The study of languages, besides Maltese and English, has been described as a matter of concern by the Minister for Education, Evarist Bartolo, because a lot of students at post-secondary school level are not opting to learn a foreign language. In the hope of halting this trend, the Minister has launched a campaign to induce more students to study foreign languages. During the campaign launch it was emphasised that knowledge of foreign languages opens doors to employment opportunities offering many careers and such qualifications are much sought by employers.
Although the number of language studies available is a wide one, ranging from Arabic to Chinese, from Spanish to German, very few students are continuing on-going studies at post-secondary school level. Figures obtained by TVM show that at tertiary level during the first year there are only 120 students studying a foreign language. This is despite that at secondary level students get a taste of foreign languages although figures show that over half the students choose Italian (2,300) and French (1,180).
As Minister Bartolo felt this to be a matter of great concern the campaign is aimed at students of different ages to induce them towards taking up foreign languages. He said it is hoped this trend may be reversed and he emphasised the importance of foreign languages for employment opportunities, maintaining that knowledge of Maltese and English is not enough. He also indicated that childcare centres may also begin an exposure to foreign languages.
The campaign coordinator, Dr Phyllisienne Vassallo Gauci, referred to national research regarding skills requirements that shows that 25% of employers consider it important that employees have knowledge of other foreign languages. She said the campaign is being mounted in collaboration with MCAST, ITS and Lifelong Learning and is aimed at reaching students of all ages.
She said there is a strong belief in the importance of foreign languages and the opportunities in different spheres for those who study and learn them as the key to different spheres such as mobility, inclusion and employment opportunities. Hence the reason for the campaign which also includes a competition for schools. The campaign will also cover schools and the general public to illustrate the importance of students of different ages, young and old, continuing studies and training in learning languages.
The head of the working group for the promotion of foreign languages, Dr Mario Pace, said when school visiting he realises that students and their parents do not appreciate that foreign languages open doors to different careers. He emphasised that the teaching of foreign languages should become more practical.