In Malta, there are two separate stages of educational provision for children who are younger than the starting age of compulsory education (ISCED 0). These services are provided at:
• Childcare Centres, including home-based facilities, where attendance is for children from three months up to the age of 36 months; and
• Kindergarten Centres for children aged 3 to 5 years.
ECEC is part of ‘The Early Years’, an education cycle that covers 0-7 and includes the first two years of primary education (ISCED 1) in addition to ECEC (ISCED 0). The focus of this chapter is on ISCED 0 only.
The Ministry for Education is responsible for ECEC and it is committed to promoting a view of early childhood as an important phase of life in its own right and not just a preparation for adult life. Early childhood education and care is of central importance to Maltese society and a key responsibility for the government. Government, through the Ministry for Education, strives to ensure that safe and high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are available to promote the holistic development, learning and well-being of children and their families in accordance with guidelines.
Childcare provision blends the care and educational aspects where educators create respectful intelligent care moments to grow trusting relationships and intellectually stimulating education. This service also aims to facilitate work and family balance and contribute towards the promotion of social cohesion. The importance being attached to this area is further evidenced by the fact that as from April 2014 the Government has introduced the free childcare scheme. ECEC (ISCED 0) is also free of charge in State and Church Kindergarten Centres. Private owned Kindergarten Centres are available and charge fees.