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Malta - Education and Schools

Childcare centres operate across Malta and Gozo, providing care for children from three months to three years old. From April 2014 free childcare centres became available, with many private centres signing up to the scheme. The government childcare centres are registered with the Department for Social Welfare Standards and are managed by the Foundation for Educational Services (FES). All childcare centres must follow the standards set by the Policy for Child Care Facilities and must meet the National Standards for Child Day Care Facilities (2006).

The principle of “educare” is at the heart of the childcare centre standards. A modern, safe and fully equipped environment should be the setting for activities which stimulate social, emotional, physical, intellectual, communication and creative development. Parents and childcare centre staff are asked to work together so each child can reach their full potential.

The services of the government childcare centres are available to all children whose parents live, work or study in locally, but are targeted towards children at risk of social exclusion, in particular:

• Children who would benefit from spending time in the centre due to family circumstances.
• Children whose parents would need respite due to serious problems.
• Children of single parents, especially those who choose to follow a course or decide to start working to improve their financial situation.
• Children who have developmental delays and need more individual attention before starting kindergarten.
• Children who live within the locality or other college localities.
• Children whose parents work within or close to the locality.

Parents whose children attend a childcare centre which is registered with the Department for Social Welfare Standards can apply to receive a deduction in the tax amount payable to Inland Revenue.

Kindergarten classes are available for children aged 3 to 5 years, and are held in local primary schools. To obtain a place, parents or guardians should register with the head of the primary school no earlier than at the age of 2 years and 9 months. The ID of both parents must be presented. If parents are no longer living together, then the court documents proving separation/annulment must be shown.

Primary schools are attended by 5-11 year olds, with streaming introduced for the final two years. Children take a national test at the age of 11, with those who achieve the highest marks being offered a place at the junior lyceum. The others will attend secondary school.

Education from the age of 5 until the age of 16 is compulsory. Many young people choose to enter tertiary education after taking their Secondary Education Certificate exams at the age of 16. Matriculation exams will be taken two years later at the age of 18, for those who wish to progress on to higher education.

There are many families who home school. They argue that under the Constitution of Malta (1964) only education, and not school attendance, is compulsory.

There are four types of school run in Malta:

• State (government) schools
• Church schools
• Independent schools
• Specialist schools

Children attending state schools in Malta do so entirely without any tuition costs. They also receive free transport to and from school, and free resources such as exercise books and the loan of text books. The parents must, however, provide school uniform. Lessons will be taught in Maltese, except for English lessons, and Maltese is usually the language used by children in the playground. The curriculum is largely modelled on the British system. Children take mid year and end of year exams. About 60% of the school population attend the free state schools.

Although classes in religious instruction are a compulsory part of school life, non-nationals do not have to attend them. Should the parents request this, the child can spend the lesson in the library rather than in the classroom where the religious instruction is being given.

Church schools are extremely popular and places are often allocated by ballot. Whilst they do not have a mandatory fee structure because the government covers the cost of salaries, there is an annual donation which all parents are expected to make so the school can buy all non-staffing resources. Whilst nuns and priests will have a presence in church schools, the majority of staff will be lay people. Like state schools, church schools are regulated by the ministry of education, so the curricula will be similar.

There are a number of independent schools offering places to fee paying pupils. Again, they are regulated by the ministry of education with a similar curriculum to that of the state and church schools, although the international schools may offer a more varied curriculum. Lessons are normally taught in English, except for Maltese language lessons.

There is a small number of schools dedicated to the education of children with special needs. Many children living with a disability will be helped to access mainstream education, but for some children a dedicated centre is the right choice.

In 2014 the government introduced free breakfast clubs to help working parents on school days. The clubs run in every primary school, allowing children to be dropped at school from 7am and receive a healthy breakfast whilst their parents travel to work. Application is easy, requiring the completion of a simple registration form.

School days normally end at 2.30pm at primary school and 3pm at secondary school. It is unusual to find an afterschool club being run by the school, so private childcare is needed if you are at work. Some day care centres pick them up.

Extra curricular activities outside school are normal for many families. To receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation, children must attend additional evening doctrine lessons. Private tuition for entrance to the Junior Lyceum and for O-Level exams are common.

Homework is a normal part of the education system in Malta. Some schools may give as much as two hours’ homework each night.

School summer holidays are 30th June to the last week in September. In addition are national holidays, saint holidays and carnival holidays, Easter (March or April), Autumn (November) and Christmas (December/January). Childcare is expensive, though many privately run clubs offer a more affordable solution.

Only 85% of 16 year olds register for the School Education Certificate exams. Malta has a high percentage of early leavers from education and training (18-24 year olds); almost 20% compared with the EU average of 11%. The country ranks below average in the Pisa tables for science, maths and reading. According to a European Commission report in 2016, despite recent investment in education, Malta still has the highest proportion of low-qualified adults in the EU.

Approximately 11,000 students attend the University in Malta, which is located in Msida. Full time, part time and diploma courses are offered. With teaching delivered in English, approximately 650 international students have joined the student body. Overseas Universities are also building a presence in the country.

The Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology has ten centres around Malta and Gozo. The full time and part time courses, from certificates to degrees, are delivered in partnership with many local businesses and industries.

Tourism is an important industry in Malta, so the The Institute of Tourism Studies was set up to train those aged over 16 to deliver high quality services to future island visitors. It is located in St Julian’s, with a branch operating from Gozo.

Ongoing adult education receives government funding, so a wide range of courses are provided to participants, usually free of charge. The courses are offered across the country both during the day and in the evenings.

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