LOFs: another fad in the Maltese Educational System

Blog post by an educator

The acronym LOFs stands for Learning Outcomes Framework is described by the Education Ministry as an instrument to support the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). Thus, the Learning Outcomes Framework are considered as the keystone for learning and assessment throughout the years of compulsory schooling. The Educational Department continues to describe the LOFs as:

the backbone of our education programmes and will serve as national benchmarks of excellence for all schools, providing parents, teachers and other stakeholders with an understanding of what children and young people should know and should be able to do during each of the three cycles – the early, primary and secondary years – and at the end of compulsory education.”

Moreover, judging from the descriptor provided by the education department:

The aim of the Learning Outcomes Framework is to free schools and learners from centrally-imposed knowledge- centric syllabi, and to give them the freedom to develop programmes that fulfil the framework of knowledge, attitudes and skills-based outcomes that are considered national education entitlement of all learners in Malta. The LOF is thus intended to eventually lead to more curricular autonomy of colleges and schools, so as to better address the learning needs of their students”.

Between what is officially written and what is happening at schools there is, as we say in Maltese, ‘bejn il-kliem u l-fatti hemm baħar jikkumbatti”. There is no autonomy and everything in the curriculum is imposed from above. Moreover, there are specific sectors were the LOFs are not working. In this short observation, I will focus on the year 9 (or as they were known in the past,  form three secondary students).

The introduction of LOFs in year 9 next scholastic year is about to add more misery to our students. As from next scholastic year, students who will be in year 9, will be put in levels, where they would have to stay for the next three years, that is from year 9 to 11, irrespective whether they study or not. In other words, a student who fares badly in year 8 (form 2) will not be allowed to sit for the Matsec exams. These students will be classified according to their year 8 exams. Is this justifiable? Do we really want to burden our students, at such a tender age, with what is going to be their future? The Education Department should stop experimenting on them. The truth is that the Education Department is seeing our students as guinea pigs. How come our students’ future is determined by their year 8 annual exams? Is this fair on those students who mature later on life? Do policy makers have an inkling of the reality that educators are facing day in day out in our schools?

If we want the system to function, all these education fads need to be scrapped, viewed as fads and  our educational system moves on to other systems which experience has shown have worked for ages. These include the re-introduction of half yearly exams, among others. There should be a school culture which raises expectations, where scaffolding is done according to the class needs and all students should be encouraged to sit for their Matsec exams. As the system stands presently, students who are studying subjects at Track 1, are not being prepared for the Matsec exams.

It is no wonder that teachers are leaving the profession in droves. It is disheartening that only a handful of young people are choosing teaching as a profession.  All the upheavals within the educational system are proving not to be beneficial to the students. Serious studies should be done to assess whether  LOFs and other experiments are the cause of the increase in incidents of serious challenging behaviour in our schools. It is a fact, that problems related to challenging behaviour are increasing and not decreasing as can be attested from stories in the media. If one rereads the reasons above, why LOFs were introduced, ten years after the introduction of the National Curriculum Framework, our school system should be a paradise on earth. The truth is otherwise. I do not want to sound negative but we are now in a worse situation than what we were in ten years ago. It is no wonder that educators are tired and stressed.

The continuous bashing of educators on social media is terrifying. Many parents just see schools as child repositories so that they are out of the way while the parents continue with their careers. Students should come to school to learn, and not to be part of an educational experiment or for the teachers to act as babysitters.

Sometimes I wonder whether our students are being short charged by the education system.

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