About the learning outcomes framework
Malta gained Independence in 1964, became a Republic in 1974 and joined the EU in 2004. At present state compulsory education provision stands at 60% nationally, with the independent sector comprising another 10% and Catholic Church schools comprising another 30%. The latter is set to rise to 40% as a result of current reform. All state and independent primary schools as well as nearly all independent secondary schools are co-educational. 2013 has seen the piloting of the first mainstream state secondary co- educational school.
As with many countries with a colonial heritage, up to 2006 Malta had a highly centralised and selective compulsory education system. Malta has kept step with EU countries in practically all EU education benchmarks. Additionally, in recent years Malta has participated for the first time in the TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA international studies. These confirmed that whilst our top achievers compare well with those of other countries, we have an unacceptably high level of low achievers, 37% (for Mathematics in TIMSS) and 59% (for Science in TIMSS), 36.3% (for PISA Reading Literacy), 33.7% (for PISA Mathematical literacy), 32.5% (for PISA Scientific literacy) and 45% (for PIRLS) of the national population. The EU2020 target is to have less than 15% of the student population classified as ‘low achievers’.
In 2000 a new National Minimum Curriculum became law. This presented a new vision of equity and entitlement in compulsory education in Malta, and espoused a student-centred holistic learning experience. This document was a watershed that has remained relevant even in the current educational reforms.
However it became clear that Malta’s compulsory education system needed a profound transformation of objectives, strategies and structures that went beyond foundational principles. The 2005 concept document ‘For All Children to Succeed’ by the Ministry of Education, proposed the decentralisation of state schools into ten Colleges with secondary schools and their own feeder primary schools. These Colleges would have increasing administrative, managerial, financial and ultimately curricular autonomy, within a framework of standards and quality assurance. The former Education Division would be replaced by a Directorate for Educational Services (DES) that would provide services and manage the Colleges, and a Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE) that would have a national remit with respect to educational policy, maintenance of standards, supporting school improvement and quality assurance. These proposals were translated into law in 2006 with the Directorates becoming operational in 2007 and the Colleges in 2008.
In 2009 an agreement on the harmonisation of Church compulsory schooling with state provision was reached. This led to the elimination in 2011 of the 11+ examination, in agreement with Church schools, thus providing a more level playing field and increasing student mix in all schools, itself an important contributing factor to increased equity. The new end-of-primary Benchmark was introduced, and has been influencing teaching and learning in our schools.
Also in 2009 the review of the National Curriculum Framework was launched. This led to a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) that was translated into law in 2012. This NCF retained and developed further the educational aspirations and aims of the 2000 National Minimum Curriculum. It proposed universal education entitlement built around eight Learning Areas, inspired by the EU eight Key Competences Framework. This is the first curriculum framework to be adopted since Malta joined the EU in 2004 and hence it has taken into consideration important policy-related documents issued by the European Commission. These include the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning — A European Reference Framework (included in the annex of the Recommendation) (2006/962/EC); the Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training (ET 2020) (2009) and Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart sustainable and inclusive growth (COM (2010) 2020) which is the follow up to the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs (Memo 06/478/12th Dec 2006).
This NCF addresses the gaps in our learning processes that over the years have led to absenteeism, to significant rates of early school leavers and to low skills and competences for a proportion of students. It strengthens the already existing structures that are transforming schooling into learner-centred activities. It is intended to lead to an increased participation rate in post-secondary and tertiary education and attract more students to lifelong learning, encouraging them to embark on further and higher education streams.
The NCF is presented within a lifelong learning perspective and celebrates diversity by catering for all learners at each stage of their education. It aims to introduce more equity and decentralisation in the national system. It treats early childhood, primary and secondary education with the same importance. The NCF seeks to present a seamless curriculum which reflects smooth transitions, building and extending on the firm foundations in early childhood education. In essence, the NCF aims at providing a quality education for all learners, reducing the percentage of early school leavers and strengthening their enrolment in further and higher education.
The NCF proposed a Learning Outcomes Framework as the keystone for learning and assessment throughout the years of compulsory schooling. The aim of the Learning Outcomes Framework is to free schools and learners from centrally-imposed knowledge- centric syllabi, and to give them the freedom to develop programmes that fulfil the framework of knowledge, attitudes and skills-based outcomes that are considered national education entitlement of all learners in Malta. The LOF is thus intended to eventually lead to more curricular autonomy of colleges and schools, so as to better address the learning needs of their students. The ESF 1.228 project – Design of Learning Outcomes Framework, Associated Learning and Assessment Programmes and related training is intended to deliver this Learning Outcomes Framework approach to the educators within compulsory schooling and all relevant stakeholders.
During the last 5 years, other important parallel initiatives in compulsory education have been:
- The development and implementation of a National Policy and Strategy for the Attainment of Core Competences in Primary Education;
- The launch of a National Literacy Strategy for All in Malta and Gozo with the aim of improving levels of literacy and ensuring that everybody has the opportunity to acquire the required competences to lead fulfilling lives. Maltese version; English version
- The gradual transformation of learning and assessment for Social Studies into modules with the possibility of some school-based selection and development, and more formative assessment approaches;
- The development of a framework of ten levels of achievement. These were first introduced in the draft NCF of 2010, and implemented in the state school Learning and Assessment Programmes of Forms 1 and 2 in 2012-12. In a differentiated learning context, different learners in the same classroom will naturally be progressing at different rates through these levels of attainments, and the teaching and learning will need to cater for this diversity.
- The piloting of VET option subjects in the Secondary Years, namely BTEC, and eventually the development of home-grown VET subjects at MQF Level 3 and with parity of esteem with academic qualifications, being implemented in secondary schools as of scholastic year 2014/15;
- The development of an End of Secondary School Certificate and Profile at MQF Levels 1 and 2, that recognises different forms of learning;
- The development of a Core Curriculum Programme providing certification at MQF Level 1 at the end of the Secondary Years.
- The launch of a Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014 - 2024 with the aim of providing present and future generations of students the necessary skills and talents for employability and citizenship.
Attainment Level, Year Groups, Diverse Needs, School Cycle, Educational Insititution and Age
The attainment of levels is more dependent on the individual’s development than the biological age, hence the above table is only indicative.
It is to be noted that in Level 10 there are a number of Learning Outcomes intended for Gifted and Talented students. For most of the subjects, these learning outcomes are an extension of Attainment Level 9 and will be covered with students when they reach the end of compulsory schooling. However, each Attainment Level has Learning Outcomes which can be extended further, and suggestions for this will be included in the Pedagogy and Assessment section of each subject.
Each Attainment Level will comprise of a list of Learning Outcomes, or a list of Learning Outcomes and Grading Criteria in the case of VET Subjects. These Learning Outcomes are articulated in a number of 'I can' statements which may sound repetitive when seen categorised within each level. The reason for having these statements is to allocate empowerment of the learning experience to the learner. Teachers will be given guidance, in the Learning and Assessment Programme (LAP) document, on how to use these 'I can' statements in their teaching and learning. Each Learning Outcome will not initiate from a vacuum, but will be embedded within learning experiences which pedagogically make sense to the learners in question.
The Learning and Assessment Programme document includes examples of how these Learning Outcomes can be attained, and references to content which help teachers locate that particular learning experience to the subject matter she / he is already familiar with. These references to content, and examples, will help establish the boundaries for assessment which teachers can use to assess these learning experiences. These boundaries for assessment will help prevent situations where teachers will cover an amount of superfluous material to ensure that all content is covered. Gradually, and through adequate support and training, teachers will learn on how to develop learning experiences which are flexible enough to address the particular needs of their students, yet specific enough to be measured and reported.
The Learning Outcomes approach is not reductionist in its pedagogy. It is simply a framework and does in no way preclude teachers from developing learning which goes beyond these statements. The Pedagogy and Assessment sections built within the LAP will help teachers enrich their teaching and learning, and use the LOF as a tool to develop their own learning experiences. This is precisely the way the NCF (2012) has suggested learning, within compulsory education, to take place.
The Learning Outcomes Framework and Learning and Assessment Programmes for many of the subjects have been developed by foreign experts as part of a Joint Venture, and validated by local experts. A number of other subjects and areas have been developed locally because of their contextualised nature. In all subjects, the contribution of local experts has been significant and consistent throughout.
Subjects, Entitlement and Learning Areas
Pedagogy and Assessment
The pedagogy and assessment toolkit for each subject can be downloaded from the web pages of the subjects
Pending subjects and programmes:
- The pedagogy and assessment toolkit for the Maltese language is still being developed. The transaltion of the Maltese language learning outcomes into English is still being done.