The executive president of the Union of Professional Educators has come out against a proposal by MATSEC that would oblige all sixth form students to take up a foreign language.
“There’s been a drive within the Education Department at primary and secondary school level to show that everyone has individual talents, which is why vocational subjects were introduced,” Graham Sansone told Lovin Malta.
“Why then are we now obliging students to have a mandatory language subject at post-secondary level? Different students have different abilities and some can adapt to a foreign language more easily than others.”
“Students choose different styles of curricula to direct them to different instances in their career at secondary level, but now everyone will have to study a foreign language to get into University.”
Sansone also warned that the imposition of a foreign language could negatively impact students who opt for SEAC courses, an alternative, more hands-on and applied style of learning for students between Form 3 and Form 5 that is set to be introduced in state schools as of this upcoming scholastic year.
“Foreign languages for SEAC students will be on a more basic level than for O-Level students and won’t include topics such as grammar and literature,” he said. “They will be disadvantaged at sixth form as they will be in the same class as O-Level students who had learned the language at a higher standard.”
Moreover, he warned this reform could also be detrimental to students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, who struggle when studying English and Maltese, let alone a foreign language.
The mandatory foreign language proposal is part of a wide-scale revamp of sixth form and is intended to make Maltese students more competitive when they enter the job market.
Mario Pace, an expert in foreign language teaching, has urged students to welcome this reform, arguing that proficiency in a foreign language has become “fundamental” in this day and age.
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar, a former teacher of Italian and French, has also endorsed this proposal, arguing that knowledge of a foreign language will open new horizons for Maltese students.
“I come from a generation which understands Italian because we grew up watching Italian TV, but there’s a new reality among the younger generation for whom Italian may well be a language from outer space,” she said. “Knowing Maltese and English isn’t enough and languages like Mandarin, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese and French will be crucial to learn in the coming years.”