Reform in local teacher qualification

Reform in local teacher qualification

The introduction of the Master degree in Teaching and Learning, the qualification necessary to become eligible to join the teaching profession in Malta, was an important reform at the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education.

The introduction of the Master degree in Teaching and Learning, the qualification necessary to become eligible to join the teaching profession in Malta, was an important reform at the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education.

Although numbers are a measure of success, quality education is anything but a simple mathematical exercise.  Education requires constant innovation and improvement in order to face changes and challenges. Locally, for example, while we witness several positive developments on many fronts, there is concern at the country’s poor results in the recent international PIRLS study of reading achievement among 10-year-olds and for our heavily summative exam-oriented educational system, which the country just cannot seem to modify significantly.

One of the keys to address these issues is investing in educators and their formation, particularly in their initial training. For this reason, among others, in 2013, the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education embarked on an important reform that led to the introduction of the Master degree in Teaching and Learning (MTL). At present, this is the qualification necessary to become eligible to join the teaching profession in Malta. One may start the course after completing a first degree in one’s area of specialisation.

This reform led to a re­newal of the faculty’s vision, summarised by the motto: ‘Promoting an educated public in a participatory de­mocracy’. It also included an internal departmental restructuring to ensure that today the faculty ca­ters for the different phases of personal and professional development, from the early years to adult education and from classroom learning to community outreach.

All this is being done in line with the principle that education is a lifelong and life-wide journey. The MTL reform was also the result of collaboration between the faculty and local stakeholders, including the Education Ministry, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the State, Church and independent school sectors.

The MTL curriculum is based on established principles of teacher education, as well as evidence-based innovative pedagogies. It took several months to be devised  and passed through the scrutiny of the University’s quality assurance programme, as well as critical friends from overseas universities whose advice was sought throughout the process.

The MTL, while aiming to address issues directly related to schooling, has maintained and strengthened those features of initial teacher education courses that are part of the faculty’s history. While retaining studies in theories related to education and in the teaching and learning of subjects in our schools, it includes a strong component of practice, with student-teachers being assigned to a school throughout the course of an entire scholastic year.

Student-teachers are also mentored into the profession through the recent introduction of a postgraduate diploma in school-based educational mentoring. Through this course, which represents a breakthrough innovation locally, the faculty is creating stronger partnerships with local schools through its own alumni.

As the future beckons, the faculty is well aware that the teaching profession, locally and internationally, constantly faces challenges and that it needs to be more valued and better respected. Buil­ding on discussions with various stakeholders, the faculty has now also launched courses for aspiring teachers in the area of vocational education and training, and aims to add more subject areas to the MTL in the coming years.

Plans are also under way to de­ve­lop part-time courses, drawing on the faculty’s experience in this area, such as the ‘adaptation’ programme for supply teachers in possession of a degree in education that it had organised a few years ago.

Another important sector in our educational system, namely that regarding learning support assistants (LSAs), will also continue to be developed by the faculty, retaining the part-time model that has been successfully implemented in order to suit LSAs who are already engaged in schools.

And, finally, the faculty will also continue to strengthen its full-time bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, science for education and communication, home economics and design and technology, while plans are under way to introduce courses in other areas.

It is unfortunate that… an institutional partnership with the recently-formed Institute for Education did not materialise… a situation which could potentially have awkward implications

As the faculty embarks on a series of initiatives in 2018 to mark its anniversary, it looks forward to forging new partnerships with like-minded entities. However, it is quite unfortunate that this will also be the year in which, for the first time in 40 years, the faculty will not be involved institutionally with a local entity that deals with teacher education.

An institutional partnership with the recently-formed Institute for Education agency did not materialise for a number of reasons, although the experience gained by the faculty and its now well-established expertise would have been beneficial to this. This agency and the Ministry for Education and Employment will now be responsible both for academic qualifications into the profession and for providing teaching posts, a situation which could potentially have awkward implications.

Furthermore, ‘learning on the job’ in education carries several risks, especially if unqualified individuals engaged in schools may not know the subject they teach well and if they are unaware of the consequences of poor pedagogies.

Notwithstanding this, the faculty remains firmly committed to education locally and, as it has done in the past, it will collaborate institutionally with stakeholders as long as this does not lead to unwarranted duplication of work or to reduced standards in the quality of teacher education. We must ensure that students of the faculty, who have committed their future to the teaching profession and to local children, are safeguarded and respected.

The Faculty of Education is proud of its past and of its contribution to education, both locally and internationally. It faces its future boldly, aware that having turned 40, it is well accustomed to challenges. The faculty has shown that it is not reluctant to reflect on its practices in order to address shortcomings and that this serves to build on its strengths. It is committed to enhance its involvement in local society through the outreach of its members of staff in several areas, through the contribution academics make to educational developments, by aiming to be even more present in schools and, last but not least, through its alumni and students who today are the best testimony of what it stands for.

Prof. Sandro Caruana is Dean of the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education.

This is the second and final part of Prof. Caruana’s article. The first part was published last Sunday.

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus