The island of Malta has been engaged in policy document formulations for curriculum renewal in the country’s educational system (4-16 years of age) since 1988 when the first National Minimum Curriculum (henceforth NMC) was launched (Wain, 1991; Borg et al, 1995). In 1999 a revamped NMC (Ministry of Education, 1999) was developed following a long process of consultation involving various stages and stakeholders. It was a
compromise document (Borg & Mayo, 2006) which emerged as a result of reactions to a more radical and coherent draft document produced in 1988. Both curricular documents were subject to debates and critiques (Wain, 1991; Darmanin, 1993; Borg et al, 1995; Giordmaina, 2000; Borg and Mayo, 2006). More recently a series of volumes providing guidelines, key principles and aims for a national curriculum framework (henceforth NCF) have been produced (MEEF, 2011a,b,c,d) and are currently the target of debate and the focus of reactions by various stakeholders in education
including teachers who were asked to read the volumes and provide reactions in the form of answers to a set questionnaire.
In this paper, Prof Peter May focuses on one aspect of the documents, the first of its three aims: ‘Learners who are capable of successfully developing their full potential as lifelong learners.’ It is that aspect of the framework documents that falls within the purview of the title for this special issue. The use of this notion attests to the influence of the EU’s policy communications on member states, Malta having joined the Union in 2004 (Mayo, 2007).
The NCF documents base their vision for the future of education in Malta around the now widespread concept of Lifelong learning in keeping with the dominant discourse which has emerged from not only the EU but also the OECD. One notices the discursive shift from the old UNESCO discourse on lifelong education (Tuijnman, A and BostrÖm, 2002). Much has been written about this discourse from a critical perspective (Murphy, 2007; Williamson, 1998; Brine, 1999; Wain, 2004; Borg & Mayo, 2005, Field, 2001, 2010), to make policy makers aware of the shift in emphasis that has occurred from the broad, humanistic concept of Lifelong Education (Faure et al, 1972) to that of Lifelong Learning. This shift is not innocent and ties in with some of the hegemonic ideas that are often taken on board uncritically without the slightest concern for the kind of ideology that underpins such terminology. It is felt that one needs to eschew the current meanings attributed to the notion of Lifelong Learning if one is to engage in a commitment to education for social justice.
The dominant discourse on lifelong learning, as adopted in the NCF, is one that shifts the onus of responsibility onto the individual rather than the state and the social collectivity. Learning and adequate provision for it become a matter of individual rather than social responsibility. This is all in keeping with the politics of responsibilisation that is hegemonic these days, shifting the responsibility for learning onto individuals and
communities. (Darmanin, 2011)