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Malta’s education system aims to cater for students with different abilities, to have access to the learning that matches their technical skills and therefore ensuring that all students are engaged. A tangible inclusive education is achieved by improving the required support and assistance in the learning journey. This is done through the provision of the professional development of learning support educators, teachers and staff together with the provision of an environment fit for the needs of students with special abilities. Investment in the infrastructure of Resource Centres and the services offered form an integral part of the strategy. In addition, the physical environment in mainstream education is undergoing further improvement to ensure the wellbeing of students with special needs through the introduction of multi-sensory rooms and other environment upgrades.
Malta’s education strategy is based on four main principles; equity, social justice, diversity and inclusivity. The Framework for Education Strategy 2014-2020 places emphasis on students learning to live together. The Respect for all Framework also states that for these principles to be achieved the values of co-operation, responsibility, unity, tolerance, honesty, peace, happiness, love, freedom, humility, simplicity, courage, friendship and respect need to form the general values to behaviour in schools. The value of respect is considered as a prerequisite.
As highlighted in the National Curriculum Framework for All, acquiring positive attitudes and a respect for human rights, is one of the learning outcomes for Education for Democracy as a cross curricular theme in Social Studies, Environmental Studies and aspects from Personal and Social Development as well as Home Economics. Through their studies in this area, learners acquire skills in enjoying rights and exercising responsibilities in various communities; dealing with conflict and controversy; making informed choices and decisions, and taking action, individually or collectively to promote a just and sustainable society whose policies are based on justice, equity and a respect for the community of life. As they develop their learning in this area, young people learn to employ citizenship skills, showing responsibility towards their environment and their world, and understanding the impact of enterprise and industry on the local and global community.
Malta also believes that for the education regime to be truly inclusive and convey a message of respect for the individual’s dignity, it needs to be directed at all life phases and extend beyond the obligatory school years in order to address the needs of all stakeholders, including those at the risk of social marginalisation. In this regard one of the strategies of Malta’s National Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 stipulates that lifelong learning needs to support inclusivity and empower marginalised communities.
The Ministry for Education and Employment has also launched the initiative ‘My Journey – Achieving Through Different Paths Inclusive and Comprehensive Equitable Quality Learning Programmes’. Through this initiative, secondary school students will be able to choose between academic, vocational, applied subjects or a combination of the three elements during the senior cycle of secondary education. This will involve moving from a 'one size fits all' system to a more inclusive and equitable programme which can specifically cater to each learner's individual talents.
The National School Support Services within the Ministry for Education and Employment is implementing the following social inclusion measures:
- Pilot project for students on the spectrum with severe challenging behaviour attended a programme which offers the below interventions.
- Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)
- Verbal Behaviour
- Behaviour Modification
- Natural Environmental Teaching (NET)
- Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)
- Visual Schedules
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
- Setting up and equipping six new Multi-sensory rooms so that students on the autism spectrum and students with severe disabilities can use in their mainstream school - Three multi-sensory rooms were set as from scholastic year 2016-2017 having a sensory garden also in one school as from 2017 – 2018. Work is in progress for another 6 multi-sensory rooms for six different primary schools which will start operating as from January 2019.
- Compiled guidelines including a checklist for the school environment to become more autism friendly;
- Autism Toolkit was compiled to be used in schools and it will be used during scholastic 2018 -2019.
- Intense training was given to 50 educators on developing and utilising effective strategies and resources for learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Other training included strategies to support diverse needs, how to adapt curricular aspects for the various needs, how to support children with autism in relation to their behaviour, practical strategies on literacy and students with disability.
- Reinforced the practice of support services giving guidance and support as well as sessions inside the classroom in order to guide and support the educators together with the learners
- Research and more support to students with complex communication needs in order to establish and effective mode of communication together with strategies and devices/software to access curriculum
- Implementation of the Provision Map Tool to enhance the compilation of Individual Education Plans in schools.
- A new policy on Inclusive Education in Schools has been drafted. The aim is that this new Policy be launched during scholastic year 2018/2019 together with a National Inclusive Education Framework. The policy embraces the concept, values and principles of Inclusive Education into the realm of responding positively to all learners’ diversity. It will bring together all educators and practitioners, learners, families and community members who create colleges and schools that are conducive to learning, thereby giving all learners the education they need.
One of the key educational policies of Malta to include students with special needs within mainstream education and assign a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) on a one-to-one basis or on a shared basis depending on the student’s needs. The role of the LSA is to assist students with special educational requirements in the classroom and provide additional support to enhance their learning experience.
Students with dyslexia are provided with one-to-one attention, support with the transition from primary to secondary school, and use of a specific needs-based library. Whole-class measures are being implemented in a way the dyslexic child receives the support required without making the learning difficulties evident.
The ‘Alternative Learning Programme’ (ALP) is aimed at students who are reaching the end of compulsory schooling, but who clearly demonstrate that they will not attain the desired qualification. This programme has a strong vocational component and students are expected to continue with their education or training in a full-time higher education institution or in other lifelong learning institutions on a part-time basis. Following the implementation of the ALP, the programme’s effectiveness in ensuring that students remain in the education and training system is currently being assessed. Besides the ALP programme, two other programmes are offered to students who at the end of compulsory education manage to acquire no or minimum qualifications, giving the opportunity of a ‘second chance education’. ‘Youth Inc.’ is an inclusive education programme based on applied learning offered by Malta’s National Youth Agency to people between 16 and 21 years of age. It seeks to strengthen the complementary role of formal and non-formal learning, and to assist young person in gaining key competences and sectoral skills. The second programme offered is ‘GEM16+’, launched by the Ministry for Education and Employment in October 2015. This programme is aimed at students who lack the necessary qualifications to continue their studies, and focuses on preparing its students in Maltese, English, mathematics and physics at SEC level.
The Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) programme was created for all students of compulsory schooling age in order to develop young people's personalities and mind-sets which is done both through student councils that function within schools as well as through PSCD lessons that focus on gender issues, racism, migration, religious diversity, disability and sexual orientation (in an age-appropriate way) both in primary as well as secondary schooling. During PSCD all students learn to work in a group and understand the functions of the various roles one can take.
The Achieve XL programme seeks to provide the opportunity to develop the confidence and skills of young people, supporting the disadvantaged, vulnerable and those struggling in education. This programme is an occasion to tackle early school leaving and youth unemployment.
A number of structures are also in place within Malta’s education system in a bid to help asylum seekers, migrants and third country nationals.
- The Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) has formally set up a Migrant Learners’ Unit to develop and implement an organisational structure for the provision of education to learners having a migrant background under the age of 16. The Migrant Learners’ Unit provides language support for Maltese and English at both the primary and secondary cycles of education. It offers various types of services depending on the needs of schools and/or individual learners. An induction course is offered to all newly-arrived learners whatever their provenance (EU or TCN) who cannot communicate in Maltese and English, and who would therefore be unable to cope with the mainstream curriculum. The induction programme acts as a form of intervention. It takes place for a limited period of time (usually one year) and is discontinued as soon as the learner is considered able to cope in the mainstream classroom. Induction enables better social integration whilst ensuring that students adjust to Malta’s education system. The programme enacted focuses on cross-curricular language learning where subjects such as Physical Education, Mathematics, Music and Art are taught with the primary intention of enhancing language competency. This not only introduces a dimension where children can explore and develop their creativity but also strives to achieve a sense of well-being through sports and games. The teachers delivering the induction programme have all been provided with specialised training in managing classes that include newly arrived learners to provide them with the skills to be integrated in mainstream classes.
- “Making Friends” is an initiative that was launched by the Migrant Learners’ Unit in April 2018. The objective of this practice is to encourage active inclusion and integration between learners having a migrant background and Maltese learners. This objective is achieved through the formation of friendships between the participants in the Club. Activities organised by the Club are specifically designed for participants aged between 5 – 10 years old. It is offered on an after-school basis and each session is of 2 ½ hours duration. In this after-school environment, an informal and creative learning programme focusing on becoming friends through an appreciation (and thus better understanding) of cultural differences is offered to participants. Dialogue and respect are key to achieving this objective. The “Making Friends” activities also focus on facilitating peer learning under the supervision of specially trained teachers and other members of staff.
- Non-English speaking students are offered a one-year induction course in basic functional English and Maltese. MCAST is also offering a course in functional Maltese for non-Maltese speaking students at post-secondary level, as well as additional learning support in English through its Learning Support Unit.
- The Directorate for Lifelong Learning within the Ministry also pursues a policy of inclusivity. It has developed courses for Maltese and English as a foreign language, accredited at MQF level 2.
- The University of Malta has launched SPARK – a voluntary network of lecturers within the University assisting migrants with obtaining a sound knowledge of the English language and to sit for exams such as IELTS and TOEFL.
- The University of Malta is also offering two courses which assist in the development of learning on migration and migrant affairs, these are: M.A in Humanitarian Action offered by the Department of International Relations, and M.A. in Transcultural Counselling offered by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing.
- In addition, a proposal on Race and Ethnicity issues is currently being reviewed by the Senate.
The Respect for All Framework is based on a philosophy of values-based education, supporting active citizenship. The work of the educator is to promote this philosophy through the different educational activities in a way that develops relationships and promotes positive human values.
The Framework for the Education Strategy 2014 - 2024, based on the 4 principles of equity, social justice, diversity and inclusivity addresses the learning to know and the learning to do through the Curriculum whilst placing emphasis on students learning to live together and students learning to be.
The Trans, Gender Variant and Intersex Students in Schools Policy is developed within the context of the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 and the values promoted through the Respect for All Framework . Every student, in the present and in the future will be provided with the necessary knowledge, skills, competences and attributes for citizenship and employability within an inclusive, safe, secure and motivating school environment that inspires and facilitates learning.
The implementation of the policy on Addressing Bullying Behaviour in Schools serves to continually support and guide schools and colleges to address bullying in schools.
In Malta, CPD courses and seminars relating to citizenship take place from time to time. For example, in September 2009 a number of such courses for teachers in charge of the subject ‘Personal and social development’ (PSD) were held in connection with citizenship and human rights education and students’ active participation. The CPD courses for PSD peripatetic primary teachers organised in 2011/12 have included citizenship education with a focus on student councils.