Maltese O-Level students sitting for their recent Social Studies examinations gave some very questionable answers in response to straightforward questions, a new examiner’s report has shown.
The report, which gives a breakdown of Maltese examiners’ main takeaways from the results achieved by Maltese students over the last year, highlighted some of the poorest answers given to relatively easy common knowledge questions.
For example, when asked to name low-income countries, some students left “simplistic” answers like Africa or South America, the examiners pointed out.
Some even mentioned China as a low-income country, though it is considered to be an upper-middle-income country with the world’s second-largest economy base by the World Bank.
On the other hand, when students were asked to name high-income countries among the list of oddities were answers such as ‘Dubai’, ‘Los Angeles’ and ‘Melbourne’… all three of which are, in fact, cities.
Overall though, candidates did give appropriate answers, with the most common responses including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In another question, when students were asked to define what ‘solidarity’ was, the most-used anecdotal example was ‘L-Istrina’.
This might be understandable, with the catchy TV-charity marathon’s jingle including the refrain “flimkien b’solidarjetà” which translates in English to “together in solidarity”.
Some candidates gave a more “clichéd” response of helping an old lady to carry her shopping bags through the streets. But there was also a substantial number of students who, wrongly, answered with their interpretation of solidarity to be “a state of solitude” according to examiners.
Overall, 756 students sat for the exams during the previous academic year, with only 2% achieving a Grade 1 while 54% achieved above Grade 5.
In general, examiners found students to not be as well-versed in social studies subjects as expected.
The examiner’s report noted that some answers “are very simplistic in their manner” which shows a limited understanding and knowledge of sociological concepts. They also acknowledged that a number of answers “contain limited reflection or analysis” due to information acquired from unreliable sources.
Candidates also made relevant remarks on racism and xenophobia as an underlying cause of cultural conflicts. They also said the stipend system was “a great opportunity for those who otherwise could not afford to further their education”.
When asked about the labour market, some students mistakenly gave answers related to political parties.
“These poor responses clearly showed a lack of knowledge on the role of social partners in the labour market,” examiners said.
When asked about social changes impacting the Maltese family, many students referred to same sex-families. Examiners even noted that “the increased exposure given in our society to groups advocating rights for minorities and reflecting the legislative changes that have recently been implemented in this regard.”
Students were even able to mention a number of different family forms, included nuclear, gay and lesbian families, lone parent, and extended. Others simply said “families with children or families without children”.
In another question, students were asked to highlight the four biggest events in Maltese history that took place between 1964 and 2004.
Students showed a high degree of awareness when it comes Independence Day and Malta’s Accession to the European Union. Two other events, like Republic Day and Freedom Day, were not always mentioned, with some candidates referring to the Sette Giugno riots instead.
In a few cases, candidates failed to mention any of the four events or showed a “lack of knowledge” surrounding these historical events.