrease in importance, but the ministry will be investing in further training for English teachers through an agreement with Cambridge English, with the aim that students receive an even better learning experience in this subject," it said.

 

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