The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

Malta’s best kept secret

Michael Asciak Sunday, 14 October 2018, 09:09 Last update: about 2 months ago

As the scholastic year starts again, several post-secondary colleges gear up to receive students who have completed their secondary educational studies. Up until now, excellent work in this field has been carried out by Sixth Forms and the University of Malta, but today there are several other colleges that have Sixth Forms which expand on the sterling work done by the university. One such institution is undoubtedly the Malta College of Art, Science and Technology (MCAST). At present, MCAST has a number of campuses in Malta and Gozo with the main campus being in Paola and currently has a bit more than 9500 students. It offers a wide variety of academic, technical and vocational subjects at different levels of study ranging from levels which lead to 'O' levels subjects, through to 'A' level and then to BA/BSc degree subjects including several options at Masters level now. 

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This system means that students who fail to obtain their 'O' levels at the secondary sector or their 'A' levels later on, have an opportunity to continue studying by first obtaining their 'O' levels at the college then proceed to their 'A' levels and finally do their Bachelor's degree and their Masters if they so wish. This means that students who fail to get into Sixth Form or university can still continue their education and obtain a degree qualification which is now recognised by several professional bodies. At this level of education, what matters most is not so much the marks one obtains in a particular subject beyond a pass mark, but rather the perseverance to carry on and push ahead to a higher level of education. In this respect, MCAST is doing sterling work as all these students would not have completed their education. I can dare say that MCAST is one of Malta's best-kept secrets and it is a pity that the reputation of this institution is so falsely badmouthed sometimes by certain sectors of the population, certain students and other academics in other institutions. After teaching there for 10 years, I can say that the level of teaching is second to none and one can see the students going through personal changes as they mature gradually, going up the academic ladder slowly but surely. Sometimes in this respect, we are our own worst enemy as we proceed to denigrate what we do not know or perhaps understand. Rather we should learn to grab opportunities offered to us with both or hands. Between MCAST and University, not to say anything of private colleges, the total number of post-secondary student population in Malta is now close to 23,000, but the number can be pushed much higher to constitute a much larger proportion of the population.

Many ex-MCAST students are already occupying positions of trust in Maltese society and institutions and are paying back with interest the faith shown in them by allowing them to progress academically and vocationally by those who set up the college with great foresight. Maybe the operative word in education on everyone's lips and mind should be I can rather than I cannot!

I believe that it is now time for the next evolutionary step in the Maltese educational sector to occur. This is now the time to make it mandatory for education to be extended to the age of 18, as is indeed done in several other countries. To stop education at 16 years of age is too early especially since people are living and working longer than before. Much human resource is being lost as many young people slip through the educational system and enter the working world without any specific skills and, what is worse, they remain at the lower end of the pay scale for the rest of their lives without any real hope of progression. It is very important that they are persuaded to do at least another two years of education to improve their skills and knowledge base. Students can now choose to continue their education in either the vocational stream or the academic stream but an extra two years at that age makes a big difference in the quality of character of the individuals and the population in general. There is a dearth of occupations and a dearth of skills in the country that needs urgent addressing.

With MCAST now offering various vocational courses, it will only be a matter of time before the new system is accepted as was accepted the extension first to primary education, then to secondary education! If we want the standard of living and of knowledge of the general population to go up, we have no choice but to put this step into action. Failure to do this is not an option, as we owe it to future generations to engender a higher standard of living and of social participation to be able to face the challenges of today and tomorrow!

As the world is developing fast, the need of new subjects to be taught at academic level - game theory, human care and new systems of management -are increasing exponentially. I hope that we will be able to match the evolving academic content with the human resources available on the island and these human resources are none other than our young people and those young at heart. Although we can trace the statehood of our country to just over 50 years ago, the fact is that we have been a nation for a very long time. We have succeeded and economically progressed so much is partly due to the fact that in Malta, we have had, for 400 years, a system of higher education that has produced compatriots of a certain educational calibre. For this of course we have to thank the Knights of St John and the Church for establishing the University of Malta to further the hospitaller, military and religious quests of the Order. Today, the scenery has changed of course but the quest remains. The more that people study and educate themselves, the more we can develop as a nation and as a state.

 

Dr Michael Asciak MD M.Phil. (European Studies and Genomics) PhD (Bioethics).

[email protected]

 

 


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