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Principal Research and Development Officer
Member, Educational Assessment Research Unit
University of Otago , New Zealand
Member, Educational Assessment Research Unit
University of Otago
Executive Council of the Commonwealth Examinations
Secondary School Teacher and A Teacher Trainer
Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education
Dr Grace Grima, now Director General of the Directorate for Standards and Quality in Education, who since her appointment was charged with transforming the report recommendations into a national policy and strategy document, chaired the Working Group that produced this report.
So far the figure in Malta stands at around 32.57% (Q2, 2011, NSO), but Prof. Grima said she is optimistic that the figure can decrease.
"I'm optimistic that with the new strategies in place and the commitment of all schools to ensure that students succeed, the number of early school leavers will decrease," Prof. Grima said, explaining that the reforms are being implemented in a way which will mean a cohort of students move with the changes. The whole reform is focused on ensuring that all students experience success during their compulsory education, she said. The idea of the reforms is basically to remove the selectivity concept, and work towards a more inclusive system, where the same age cohort gets to continue their schooling together, Prof. Grima said, adding that in line with these changes Church schools removed the Common Entrance examination. Another important aspect of the reforms is that of the National Curriculum Framework, she went on, adding that the benchmarks introduced in June 2011 were compulsory for state schools, although Church and independent schools were invited to join. "In effect 93% of students participated in the benchmarking exercise, and the response was very positive from all sectors," she explained, adding that the difference with benchmarking is that separate language skills are assessed and mathematics includes a written and mental paper. The results of this exercise will be used to feed in to the teaching/learning process, rather than to determine the school the children will go to. Removal of streaming and selectivity ensures children do not experience failure from a young age, she added. "In its very nature this is very different from a whole class approach and teachers will only become more confident with experience, as they widen their repertoire of strategies and resources," Prof. Grima admitted. In fact a series of timetables in which professional development features every week were prepared, Prof. Grima explained Furthermore the implementation of a core-competencies policy ensures that all children in the first three years of primary have access to literacy, numeracy and e-literacy skills, and will have in-class support offered. Where there are difficulties the school can develop a one-to-one action plan for the next three years, to ensure that all students have access to these skills by the time they leave primary school, Prof. Grima explained. Commenting on the curriculum, Prof. Grima explained that an ethics educational programme will be offered to children who opt out of religion. When asked about the hours Maltese children spent at school, Prof. Grima said the NCF was developed around the current agreement the government has with the MUT and respects it in every way. The NCF tries to encourage a learning community, where schools are seen as learning centres in the community, taking on a much wider role than their current one, she explained. Commenting on the MUT survey which found that almost 90% of teachers said too many reforms were taking place concurrently, Prof. Grima said one must acknowledge that in all only 29% of teachers responded to the survey. "My comment would be that teachers' concerns are real and have to be taken into consideration, however the Directorates are doing their best to include consultation at every step of the way," she stated. She went on to say that the reform was planned in a phased in approach and things will take place over a number of years, but admittedly reforms do mean work and having to move away from comfort zones to update strategies and approaches. All the feedback will be considered in the refining of the National Curriculum Framework, Prof. Grima stressed, adding that after the National Conference all feedback received in writing by the end of the year to be published in an online volume. "In January 2012 the Committee is to start reviewing all the feedback and refining the document, and so far there has been a very high response rate in terms of feedback," she said. There will also be feedback from the different departments at the Faculty of Education, a faculty-wide seminar and ongoing departmental meetings. The curriculum was sent to Learning and Teaching Scotland and the New Zealand Ministry of Education for feedback, following which it will also be refined, Prof. Grima stated. Turning to complaints by some teachers that they were presented with a fait accompli; Prof. Grima explained that the first phase of the consultation process included meetings with all heads of schools. Associate Professor Grace Grima - B.Ed (Hons.), M.Ed. (Otago - NZ), Ph.D. (Otago - NZ) Director General - Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education, Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family, MALTA Grace Grima was born and still lives in Mellieha. She attended the local Primary and Secondary schools and graduated from the University of Malta in 1990 with a B.Ed (Hons.) degree. She completed her Masters' and PhD degrees in New Zealand as a Commonwealth Scholar. For her doctoral work, she was based at the Educational Assessment Research Unit (EARU) of the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she worked on the National Educational Monitoring Project (NEMP) of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. In Malta, she worked as a secondary school teacher and a teacher trainer at the Faculty of Education. She has also occupied the position of Principal Research and Development Officer at the MATSEC Support Unit. She chaired the MATSEC Review Committee (2005), the Transition from Primary to Secondary Review Committee (2007) and The National Curriculum Framework Working Group (2011). Since 2007, she has occupied the position of Director-General in the Directorate of Quality and Standards in Education, within the Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family. The responsibilities of the directorate are to regulate, establish, monitor and assure standards and quality in the programmes and educational services provided by schools. In her current role, she is responsible for updating the curriculum framework which was launched on 17th May 2011. She is also working on several other initiatives related to current education reform in Malta.
Micheline Sciberras and Grace Grima have been appointed the first directors general of the two directorates in the new education system.Ms Sciberras is to lead the educational services directorate while Dr Grima is to lead the quality and educational standards directorate.Dr Grima graduated from the University of Malta in 1990 with a first class B.Ed (Hons) degree and worked as a teacher in a range of local secondary schools.She completed her post-graduate studies in New Zealand after twice being awarded a Commonwealth scholarship.She was also Principal Research and Development Officer at MATSEC for the past seven years.She has also co-authored a number of books on assessment, including Group Assessment (2000), Portfolio Assessment (2001) and Transition from Primary to Secondary in Malta: Time to break the Mould? (2006)
The director general of the directorate for quality and standards in education, Grace Grima, believes that a good education system puts focus on the teaching/learning process.
She tells Francesca Vella that the reform seeks to put the emphasis back on giving students the space to learn in meaningful ways that will make them lifelong learners. Grace Grima chaired two national reviews commissioned by the Education Minister, the review of the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (Matsec), and the Transition from Primary to Secondary Schools Review. Dr Grima was then Matsec principal research and development officer and senior lecturer at the University of Malta's Faculty of Education. Dr Grima's work on the reform involved more than just the drawing up of the report. The technical work had been done, but it had to be communicated to the public at large, particularly those directly involved in the reform. Together with Leonard Grech, Dr Grima was involved in the drawing up of information booklets for children and parents, as well as the executive summary in English and Maltese for teachers and the public at large. Dr Grima said streaming is directly linked to the selective examination structure at the end of the primary cycle. Up to Year 4, students learn to live together in a community-like structure, she said, adding that after sitting for exams at the end of Year 4, students go through a selection process by teachers, and their placement is determined by their performance on the annual examinations. Top stream students are put currently under a lot of pressure because of the outcome of the examinations and the workload they have in connection with the Junior Lyceum and Common Entrance examinations, Dr Grima explained. Dr Grima said that from an academic point of view, the current system focuses mainly on the development of the lower cognitive skills (recall of knowledge and understanding), rather than more meaningful education strategies such as the development of the higher cognitive skills which enforce application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. "The higher cognitive skills are very difficult to test in short exams, but these are the skills that truly develop lifelong learning processes," said Dr Grima. Most of the teachers' and students' time in the upper classes of primary school education is taken up by coaching for exams; students often end up working alone in a very competitive atmosphere, so the current system limits social aspects of their development, she said. Dr Grima said that the education setting that is being proposed makes it possible for students to collaborate and interact more, thus developing their social and oral skills. Speaking about core examinable subjects at the end of Year 6, Dr Grima said that religion and social studies will no longer be examined nationally. She said the idea was not, in any way, to diminish the value of these subjects. However, due to their very nature in helping students develop their moral and civic sense, it does not make sense to put students under pressure to sit for a national exam. Teachers will be given the space to explore meaningful strategies in teaching these two subjects in their totality, she said. Dr Grima said science should be a core subject, but it would be counter-productive to introduce a national exam in science at a time when we want to build it up as a core subject and encourage children to enjoy and learn scientific skills and strategies. Asked whether any education models used abroad were considered, in the planning process of the reform, Dr Grima said the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study were considered, together with a number of education systems used in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Dr Grima herself completed her post-graduate studies (masters and doctorate degrees) in New Zealand under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. She conducted her doctoral work at the Educational Assessment Research Unit of the University of Otago, where she joined the National Educational Monitoring Project of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. Comparing the different secondary schools in Malta, Dr Grima said that in the current system, Junior Lyceums and Area Secondaries do not always have similar environments and expectations. "By way of the education reform, children will have the right to attend the same type of schools, with the same resources and the same level of education." She said the college system needs to be refined and possibly, for the core examinable subjects, children of similar levels of competency (in each particular subject) be put in sets. Dr Grima said the grouping criteria still have to be discussed, but she said it was interesting to listen to and look into the experiences of primary school teachers who have been working with students with mixed abilities. Asked about the role of homework and private lessons in the whole scenario, Dr Grima said that in line with better development of higher cognitive skills, the idea was for teachers to give fewer tasks that focus more on students' understanding and application of knowledge, and focus less on routine procedures and reinforcement. As for private lessons, she said the system is aiming to cater for children's education needs during day school although it does not exclude the possibility of after-school programmes which cater for reinforcement and other needs. Dr Grima said the reform is also linked to a policy on the core competences in the early years of primary (literacy, numeracy and eLiteracy) and to a change in the school-leaving certificate, which gives value to informal and non-formal education (both at school and outside school), personal qualities, and attendance, in addition to exam results and teachers' assessment.
Dr Grace Grima graduated from the University of Malta in 1990 with a first class B.Ed (Hons.) degree and worked as a teacher in a range of local secondary schools.
She completed her postgraduate studies (M.Ed with distinction and PhD) in New Zealand after twice being awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship. She conducted her doctoral work at the Educational Assessment Research Unit (EARU) of the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she joined the National Educational Monitoring Project (NEMP) of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. She returned to Malta in 1999 after the introduction of the national minimum curriculum in which educational assessment featured prominently. As a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Education she has taught assessment, research and policy units in various undergraduate and postgraduate courses and has been involved in training and development sessions at national level and in schools in the three educational sectors in Malta and Gozo. At MATSEC, she has occupied the position of Principal Research and Development Officer since January 2000. Her responsibilities have included the professional training of examiners, the vetting of the examination papers, the grade awarding meetings and the annual statistical reports on the MATSEC examinations. Dr Grima has recently chaired two national reviews: the MATSEC Review (2004-5) and the Transition from Primary to Secondary Schools Review (2006-7). Since 2004, she has been a member of the Malta Qualifications Council and the University of Malta Ethics Committee. In 2006, she was appointed Rector's delegate for undergraduate courses and in the same year, she was elected President of the Executive Council of the Commonwealth Examinations and Accreditations Bodies. She has co-authored a number of books on assessment, including Group Assessment (2000) Portfolio Assessment (2001) and Transition from Primary to Secondary in Malta: Time to break the mould? (2006). She has also written several peer-reviewed journal articles and has regularly presented papers and ran workshops at conferences in Europe, North and South America, South Africa and Australasia.