The Malta Independent 2 April 2020, Thursday

Alternative education

Owen Bonnici Friday, 14 February 2020, 08:56 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes education as the transmission of the values and accumulated knowledge of a society. In this sense, it is equivalent to what social scientists term socialization or enculturation. Education is designed to guide in learning a culture, moulding their behaviour in the ways of adulthood, and directing them toward their eventual role in society.

I cannot agree more. Through the several events, meetings and school visits I am witnessing alternative methods of education that are helping our students in their personal needs, apart from the norms of Math and English.

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As I had previously noted, at St Thomas Moore Primary I was given an overview of the concept of Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) in Primary Schools, which I commend. Through this teaching from a young age, students are taught: on emotions and reactions and how these can change in different situations; respect; bullying and how to address it; and respect towards people, gender and friendships, amongst others. In secondary schools, issues in relationships, domestic violence, the link between domestic violence and substance abuse, amongst others, are tackled in depth.

This week I stated that Mindfulness is important as it helps our students from a young age to develop their skills, flourish, and develop not only physically but also psychologically and mentally.

I was closing the 'Mindfulness at School Level Conference' attended by well over 200 educators from across the three sectors - Church schools, independent schools as well as state schools.

Such a workshop confirms how critical it is that educators from these sectors have the opportunity during the year not only to meet but also to share their ideas and practices.

In the UK, the concept of mindfulness is being introduced informally by teachers and other educators during various activities both inside and outside the class environment, and several schools, even locally, are starting to integrate mindfulness across various activities and tasks.

Mindfulness is important as it also helps the students to develop their curiosity to what is happening to them and around them and this helps them to grow in their learning and resilience.

Another event I attended with my colleagues and which highlights this thought is the Footballers' Read and Write Programme. A programme that has been ongoing since April 2017 and was launched by the National Literacy Agency with the full support of the Malta Football Association and Sport Malta.

The National Literacy Agency of the Ministry for Education and Employment seeks to promote and enhance lifelong and life wide, high quality literacy practices among children, youth, adults, third country nationals and persons with learning difficulties. It strives also to improve literacy outcomes, resulting in inclusive practices, higher educational qualifications, and better job prospects. The Agency was established in mid-2014 to promote and ensure the delivery of the different aspects of the National Literacy Strategy for All in Malta and Gozo, and serve as a main driver in the field of literacy.

During the mentioned event we distributed certificates to participants of a programme that aims to instil a love towards reading and writing through football.

I laud such programmes as they provide students with the opportunity to learn through something that they love. This programme is a prime example of a great way to teach through sport, by intertwining two important things that help children to develop and increase their knowledge by doing something they love. This government will continue working towards innovative ways of learning for a better future for the coming generations.

This programme is designed specifically for children who love football and are in their fourth and fifth year at state primary schools, who, even though they already have a good grasp of reading, may not see it as their favourite hobby. This sports and educational programme is offered both in English and Maltese, and consists of 10 reading and football sessions, which are led by sports leaders and literacy promoters.

The main theme of football helps to bring children closer to the world of reading. This all falls within line of the National Literacy Agency's philosophy, whereby children learn and succeed more when they enjoy doing something.

For the programme to be in line with its theme, the students meet in a dressing room which also has a library with books on football in English and Maltese. Each participant is given a t-shirt of their team, and the Agency also distributes resources related to the subject in each session so that the students can continue to read and learn from home as well.

I take the occasion to thank all the coaches and teachers involved for their effort, which resulted in the programme being a success and applaud the dedication shown by all who were involved in the programme.

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Results for the Prince Trust International Achieve November window are out, following external verification by PT in the beginning of January, with all local schools and centres who have submitted students' work being successful.

The Ministry for Education and Employment is working in partnership with Prince's Trust International to deliver the Achieve programme and supported by HSBC Malta Foundation. PTI Achieve is a personal development and employability skills programme that provides a unique offering for 11 to 19-year-olds, a practical approach to learning which supports young people to fulfil their potential.

Yet another scheme that is helping our students in their personal development. Of particular note is that even though this was the first verification window for this scholastic year, 24 schools in all have submitted portfolios, hundreds of portfolios were presented and they have all passed.

Another interesting and commendable fact is that CoRRS (YOURS) - Centre of Residential Restorative Services, Young Persons Offenders Unit - have submitted work for 9 young persons, some of whom are submitting 2 units and are already achieving the Award level. This is great news for the young people currently residing at our correctional facility with the hope that it may help them work for a better future.

All the above fits in with one of the priorities I am giving this very important sector - we want to equip students with critical thinking strategies that value learning as a form of constant growth and nurture both personal and societal values and beliefs. We will prioritise the provision of a variety of quality learning paths and lifelong learning.

 


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