At present government licensing of English language schools is mandatory on the island, but accreditation is optional. Just 17 of the island’s 40 schools are accredited by the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations in Malta (FELTOM).
Under the proposed legislation, only schools with full government-backed accreditation will be given licences. Schools must also submit to more rigorous inspections by an independent committee every four years (ad-hoc inspections will be carried out if necessary). At present the licence given to schools is open-ended and not subject to periodic review.
At present the licence given to schools is open-ended and not subject to periodic review
Francis Stivala, managing director of NSTS-English Language Institute and founding president of FELTOM, said the move was less about raising standards, which were already high, and more about creating a stronger mark of quality assurance for providers.
“I strongly believe that this will give a full assurance to anyone coming to Malta that the country stands firm in providing top quality tuition and good services for the EFL student,” he told The PIE News.
“We want to make sure that our accreditation is not just the word of schools. The accreditation committee will be inspecting and accrediting schools as an independent body, therefore the word of the accreditation body will be stronger than of the schools.”
He said the move could help Malta, which welcomes 70,000 language students a year, compete more effectively as an ELT destination. Demand for language courses is reported to be slowing on the island, in large part because of the recession in most parts of Europe (austerity cuts to scholarship funding has reduced traffic from the Spanish market for example).
It will be part of broader accreditation reforms designed to help Malta become an international learning hub by 2015
“Malta is not perceived to be the prime English language learning destination, therefore it needs the extra prop to bring it up to par with other countries. It’s only a matter of perception, however perception is very important in people’s minds,” said Stivala.
The new legislation, originally slated for 2011, has no implementation date but Stivala said it was guaranteed to go ahead. It will be part of broader accreditation reforms for the whole education sector designed to help Malta become an international learning hub by 2015.