Maltese Educational System Examination System

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The 1924 Compulsory Attendance Act prescribed school attendance until the age of twelve. In 1946, primary schooling was made compulsory to all Maltese children between the ages of four and fourteen. The model which was adopted was very similar to that of the British due to Malta's colonial past (Sultana, R. G., 1999). In 1970, secondary education for all was introduced. Until this year, students wishing to pursue their studies after primary schooling had to pass the 11+ examination or enrol at a private school or church school. In 1972, this examination was abolished and all pupils proceeded from their local primary school to a secondary school in their area. Still, church schools still continued to hold an 11+ examination for new students into their secondary school (Bezzina, C. & Grima, G., 2007).

In 1974, the school leaving age was raised to sixteen years. Secondary schooling was based on the British tripartite model consisting of junior lyceums (set up in 1981), area secondary schools and trade schools (set up in 1972). In 1981, the junior lyceum entrance examination was introduced at primary level. The students who pass this examination can proceed to a junior lyceum whereas those who fail the examination proceed to an area secondary school (Bezzina, C. & Grima, G., 2007).

At the age of sixteen, all students have the right to sit for the SEC examinations. Students who want to pursue their studies further can follow a two-year post-secondary course, at the end of which they sit for the 18+ Matriculation Certificate Exams. Successful candidates can opt to move on to University or MCAST. (Cutajar, M., 2007)

In 1999, the National Minimum Curriculum was introduced and is currently being implemented in schools.

1.1.2: The Current Educational System in Malta

The educational reform which is taking place at the moment spans over six years. It started in the scholastic year 2008/2009 and is intended to be entirely functional by 2013/2014. Its main focus is assessment. (Grima et al., 2008a).

By 2014, students in year 4 will proceed to year 5 in mixed ability groups, and therefore no streaming will take place. A national examination in Maltese, English and Mathematics will be set in the final year of primary education which will replace the 11+ examination. Moreover, an oral-aural examination will be introduced in both Maltese and English. In all the remaining subjects, such as Religion and Social Studies, a school-based assessment will take place. This will permit students to proceed to Secondary Education without selection. External monitoring will be introduced. Participation in international testing programmes such as PIRLS, TIMSS, and PISA will be provided. (Grima et al., 2008b).

The Year 6 final examination will be offered to Church and Independent schools as well. These schools will be also offered the above mentioned measures, including all training and support services. (Grima et al., 2008a).

1.2: The SEC Examination

1.2.1 The evolution of Malta's examination system

The Malta Matriculation certificate remained compulsory for admission to University up to the middle of the 1950s. They were than phased out when the British examination system adopted the General Certificate of Education (GCE). (Sultana, R. G., 1999). In the 1980s, a reform took place in the UK, where the GCE examination was merged with the Certificate of Secondary Education, resulting in the introduction of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). The GCSE introduced coursework and teacher assessment. After studying this new system of examinations, the Maltese Department of Education decided not to adopt the GCSE, but still made use of the GCE. (Falzon, J. & Zahra, F., 2003).

This is when Malta felt the need to develop its own examination system. The Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Examinations Board was established in 1991 to replace the British GCEs at both Ordinary and Advanced Levels. (Sultana, R. G., 1999). As mentioned by the MATSEC Review Committee (2005), the MATSEC examination system was implemented in two phases. The Secondary Education Certificate Examination (SEC) and the Matriculation Certificate (MC) were introduced in 1994 and 1997 respectively. The SEC was to substitute the GCE 'O levels', and the MC was to substitute the 'A levels', both offered by the British examination boards. The British examination GCE examinations could still be taken as an option (Sultana, R. G., 1998). According to Ventura and Murphy (1998), "the setting up of the new system was essentially a declaration of independence from English GCE examination boards whose syllabuses had practically controlled the secondary school curriculum since 1951" (page 48-49).

1.2.2 The new examination system

The SEC examinations were developed for students at the end of compulsory schooling at age sixteen. (Falzon, J. & Zahra, F., 2003). According to the SEC information booklet, the SEC syllabi and assessment had two main objectives, firstly to be "appropriate for a wide ability range" and secondly to "preserve existing standards for the more academically able candidates". The fundamental principle of the SEC examination is to reward candidates "based on what they know, understand and are able to produce" (as cited in the MATSEC Review Committee, 2005, pg. 6).

The SEC was intended to certify all those students who completed the five-year secondary schooling, not simply to give access to post-secondary schooling. This meant that the new SEC examinations catered for about 80% of the total number of students in each age cohort and not only for about 20%, as used to occur with the GCEs. The SEC included grades ranging between 1 and 7. The higher grades (1-5) are necessary for students wishing to pursue their studies further in a post-secondary institution. (Sultana, R. G., 1999).

1.2.3 Structure of Examination Papers

In the SEC system, each subject consists of two two-hour papers. Paper I is a core paper and is common to all candidates. In most cases, it includes coursework or an aural/practical component. Candidates are given a choice for Paper II. Paper IIA is more demanding and contains more challenging questions than Paper I, whilst Paper IIB is less demanding and contains less challenging questions than Paper I. Candidates who opt for Paper IIA can get grades ranging from 1 to 5 or remain unclassified (U). Those opting for Paper IIB can get grades ranging from 4 to 7 or remain unclassified (U). Grades 1-5 are required for admission in courses at post-secondary level, whilst grades 6 and 7 are only considered valid for admission to a limited number of courses or employment opportunities. (Falzon, J., Grima, G. & Zahra, F., 2003).

1.3: Mathematics SEC Examinations

1.3.1: Mathematics SEC Papers

The Mathematics SEC examination, like all the other subjects, consists of two papers (Paper I and Paper II) each of two hours duration. Each of these papers weighs 50% of the final mark. Paper I is compulsory, and covers the Core Syllabus content only. It consists of two papers - the mental paper and the core paper. In the mental paper, the use of calculators and and/or protractors is not allowed. The mental paper carries 10% of the final mark of Paper I. In Paper II, candidates are given a choice between Paper IIA and Paper IIB (Cardona, J.P., 2009). According to Chetcuti & Ventura (1999), one would expect high achievers and low achievers to sit for Paper IIA and Paper IIB respectively.

1.3.2: Mathematics SEC Syllabus

The Mathematics SEC syllabus is divided into four main areas, being:

Number

Algebra

Shape, Space & Measures

Data Handling

Candidates opting for Paper IIA need to cover both the Core content and the Extension content of the syllabus, whilst those choosing Paper IIB need to cover only the Core content.

The overall weighting (±5%) for each of the main components of the syllabus of 2006 and 2007 is shown below:

Number

Algebra

Shape, Space & Measures

Data Handling

Core Paper & Paper IIA

30%

35%

25%

10%

Core Paper & Paper IIB

40%

20%

25%

15%

(SEC Syllabus 2006-2007 Mathematics)

The overall weighting (±5%) for each of the main components of the syllabus of 2008 and 2009 is shown below:

Number

Algebra

Shape, Space & Measures

Data Handling

Core Paper & Paper IIA

25%

35%

30%

10%

Core Paper & Paper IIB

35%

20%

35%

10%

(SEC Syllabus 2008 Mathematics, SEC Syllabus 2009 Mathematics)

1.3.2.1 Changes in the syllabus

Number

In the Core content of the 2006/2007 syllabus, candidates needed to be able to convert from one currency to another (e.g. change from Maltese Liri to Euro and vice-versa). In the 2008/2009 syllabus, this example was modified to change from Euro to other currencies and vice-versa. Candidates also needed to be able to solve problems on personal and household finance, involving earnings. In the 2008/2009 syllabus an example of stocks was mentioned here.

Algebra

In the Extension content of the 2008/2009 syllabus, using function notation (e.g. f(x)=3x+5) was added.

Shape, Space & Measures

In the Core content of the 2006/2007 syllabus, when calculating the sum of the interior angles of a polygon with n sides, candidates needed to use a formula such as (2n-4) x 90°. In the 2008/2009 syllabus the formula (n-2) x 180° was added.

Find the surface area of a pyramid was changed to find the surface area of a right pyramid in the 2008/2009 syllabus. The same was done in the Extension content for the surface area and the volume of a cone, and for the volume of a pyramid.

In the 2008/2009 syllabus, candidates needed to understand the meaning of the term secant. This was not mentioned in the 2006/2007 syllabus.

Data Handling

There was no change in the syllabus.

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