Education Minister Evarist Bartolo hinted at using similar “militant” measures to those adopted in the UK to address illiteracy, among other student shortfalls, in schools here.
“When Britain was faced with an illiteracy problem among schoolchildren, they adopted a system whereby solid hours were dedicated to combat illiteracy,” Mr Bartolo said, adding that there’s nothing wrong in following the same model.
He was speaking during a press conference held at the Education Department in Floriana dedicated to the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which saw Malta rank 40th out of the 50 participating countries in Mathematics and Science subjects.
The study was conducted on Year 5 primary students attending State, Church and independent schools.
This report follows another, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the results of which were announced last week, where Malta ranked 35th of 45 participating countries in terms of Maltese and English reading tests.
Following the report, Mr Bartolo vowed he will embark on a campaign to ensure that more school hours are dedicated to reading, while excluding the suggestion that school hours may be increased as a result.
In the TIMSS report, based on a four-year cycle, it emerged that the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Finland and Japan were rated the top best performing countries whereas Malta fared below the average score of 500. The top rated countries all enjoyed an average of at least 80 points above the average score.
Mr Bartolo pointed out that the study revealed that a number of students failed to understand the English written questions presented to them as part of the survey.
He said that those students who spoke English at home fared much better than those who were accustomed to speaking Maltese at home.
Mr Bartolo said that compared to other countries, Maltese schools dedicated the least time to science subjects, a total of 39 hours annually opposed to the international average of 85 hours.
He said that the time is ripe to change teaching methods and address the syllabus while reassuring those present that the National Curriculum framework will remain as it is.
“As I have stated prior to the election, the National Curriculum framework will be left untouched,” he said.
He highlighted that the National Curriculum states that the number of hours dedicated to science subjects should triple.