The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

Teaching practice fiasco: ‘We are trying to find the best solution,’ minister says

Giuseppe Attard Tuesday, 2 November 2021, 14:33 Last update: about 7 months ago

Education Minister Justyne Caruana insisted on Tuesday that the government is trying to find the best solution for teaching students who have had their teaching practice shifted to different schools just one week before it is set to start.

On Monday, The Malta Independent reported that 16 students who are getting ready for their first ever period of teaching practice have had their classes shifted at the last minute, as the Education Department tries to make up for a shortage in primary school teachers. 

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Their five-week teaching practice – the first of two they have to do this year – starts on Monday.

Students have been attending observation days at the schools they had originally been assigned to, in order to familiarise themselves with the classes they will be teaching. But this effort has been rendered pointless for these 16 students who have now been told to report for teaching practice at different schools.

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Minister Caruana said the ministry was working to find the best solutions for everyone in light of the situation caused by the unions’ directives. This includes a solution for the affected student teachers.

“We believe in the professionalism of not only our teachers but also of teaching students.”

Caruana said “all arrangements” have now been made to address the issues that these students were facing “so that they are able to do their work practice.”

She added that this government has introduced payments for students who have to do work practice. “This is additional incentive for our students to continue on this path.” Caruana also pointed to recent NSO statistics that show that half of university students want to pursue a teaching career.

Asked to be more specific on how the ministry was helping these student teachers, Caruana said, “they have been allocated a class with all material they require to be able to do their teaching practice.” 

Who are the affected students?

The affected students are sitting for their Masters in Teaching and Learning, or MTL, a course that teaches them how to teach.

Part of their course involves spending a number of weeks at an assigned school, during which time they would take over from the class teacher. During the observation days, they get accustomed to the class teacher, the students and the school’s way of teaching, so as to ensure that there is a transition when they take over the classroom for five weeks.

However, due to a lack of primary teachers at several schools, these 16 students have had their placements shifted to other teaching facilities where the teacher shortage is more acute.

Teaching students are already feeling stressed due to the effects of the pandemic. They usually have one placement each year during their two-year Masters course, but this year both teaching practices were crammed into the second year, during which they also have to do their dissertation.

Some students said they were considering dropping out as a result of the stress caused by conflicting instructions and confusion.

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