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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Educational guidelines


4.Early childhood education and care

4.3Educational guidelines

Last update: 30 January 2024

Steering documents

There are several key national documents that steer Early Childhood Education and Care provision. Some policy documents apply to both Childcare and Kindergarten, while others are specific to only one stage.

Binding documents that apply to both Childcare and Kindergarten include:

Binding steering Documents that apply specifically to childcare include: 

Binding steering Documents that apply specifically to kindergarten include:

The Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015) establishes the learning-through-play approach as the chosen pedagogy at the early years level. This document also establishes that on-going, formative, authentic, observation-based assessment as the assessment of choice throughout the early years. This document serves as a toolkit for educators for the early years cycle 0-7 years. It identifies specific learning outcomes, pedagogy and assessment strategies. 

The Language Policy for the Early Years in Malta and Gozo (2016) provides guidelines for the concurrent bilingual development in the Maltese and English languages for children 0-7 years. It is intended to provide direction in the promotion of bilingualism to parents, educators and members of the management. It provides all the necessary directions to enable Childcare Centres and Kindergarten settings to develop their own language policies with the aim of sustaining children’s development in the two official languages: Maltese and English. 

A third important steering document is the Early Childhood Education and Care (0–7 years) National Policy Framework for Malta and Gozo (2021). This document identifies five goals that must be achieved in order to be able to move forward successfully in this area. The five identified goals are (1) Accessibility, (2) Workforce, (3) Curriculum, (4) Monitoring and Evaluation, (5) Governance and Funding.  It is made clear that unless progress is made in relation to these five targets, it will be difficult to see this area improving as envisioned. 

A fourth important steering document is the Quality Assurance Framework for Education in Malta (0-16 years) (2023). This National Quality Assurance Framework for pre-compulsory and compulsory schooling finds the provision of quality education at its centre. The concept of Quality Education is viewed through the holistic lens of structure quality and process quality. This framework seeks to link internal and external quality assurance to sustain both school autonomy as well as accountability. In fact, the framework establishes systems of internal quality assurance carried out by each individual educational institution, that are meant to be complemented by external quality assurance, where external evaluations are carried out in the light of the institution’s own plans for improvement.

A fifth important steering document is the Early Leaving from Education and Training Strategy (2023). In the strategy it is being suggested that the ministry in charge for education should extend the Free Childcare Scheme to allow access to all children within the target age range. To this end, it is recommended that eligibility should not be restricted to children whose parents are in employment or education, as this prevents access to many of those who are most likely to benefit from it. This strategy also clearly states that “the importance of quality childcare service which lays the foundations for children’s education and character development is a top priority,” thereby encouraging investment in this area. 

Childcare centres

The National Standards for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (0-3 Years) (2021)  provide the framework for monitoring quality of service provision in Centre and Work based Childcare Centres for children aged 0 to 3. The National Standards are compulsory. In fact, they essentially act as a yardstick with which each childcare centre’s performance is measured through external review visits carried out on a regular basis. Failing to meet these standards would mean failing to obtain or renew one’s licence and therefore the inability to operate at all. Furthermore, this license to operate enables Childcare Centres to participate in the Free Childcare Scheme and parents to be eligible for a tax rebate in accordance with L.N. 466 of 2010 - Deduction (Childcare Fees) Rules, 2010

The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012) is also relevant for Childcare Centres since it presents a curriculum on which the Learning Outcomes Framework as well as the Learning and Assessment Programmes at Levels 1 and 2 have been developed. When reviewing Childcare Centres, these Learning Outcomes are held as the standard  to which all Childcare Centres are expected to comply.

Kindergarten settings

The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012), presents a curriculum on which the Learning Outcomes Framework as well as the Learning and Assessment Programmes for Kindergarten education are based. Indeed, the law states that it is the duty of schools to, “ensure that the National Curriculum Framework is translated into appropriate curricula, programmes, pedagogies and assessments for the students through an adequate school development plan and that these are implemented” (Education Act, p. 8).

The steering document that provides the vision for a quality education at Kindergarten level is known as the National Quality Standards in Education (3-16 Years) (2023). This document clarifies that national standards play a crucial role in ensuring a high-quality education system by establishing clear and measurable objectives. Indeed, in this document, it is argued that the shift towards an education system guided by agreed-upon standards marks a significant milestone in the development of the Maltese education system. This document establishes a vision for school improvement while providing concrete measures, through the definition of specific success criteria and quality markers for three sets of standards. These standards are designed to enhance school effectiveness and guarantee high-quality educational outcomes.

Areas of learning and development

The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012) identifies five broad learning outcomes for the Early Years cycle which serve as an overall guide for pedagogy and assessment, ensuring continuity and progression in children’s learning and development within the Early Years (ages 0 - 7). The five broad learning outcomes for the Early Years cycle act as a curriculum which was in fact further developed in the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015). Learning Outcomes for the Early Years directly follow from the five broad learning outcomes identified in the National Curriculum Framework for All (2012). These include:

-      Children who develop a strong sense of identity

-      Children who have a positive self-image

-      Children are socially adept

-      Children who are effective communicators

-   Children who nurture positive attitudes towards learning and become engaged and confident learners.

The Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015) was developed with the aim to move away from centrally-imposed syllabus content, to give more agency to the learners and educators. Both the National Curriculum Framework for All (2012) and the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015) promote a vision of an ECEC curriculum that is based on children’s interests. Children are viewed as competent and able. The Early Years curriculum is meant to emerge from children’s play and interactions and is framed by early childhood educators for every child to succeed.

The A Language Policy for the Early Years in Malta and Gozo (2016) emphasises that Early Years Educators are to: foster positive attitudes towards multilingualism; ensure that children are developing age-appropriate language skills in both Maltese and English (speaking, listening, reading and writing), giving special attention to oracy; provide children with opportunities to use digital technologies to extend their language skills; and  identify and support all children who are struggling in either Maltese and/or English.

A founding principle that permeates all Early Years Policies in Malta is that of holistic development. The belief in holistic education is translated in learning opportunities at Childcare and Kindergarten level that are focused on all areas of child development, including social, emotional, physical, intellectual, communicative, moral and creative areas. Learning opportunities planned for children are developmentally appropriate and linked to children’s interests. Activities usually involve experiential learning implemented through the learning-through-play approach, while encouraging children’s participation, providing opportunities for self-expression, and stimulating intellectual curiosity. Activities are designed to display a wide range of positive images reflecting non-stereotypical roles, and the diversity of race, cultures and religions that characterises many of Malta’s classrooms. Learning Opportunities in both Childcare and Kindergarten include singing, playing, painting, exercising and any creative learning experience that stimulates discovery learning. Every child is supported to participate and reap the full benefits of all activities. 

Pedagogical approaches

The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012) and the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015) build upon a view of the child as competent and able, rather than needy. The pedagogical approaches promoted are child-centred, experiential, and play-based. All learning activities are meant to be built on the children’s own interests, strengths and needs. 

Childcare centres

Quality Area 2 of the National Standards for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (0-3 Years) (2021) deals with the Quality of Learning and Care. Four standards within this document focus explicitly on pedagogical approaches. It is stated that in every Childcare Centre, all children should be equally welcomed and included in a child-friendly and play-based environment that nurtures their learning and development (Standard 2.2). It is also stated that in every Childcare Center, there should be a curriculum that helps children to progress in their learning and achieve the desired learning outcomes at their own pace (Standard 2.3). Furthermore, the National Standards require that environment and resources are of good quality that supports children’s play, learning and development (Standard 2.4). Finally, it is also expected that Childcare Educators nurture meaningful relationships and engage in high quality, enjoyable and stimulating interactions to enhance children’s wellbeing, learning and development (Standard 2.5). In implementing these standards, all Childcare Centres employ a learning-through-play approach. A small minority of Childcare Centres adopt the Montessori method, others employ a Reggio Emilia inspired approach, while others employ a thematic approach to planning. 

Kindergarten settings

Kindergarten provides holistic care and education by addressing the range of children’s developmental needs which include the physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and social aspects. The chosen holistic approach implies that children’s overall development will benefit from having a range of stimulating learning experiences which are conducive to learning using play-based strategies and experiential learning.

The learning opportunities set up by Kindergarten Educators are meant to broaden the child’s knowledge and understanding of the world and enhance the joy and love for discovery and learning through engaging activities. Interactive Flat Panels or Interactive Whiteboards are available in each class and are meant to be used to sustain the process of discovery learning. The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012), the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015) and the National Quality Standards in Education (3-16 Years) (2023) are the national policy documents which guide the learning and teaching experience at kindergarten level. All three follow the same philosophy of holistic development and play-based experiential learning. 

Educational resources in kindergarten classrooms provide opportunities for diverse kinds of play and include items like puppets, children’s kitchens, toys other learning resources. Amongst other things, pupils at kindergarten level are encouraged to play and express their creativity through painting, dance, singing, rhymes, stories, music and drama. Children are also encouraged to explore their physical capabilities through games and free play in order to learn to coordinate body movement. Furthermore, children are made aware of their immediate environment and encouraged to learn to appreciate and respect the world around them. 


The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012) specifies that children aged 0 to 7 should not be formally assessed. Assessment is to be based on on-going observation and documentation of children’s achievements in order to capture the learning processes and outcomes. 

At childcare level, assessment is integrated throughout the learning and teaching process. Children are provided with meaningful experiences throughout the day and learning moments are recorded by educators in different ways (Learning Stories, Portfolios, Samples of Work). Parents are involved in this process so that they can contribute to the shared awareness of the child’s progress. Assessment in Childcare Centres constitutes of records of authentic assessment, based on observation and learning notes as indicated in the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015).

At kindergarten level, the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Toolkit for the Early Years Cycle (2015) suggests the following assessment strategies: anecdotal records; learning diaries, learning stories, and learning journeys; portfolios; photos, videos, recordings and transcripts; projects, work samples and journals. Employment of some of these assessment tools is meant to contribute to building an authentic picture of each child’s holistic development. Formal parents’ meetings are held twice a year to inform parents of their children’s progress. 

Transition to primary school

Transition to primary level is facilitated since the vast majority of Kindergarten classes (in all three sectors, church, state and independent)  are physically within primary school premises and have the same school Senior Leadership Team. This gives Kindergarten Educators the opportunity to familiarise children with their prospective section, and to become increasingly familiar with the school ethos. During the transition process, Kindergarten children are given the opportunity to meet the Year 1 teachers and visit the Year 1 section. In most schools, meetings are also held for parents to help in the transition process. 

The transition is further sustained through the fact that a child-led approach is the pedagogical approach that is also being employed in the first two years of primary. This smoothens the transition process even further.  In fact, the National Curriculum Framework (2012) identifies Kindergarten and both Year 1 and Year 2 as Early Years.