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giovanni curmi hss

History

1984-1994: The first decade at Msida

The Higher Secondary School, Malta, is run by the Malta Government Education Directorates. It was established by the Minister of Education Dr K. Mifsud Bonnici on 4 September 1984 in order to provide a revision course at the Ordinary Level for students wishing to continue their academic education, as attested by the school motto Occasio Altera Data. The school The premises chosen formed part of the New Lyceum (ex- Polytechnic, now the Junior College) complex at Msida, which had been built twenty years before. Eight days later Dr Ronald Abdilla was appointed first head of school. Notices for students were published on 17 September and the first lessons were held two days later. The first subjects offered were English, Maltese, Mathematics and Physics. Within a few days on 1 October 1984, Dr Paul Heywood became second head of school. New teaching staff joined in order to expand the variety of subjects to include all those normally taught in Maltese secondary schools at the time, namely Arabic, Art, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Economics, French, German, Geography, History, Home Economics and Needlework, Italian and Technical Design.

On 1 October 1985 the combined course of Advanced and Ordinary level was introduced. Advanced level classes were started in all the abovementioned subjects as well as in Accounts, Engineering Drawing, Applied and Pure Maths and Philosophy. Scholastic year 1987-88 heralded further developments. Mr Godfrey Testa was appointed head of school; the second year students could join the New Lyceum classes; and a first year university oriented course was started with students joining the New Lyceum in their second year. In October 1988 upon the initiative of Minister Dr U. Mifsud Bonnici the school received its official name Giovanni Curmi, an author, ex-professor of Italian and Head of the Lyceum. Curmi's daughter Ileana was appointed first chairman of the school council. Advanced level students were granted a stipend by the Ministry of Education and a year later the second year of Advenced level could be completed at the school. All these developments increased the popularity of the school and the population topped 1000 in 1993-1994.

1994-1995 First year at Naxxar

Due to the increase in population Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School was transferred from Msida to the Technical Institute Complex at Naxxar in the summer of 1994. This latter building too had been constructed in the mid-1960s. The Institute was then being transferred to Paola. A planned refurbishment programme converted the previous workshops and stores into the present classrooms of the administration and administration annexe block. This involved some structural work that was completed in record time for the start of the scholastic year under the supervision and drive of Mr Testa and the assistant head Mr R. Bowman. Since Naxxar is not centrally situated but rather in the northern region of Malta, most prospective students henceforth had to catch two buses to reach the school. This partly explains the fact that the school population dropped by 46 per cent to 540 in 1994-95. As part of this refurbishment the large workshops were converted into four state of the art science laboratories. The Minister of Education Mr M. Falzon inaugurated these labs that same scholastic year. Further upgrading of the school premises included the resurfacing of the roads and the opening up of the ring road behind the three blocks. This way the spacious and enjoyable esplanade was laid out where there is such a wonderful view of a large stretch of Malta.

1995-2008 Expansion of Staff, Courses and Students

In 1995 the New Lyceum Sixth Form at Msida was turned into a University Junior College. About twenty ex-teachers of the Lyceum joined the Higher Secondary School adding to the experience of the whole academic staff which grew from about forty, when the school opened at Naxxar, to about sixty just a year later. The number of teachers continued to increase steadily over the years since more courses were started especially after that the Matriculation Certificate, which includes two subjects at Advanced Level and three at Intermediate Level (besides Systems of Knowledge), became the main entry requirement for the University instead of three Advanced Level and Systems of Knowledge.

The new Matriculation Certificate course was immediately made available at the Higher Secondary to students who were in possession of five Ordinary level passes, and therefore teachers were being recruited since most of the twenty-seven subjects offered were now being taught at three levels: Ordinary, Intermediate and Advanced. By 2010 the academic staff had increased to 170 and the student population to about 2000. The two other courses were the Advanced and Ordinary Course, as well as the Ordinary Revision Course. In 2008 Core Functional Skills Course was inaugurated to help the students who fail to obtain the necessary passes in Maltese, English and Maths. At the same time the mid-day break was extended on Wednesdays to afford time for Enrichment Courses in a number of extra-curricular aspects such as photography, choir, guitar playing and other activities.

1999-2002 The Hall and Upgrades

In 1999 Dr Joseph F. Grima was appointed head of school after Mr Testa's retirement. Upon his initiative the school hall was totally refurbished. A new lighting and electrical system was installed. Five hundred folding chairs were bought so that the hassle of moving chairs from classrooms for every occasion was henceforth avoided. New curtains were also hung. Much of the money needed for the projects came from a better deal on the letting of the school canteen that was similarly refurbished. The school gym was also let out after school hours. The secretarial staff was increased to three. By 2010 the sceretariat stood at seven members. More photocopiers were added to the offices. Another computer lab was set up for the students. Two computers were set aside for the use by the teachers. The academic performance of the students was steadily improving and the school gained a good reputation both in the academic and in the educational points of view. More students were applying every year. The school was becoming overcrowded and finding adequate space for classrooms became a problem by 2000.

2002-2008 - Change in Time-table, the New Block and New Work Practices

Therefore plans were set for the expansion of the premises and the addition of classrooms. In 2002 Dr Grima became Assistant Director of Education and Mr Horace Caruana was appointed head of school. The first idea was to build an added storey on the Admistartion/Library block to house the classrooms that were sorely needed. However, in 2005-2006 a more radical solution was found with the construction of a totally New Block on the site of the former seven-aside sports ground, the latter being re- sited in a field just below the esplanade. The work was carried out by the Foundation for Tomorrow's Schools (FTS), architect Andrew Ellul, and was inaugurated on 11 October 2006 by the Prime Minister Dr L. Gonzi in the presence of the Minister of Education Dr L. Galea and the education authorities.

During his speech Dr Gonzi wished the students a fruitful career at school. He congratulated the FTS, the administration, staff and students for their hard work and determination, especially since the staff had shown self sacrifice by voluntarily waiving the mid-morning break and introducing a seven (instead of six) lessons a day time-table to provide for a larger intake of students as from 2004. The New Block is a state of the art building housing spacious normal classrooms, art and technical design studios, science and computer labs, a spacious lending library, a large reference library, computer lab for the staff, and a stationery run on commercial basis. All the rooms are endowed with the most modern computerised technological devices to increase the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process.

Since 2003 a new assessment policy was introduced whereby, instead of the half- yearly and annual examinations, three trimestral test weeks were established for a more continuous and timely assessment exercise which henceforth pin-pointed the particular needs of each student at an early stage of his/her course. As part of the whole school development programme, each subject department set up and implemented an annual audit, which includes requisition needs but most importantly, the application of innovative and more effective teaching and learning processes. More clerks were employed and structures instituted for the more effcient monitoring of attendance by students. All these measures greatly added to the reputation of excellence of the school. Notwithstanding the initial difficulties which the majority of students come up with, the public examination results obtained at the end of their courses compare favourably to those of other sixth forms in Malta. The increased intake of students is helping Malta approach the participation of 16+ students in formal education to the 85 % mark as laid down by the European Council's Lisbon Strategy.

2008-2010 - Further Modernisation and High Technology

When Mr Caruana became College Principal Mrs Pauline Miceli was appointed acting head of Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School in February 2008, and head of school later in September that year. All Chemistry labs, students and staff toilets in the Administration and Lecture Blocks as well as the two gymnasia and shower rooms were completely refurbished. The Lecture Block was completely repainted. The school completed its conversion to computerised high technology in most aspects. In May 2008 all teachers were supplied with a lap top computer. Later on internet communication by wi-fi was installed in most areas of the school. Most classes in the two older classroom blocks were set up with LCD screens or overhead computer projectors. Interactive whiteboards were installed in the Science labs. The notice board turned electronic and the school database was upgraded to meet the demands of a greater number of students.

The School Library

Between 1984 and 1995 both staff and students of the Higher Secondary School could avail themselves of the New Lyceum Library at Msida. When the school was transferred to Naxxar, the ex-technical institute library books were taken away except for one encyclopaedia. The shelves were empty and there was no capital fund for even a small library. The position grew worse when the Msida library switched over to the University Junior College since it was no longer available for our staff and students. The school administration therefore embarked on a recurrent expense for the gradual build up of a suitable library to include video casettes. Much help was sought by way of donations from various institutions including embassies. Heads of department and co-ordinating teachers were continuously on the look-out for appropriate texts for the slowly expanding library. Dr Marisa Farrugia and later Mr Marcel Zammit-Marmar�� who was awarded the School Librarian of the Year Award in 2010, toiled for the better organisation of the library.

An important development occurred in 2006 when the New Block was inaugurated and the library was transferred there in much larger premises. The library was built, organised, stocked and was up and running within three years. It could now house new periodical sections to which it has subscribed, the video and DVD section, and twenty computers all connected to the internet. A team of teacher librarians was trained by the Schools Library Service in order to run the library. In 2009 the Library of the Year award was presented to the Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School Library. The library premises host regular exhibitions of books as well as displays on special themes and talks by special speakers and experts who are occasionally invited by the subject departments. The computerisation of the collection catalogue and its enrolment in the Oliver online catalogue of the Malta Public Libraries system was completed in March 2010. In fact since our library was the most modern and recent in Malta, the Minister of Education Mrs D. Cristina inaugurated this national online catalogue system at the Higher Secondary School Library in 2009.

Final Considerations

In the summer of 2010 Mrs Miceli retired from service and Miss Mary Attard was appointed head of school. The scope of the present overview does not permit any detailed description of all activities that were held in the school throughout its first twenty-six years of existance. A mention must be made to the innumerable excursions and travel abroad including participation in student exchange programmes, exhibitions, sporting, religious, cultural, charitable and social activities in connection with the Christmas, Carnival and Graduation concerts and ceremonies. All the teaching and ancillary staff have dedicated their skills to provide a high quality education for past and present students, many of whom were highly successful in their further studies or their careers. This is partly explained by the teachers being highly qualified both academically and pedagogically, hence providing a perfect match for students who need individual support both in the content and the method of their learning process. The School has afforded a fertile training ground for the development of educational and professional skills. Students of the Higher Secondary have since graduated and become respectable professionals. Similarly the School's heads, assistant heads, heads of department, counsellors and teachers have often progressed greatly in their careers. Many members of staff include renowned actors, artists, authors, researchers and exponents in various fields of Maltese society.

The Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School has given a significant contribution towards higher education in Malta for the past quarter century. It will continue to do so in future as long as this memorial history is appreciated, appraised and successfully extended.

Anton Quintano B.A. (Hons.), M.A., Dip. Educ. (Adm & Mgt)

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