The Ministry of Education told the union it had nothing to do with the Junior College entry requirements policy

The Department of Education had nothing to do with the policy change regarding Junior College entry requirements, the Union of Professional Educators said.

A few days before the 2022 general election, it was announced that for a student to enter Junior College, they would not need a passing grade in all core O level subjects – namely Maths , Maltese and English. Instead, it is enough to have a passing grade in one of these subjects to enter the institution.

Since then, controversy has erupted, with mixed opinions regarding the change in policy. Some proponents said it would give students who were struggling in a subject the chance to buy more time to pass that subject, as they would have more time to pass O level in the two years of sixth form.

On the other hand, some said the change in policy would cause additional stress for students, who now have to focus on failed O-levels, as well as A-levels and intermediates. Entry requirements to the University of Malta have remained unchanged.

Malta Independent spoke with Union of Professional Educators (UPE) chief executive Graham Sansone, who said the UPE had also approached the department, expressing its disapproval of the decision.

“It should have intentionally only targeted students who have struggled with the education system over the years due to an intellectual disability, such as autism,” Sansone said.

He said it would have been beneficial for young people who needed help during the primary and secondary school years as it would have met their needs.

Sansone said the decision will lead to problems that will manifest over the next five years.

He also said the only response from the Ministry of Education was that the decision came from the rector of the university and the ministry had nothing to do with it. Sansone said the final political direction should come from the ministry itself, as it is a matter that concerns them.

Sansone said the UPE was awaiting an official invitation from the Minister of Education, whom the ministry said should contact the union as soon as possible to discuss the matter.

The Malta Teachers’ Union has since called for a hold on the policy change, saying the changes were made without consultation, needed to be carefully considered and consensus sought. The union said it had already communicated its objections and questions to the rector of the University of Malta and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education.

This newsroom had also spoken with a lecturer at Junior College, who also confirmed that faculty at the institution were not consulted at all about the decision, and that they learned of it after it had been revealed to the public.

The speaker had said that only members of the Junior College Board of Trustees, as well as those of the university’s Senate, were aware of the policy change.

University professor Josef Lauri had also said that as far as he knew, no teacher or lecturer was even aware of the policy change, let alone consulted about it. He said that from what he had heard, council members thought the policy had been put up for discussion, but in fact it was presented as a decision.

Lauri wondered about the long-term effects the decision would have, as well as what went wrong during the 11 years of compulsory schooling.

Malta Independent spoke to Malta Teachers Union President Marco Bonnici to see how the situation has evolved since the announcement. Bonnici said the union had a meeting with the rector of the university, where members presented their objections.

“The meeting was inconclusive,” Bonnici said. He said that currently the union is awaiting availability for a meeting with the Ministry of Education, which has yet to fully communicate with the union.

Responses from the University’s communications office repeated clarifications made by the University’s pro-rector, Carmen Sammut, in a Facebook post, where she said entry requirements had been changed in favor of students.

“This new arrangement allows more students to pursue post-secondary education,” the university’s communications office said.

The Department for Education has promised to respond to calls and emails from the newsroom for comment on the issue next week.