6.5 Maltese Language Teaching

Maltese is taught in Government schools, in Catholic schools, as part of the Victorian School of Languages (formerly known as Saturday School of Languages), and as part of the programme organised by the MCCV Since 1983, and through the efforts of Dr Joe Abela, Maltese was introduced as a Group 2 subject at Higher School Certificate (HSC) level. In 1982 it was introduced at the Phillip Institute as part of the Associate Diploma in Ethnic Studies, and later, in 1986 Maltese was offered in the B.A. (Multicultural Studies) degree. This was the only tertiary course in Maltese offered in Australia. It came to an end in 1988 because there were not enough students to run the course.

By all accounts, the amount of Maltese language teaching at all levels is extremely limited. Only 6% of children at primary schools and 2% at secondary schools in Victoria government schools learn Maltese. In catholic schools (which cater for about half of all Maltese students),7%of all students are taught Maltese, even though Maltese students form the second largest ethnic group after Italian.

Australia as a whole suffers from a lack of language teaching: only 8%of the student population study a foreign language at year 12 (Lo Biancho, 1987). On top of this, there is the difficulty of convincing and students that Maltese is a useful language in comparison -@ ethnic languages like Italian, French and other 'modern' languages, on the one hand, and new 'business-related' languages like and Chinese on the other. Many Maltese parents actually objected to their children being taught Maltese at all (See Wesrtrn Independent, Aug 4th 1987). Parents and children fail to see any economic advantage in being able to speak Maltese; they fail to appreciate that there is a need for bilingual and bicultural training for a number of jobs such as nursing and social work, and other professions are required now, and will be required in the future to cope with the ageing population.

A measure of participation in Maltese studies at school is offered by Matriculation results. There are fewer Maltese sitting these exams than any other ethnic group of similar size. Moreover, the number of persons studying Maltese at Year 12 is dwindling - only one person sat f(w the Higher School Certificate examination in Victoria in 1987, and none in the other States.

The reason for this lack of participation at Matriculation level is not far to seek. Teaching of Maltese language at both primary and secondary schools is practically non-existent. Maltese is taught to about 0.11% of all children at Primary and .04% of children in secondary schools (National Survey of Language Learning in Australian Schools, 1983). This is far less than the number of Maltese children at school. The percentage of Maltese children learning Maltese at school is one of the lowest: twice as many Arabic and 17 times as many Italians study their mother language at school.

The following points are of relevance in relation to teaching Maltese in Victoria:

  • Only two government schools teach Maltese (2.0 equivalent full time teachers)
  • There are at the moment no Maltese consultants employed by the Ministry
  • There were 5.5 Maltese Ethnic Teacher Aides employed in Government schools in 1987, and one sessional interpreter employed by the Ministry.

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

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