M. Pace

University of Malta (MALTA)
More than a year has passed since the introduction, in Malta, of the Language Proficiency Assessment (LPA) national programme, which has as its main scope to increase the number of students studying foreign languages during compulsory schooling while at the same time encouraging others already studying these languages to further improve their proficiency. This home-grown alternative assessment programme, based on subject proficiency at levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF), seeks to provide a clear description of what individuals ‘can do’ with language in terms of speaking, writing, listening, and reading in real-world situations in a spontaneous and non-rehearsed context. The programme presents 3 levels of proficiency and describes what an individual can and cannot do with language at each level, regardless of where, when, or how the language is acquired.

This programme, which is in its second stage of piloting and which, as from September 2016, will eventually be offered on a national basis to all students, was initially targeting students who normally would be at great risk of not obtaining a level-rated certification at the end of compulsory schooling. The intention was to offer these students the possibility of obtaining proficiency qualifications and certificates as an alternative route concurrent with that of Secondary Education Certificate (SEC). Form 3 students (Year 9) were offered this programme on the basis of their demonstrated performance in the subject. Students were asked to choose between SEC and LPA in consultation with their parents and teachers. Those students who opted for LPA started a Level 1 programme of studies in the particular language and at the end of the scholastic year they sat for the LPA national exam, consisting of four different papers, one for each basic language skill, namely Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Each paper received a separate mark and students obtained a certificate indicating the marks and the Level obtained for each of the language skills passed. The project aimed to render the teaching & learning process more personal and relevant to the students’ needs with particular attention targeted at the level, motivation and ability of acquisition of students taking LPA.

Following a thorough evaluation process with all the stakeholders, including the students themselves, the teachers, the Heads of school and the parents, it transpires that the results obtained by the students in the final exams exceeded our expectations, the students' overall motivation was very high and the innovative aspects of the programme were not only highly appreciated by all but many suggested that they should be introduced even to other subjects being taught at school. The scope of the paper will therefore be to discuss with language teachers, language experts and language promotors these results and delve into considerations of what a language project of high quality implies and how to reach an increased dissemination of the method, language course or product. The focus of this paper will therefore be on success factors whilst at the same time analysing existing difficulties in the hope of improving further language programmes for our students.