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Malta Embraces Virtual Learning: University Planning Online Exams, Disadvantaged Children To Get Free Laptops 

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The University of Malta could soon take the phenomenon of virtual learning a few steps further, with discussions underway for the possible introduction of online exams.

Education Minister Owen Bonnici confirmed on Lovin Malta’s talk show #CovidCalls that his ministry is discussing this contingency plan with Rector Alfred Vella in the eventuality that the coronavirus crisis persists by June.

“This would be a first for Malta and it’s easier said than done, but we’re discussing such a Plan B,” he said. “However, I’m sure that if we discipline ourselves properly, we can contain the spread of the virus.”

While university exams are currently scheduled to take place in June, A-levels have been postponed to September, with resits moved to December, and O-levels have been cancelled altogether, with students now set to be judged by their Mock exam results. If they so choose, they can still sit for their O-levels in September, when the resit exams would have otherwise taken place.

Asked whether the government should use this situation as an opportunity to phase out Malta’s exam-based system altogether, Bonnici said that while he is personally in favour of updating the education system, now is not the time to discuss such radical changes.

“I don’t think it’s fair to [abolish exams] now in the midst of such extraordinary circumstances, but I personally prefer assessments to exams because I don’t think you should be judged on your performance in a single day. A brilliant person can lose concentration one day and it’s unfair for him to be judged on that day for the rest of his life.”

Although school is out till the next scholastic year, Bonnici urged teachers to nevertheless provide online education, stating that this will increase public respect in their profession.

“People are judging you and we need to increase respect in the teaching profession. By going out of your way to help students carry on with their education, you’ll get a lot of gratitude.”

Bonnici has also asked state schools to provide him with a list of students who don’t have access to a computer or internet at home so that the government can grant them such access free of charge.

“We’re going to give internet connection to a chunk of these students who don’t currently have it and we’re utilising spare computers and laptops at the Education Department for these children. Please contact us if you have a spare laptop or computer, because this is a time for solidarity.”

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