At the public meeting hosted in the government buildings soon after this year’s general election, the minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo shared that ‘according to an outside analysis of Maltese Education, Early Years’ Education was ‘the weak link’ in the chain’.
On the 5th of October this year, marking World Teacher’s Day the Minister reported that ‘a worrying 55 per cent of adolescents sitting for the Secondary Education Certificate exam are failing the six main subjects necessary for them to proceed to post-secondary education’.
A cursory glance at these results might lead one to wonder about the ability of Maltese students or the quality of the teaching.
But we are being invited to look deeper.
Children are sponges for information. They soak up what is in their environment. What they absorb most readily however are the ideas, perspectives and judgments of those around them.
So what are Maltese children learning?
According to the above results, it seems that most of them are learning to fail.
The most significant aspect of the above results, is that they reveal that ‘not succeeding`, ‘not making the mark’ and ‘not being good enough’ are familiar experiences for children in Malta.
Let us not beat around the bush here.
This can be traced right back to the ‘weak link’ of early childhood education.
Failure can only be learned in an environment in which the idea of failure exists.
It is something that we teach.
It is likely that one of the reasons why Early Years’ Education was viewed as the ‘weak link’ is that children are introduced far too early to the notion of failure and that they are expected to perform and engage in ways they are not emotionally or cognitively ready for.
It is clear from the results, that the majority of Maltese children are learning to become very familiar with failure and they are remaining loyal to this learning through-out childhood.
Changing the Pattern of Failure
Let’s look at countries that are noted for excellence in the early years like Finland and Sweden for example. What do they have in common?
Compulsory schooling does not start until 7 years. Young children are not required to sit tests or exams. The importance of play is understood and given its proper place in childhood.
Failure doesn’t appear on the scene because it is understood that it is the exploration, investigation, engagement, participation and the process that matter most at this stage of human development (as opposed to the outcome or result of an activity).
These are the hallmarks of a Waldorf approach to education which is what inspires the School of Positivity Project.
A government committed to strengthening the ‘weak link’ of Maltese Education will move in the direction of adopting elements of the most admired systems on the planet and:
• look to increasing the age of compulsory education to 7 years
• remove tests and exams for that age group
• set young children up for success by prioritizing a safe, loving environment in which play, storytelling, exploration, crafts, creativity and life skills are the focus and
• seriously consider the option of homeschooling for parents who sense that their child needs a more gentle, positive approach and are ready to take responsibility for that.
The School of Positivity Project offers a beautiful opportunity to pilot this model with parents who are actively seeking that. We would love to play a part in strengthening the chain so that success becomes the most familiar companion of Maltese children and teachers.