On Wednesday 15 November 2017 the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) presented the findings of the Student Engagement Report based upon a research study carried out in Sixth Forms and Junior College in Malta. The report reflects student engagement and participation in their learning and school life. It includes the views of administrators, teachers and former students of public and private Sixth Forms, covering the majority of student enrolment in further education in Malta while focusing on identifying the reasons behind engagement and disengagement, and the issues hindering student engagement.
The major stakeholders were all present for this event which was introduced by the Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment. The Minister said that this is an important publication which does not deserve to be ignored. He proposed a follow-up which would include the organisation of workshops for teachers and lecturers to discuss the findings which, he believes, are of great importance. He said that, “Today the learning experience cannot be understood solely in years. Education needs to be understood as a lifelong experience”.
The Minister went on to say that, from his personal experience of twenty five years of teaching, he realises that recent years have made a big difference in the teacher/learner relationship. He said it was imperative to understand the depth of students’ learning because of the fast pace of today’s world. “This means that this study is a very important pedagogical tool that will help understanding the reality of today’s students. We cannot underestimate its importance. We need to take some bold decisions.” Minister Bartolo said that this report can guide changes and reforms that need to be made in this important sector. He concluded his intervention by saying, “I am really grateful to the NCFHE for this research as it has carried out a lot of meaningful work which deserves a good follow-up”.
The Minister was followed by NCFHE chairman, Godfrey Vella who welcomed all present. In a brief message he explained the role and mission of the NCFHE. He explained how it was constantly investing in its research function with the firm belief that it serves as solid ground work for evidence-based effective policy recommendations. He said that in order to better understand and analyse the situation, the Commission embarked on a study reflecting student engagement and participation in their learning and school life to help in understanding and defining student engagement while identifying the reasons behind engagement and disengagement. He said that while the report offers a comprehensive analysis and recommendations it was not exhaustive. He maintained that one area that urgently needs to be considered is that of digital technology and the extent to which it can help enhance engagement as an added educational tool which today’s students relate to.
Ms Christine Scholz Fenech, NCFHE Research and Policy Manager, delivered a presentation on the project’s research findings. She described the research focus and methodology and explained the significance of student engagement as well as the importance of these findings. Ms Scholz Fenech said that this research is an inclusive pedagogical key to student-centred learning. “It is important to make learning more motivating and interesting and to make it go beyond memorising, to developing deeper learning skills. This is the way ahead.”
The last speaker in the event was Mr. Paul Xuereb, Chair of the Future of Post-Secondary Education Implementation Working Group. He spoke about the working group’s study which fitted in perfectly with the NCFHE’s Student Engagement findings. He said, “In the Working Group’s recommendations for the future of post-secondary education, the views of learners were given particular importance, as it is necessary to adopt a learner-centric approach when discussing challenges and potential solutions”. He discussed the findings and what helps or hinders engagement as well as the different ways of assessing what has been learned. Mr Xuereb said that thirteen key challenges and twenty six recommendations had been identified as the basis for student-centred teaching and learning.
The National Commission for Further and Higher Education was launched in September 2012 following the merger of the former Malta Qualifications Council and the National Commission for Higher Education. Further details on the project and the project report are available on the website of the NCFHE at: http://ncfhe.gov.mt/en/research/Pages/student-engagement.aspx