6.4 Adult Literacy

As mentioned elsewhere (see chapter 5), most of the Maltese that came in the post-war period and in the early 1950's were the product of an education system which was neither compulsory nor extensive. Most would not have been very fluent reading in any language. Moreover, for a long period, the study of Maltese language was not compulsory at school, and even well educated persons - particularly those who attended private schools run by English personnel - would not be fluent reading and especially writing Maltese. A third important factor which militates against reading Maltese is the paucity of material available the Maltese language in Australia. The number of persons read newspaper in Maltese is very limited. The number of books in Malta has only recently increased beyond a handful.

These facts explain why Maltese are among the poorest readers of their own language. Less than half of the Maltese born population can speak Maltese. (ABS 1983). As Michael Clyne (1986 p 68) puts it "The greatest discrepancy in all ages between speaking and reading may be found among Maltese speakers, where the spoken language is used in social domains by 94% of the informants, but only 45% read the language. Allusion to the use of English as the high language of Malta at the time of emigration of most Maltese families in Australia cannot fill us with complete satisfaction, for only 86% of the Maltese speakers in the ABS survey read English either ". He posits the low status of Maltese and a low standard of education as the reason for this literacy problem. Moreover, it must be emphasized that most of the Maltese born population in Australia represent that cohort of migrants born before the 1940s when Maltese was not compulsory in most schools and general education was only required up to the first couple of years of secondary school if at all.

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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