Further guidelines on online teaching issued

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Given that schools will remain closed down until the end of Easter holidays, educators have been encouraged to continue with undertaking online teaching for their students. In a statement issued by the Education Ministry, educators have been informed that a working group which is composed of representatives from the state, Church and Independent Schools and is working closely with the Malta Union of Teachers has issued further guidelines on online teaching.

Schools were initially closed down for a week however the legal notice was later repealed and the closure has been extended. The closure is related to the coronavirus outbreak in a bid to contain the spread within the community. As of Thursday 19 March there were 53 confirmed coronavirus cases, out of which only two had successfully recovered and were subsequently discharged.

The working group has been tasked with exploring methods of online teaching during this unprecedented period as well as to explore the impact of the present situation on the curriculum. In its statement the working group welcomed the commitment, dedication, and hard work being shown by hundreds of educators to provide educational material to their students using online means.

“These last few days have shown the strong and committed professionalism of educators in such challenging times.”

Educators are being encouraged to continue with this process of undertaking online teaching for their students. They can ask for support in this directly through their schools or through the dedicated website and helplines. An educational resources repository is now freely available and is constantly being updated.

The recommendations are:

  • Educators are encouraged to find the best way which works for them to communicate with their students. This can be done through the support of their school and/or, if needed, through the support available here
  • Educators are encouraged to collaborate together and with their school to enable the pooling of resources for the benefit of all. The educational resources repository is a valuable tool for resources freely available to all educators and in which all teachers can contribute
  • Educators should plan their communication and dissemination of educational material in a manner which is realistic for themselves and also for their students. They should attempt to cover the most important parts of their relevant syllabi in a manner which takes into consideration the fact that school closure may cover an extended period. Educators are to be reassured that due consideration is being given that business is not as usual for anyone and mitigation strategies on the curriculum are being discussed. Nevertheless, they are encouraged to continue pacing the material provided gradually so as not to overwhelm students with too much material at one time and ensuring a realistic mode of working in exceptional circumstances from home
  • Educators are encouraged to give feedback to students with regard to any tasks submitted. However, the Group is very much aware that it is not realistic to expect educators to correct all the work which students may carry out at home during this period. A balance should be found by each educator in this regard in which feedback is given to students in a realistic manner. Parents are being invited to be supportive in this aspect as well, by trusting in educators’ professionalism and keeping expectations realistic
  • The use of model answers and marking schemes, especially for older students, could be a valuable tool to enable students to self-assess their work. In this regard, the Examination Papers section on www.curriculum.gov.mt provides a vast amount of past papers and marking schemes for the Annual National Examinations of State Schools. These are freely available for all students from all sectors. A number of schools provide similar resources through their respective portals or online presence.  The MATSEC Unit will also be uploading a number of available marking schemes for a number of SEC subject past papers. This resource  is available for free together with past papers on the MATSEC website
  • Educators should ensure that all communication with students is done within the clear parameters of professional ethics and the safeguarding of students and educators themselves. Clear professional boundaries should always be maintained. The Working Group will continue to support educators in this regard
  • With regard to the Annual examinations, the Benchmark Assessment, the SEC examinations and the Advanced and Intermediate level Matriculation examinations, the Working Group is discussing possible scenarios which take into consideration the current situation. Discussions are also taking place with the MATSEC Board. At this stage educators are encouraged to continue supporting their students. Clear direction will be given to educators, students and parents in due course by the respective Awarding Body (either School, Directorates or MATSEC accordingly).

The working group thanked all educators who are rising to the challenges of this unprecedented situation. It showed its appreciation for the IT staff supporting this sudden wave of online learning. Further it showed its gratitude to the cleaning and maintenance staff who are taking all necessary measures for schools to welcome back educators and students when this ordeal is over.

It also thanked parents and guardians for their co-operation as well as students who are cooperating fully to make these online and learning systems work.

“The major life lesson from this experience is the personal and collective rediscovery of meaning and priorities. The Working Group is committed to continue working to ensure that this will continue in the coming weeks,” the statement reads.

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