The document Tomorrow's Schools (1995) had asked the following question: "What are considered to be the basic requirements of a quality education - one that is meaningful, worthwhile, responsive to individuals and social needs - and does each and every student, without fail get those requirements, regulated as these are by the principle of entitlement?"
According to the Education For All: Global Monitoring Report 2005 - The Quality Imperative (EFA: GMR), two principles characterise most attempts to define quality in education: the first identifies learners' cognitive development as the major explicit objective of all education systems. The second emphasises education's role in promoting values and attitudes of responsible citizenship and in nurturing creative and emotional development."
Quality determines how much and how well children learn and the extent to which their education translates into a range of personal, social and developmental benefits. Goal 6 of the Dakar Framework for Action (2000) emphasises the need of a stimulating pedagogy. It is the teaching and learning process that brings the curriculum to life, that determines what happens in the classroom and subsequently the quality of the learning outcomes.
The GMR emphasises six policy issues which directly impact on teaching and learning:
1. Relevant aims. Policy dialogue must arrive at a relevant balanced set of aims describing what learners should learn and why; the development of cognitive, creative and social skills and values; respect for human rights, the environment, peace and tolerance and cultural diversity. These put citizenship, democracy and human rights at the fore.
2. Subject balance - how subjects are defined, how many are taught and the time allocated to each.
3. Good use of time. Positive correlations are noted between instruction time and student achievement at both primary and secondary levels. Between 850 and 1,000 effective hours (not necessarily official hours) of schooling per year is broadly agreed as a benchmark.1
4. Pedagogic approaches for better learning. Child-centred active pedagogy, cooperative learning and the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills need to be present.
5. Language policy. Language of instruction is a policy choice affecting curriculum, content and pedagogy. A balance needs to be struck between enabling people to use local languages in learning and ensuring that they have access to global languages.
6. Learning from assessment. Regular, reliable, timely assessment is a key to improving learning achievement. The goals are to give learners feedback and improve learning and teaching practices. Formative assessment is needed as a complement to formal examinations.
Given our Maltese educational context, how can we provide quality education? A detailed answer to this question is beyond the brief of this short article, however, the following observations elicited from the review report give direction for quality primary education in our schools.