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Education in Malta
Choosing a school for your children is probably one of the most stressful things you’ll ever have to do. In this article we outline the basic structure of the Maltese educational system and what you can expect from different types and levels of schooling. Ultimately, your choice of school for your children will be highly instrumental in helping them settle into life in Malta as best and as quickly as possible.
Different types of schools in Malta
In Malta, schools are divided into two main categories: state and private.
State schools: Found in almost every village and town in Malta, state schools are completely free. Parents who opt to send their children to state schools can enjoy free transport for their children to and from school and do not have to pay for tuition or other things used in class. Indeed, the only thing they do need to buy is the children’s school uniforms and books. That said, the language used in state schools is predominantly Maltese which means that children who do not know the language may find it difficult to communicate with their peers at first.
Private schools: The private school sector can further be divided into two main branches – church schools and independent schools. As implied by the name, church schools are run by the Catholic Church, however, thanks to an agreement with the state, parents do not need to give school fees in the traditional sense of the word and are instead encouraged to donate a small, yearly sum. Transport, school supplies and uniforms are paid for by parents and children are usually granted entry via an annual lottery where names are drawn. Many foreigners who want to settle down in Malta usually opt to send their children to independent or international schools. At these schools, parents must cover all tuition, transport and school material fees, however, both in these schools as well as in church schools, the language usually spoken both in class as well as during extra-curricular activities is the English language. This is a great contributing factor as to why expats usually opt to send their children to private schools as opposed to state schools.
Different levels of education
Pre-school/Kindergarten: While this level of education is not compulsory, parents do indeed have the option of sending their three to four year olds to pre-school or kindergarten. Here, children learn how to interact with each other through mostly play and may also be introduced to the basics of literacy and numeracy.
Primary school: Schooling is compulsory for all children from the age of five. Pre-2010, state schools would stream students in the last two years of their primary school tenure in accordance with their academic progress with a view to channel such students to the appropriate secondary school. However, due to the fact that many parents complained about the pressure this process was putting on their offspring, this practice is no longer in use.
Secondary school: Secondary school houses children and young teens between the ages of eleven and sixteen and prepares them for their Ordinary Level examinations. Children are allowed to leave school at the age of sixteen, however, all are encouraged to at least sit for the five compulsory O’levels which are: English, Maltese, Maths, a science subject and a foreign language. Despite these five subjects being compulsory, many students often sit for examinations in a further six or seven subjects. Students who are unable to get passes in their O’levels are ineligible to go to sixth form and therefore also ineligible to continue on to read for a degree at the University of Malta. Approximately 60 percent of Maltese students continue their studies after successfully completing their compulsory education.
Post-secondary education: On turning sixteen, students can opt to attend one of several higher education institutions. Schools such as Junior College, Higher Secondary and MCAST are completely state-owned, however, while the first two are aimed at those who wish to continue their studies at the University of Malta, the latter is classed as a technical institute and offers a variety of vocational, higher level and degree courses. Privately owned sixth forms and their state-run equivalents offer two-year courses and in that time frame students are allowed to sit for as many Advance Level and Intermediate Level subjects as they like. Each university course has its own particular requirements; however, a certain number of points calculated according to Advanced Level examination results must be achieved for students to be admitted to University.
University: The length of university courses in Malta varies according to the subjects chosen, however, the average length of a basic degree is three to four years. The University of Malta is over 400 years old and is one of the oldest in Europe. Unlike other universities abroad, the University of Malta is completely funded by the state and in addition to this, students are given a monthly stipend to encourage them to continue their studies. Around 11,000 students study at the University of Malta. Of these, some 650 are international students hailing from 77 countries. The University has a healthy Erasmus and exchange programme which means that students have boundless opportunities to study abroad.