In an analysis by educational authorities in the first half the scholastic year, it was found that physical attendance in schools went down by 75%.
Interviewed by TVM, Dr Frank Fabri said that although some students are learning from home through online lessons, the Education Department is contacting parents to send them to school so that they do not fall behind in their education.
Over the next few months, Dr Fabri said that the scholastic year is not expected to be extended further than June, when exams are planned to be held.
Official statistics obtained by TVM show that school attendance has gone down by almost 15% during Covid when compared to previous years.
The Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Education, Frank Fabri, said that during the pandemic, teaching is not only being done physically at school, as a number of vulnerable students are following their lessons online in three virtual schools at primary, middle and secondary level which have been set up specifically for them.
“So along with the 75% physical attendance, one also needs to count the attendance of children who are attending virtual school”.
Dr Fabri said that the concept of a virtual school is a new reality which has been well-received by students and their parents, who often take part in the lessons with their children. He explained how a few days ago, parents’ day was also held online so that teachers can describe the progress the children are making, who have been continuously assessed over these last few months.
Dr Fabri drew attention to the fact that there are parents who for some reason or other are finding it difficult to send their children to school.
“We took a different approach – instead of phoning them at home to give them a fine, social workers are phoning them as well as our staff to explain to them why they should send their child to school. There are cases which are very justified, so one has to assess what the realties are for each family.”
Asked about vulnerable teachers, Dr Fabri said that there are 300 teachers who are at risk and are not physically attending school. He said that there are 70 teachers on maternity leave, with many others working in the virtual school doing lessons from home with students who are in class under supervision.
Speaking about the platform teleskola.mt he said that there are a number of lessons which have been recorded by teachers from primary to secondary school level, which Dr Fabri explained now amount to almost 6000 lessons which students can access when they wish, for free.
Asked whether he is considering the possibility of prolonging the scholastic year, Dr Fabri said that there is an agreement between the Government and the teachers’ union which stipules the beginning and end of each scholastic year.
“Naturally we are speaking continuously with the union every day on many things because no agreement could ever have contemplated a pandemic. Discussions need to be held on this, and an agreement reached.”
When questioned about the plan for the second half of the scholastic year, Dr Fabri said that if everything goes according to plan, the exams for the end of the year will be held as usual. He explained that work is being carried out so that the SEC exams will be held in June with restrictive measures against the spread of Covid-19.