A couple of weeks ago thousands of school leavers received their SEC results. Cheers to every student who did well and all the best for your future studies. No kudos to the educational authorities, who promptly but injudiciously juggled with the statistics to paint a deceitful picture referred to it as ‘an encouraging result’. Excuse me, but no patting on the back for such tactics.
I absolutely loathe political propaganda at the expense of educational correctness. I understand that the government is drooling for a drop of good news, but to portray such a false impression is not on. Fine, the SEC results are not bad, but nothing to write home about either. Reliable sources in the MATSEC Board running the SEC exam hold that by and large the trends are similar to recent years. In some SEC subjects the results are slightly better; in others they are slightly worse. Therefore, no significant improvements noted here.
SEC exam results are an expression of the academic achievements of a generation of students who will hopefully proceed with their studies and eventually form part of a skilled working population. One should also consider the results in the light of the Lisbon education targets set by the EU and originally intended to be achievable by 2010. By 2010, EU states should have achieved the following:
1. Less than 10% early school leavers; Malta 36.7% (2010) and 33.5% (2011).
2. At least 85% of 20-24 year olds to have completed upper secondary education; Malta 53.3% (2010) and 59.2% (2011).
3. Not less than 12.5% annual participation of 25-64 age group in lifelong learning; Malta 6.2% (2010) and 6.6% (2011).
4. Minimum decrease of 20% compared to the year 2000 on low-achieving 15-year olds in reading literacy; Malta provided no data in this case.
A fifth benchmark aim was to increase the total number of Maths, Science and Technology graduates by at least 15 % by 2010, while at the same time lowering the gender imbalance. Good news here since Malta, like almost all the rest of the EU states, exceeded this target by a huge margin. It must be pointed out that we started off with relatively very low numbers of science graduates, nonetheless a commendable result. Malta (8.0) still stands below the EU27 average (12.5) on number of MST graduates per 1000 people aged 20-29. Can we consider ourselves on tract for achieving the rest of the set EU targets after this year’s SEC results? I’m not very confident.
It is futile to include grades 6-7 in the statistics when these do not get you anywhere. So, what is the true picture when we consider the 1-5 grades? Of those who actually sat for the exam the following obtained grade 1-5 in the SEC; 61% in Maltese, 61% in English, 67% in Physics, 56% in Maths, 61% in Biology and 74% in Chemistry. Especially worrying is the performance in Maths, a basic requirement for entry into Junior College.
Only, 51% of girls and 39% of boys in the 1995 cohort actually have obtained the basic subjects to apply for entry into JC. Certainly, an undefined percentage of the rest may proceed to Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary or MCAST. Notwithstanding, the school leaving benchmark remains the basic requirements for entry into JC. Hundreds of 16 year olds did not even sit for the exams, including many with educational disabilities such as dyslexia. We just cannot continue to ignore this unpleasant reality.
Our performance in the TIMSS and PISA assessment tests shows that Malta is way behind most EU states and clearly indicates that we are facing major challenges in early years education. Unfortunately, the authorities have for too many years gratified themselves with the increasing numbers of university entrants, which is of course a good thing.
But what about those who are not proceeding to higher education? How many students are dropping out of higher secondary and tertiary education courses and why? As educators we need to be concerned about each and every child and do all we can to ensure that they acquire basic skills in literacy, numeracy, science and IT.