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.
Dr Michael Asciak MD M.Phil. (European Studies and Genomics) PhD (Bioethics). firstname.lastname@example.org
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