The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

We will weather the storm

Owen Bonnici Friday, 20 March 2020, 08:07 Last update: about 3 months ago

Today week was the first day when the doors of all schools and eduction institutions remained shut.

On Wednesday, we announced that closure of schools is now extended until at least the end of the Easter holidays, the 17th April.

We will continue to monitor closely the situation and will announce further decisions to safeguard our children and educators and in line with the advice given by the Health Authorities.

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With all schools and education institutions closed, we immediately took action to support our students during this period so that our children stay as possible on board with their learning and curriculum. 

Educators are sending homework, notes and even engaging in online lessons daily. On our official Facebook page Edukazzjoni we are constantly posting links, targeting students of all ages and education levels. I urge all students to while away their time in quarantine to keep up with their studies, whilst appreciating and thanking all educators who are fully committed to support our students during this difficult time.

We are also offering help to all educators who need support to communicate with their students through our site digitalliteracy.skola.edu.mt/.

This online learning system was discussed during a working group, made up of representatives from the three sectors: state, church and independent schools, together with the Malta Union of Teachers, set up by the Ministry for Education in light of the current situation, which brought about the closure of all schools. The group’s remit is to explore methods of online teaching during this period, as well as to explore the impact of the present situation on the curriculum. 

The working group agreed that, during these exceptional circumstances, it has full faith in the professionalism, dedication and commitment of educators towards their learners. In fact, members of the working group gave a number of examples where educators have already started sending material online to their students to ensure that they can continue with their studies during this period. The aim of the working group is to build on this, and to provide additional support to educators, students and parents in this regard.

The group agreed on two initiatives which led to schools belonging to the three sectors to use their own IT systems to support online learning. The Ministry for Education and Employment created a Resources page on its curricular website www.curriculum.gov.mt,where resources and material for each Year group and each subject is being made available and freely accessible to all. The respective Directorate is uploading relevant curriculum material. The working group also invited educators from all three sectors who would like to upload relevant material to do so in this common repository as well as on their schools’ IT systems. This page has been available to all students across the island online as from Monday, 16th March 2020. 

The Ministry for Education and Employment communicated the manner in which educators can upload educational material through a communication directly to educators. The working group encourages all educators to contribute in making strong repositories of educational material for their students and to send an important message to all that, by working together, we can overcome this challenging time for our students and indeed for our country.  

The working group also agreed that educators are encouraged to use online means to provide educational material and resources to students so that they can continue working during this period. Educators are encouraged to continue using the digital online methods they may be already using in their respective schools. Educators may request support to enable them to do so, either through their respective schools, or through a dedicated support service the Ministry for Education and Employment set up through its Directorate for Digital Literacy. The Ministry for Education and Employment also communicated directly with educators about this support service. The working group has full confidence that educators will use these digital tools for the benefit of their students.

The working group appeals to all parents, guardians and students to realise the seriousness of the present challenge being faced by the country, and to show a strong sense of responsibility by staying at home during this period. The resources being made available by teachers in schools across sectors, the online communication with students and the possibility of more time to work on important skills such as reading, will help students continue with their education during this period. As representatives of all state, church and independent schools, together with the Malta Union of Teachers, the working group is committed to work together to support educators, parents and students to face and overcome this challenging time.

The working group will be meeting regularly in order to address other issues related to the curricular outcomes for this year and how, in practice, schools can support students who are home-bound due to the closure of schools.

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During this period we are taking advantage of the situation and doing maintenance work in 66 state schools and educational centres around Malta and Gozo.

It is a must that schools are continuously refurbished for the simple reason that this might have an impact on the students' learning journey, and the way they look at education in general.

The decision that we took in order for children not to attend schools temporarily is a preventive measure in light of the current situation on our island, and one that we took in our children’s best interests. During the days that children are not physically in school, rigorous cleaning is also being done in the school classes and corridors.

I again thank all the staff taking care of the maintenance and cleaning for their hard work.

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Tuesday night the Maltese and Gozitans took to their balconies to applaud all that is being done by our health care workers. The Ministry for Education and Employment joins all to heartily thank these dedicated workers for the sterling work being done. Kudos to all.

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