In September, permanent secretary of Malta’s Ministry for Education and Employment Dr. Frank Fabri signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Learning Machine Technologies to implement the company’s Blockcerts system at the nation’s institutions of learning. The platform, built atop the Bitcoin blockchain, will facilitate the issuance of blockchain-based academic certificates, which will complement the hard copies that are currently standard.
This distributed repository for academic credentials offers several possible benefits over paper certificates: unlike physical records, they cannot be lost or destroyed, and the Blockcerts app “communicates with issuing institutions to receive, verify, store, and share” records in addition to verifying the record holder’s identity, according to a press release from Learning Machine Technologies.
A statement from the Education Ministry gushed that “Blockchain gives us the opportunity to ensure that every Maltese citizen take ownership of their educational credentials” while Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said the system will allow Maltese the “flexibility to share them with whomever they choose at no cost.”
The press release touts the resilience of blockchain-based records, claiming that Blockcerts credentials remain “verifiable even if the issuing institution ceases to operate, preventing the loss of verifiable records in case of war, natural disasters, and economic crises.” The statement also celebrates the platform’s compatibility with various software environments.
The government projects that Malta’s first education credentials will find their way onto the blockchain by the year’s end. The Malta College for Art, Science, and Technology; the Institute for Tourism Studies; and the National Commission for Further and Higher Education will be the first three institutions to issue these digital certificates, which will recognize both “professional and informal education,” according to Malta Today.
Fabri signed the MoU a week after the Maltese government launched a taskforce to investigate possible blockchain use cases and nearly a full eight months after the signing of an initial MoU with Learning Machine Technologies. Bartolo reportedly first began working with the MIT Media Lab and Learning Machine on this project in 2016, the same year those entities debuted Blockcerts.
Malta is not the only nation in search of blockchain solutions to education credentialing challenges. In late 2016, a Kenyan official announced, “The government of Kenya, working with IBM, is currently implementing a blockchain-based education certificate management system so that if you are a Kenyan student you can't fake your exam outcomes.”