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MALTATODAY 5 December 2021

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12 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 5 DECEMBER 2021 JAMES DEBONO CHILDREN prefer using Eng- lish when answering exam ques- tions, despite the prevalence of Maltese-language speakers in family and home settings (79%) according to recent surveys. In a clear indication that stu- dents find it difficult to ex- press themselves in written Maltese when answering exam questions, the vast majority of candidates sitting for the pop- ular Environmental Studies SEC exam, opted to answer all questions in English, with on- ly around 3% answering all the questions in Maltese. And while many candidates opted to alternate between English and Maltese when answering questions, "sever- al candidates did not express themselves coherently in either English or Maltese," an exam- iners report reveals. This damning assessment emerges from a report as- sessing the performance of the 1,902 candidates who sat for Environmental Studies-a multidisciplinary subject, which includes history, ecolo- gy, geography and social stud- ies. The trend for preferring Eng- lish to Maltese was also noted in other examiners' reports for subjects like history where "most responses were in Eng- lish"; but even here the exam- iners lamented "the answers indicated poor command of the English language, making it difficult for markers to under- stand the answers." One reason for this phenome- non, according to teachers who spoke to this newspaper, is that notes preparing students for these subjects are always most- ly in English. But others point- ed out that students are more familiar with English terminol- ogy for scientific and technical terms. Despite problems in express- ing themselves in a coherent manner, most students sit- ting for the more difficult Pa- per II-A were able to produce "well-structured arguments and appropriate answers". But this was not the case for those who opted for the easier Paper II-B, in which candidates can only aspire for a pass mark. Among the latter category, many produced one-word answers or very short phras- es rendering their "answers vague, and at times, incompre- hensible". The report also reveals seri- ous shortcomings in answering questions on crucial themes like climate change. Worryingly, the majority of answers to a question on global warming "showed a lack of un- derstanding" of climate change even among those sitting for the more difficult paper. In fact, few responses were able to explain the basic process of the greenhouse effect. While many responses simply stated that there is a correlation between the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rising temperatures without explaining how, "a substantial number of responses errone- ously attributed the increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, on the depletion of the Ozone Layer". When asked about alien spe- cies introduced in the Maltese environment, only a few an- swers mentioned the names of the invasive alien plants and animals. Around 50% of the responses showed a lack of un- derstanding of the concept of 'alien species' and mentioned species, which are endemic to the Maltese archipelago. On the other hand, most responses showed awareness of the bene- ficial effects of nature reserves. And when asked about how the functioning of Maltese in- stitutions, many confused the role of parliament with that of the Cabinet of Ministers. In another question, 50% of re- sponses incorrectly identified the Planning Authority and Heritage Malta as NGOs. 60.6% of the total candidates who sat for the examination obtained a grade between 1 and 5, while 13.3% obtained grades between 6 and 7. Only 21% obtained a grade between 1 and 3 of which 2.7% obtained Grade 1. Most students among 1,900 candidates answer their questions in English in O-levels 'English' education: only 3% write in Maltese in O-levels

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