is it time to rethink our assessment of young people?



Beyond the gray list of Malta by the FATF and the continuous compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, as well as a digest of political news, many families had to face a reality that hit them hard after 15 months of stress from COVID and into early summer.

It was the education of their children and the reality of having to take exams. From elementary to high school, through sixth grade and university, thousands of children and adolescents have faced new challenges, with exams that have contributed to the stress and anxiety of entire families, some even being unable to cope with the mounting pressure after the lockdown. .

Much of this crisis has been ignored by our education ministers, themselves faced with a unionized teaching community with its own demands, a rigid education department, as well as demands from the faculties.

I feel like some kids and teens have been unable to cope which has led them to depression, negative feelings, loneliness and maybe even suicidal feelings in the face of the enormous pressure. of this very perfect storm. Families have been shattered by the calamity that has struck them.

Psychologists I spoke to said that their clients, although young, complain of being unable to cope in this climate of exams as well as the high expectations of their peer group.

Certainly, examinations at a certain level are fundamental to assess achievement. But given the performance of people with their various skills and talents at certain stages of life, exams may not be the only way to integrate people into the education system. So it always seems that such a heavy combination of unreasonable curriculum and multiple exam papers, coupled with the absurd planning of MATSEC exams, makes the whole experience a real nightmare for teens.

And the problems don’t end there. Because a one-size-fits-all fall exam also penalizes certain groups from different school systems, with different methods and styles, and even shocks those with specific learning abilities.

Maltese is one example. The Maltese teachers admit to me that the Maltese curriculum is too large and demanding. Even for Malt-speaking parents like me, who write and speak Maltese on a daily basis, find some exams for primary and secondary students to be rather difficult. The English exam seems to be much easier, however; besides the fact that English Literature remains a separate examination at MATSEC level than the English component. Not so Maltese.

Maltese is not the only problematic subject (one could add that some of the evolving rules of Maltese grammar and language can sometimes be too onerous for 9-15 year olds). Reading other subjects in orbit under the aegis of the MATSEC system, one cannot but notice the higher standard of the Maltese examination standard, an observation which is supported by the teachers themselves. In other words, too high a standard for our seated students for an O-Level.

And the pressure is not only on young students but also on university graduates, with special mention to those studying to become an architect or doctor. Again, no one is advocating that exams should be easy. But some examiners seem to live on a distant planet, oblivious to the unnecessary burdens they place on some students.

No wonder we have such a negative and egotistical attitude today from students who have lived and survived the onslaught of exams.

Change in Malta always seems to start after a deadlock at ministerial level. Justyne Caruana, the current Minister of Education, must find the time and energy to tackle this ingrained problem. This will be difficult given that most politicians will spend the next few months worrying about their political future. Because it would be a shift in our understanding of exams, and it hits hard at the center of how our education system is made and how our educators (and employers) view success.

I have little faith that this will change or that Minister Caruana will act to reform. And that means young boys and girls will continue to struggle with exams that have lost their purpose, while being under undue pressure that can harm our children as well.

In the meantime, some children will fall by the wayside. And it’s not a question of laughing.


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