The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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MCAST students feel ‘trapped’, ‘stressed’ and ‘frustrated’ as MUT directives take their toll

Albert Galea Monday, 24 June 2024, 07:19 Last update: about 24 days ago

MCAST students have described feeling trapped, stressed, and frustrated among other emotions as the directives issued by the Malta Union of Teachers persist, causing exams to be cancelled and the issuing of results to be delayed.

Directives from the MUT have been in place at MCAST since 10 May after talks over a new collective agreement had failed.  The directives meant that staff were, amongst other measures, ordered not to divulge assessment marks from students and the college itself.

The MCAST collective agreement expired two and a half years ago, and the MUT had already issued similar directives back in January, but suspended them as talks seemed to progress.  Progress however, has halted, leaving the MUT to issue renewed directives.

Attention on the case has increased as the election headlines subsided, with the Ombudsman’s Commissioner for Education – and students who are suffering the consequences – urging for the dispute to be resolved.

The Malta Independent spoke to 10 MCAST students studying various courses at the institute about the impact that the directives have had on them, and all gave a similar story detailing the frustration of having had exams continuously postponed, of being left in the dark, and of – in some cases – not even knowing whether they’ve graduated or not.

A software development student said that they have been unable to communicate with lecturers regarding exams, marks, and apprenticeship issues and remained unsure as to what was going to happen with regards to synoptics exams, one of which was scheduled to take place in May.

“I know nothing about my marks… I’ve just been told that we cannot do much due to the directives,” the student said when asked about communication from lecturers.  “It’s very stressful and demotivating,” the student said about the situation.

A software development diploma student said that they had had one exam cancelled at that time and had barely received any marks for the second semester and that lecturers have said that they “know as much as us.”

That student describes the situation as stressful particularly as they have to apply for the next scholastic year.

This exact sentiment was held by a second student in the same course, who said that without the marks from the exams they are unable to apply for a course for the next scholastic year.

Another software development student said that they had three cancelled exams and two cancelled practicals and had been told that exams simply wouldn’t take place if the directives aren’t lifted.

“It has stressed me out and has become bad for my health, both physically and mentally.  It is also making me worry about my future at MCAST,” the student said when asked on the impact of the directives.

“The current situation at the institution has significantly affected my academic progress. I have not received any results from my previous exams, and my final exam, which was scheduled over 2 months ago, has yet to take place,” a Bachelors degree software development student meanwhile said.

“The lack of communication from both the lecturers and MCAST administration has been particularly frustrating. There has been no information provided about the status of exams or when we can expect to receive our results. This uncertainty is preventing me from progressing to my third year and beginning work on my thesis,” the student continued.

A student in Multi Media Software Development meanwhile felt that the situation breached the European Union’s Right to Education, describing themselves as “outraged” at how it has unfolded.

The student said that they had been “kept in the dark” and been told by the school simply not to leave Malta before the 5th July because “anything could happen.”  This student, who is an EU-national but not Maltese said that he had plans to leave Malta for a scheduled medical intervention which he may have to cancel – and lose the money – or pay to reschedule due to the situation.

A network engineering student said that they have had four exams cancelled and no results received of the previous few exams that they had done. The situation has meant that days have been spent worrying at home about the fact that an exam can be scheduled suddenly if the matter is solved.

“Personally I feel trapped due to the uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” the student said.

A Product Design student said that they had had no exams cancelled as the course is solely assignment based, but said that the issue is that “it takes quite a while to receive feedback on the assignment tasks, so I would have no idea on how I'm doing or where I can improve until it is the end of the semester.”

This student also said that they had not been told much, only that marks and feedback couldn’t be given due to the current directives, calling the situation “frustrating” as they feel blinded to their progress and potential for improvement.

The directives have also impacted final year students when it comes to the writing of their thesis.

A Bachelors of Science in Sport, Exercise and Health student said that they had not received any marks from the second semester and had exams postponed into a week full of assignments, but worse still has meant that they could not get any feedback on their thesis while writing it.

“When the directives happened for the second time (at the worst time) my tutor couldnt help me if I needed help, which I find is extremely unfair especially to students that are at the very end of their course,” the student said.

A Bachelor of Arts in Journalism student meanwhile said that their synoptics may not happen, but that students had received an email on the 21st of June that said dissertation vivas could not be held "until further notice" because of the directives.

The viva is a part of the course where a student defends their dissertation or thesis before a panel of lecturers.

“Some students apparently stopped having contact with their thesis supervisors and therefore lacked the guidance that other students had. MCAST Administration contacted us regarding this and said that these students were still required to submit their thesis according to the deadline, though they were able to send in a declaration form informing the school about their lack of final feedback from supervisors, which the administration said would be taken into consideration,” the student said.

Two students speculated based on what they had heard and been told that should their exams not take place by the 5th July then they would end up being postponed until September, leaving them in limbo – particularly those who were meant to graduate at the end of this scholastic year.


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