MCAST, the largest public VET provider in Malta, introduced a Level 1 programme in October 2010. This programme is aimed towards students who would want to further their learning opportunities and later on gain access to employment which may include a further element of training. Such a programme can also be the starting point for students to further their education and training in their area of interest. Teaching the key skills to students with negative attitude towards learning is by no means an easy task. The motivational factor is in fact the greatest challenge to overcome – key skills such as English, Mathematics and Maltese have to be presented differently to the students’ previous experience of these subjects.
Research has demonstrated that students following embedded courses achieved better results than those on non-embedded ones. This was apart from the fact that learners developed a more positive attitude towards the key skills subjects. Our experience confirms that introducing embedded learning has benefitted learners and one hopes that the system may be further developed to include an even bigger number of vulnerable learners.
During an embedded lesson, two lecturers deliver the lesson together, usually in a laboratory or workshop. The vocational lecturer may be considered as the one responsible for the technical content of the lesson while the key skills lecturer is required to intervene whenever necessary to expound on the language and literacy skills and expose the student to the required grammatical structures in such a way as to facilitate comprehension on the part of the learner. The same approach is used for the embedding of mathematics whereby the lecturer intervenes to explain certain simple calculations which are relevant for the vocational component. Numeracy skills, which are a necessity in every field of work, are thus imparted with a direct and more practical approach.
The Level 1 programme offered introductory courses to most MCAST Institutes. After being tried and tested for one academic year, interviews with students who attended such courses show that their attitude towards learning and the way they speak about their abilities has changed and their self-confidence has been strengthened. These students claim that this type of course methodology was a lot easier and more interesting to handle than their previous experience of schooling methods since, through the vocational subjects of their choice, they simultaneously managed to progress very well in their key skills.
Through the Level 1 programme, MCAST has proved that education and training can be really and truly accessible and responsive to the needs of the individual.