The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) is the trade union in Malta representing all teaching grades in state, church and independent school sectors. In November 2015, MUT conducted a survey among educators who are members of this union and total of 254 entries were obtained.
The aim was to gather the views of educators about the introduction of vocational education and training (VET) subjects at lower secondary level general education (secondary schools) in Malta. The findings results obtained will help the MUT to formulate its position, better discuss related issues, and present a more comprehensive picture of the situation.
The survey showed that 88% of respondents agree with the introduction of VET subjects in general secondary education in Malta. Respondents claimed the VET subjects are an alternative for those students who are more hands-on, providing them with experiential learning. VET subjects give students the opportunity to acquire skills related to the world of work and ensure a diverse workforce in the future.
Another question focused on whether students wishing to follow VET subjects should be interviewed/ assessed to determine their level of academic achievement and their predisposition to learn the subject. This was agreed 68.5%, to prevent students believing that VET subjects are just an easy way out. Teachers emphasised that the motivation of the student should also be taken into consideration.
Currently, agribusiness, health and social care, engineering technology, hospitality and information technology are the VET subjects being piloted in secondary schools in Malta. The high pass rate of VET students in these subjects is attributed by 65.38% of respondents to the continuous assessment criteria. Further, 40.38% think that this was (also) due to selection of students through an interview or the limited number of students attending.
Respondents also believe that industry and employability should determine which VET subjects are taught in schools (59.67%). This will help to channel the employment needs of the country. However, students should be given the opportunity to work/be taught in areas according to their abilities and interests.
VET subjects are not considered to be softer/easier when compared to other subjects (71.19%). Less ‘academic’ work does not necessarily mean VET subjects are easier. VET requires a student to work throughout the year and not just study for the exam. When compared to other subjects in secondary schools, VET subjects also need more coordination between teachers.
Most respondents (67.31%) feel that they are sufficiently trained to teach VET subjects. Others stated that just a few days of training on how to teach VET subjects is not enough. Further, the syllabus should specify to what extent and depth a VET subject needs to be taught.