Malta’s best kept se­cret

As the scholas­tic year starts again, sev­eral post­sec­ondary col­leges gear up to re­ceive stu­dents who have com­pleted their sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tional stud­ies.

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Michael As­ciak

Dr Michael As­ciak MD M.Phil. (Eu­ro­pean Stud­ies and Ge­nomics) PhD (Bioethics).­ciak@par­la­

Up un­til now, ex­cel­lent work in this field has been car­ried out by Sixth Forms and the Univer­sity of Malta, but to­day there are sev­eral other col­leges that have Sixth Forms which ex­pand on the ster­ling work done by the univer­sity. One such in­sti­tu­tion is un­doubt­edly the Malta Col­lege of Art, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (MCAST). At present, MCAST has a num­ber of cam­puses in Malta and Gozo with the main cam­pus be­ing in Paola and cur­rently has a bit more than 9500 stu­dents. It of­fers a wide va­ri­ety of aca­demic, tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional sub­jects at dif­fer­ent lev­els of study rang­ing from lev­els which lead to 'O' lev­els sub­jects, through to 'A' level and then to BA/BSc de­gree sub­jects in­clud­ing sev­eral op­tions at Masters level now.

This sys­tem means that stu­dents who fail to ob­tain their 'O' lev­els at the sec­ondary sec­tor or their 'A' lev­els later on, have an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue study­ing by first ob­tain­ing their 'O' lev­els at the col­lege then pro­ceed to their 'A' lev­els and fi- nally do their Bach­e­lor's de­gree and their Masters if they so wish. This means that stu­dents who fail to get into Sixth Form or univer­sity can still con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion and ob­tain a de­gree qual­i­fi­ca­tion which is now recog­nised by sev­eral pro­fes­sional bod­ies. At this level of ed­u­ca­tion, what mat­ters most is not so much the marks one ob- tains in a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject be­yond a pass mark, but rather the per­se­ver­ance to carry on and push ahead to a higher level of ed­u­ca­tion. In this re­spect, MCAST is do­ing ster­ling work as all these stu­dents would not have com­pleted their ed­u­ca­tion. I can dare say that MCAST is one of Malta's best-kept se­crets and it is a pity that the rep­u­ta­tion of this in­sti­tu­tion is so falsely bad­mouthed some­times by cer­tain sec­tors of the pop­u­la­tion, cer­tain stu­dents and other aca­demics in other in­sti­tu­tions. Af­ter teach­ing there for 10 years, I can say that the level of teach­ing is sec­ond to none and one can see the stu­dents go­ing through per­sonal changes as they ma­ture grad­u­ally, go­ing up the aca­demic lad­der slowly but surely. Some­times in this re­spect, we are our own worst en­emy as we pro­ceed to den­i­grate what we do not know or per­haps un­der­stand. Rather we should learn to grab op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered to us with both or hands. Be­tween MCAST and Univer­sity, not to say any­thing of pri­vate col­leges, the to­tal num­ber of post-sec­ondary stu­dent pop­u­la­tion in Malta is now close to 23,000, but the num­ber can be pushed much higher to con­sti­tute a much larger pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion.

Many ex-MCAST stu­dents are al­ready oc­cu­py­ing po­si­tions of trust in Mal­tese so­ci­ety and in­sti­tu­tions and are pay­ing back with in­ter­est the faith shown in them by al­low­ing them to progress aca­dem­i­cally and vo­ca­tion­ally by those who set up the col­lege with great fore­sight. Maybe the op­er­a­tive word in ed­u­ca­tion on every­one's lips and mind should be I can rather than I can­not!

I be­lieve that it is now time for the next evo­lu­tion­ary step in the Mal­tese ed­u­ca­tional sec­tor to oc­cur. This is now the time to make it manda­tory for ed­u­ca­tion to be ex­tended to the age of 18, as is in­deed done in sev­eral other coun­tries. To stop ed­u­ca­tion at 16 years of age is too early es­pe­cially since peo­ple are liv­ing and work­ing longer than be­fore. Much hu­man re­source is be­ing lost as many young peo­ple slip through the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem and en­ter the work­ing world without any spe­cific skills and, what is worse, they re­main at the lower end of the pay scale for the rest of their

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