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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Educational guidelines


4.Early childhood education and care

4.3Educational guidelines

Last update: 21 June 2022

Steering documents

The relevant steering documents deal with various educational aspects covering ECEC. Three documents namely the ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015), ‘A Language Policy for the Early Years in Malta and Gozo: A consultation document’ (2016) and ‘Early childhood education and care in Malta - The way forward’ (2013), refer to ‘Early Years Education’ for children 0-7 years, thus it includes the first two years of compulsory schooling (ISCED1). The ‘National Curriculum Framework for All’ (2012) also incorporates the same years under the term ‘Early years Cycle’ although it only makes a general reference to education for children under 3 years. On the other hand The ‘National Standards for Child Care Facilities’ (2006) specifically apply to children 0-3 years in Childcare Centres (ISCED 0). 

ECEC settings for children 0-3

National Standards for Child Care Facilities provide the framework for monitoring and assessing quality and outcomes of service provision in Centre and Home based Child Care Centres for children 0-3. Published in 2006, the Standards are the result of months of research and discussions carried out by the Technical Committee on Child Day Care established within the Ministry for Social Policy in May 2002. They were developed in consultation with service providers, parents, educators and a number of relevant entities involved in education, health and safety, employment and training, environment and planning, disability and equality. The National Standards are not backed by legislation however Child Day Care Services are expected to adhere to them in order to be granted official registration by the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE). Registration enables Child Care Facilities to participate in the Free Childcare Scheme  and parents be eligible for a tax rebate in accordance with L.N. 466 of 2010 - Deduction (Childcare Fees) Rules, 2010 . The DQSE makes regular visits in Childcare Centres in order to ensure that these standards are adequately implemented. The National Standards are supported by the National Curriculum Framework and the Learning Outcomes Framework.

Early childhood education and care in Malta: The way forward’. The document was published in 2013 listing recommendations that contribute to the provision of good quality care in the field. It covers aspects regarding: The philosophical re-conceptualising of early years; The provision of an integrated system; Regulations on the registration and accreditation of early years settings; Staff training and qualifications; The provision of a quality service; The accreditation of courses and Curricular programmes and activities. The document is non-binding.

ECEC settings for children 3-5

Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ The document was developed by the Directorate for Quality and Standards  in Education (DQSE) within the Ministry for Education and was published in 2015. It is a toolkit for educators for the early years cycle 0-7 years. It covers Subject Learning Outcomes and Assessment Strategies. The toolkit is currently at implementation phase and is not binding. 

A National Curriculum Framework for All’  Published in 2012, the  document was prepared by the Ministry of Education and Employment and presents a National Curriculum Framework on which the Learning Outcomes Framework as well as the Learning and Assessment Programmes at  pre-school level and compulsory education should be based. The document is binding as it stemmed up from the requirements in Part II of the Education (Amendments) Act 2006 as an update for the national curriculum that was in place since 2000.

A Language Policy for the Early Years in Malta and Gozo: A consultation document’. The document was launched in 2016 and it provides guidelines for the bilingual development in Maltese and English of children 0-7 years. It is intended to provide direction in the promotion of bilingualism to: parents and significant others; early years educators; managers of early years education settings; early childhood teacher educators. The policy was drawn up by a team of practitioners and experts at the Ministry for Education after consultation with teachers, parents and the general public.  The document is non-binding.

Areas of learning and development

The policy document 'A National Curriculum Framework for All' (MEDE 2012) does not propose discrete learning areas for ECEC. It 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 ECEC settings. The five broad learning outcomes of the Early Years cycle are the overall guide for educators’ pedagogy. 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.

Deriving from these five broad outcomes, the ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) was developed and launched with the aim to move away from centrally-imposed syllabi giving more agency to the learners and educators. A pedagogy and assessment toolkit was published online for educators working with young children (0-7 years).
Both 'A National Curriculum Framework for All' (2012) and the Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach promote a vision of an ECEC  curriculum,  grounded  in children’s rights. The child is viewed as a rights-holders, competent, able and having unlimited potential. The early years curriculum emerges from children’s play and interactions and is framed by early childhood educators for every child to succeed in thriving environments.

The ‘Language Policy for the Early Years in Malta and Gozo: A consultation document’ (2016) among others 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; identify and support those children, including migrants, who are struggling in either Maltese and/or English.

Activities at Childcare Centres are focused on all areas of child development, including social, emotional, physical, intellectual, communicative, and creative areas. Activities are age related and age appropriate and are organised to offer learning opportunities to all children according to their individual need. These involve learning through play, one-to-one and group interaction while encouraging children’s participation, providing opportunities for self-expression and promote intellectual curiosity. Activities are designed to display a wide range of positive images and objects reflecting non-stereotypical roles, and the diversity of race, culture and religion. Parental involvement includes visits at the various centres to discuss and plan their child’s needs with the professionals running the centres.

Activities in pre-primary education may include singing, playing, painting, exercising and any creative learning experience that stimulates discovery learning. Every child is expected to participate in class activities and/or tasks allotted. Kindergarten Educators are also expected to meet the individual needs of the pupils and adapt their teaching styles according to the learning styles of their group. Differentiated learning/teaching is also encouraged to cater for the particular needs and abilities of the individual child.

Pedgogical approaches

The ‘National Curriculum Framework for All’ (2012) and the ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) build upon the view of the child as competent and able, rather than needy and incapable. The pedagogical approaches promoted are child centred, based on play and children’s own interests, strengths and needs. Pedagogical approaches aim to address the holistic development of the children.

Childcare centres

Standard 5 of the ‘National Standards for Child Day Care Facilities’ (2006) and the corresponding appendix, namely Care, Learning and Play, deals with the area learning and development of children below the age of three. Annex A in the same National Standards, provides guidelines for Good Practice for Programme of Activities and a List of Equipment for Early Years Setting. Nevertheless, the ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) among others promotes learning for 0-3 by “being active, exploring and investigating, playing, using language and interacting with others”. 
Some Childcare Centres adopt Montessori or Reggio Emilia approaches or a mixture of methods.
Educational materials are provided by the ECEC setting and the rate by paid by government covers the relating costs for parents.

Kindergarten centres

The early years’ environment within Kindergarten classes 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 experiences which are conducive to learning using creative play strategies and discovery learning, rather than specifically concentrating on any one aspect.
Kindergarten experiences are meant to broaden the child’s knowledge and understanding of the world around them and enhance the joy and love for discovery and learning through challenging and engaging activities. All-in-one computers and interactive whiteboards available in each class are meant to be used to enhance the process of discovery learning. The ‘National Curriculum Framework for All’ (2012) and the ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) are the official documents which guide the learning and teaching experience in state kindergartens. In the private sector, some Kindergartens adopt Montessori or Reggio Emilia approaches or a mixture of methods.
The educational equipment for early childhood care provides opportunities for pretend play and includes items like puppets, mirrors, and children’s kitchens. There are also physical activities which require equipment such as climbing frames, mats, tunnels and ball barrels. Equipment and materials such as sand, moulds, wax crayons, recycled materials, play dough, adhesives, nursery-rhyme books and tapes, rulers and shapes are also provided. In school year 2011/2012 interactive whiteboards were installed in each kindergarten classroom while computers were also supplied to be used as a tool to further children’s learning in today’s world. All equipment in state kindergartens is financed by the government.
Pupils at kindergarten level are encouraged to communicate not only through words, but also through gestures and movement, music, art and craft. Children are encouraged to sing, play and express their creativity through painting, dance, rhymes, stories and drama. At the pre-primary level, various toys, wooden shapes, picture books, crayons and paper, paintbrushes, jigsaw puzzles and glove puppets are among the materials found in the classroom to stimulate the child’s interests and further his/her holistic development.
Children are also encouraged to explore their physical capabilities through games and free play in order to learn to coordinate vision and body movement at this early stage. At kindergarten level children are made aware of their immediate environment and encouraged to learn to appreciate and respect the world around them. All Child day-care centres and Kindergarten Centres encourage active participation in games and other physical activities.
All equipment in state kindergartens is provided free of charge. In Church schools expenditure on resources and equipment is partly covered by donations from parents while in Independent schools such costs are covered by the tuition fees paid by the parents. However, government introduced schemes of per capita grants and tax rebates to parents as to sustain wider access to independent education provision.


Childcare centres

At Childcare level, assessment is integrated within the learning and care process. Children are provided with meaningful experiences throughout the day and learning moments are recorded by carers in different ways. Parents are integrated into this process so that they can contribute to the shared awareness of the child’s progress made during this crucial age. Assessment in Child Care Centres is usually based on check-lists and on individual reports although it is now moving towards authentic assessment, based on observation and learning notes as indicated in the ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) .

Kindergarten centres

The progression from Kindergarten 1 to 2 is age-linked. Three-year-olds who enrol in February in Kindergarten 1 do not progress to Kindergarten 2 the following school year since children need to be four years old to proceed to a Kindergarten 2 group.

The ‘National Curriculum Framework for All’ (2012) specifies that children are not formally assessed in the Early Years Cycle (Kindergarten (ISCED 0) to Primary Year 2 (ISCED 1)) while their development and progress will be recorded and reported to parents at least twice a year. Assessment in the Early Years Cycle  is to be based on careful observation and documentation of children’s achievements in order to capture the learning processes and outcomes.

The ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) mentions the following assessment strategies for the Early Years Cycle: Anecdotal records; Learning diaries, learning stories, and learning journeys; Portfolios; Photos, videos, recordings and transcripts; Projects, written work, artwork and other work samples/products; Journals and Self- and peer-assessment. 

Transition to primary school

Transition to primary level is facilitated as most Kindergarten Centres are physically attached to primary school buildings and are therefore familiar with the school ambience and culture.  Additionally, during the transition process, Kindergarten children are taken to meet their primary Year 1 teacher and visit the classroom. In some schools meetings are also held for parents to help in the transition process from home to Kindergarten and from Kindergarten to formal schooling in Year 1. The issues of transition are in the process of being addressed through child-centered pedagogical approaches that favour a smooth transition from Kinder to Primary Years. The ‘Educators’ Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment: Using a Learning Outcomes Approach’ (2015) emphasise on the need to maintain a clear and updated assessment strategy that would among others serve to ensure a smooth transition. It also recommends discussion between educators during the transition period to facilitate sharing of information. 

Further details on Primary years 1 and 2 which form part of compulsory schooling, are included in chapter 5.