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Title: Creative little scientists : enabling creativity through science and mathematics in preschool and first years of primary education
Other Titles: D3.2 report on mapping and comparing recorded practices
Authors: Gatt, Suzanne
Keywords: Child care services -- Study and teaching -- Malta
Educational tests and measurements -- Malta
Learning -- Evaluation
Teachers -- Training of -- Malta
Issue Date: 2012-08
Publisher: CreativeLittleScientists Consortium
Citation: Gatt, S. (2012). Creative little scientists: enabling creativity through science and mathematics in preschool and first years of primary education. Greece: CreativeLittleScientists Consortium.
Abstract: Malta is a small country with only about 450,000 inhabitants. The yearly cohort of births is about 3800-4000. Compulsory education in Malta ranges from age 5 years. However, children can start pre-school, known as kindergarten, at the age of 3. Two years of kindergarten exist before compulsory schooling. The majority of children attend pre-school, with over 85%, starting at 3 years old and over 90% by the age of 4 years. Child-care at earlier age is also present even if supply is less than demand. Education in Malta and is provided by three sectors: the State 60%, the Catholic Church 30%; and the Independent sector 10%. It is regulated by the Education Act which allows the Minister of Education to regulate the curriculum provided in schools. The National Minimum Curriculum of 1999 is the current official legal document regulating the curriculum. In 2011, a proposed National Curriculum Framework for consultation to update the National Minimum Curriculum was published. The policy documents reviewed for this exercise include: National Minimum Curriculum; Towards a Quality Education for All: National Curriculum Framework Consultation Documents 1-4, A Vision for Science Education, Early Childhood Education and Care – A national Policy, National Standards for Child Care Facilities, Draft National Children’s Policy, Record of Development and Progress at Kindergarten Level, and National Policy and Strategy for the Attainment of Core Competences in Primary Education. Both the Curriculum framework and the Vision for Science Education specify the aims and objectives for science education at early years level and advocate the implementation of inquiry-based learning pedagogy at all levels of education. An argument is made to let children develop their knowledge and understanding of the world, as well as develop their scientific skills through engaging with and observing objects, events, animate and inanimate things. Creativity is hardly linked to science in the policy documents reviewed. There are no specific subject areas at pre-school level, with learning considered holistically. Science and Mathematics are considered as separate subject areas in the compulsory years of early years education. Both science and mathematics are considered to be core subjects in the primary curriculum by the National Minimum Curriculum. Learning outcomes for the early years (including the first two years of compulsory education) focus on the process aspects of doing science, mainly through the inquiry-based approach. Learning methods at pre-school level is informal and involves creating environments, both indoors and outdoors which ‘invite children to test their ideas’. There is reference to more structured science activities for the ages 5-10 years, these including the early years within compulsory schooling. Inquiry is considered to include: investigating phenomena and science processes including planning investigations, making predictions, deciding how to check predictions fairly, making observations and taking accurate and reliable measurements, analysing the evidence obtained, critically evaluating evidence, and drawing conclusions; as well as communicating scientific knowledge in different ways. The National Curriculum Framework documents talks about creativity coupled with innovation as one of five cross-curricular themes promoted across all subjects. Teachers are encouraged to use pedagogies which provide direct, hands-on experiences which promote interaction, engagement as well as involvement, considered essential for understanding, recall and development of mental representations. The main learning aspects highlighted included: story-telling; authentic real situations; child-centred approach; problem-solving; social perspective to learning; and using interactive media. In assessment, the approach in science is formative with the mention of experiments, portfolios and story-telling techniques mentioned as examples. Types of resources identified for the implementation of the new science curricula include: the production / selection of interesting and attractive curriculum materials; and adequate laboratory facilities, ICTs, equipment, chemical and biological resources, as well as suitable software, learning guides and other curriculum materials that are relevant to the local context. There is also a shift in the vision of learning towards socio-cultural learning theories which emphasise the importance of socio-cultural experiences in influencing development and that theories about learning suggest that students learn best when they engage with each other and learn from one another where learning occurs groups. Creativity was barely tackled in the documents with respect to science, and particularly so in the case of the Vision for Science education. There is a demarcation at the present stage in the initial teacher-training required to teach at pre-school level and at compulsory stage. The national legal framework regulating teacher qualification level at compulsory level is the Education Act and requires teachers to be at Bachelor level. In the pre-school years the main initial teacher-training is at vocational level. There has been the development of a Bachelor’s degree in the Early Years following this policy document, but teacher qualification requirements at this level have not changed. The duration of the courses are usually of duration of 2 years each for the vocational courses and 4/5 years for the Bachelors courses. All the courses have both a content and practice component aspect. The teacher-training staff for initial teacher-training are required to have experience in the educational field as well as higher post-graduate studies than the course level being taught. Teachers are requested to follow one in-service course every two years, and at times they are called for specific training. Overall, more attention is being given to the early years in recent policy documents, with sections dedicated specifically to the early years in contrast to the primary years of education. However, the distinction between the two is not yet clear. Science is given particular attention, this mainly due to the publication of the policy document Vision for Science Education.
Appears in Collections:Scholarly Works - FacEduECPE

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