New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Changing the Chemistry Curriculum at Secondary level: Opportunities and Challenges

Josette Farrugia, University of Malta (Malta)

Doreen Mizzi, Secretariat for Catholic Education (Malta)


The science curricula in Malta, have for years focussed mainly on scientific knowledge. In addition, high stakes national examinations tend to encourage teaching to the test and teacher-centred instruction tends to predominate in many science classrooms. The chemistry programme, for example, presents the subject in a rather fragmented way that is abstract, encourages memorization and is irrelevant to students’ everyday lives.

In 2012 a new National Curriculum Framework was published in Malta. This led to the development of a Learning Outcomes Framework for the different school subjects up to compulsory school age including a new programme for chemistry.

The new programme is organized around five themes and aims to provide students and teachers with time and space to engage with the subject, encourages student-centred learning such as inquiry based learning and includes practical work as an integral part of the programme. It aims to help students develop scientific understanding, inquiry skills and critical thinking as well as the ability to relate science to technology, society and the environment.

This is not a small change. As for all educational reforms, teachers will be key players in the proposed change. This paper reports a study that investigated teachers’ views about the proposed programme, challenges envisaged and support required in its implementation. Eight chemistry teachers with between three and 20 years teaching experience from state and non-state schools participated in semi-structured interviews and provided an insight of their views. Teachers regarded the change as an improvement due to the shift of focus on to students’ learning and the attempts to make the subject less abstract and more relevant. Yet there were many concerns about its implementation in particular school settings and about whether the new programme would have to fit in the current timeframe and assessment system centred around high stakes examinations. It is important to ensure that policies, especially assessment policies, support the proposed changes and that teachers are given the required support. This will increase the likelihood of successful implementation.


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[2] Pace, P. ‘The State of Science Education in Malta’. Malta, The Malta Council for Science & Technology, 2000.
[3] Holbrook, J. ‘Making Chemistry Teaching Relevant’ Chemical Education International, 2006, 6 (1) available at
[4] Ministry of Education and Employment. ‘A National Curriculum Framework for All’. Floriana, 2012.  Available at
[5] Learning Outcomes framework for the new programmes, 2015.  Available at
[6] Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family (MEEF) ‘Vision for Science Education, Consultation document’. Floriana, Government of Malta 2011. 
[7] National Research Council (Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education). ‘National Science Education Standards’, Washington, DC,National Academies Press, 1996,103–207.
[8] Rocard, M., Csermely, P., Jorde, D., Lenzen, D., Walberg-Henriksson, H. & Hemme, V. ‘Science Education now: A renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe’, Brussels, European Commission, 2007.
[9] American Chemical Society Committee on Education ‘ACS Guidelines and Recommendations for the Teaching of High School Chemistry’, 2012.
[10] Talanquer, V. ‘Chemistry Education: Ten Facets to Shape Us’, Journal of Chemical Education, 2013, 90 (7), 832–838.

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