European, Global and Intercultural Dimension in Curriculum Development
The National Curriculum Framework
The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) elaborates extensively on the European, global and intercultural dimension in the curriculum. Through different learning areas and cross-curricular themes the NCF allows for learning experiences to develop the important dispositions of active thinkers and learners, namely: cooperation, concentration, courage, curiosity, direction, empathy, flexibility, good judgement, humility, imagination, independence, perseverance, an open mind, precision, reflectiveness, responsibility, risk-taking and self-discipline. European, global and intercultural dimensions are recognised in the following learning areas and cross-curricular themes:
Learning Maltese, English and other languages enables learners to develop an awareness of the nature of language and language learning, of literature and literature learning, as well as widening their personal, social and cultural understanding. The learning and teaching of the second language (generally English, which is one of the two official languages in Malta), provides access to near-universal knowledge and culture. In addition to Maltese and English as core languages, the introduction to foreign languages through a language awareness programme is deemed necessary in light of the political, geographical and historical context of the Maltese Islands and the EU’s emphasis on language learning and multilingualism.
The learning and teaching of foreign languages at secondary level provides for the acquisition of further communication tools that are useful to appreciate cultural diversity and to facilitate interaction within the European and international contexts. Opportunities for the development of multilingualism, directly related to the world of work, are provided in the Secondary Years. The high competency levels in foreign language teaching and learning developed by young people in Malta during the compulsory schooling which has been confirmed in the results of the European Survey on Language Competences – 2011 must be sustained in our education system.
• Religious and Ethics Education
The teaching of religion in schools is seen as an important element in the integral formation of the person. It should lead to a process of self-discovery, developing the moral and spiritual dimensions and contributing towards children’s capacity to value, appreciate, perceive and interpret the world they live in. Learning in Religious Education seeks to educate young people regarding the dignity of the human being and the responsibility of each individual towards others for the building of a better society and a better world. Learning in this area nurtures and enhances a sense of spiritual self. Children and young people develop their own identity and understand better their cultural identity. The spiritual dimension of the self should be supported by promoting values that include justice, personal responsibility, respect, reflection and active engagement in moral issues.
In Malta, Religious Education (RE) is currently understood as Catholic Religious Education (CRE). The development of CRE is the responsibility of the Religious Education office of the Maltese Episcopal Conference. CRE throws light on the basic questions about one’s relationship with God, the meaning of life, on issues of an ethical nature, on one’s personal identity and on the different dimensions of dialogue and social cohesion in a society that is becoming pluralistic like the rest of the European continent. Deeper knowledge of the different religious traditions should provide a valid contribution to the social and civic formation of the young people.
Education Authorities are responsible for the development an Ethical Education Programme for children and young people whose parents have decided that their child does not follow Catholic Religious Education. The Ethics programme is based on the promotion of moral values, development of attitudes and the sharing of experiences which are a common heritage to humanity. It educates learners to understand the nature of moral language, make sound and reflective moral judgments and live a lifestyle that corresponds with and reflects one’s moral values without focusing on a particular moral doctrine. Its pedagogy emphasises group work, debates, presentations, critical thinking and creativity.
• Education for Democracy
Education for democracy includes Social Studies, Environmental Studies and aspects from Personal, 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. They gradually acquire positive attitudes and a respect for human rights; learn to adopt sustainable lifestyles; and develop a sense of belonging within their locality, country, European and international community and a willingness to participate in democratic decision-making at all levels to improve the quality of their lives.
Through the study of History and Geography, learners will develop the basic concepts of chronology, empathy, cause and effect, change and continuity. Through active learning and investigative and fact-finding experiences, they gain an understanding of the interrelationships between people, their cultures, contexts and land use. Through exploring and investigating their past and present, they develop observation and recording skills and gain understanding of the importance of collecting evidence. They learn to collate, examine and test data in an attempt to draw simple conclusions from it. The pedagogy presented for this Learning Area includes:
- fostering an enjoyment of history and developing curiosity about the past which informs understanding of the present;
- developing a sense of identity through learning about the development of Malta, Europe and the world;
- introducing learners to what is involved in understanding and interpreting the past;
- making pupils aware of similarities and differences between life today and in the past and use common words associated with the passing of time to establish a chronology of time;
- simulating discussion of why things happen or change and the results;
- enabling learners to acquire knowledge and understanding of places in Malta, Europe and the world;
- increasing the learner’s knowledge of other cultures and, in so doing, teach respect and understanding of what it means to be a positive citizen in a society that has people from different cultures;
- understanding geography information, and developing enquiry and problem solving skills;
- enabling learners to understand environmental problems in Malta, Europe and globally;
- encouraging children and young people to commit to sustainable development.
• Education for Sustainable Development
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) enables learners to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required to become active participants, individually and collectively, in decision-making processes, both at local and global levels that will improve the quality of life of present and future generations. ESD promotes a system based approach and an integrated knowledge base that invites learners to develop a holistic view of their surroundings, i.e. an interaction of aesthetic, environmental, economic, political, technological, cultural and societal perspectives. Through ESD, the learner’s environment (within and outside the school) becomes a fundamental teaching resource that is locally relevant and culturally sensitive. Learning experiences are structured around the identification and resolution of environmental issues that equip and empower learners with problem solving and decision making skills that are indispensible in the context of lifelong learning. ESD is about learning that:
- re-orients education to address sustainable development.
- respects, values and preserves past achievements.
- values the Earth’s resources and its peoples.
- strives towards a world in which all humans have access to sufficient food and water, a healthy and productive life, basic education, and a safer and just environment.
- assesses, cares for and restores the state of our planet.
- develops citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities locally, nationally and globally.
• Education for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation
Being open to cultural diversities is one of the many different skills that children can develop through entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
• Education for Diversity
Education for Diversity respects the cultural identity of the learner through the provision of culturally appropriate and responsive quality education for all. It provides every learner with the cultural knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to achieve active and full participation in society which enable them to respect, understand and show solidarity among individuals, ethnic, minority, social, cultural and religious groups and nations. Education for Diversity promotes an inclusive educational culture and respect for diversity, allowing individuals to function across cultural divides, and offering a platform for children and communities to assert their culture and individuality with confidence. Education for Diversity challenges various educational processes, such as decision-making within the school, languages of instruction, methodologies used, student interactions and learning resources. It will ensure the inclusion of multiple perspectives and voices within the learning environment, provides spaces for learning about the languages, histories, traditions and cultures of non-dominant groups in a society, encourages team work and cooperative learning in multicultural, multi-ethnic and other diverse contexts, combines traditional and local knowledge and know-how with advanced science and technology, and values the practice of multilingualism. In doing so it encourages an understanding of global issues and the need for living together with different cultures and values.
Learning Outcomes for each Learning Area and Cross-curricular Theme have been developed as part of the Learning Outcomes Framework.
Values enunciated in the NCF are gradually inculcated throughout the educational process and permeates a number of subjects especially Social Studies, Religious Knowledge, History, Geography and Personal and Social Development. Through Social Studies students learn about the various and international organisations and institutions, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Euro-Mediterranean dimension, their structure, their aims and the more important activities that are relevant to a student’s and a citizen’s life. Through Personal, Social and Career Development, individuals learn about democratic rights and responsibilities as well as personal and social life skills required to live in a multicultural society. Citizenship and democracy are modelled throughout the lessons as well as discussed specifically in key lessons which address these skills.
European Studies is a specialised subject option taught at upper secondary level of education. Students have an opportunity to improve their knowledge of Europe and the different cultures. It addresses the role of Europe within a wider international and global perspective with special reference to the Euro-Mediterranean especially in relation to human rights and citizenship. Skills, attitudes and values which foster intercultural understanding and acceptance are addressed throughout the subject. In 2016, the European Commission Representation and the European Parliament Information Office in Malta organised fun and learning activities for all European Studies students and their teachers to mark Europe Day. Celebrated on the 9th of May, Europe Day is an annual commemoration of the birth of the European Union and symbolises our shared identity in peace and unity. Activities included theatre productions, historical tours and a Human Board Game in which teams of students had to compete with each other carrying out different exciting activities which tested their knowledge of the EU and its work.
Foreign languages The teaching and learning of foreign languages includes a component of the culture of the country where the foreign language is spoken. Through such components students appreciate and understand more the language as well as the culture, way of life and context within which it is spoken. This component is part of the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) syllabus. The Department for Curriculum Management has also established a programme of foreign language initiation in Years 5 and 6 of Primary school. The Foreign Language Awareness Programme (FLAP) enables primary school pupils to gain an awareness of foreign languages with the aim of becoming open to other languages and cultures with a positive disposition towards mobility and new experiences. The programme is for students aged between 9-11 years and promotes awareness of other languages through play. The programme is being implemented by a group of teachers of Italian, French and German.
Projects and initiatives within schools
The Projects and Initiatives Section within the Students Services Department serves as a link with international entities for dissemination to schools. Various projects are undertaken within schools which address the international dimension. Most of these projects fall under the auspices of international organisations such as the European Union and the Council of Europe. Schools are informed through circulars of initiatives launched under the auspices of international organisations. The school community, led by the Head of School, then decides in which initiative to participate.
One example is the European Day of Languages (EDL); a joint event organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union. Although the actual date of the EDL is 26th September, Malta celebrates this event later on in October due to the fact that not all schools will have recommenced after the summer holidays or else they have just opened their doors for the new scholastic year. Hence the teachers and students do not have time to prepare for this event. The European Day of Languages celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity. It also emphasises the importance of being proficient in languages other than the mother tongue. Plurilingualism facilitates both student and worker mobility and this in turn brings citizens closer and improves mutual understanding. The general objectives of the European Day of Languages are to:
- raise awareness of the importance of language learning and of diversifying the range of languages learnt in order to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding;
- promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe;
- encourage lifelong language learning in and out of school.
The Projects & Initiatives Section sends a circular to all schools to encourage them to organise activities to promote this event and to include parents in the activities that are organised in order to promote lifelong learning. The Ministry for Education and Employment together with the Projects & Initiatives Section each year organises a special activity. In 2016, the event will be held in October at St Ignatius College, Siggiewi Primary School. The activity will include short presentations/ songs in Italian, French and German by secondary students.
Through letter circulars issued by the Department for Curriculum Management, in the school year 2015/6, schools were invited to participate in various activities related to the European Week of Waste Reduction, European Year for Development, European and Global Money Week and the European Youth Week.
Each school has a student council which is democratically elected. An election is held among those students who show an interest to be elected to the Student Council which represents the whole student body. These student representatives then serve for a period of time ranging from one to two years as the particular school may decide. The set-up of the school’s Student Councils gives students a voice and a role in the school which serves as an important opportunity for personal development whilst fostering greater responsibility. Through liaising with the school’s Senior Management Team the student council puts forward proposals and suggestions which are essential for the development of the school.
Provision of education for learners from a migrant background and who cannot communicate in Maltese and English
Migrant learners who cannot communicate in neither Maltese nor English follow an induction programme which spans over one scholastic year. The immediate focus of this induction service is the acquisition of language competence – English and Maltese, without which no real process of inclusion can be guaranteed. This is being considered as the first step towards providing access to mainstream education. More information can be found in 14.2.
Participating in ICCS
In 2009 and 2016 Malta participated in the International Civic and Citizenship Education (ICCS) study. This study investigates the ways in which young people are prepared to undertake their roles as citizens. ICCS reports on students’ knowledge and understanding of concepts and issues related to civics and citizenship, as well as their value beliefs, at¬titudes, and behaviours. This study provides Malta with a clearer picture of this area through the results obtained which can then be utilised by educators to enhance this area of the curriculum.
The Eco-Schools programme was launched in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). With over 16 million students from 60 different countries it is the largest global network of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The programme aims at mobilizing the whole school to empower students to adopt an active role in environmental decision-making and action in their school and in their community.
Schools are required to include within their School Development Plan an action plan which infuses, through deliberate choices, sustainable lifestyles into the school’s day-to-day functioning so that sustainable development becomes an integral part of the school’s ethos. This is achieved through initiatives that address the four pillars of sustainable development, i.e. economic, social, cultural and ecological concerns. Once these established goals and standards are successfully achieved the Green Flag, which is a prestigious eco-label testifying the school’s commitment to fostering sustainable lifestyles, is awarded.
In 2002, Nature Trust (Malta), representing FEE (Malta), decided to co-ordinate the programme in Malta. Since then it has spread throughout the educational system and caters for almost 80% of the total student population. More than 50% of the participating schools have achieved Green Flag status.
The skills developed through the EkoSkola process also enable students to be active citizens in their community. This is achieved through:
• School-Community link projects, usually conducted in collaboration with local councils and other community agencies, that promote sustainable development themes (e.g. Climate Change; Responsible Consumption; Water and Energy Conservation; Intergenerational Dialogue).
• Sustainability audits of community spaces and resources. During these audits the students review the site, identify issues related to sustainability and present actions to be taken to address these issues.
• EkoSkola Young Citizens’ Summits during which students discuss and communicate their ideas about local and global issues concerning sustainable development. The most recent examples include a summit organised in parallel with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2015) and two other summits as preparation for the pre/post COP21 Paris meeting.
• The EkoSkola Parliamentary session is an annual event (since 2005) that brings together young policy makers, participating in the EkoSkola programme, face to face with the country's official policy makers in a positive parliamentary debate about ways of improving the quality of life in schools and the country.
World Children's Prize
Every year schools can participate in the Global Vote for the World Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child.. This prize, based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, teaches pupils about the rights of children, democracy and the environment. Each year three outstanding Child Rights Heroes are nominated for the World’s Children’s Prize. Through this process, students learn how democracy works and then organise their own election days and vote for their Child Right Heroes.
UNESCO National Commission
The UNESCO National Commission encourages Malta’s participation in the UNESCO educational programmes and promotes a number of projects from time to time. The UNESCO Commission has been active for several decades promoting mutual understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures. One needs to remark that UNESCO works closely with both the Council of Europe and the European Union in the field of education and together these three promote together a number of initiatives.
Partnerships and Networks
Under Key Action 2 of Erasmus+, schools may apply for funding to run collaborative projects aimed at improving education provision with schools, other education and training organisations or the youth sector, in other European countries. These Strategic Partnerships in the field of school education aim at supporting exchanges of good practices between schools from different Programme Countries. In many cases, cooperation activities are also combined with class exchanges and/or long term mobility of pupils from the schools participating in the project.
eTwinning offers a platform for education staff working in schools in participating European countries to communicate, collaborate, develop projects, share and feel part of an exciting learning community in Europe. The eTwinning action promotes school collaboration in Europe through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by providing support, tools and services for schools.
Launched in 2005 as the main action of the European Commission’s eLearning Programme, eTwinning has been firmly integrated in Erasmus+, the European programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport, since 2014. Its Central Support Service is operated by European Schoolnet, an international partnership of 31 European Ministries of Education developing learning for schools, teachers and students across Europe. eTwinning is further supported at national level by 37 National Support Services.
eTwinning in Malta is co-funded by the Department of eLearning within the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education. The main objective of the Maltese National Support Service is to offer pedagogical and technical support to schools participating in the action. The National Support Services is also responsible for regular face-to-face and online training, as well as specialised school visits, pedagogical support meetings, and professional development sessions throughout Malta and Gozo.
The EkoSkola programme also provides schools, teachers and students with networking opportunities with other Eco-Schools from around the globe. This networking has provided opportunities for joint online projects, teacher-training and student exchanges.