Malta Convention 2010




DATED: 16 August 2009

The newly established Federation of Maltese Language Schools in Australia respectfully requests that the following recommendations be presented to the Convention 2010 for discussion and implementation.

We recommend

> That the Maltese Government officially recognises the Federation of Maltese Language Schools and all its affiliated Maltese Language schools in Australia.
> That Maltese schools teaching Maltese outside Malta be accepted as an extension of the Maltese educational system for the purposes of resource allocation, curriculum development, communication and exchange of information.
> That the Maltese Government allocates a substantial on-going budget to the newly established Federation of Maltese Language Schools in Australia to assist it in the administrative functions to promote the study of the Maltese Language, to train teachers in teaching Maltese, to develop a curriculum specifically for Maltese to be taught as a Foreign Language to suit the Australian environment, to establish regular scholarships for teachers/students to further their studies in the Maltese Language in Malta.
> That student exchange programmes be established strengthened and extended.
> That a specialised unit within the Education Department be established to assist in the teaching of Maltese Language and Culture outside Malta.
> That the Education Department fund scholarships to newly graduated teachers of Maltese in Malta to come to Australia to teach Maltese at Maltese Language schools as part of their workplace experience.
> That "The History of Maltese Migration"; be included in the curriculum of all schools in Malta in the primary and secondary levels.
> That the Malta Government recognises that the Maltese have always been part of the global society whose citizens and their descendants are living beyond the Maltese archipelago. That this Diaspora still longs to maintain its mother tongue within its' community and that language like any other commodity can be used to strength both commercial and heritage ties, the Maltese Government establish a Maltese Cultural Institute with branches where these communities exist, to promote the teaching of Maltese Language, Literature, Heritage, History and Culture run on similar basis as the German Maltese Circle, Alliance Francaise. That should such Institute come into fruition; the Institute would have included in its name a link to the father of Maltese Language Mikiel Anton Vassalli.
> That to accommodate the Maltese Diaspora in all continents and in all time zones and in recognising those countries other than Malta, distance to a centre where Maltese is taught is an insurmountable obstacle to learn Maltese, The Maltese Education facilitates and gives adequate resourced to distance learning programmes on the Internet for the teaching of Maltese as a foreign language to be run by an accredited body in Malta. That these Internet programs start from beginners to a given senior level.
> That the Public Library in Malta acquires literary works by Maltese authors living abroad and makes them available to the general public in Malta through its public library system and that new works by Maltese authors are distributed to Maltese community libraries overseas. That Maltese communities establishing collections of Melitensia be assisted to develop a library.
> That the Malta Tourism Authority makes available to Maltese communities overseas a catalogue of materials produced in Malta and overseas about the Maltese Islands for the purpose of promoting the Maltese culture and heritage.

Frank L Scicluna                                     Edwidge Borg                                           Alfred Flask
  President                                       V/President-Acting Secretary                               Treasurer   



Honourable Ministers, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
We must ensure that the Maltese language and culture continue to be a thread in the fabric of the Australian society

There are three things in life that we are not able to retrieve, a spoken word, a fired bullet and a wasted opportunity.  Today, I have been given the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at this historic and strategic convention for Maltese Living Abroad. 

It will be sinful to waste this precious time in delivering a heard-so-many-times-before speech about the evolution and the beauty of the Maltese language.  I feel I'll be preaching to the converted.  And this is an opportunity I do not want to miss. I have come here today to present to you the 'wish list' of the Federation of Maltese Language Schools. 

The multiculturalism and education policies of the Government of Australia encourage students to take up a second language at school to retain the language spoken at home other than English.  Fluency and knowledge of a second language, especially the home language, is an important factor in employment prospects. 

The Maltese community in Australia is big enough to maintain a pool of Maltese-speaking professionals including solicitors, doctors, teachers, architects, engineers and many others.  In my work as honorary consul for Malta I come across many Maltese who generally prefer to consult professionals who can speak their own language and are aware of their culture and background. 

As a result of Malta joining the European Union Maltese has become one of the official languages of Europe. And through the mass emigration from Malta to other countries the Maltese language spread all over the world although Maltese is spoken only by Malta-born migrants and their offspring.  Maltese communities abroad tried courageously to retain and share the Maltese language in the countries where they live.  Unfortunately, the second and subsequent generations, who were born and bred in Australia, prefer to communicate with each other and the rest of the community using the English language which is accepted as a universal language. 

It has always been a dream for the Maltese community in Australia to have a solid framework under the umbrella of an energetic and unified body upon which the community, in the continent of Australia, can append their hopes and aspirations for their language and culture.  Our motto is - Communication, Coordination and Cooperation - three elements essential for the growth of the Federation. 

The Maltese in Australia reached a milestone when on Saturday 2 August 2008 the delegates of all the Maltese language schools met at the premises of the Malta High Commission in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, to establish the first Federation of Maltese Language Schools. This would not have been possible without the professional support of the Malta High Commissioner for Malta in Australia H.E. Francis Tabone.

The delegates elected an executive committee and the Federation of Maltese Language schools commenced its work in approving a new constitution and planned short-term and long term programs to consolidate the teaching of language and culture in Australia.  The schools in Canberra, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are all part of this newly-established but vibrant Federation.  

The cost of operating a community language school is one of the most burning issues that many volunteer management committees face throughout Australia. There are forever increasing costs to administer and operate a such a school.  These impacts on the quality of the language education that the Maltese schools can provide and which is leading to a decline in the number of students willing to study the language in high school. 

A major problem facing the Maltese language is the declining number of students who study Maltese as a subject up to the graduating year in high school and then for them to sit for the Maltese Language examination for their matriculation certificates such as the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC), the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education). 

If the number of Maltese language students in high schools and Maltese schools will continue to decline, the education authorities have warned us that they will remove the Maltese Language from the list of subjects offered nationally because it is not a viable language and too costly to maintain. (Other languages such as Czech, Slovenian and the Baltic countries have already been removed) 

There is an ongoing problem of finding young qualified Maltese language teachers. In community language schools the teachers are usually qualified in other professions but undertake some courses allowing them to gain the basic qualifications needed to teach a language. There is a desperate need for more teachers of Maltese who are young and fresh with modern teaching methodologies that will keep the students interested in studying the language.

The change in Australian Government Language Policy has resulted in amendments made to language education, with a shift to promote the teaching of Asian, African and Middle Eastern languages by the provision of additional funding for these languages whereas the older and traditional European languages, including Maltese, receive no additional funding.  Community schools in Australia are now relying on external support from the home countries.

 European countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, just to name a few, are all supporting their communities to ensure the survival of their language and culture in Australia. This will, in the future, bring benefits to the Malta and Australia in areas such as trade, investment, business, cultural and family connections. If the Maltese language and culture is to be maintained in Australia some assistance is required from Malta. 

However, I have not come today to this convention from thousands of miles away to talk about the past.  This is well documented; we know about our past achievements and successes. Today, I propose to talk, with strong terms, about the future.  

Let me quote the Prime Minister of Malta in his message on the occasion of the establishment of the Federation in 2008 - We want to give you all the help we can because we recognize its importance for us, as well as for you.  Teaching the Maltese language and administering Maltese schools is a calling of the highest responsibility since it is concerned not only with the transmission of a language and culture to a new generation, but also with the creative renewal so necessary for us to be Maltese in a globalised world.  

Dr Gonzi continued to say that "I would re-iterate an undertaking I made to you - my government is presently working on the initiative of setting up, in Malta, a specialized unit of experts of the Maltese language and culture whose main aim will be to support the promulgation of Maltese in countries like Australia". 

I believe this is an important official statement for us to note because it utilizes a discourse of "inclusivity" that is consistent with the concept of a Greater Malta.  To me, this statement suggests that the time is ripe to act. An encouraging door has opened that we need to wedge firmly in position so we can move forward with a focused agenda. 

The vision statement of the Federation states "The Maltese Language Schools aim to open the doors of new experiences and opportunities through the cultivation of the Maltese language in Australia and to broaden horizons and pave the way to better cultural understanding". 

The Federation of Maltese Language Schools must empower the youths and put them at the top of the agenda and be given responsibilities that make them attract other youths to the Maltese community or else we are going to lose them forever. The study of the Maltese language should continue to be the basis of the existence of the community as the language is the soul of who we are. 

The Federation submitted a set of recommendations that we would like to see their implementation sooner than later. We are not prepared to wait another ten years to submit them again at future Conventions.  We must act now or else we will destroy what, we and our ancestors, worked so hard to achieve. May I remind you that most of these recommendations were put forward at the Millennium Convention in 2000 and they were shelved.  

The combination of the recommendations of the Federation and the current supportive policy context within Australia and in Malta lead me to conclude that this may be one of those - unreturning moments - that we often get as teachers: grab the moment or forever live in regret; it's an opportunity not to be missed.