Fundamental principles and national policies
The principles, aims, objectives and the regulation of education in Malta are laid down in the Constitution of Malta and the Education Act (1988), Chapter 327 of the Laws of Malta. Chapters I and II of the Constitution assert that State compulsory primary and secondary schooling is free of charge, thus making it possible for all children to attain their educational potential.
The Education Act reinforces the State’s commitment towards providing a quality holistic education for all citizens without any distinction of age, sex, belief or socio-economic background, by ensuring accessibility to primary and secondary schools, special schools for children with individual educational needs, and learning institutions to all. The State is legally bound to promote the development of cultural, scientific and technical research and provide for the professional and vocational training and advancement of workers. Disabled persons and persons incapable of work are also entitled to education and vocational training.
The Education Act and its subsequent amendments specify that compulsory school starts at the age of five years. Furthermore, it also states that it is the legal duty of every parent of a minor to ensure that their child is registered in a school for the first school year starting when s/he is of the compulsory school age and continues to attend school regularly up to the end of the school year during which the minor ceases to be of compulsory school age, that is age 15.
The Act also stipulates that the parent of a minor has the right to give his/her decision with regard to any matter concerning the education which the minor is to receive. The Act ascertains the State’s right to establish a national curriculum framework of studies for all State and non-State schools, to establish the national minimum conditions for all schools as well as to ensure compliance. The Act includes mention of the provision for the education and teaching of the Catholic religion in State schools (however the parents of any minor have the right to opt that the minor should not receive instruction in the Catholic religion but instead receives an Ethical Education Programme).
The Education Act also establishes the setting up of a Council for the Teaching Profession, the constitution of the Colleges in which State schools are grouped and the establishing of School Councils and Students’ Councils.
The Act also regulates Further and Higher Education, the University of Malta, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Institute of Tourism Studies as well as the officers and staffing of these entities and their financial provisions.
National education policies in support of the fundamental principles
Part II of the Education (Amendments) Act 2006 required a review of the national curriculum that was in place since 2000. Following a period of extensive national consultation, the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) was launched in 2012.
The NCF recommends a developmental approach to education focused on learning and the learner where the curriculum meets the needs of all children and young people in a holistic manner. The NCF recommends the grouping of the various subjects that comprise the primary and secondary curricula into eight learning areas as the entitlement for each student. The framework also identifies cross-curricular themes that should be present across all learning areas. These include literacy and digital literacy, learning to learn and cooperative learning, education for sustainable development, education for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation and education for diversity. It also differentiates between three learning age-groups and sets specific educational goals for each cycle. The cycles are: early learning years cycle (Kindergarten 1 to Year 2), the junior years cycle (Year 3 to Year 6) and the secondary years cycle (from Year 7 to Year 11).
The NCF advocates an Early Years curriculum that focuses on children’s experiences and provides for positive dispositions towards learning to be developed and extended in later years. The NCF also proposes the development of a primary school curriculum in which learning is an on-going, continuous process that builds on the sound foundation laid during the early years and links closely with the secondary years to ensure smooth transitions between the cycles. The NCF recommends a secondary education that consolidates and builds on the learning experiences of primary education and prepares learners for further education and lifelong learning as well as the wider challenges that students face beyond compulsory education.
External reviews as an integral part of the education process
Articles 18 and 21 of the Education Act provide the legal provisions for the setting up of an educational inspectorate. Article 18 of the Education Act established that the function of the Quality Assurance Department (QAD) is to provide “…a professional service of support, guidance, monitoring, inspection, evaluation and reporting on the process of teaching in schools, on the application of the curriculum, syllabi, pedagogy, assessment and examinations, and on the administration, and on the assurance and auditing of quality in Colleges and schools”.
Regular external reviews take place in all state and non-state kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and, since July 2016, childcare centres. The supporting policy document titled Parameters of the External Review Process explicitly states that the prime objective of the inspectorate is the promotion of school improvement through a process of internal self-evaluation by all the school’s stakeholders. Pre-planned visits from the Education Officers (EOs) of the QAD serve to identify the school’s strengths and areas in need of improvement and will offer support and advice on the latter as necessary. This cycle of internal school reviews (overseen by the School Internal Review and Support Unit) and regular external reviews by QAD aims to assure quality teaching and learning in line with the National Curriculum Framework and national educational developments that emanate from it.
The granting of new school licences, as well as the renewal of existing school and educational licences, falls within the remit of the Accreditation Unit. Licenses are issued or renewed following an inspection at the school confirming that national minimum conditions are in place as stipulated in the National Minimum Conditions for All Schools Regulations Policy Document and subsidiary legislation.
Inclusive education policy
Inclusive education reforms in Malta started in 1996 with a Ministerial Committee on Inclusive Education being set up with the task of addressing the inclusion in mainstream schools of students with intellectual and physical disabilities. The National Minimum Curriculum published in 1999 had Inclusive Education as one of its major principles which eventually led to the publishing of a National Inclusive Education Policy by the Ministry of Education in 2000. In 2005, the Ministry published the Inclusive and Special Education: Review Report which reviewed the inclusion process in Maltese schools to that date and put forward recommendations. This reform started the process which led among other measures to the provision of educational services in mainstream schools for children with individual educational needs.
This inclusive education policy regulates the attendance and participation of children with disabilities in regular schools and the development of individualised educational programmes (IEPs) for such pupils according to their needs. Through this initiative schools strive hard to truly become inclusive places where the great majority of students with disabilities attend mainstream schools. Specialised staff, known as Learning Support Educators (LSEs), is recruited to assist and support learners who have been identified as requiring supportive measures. LSEs provide different levels of support depending on each student’s needs. LSEs can provide support on a one-to-one level or to two or three students at the same time.
In June 2009, further reforms were introduced regarding the provision of special education through the publication of the Special Schools Reform Policy. The reform aims at providing quality education for all students with Individual Educational Needs (IEN) whether they attend mainstream schools or specialised Resources Centres. The policy set out the plan for the setting-up of four resources centres for students with special needs who cannot attend mainstream schools due to their severe disabilities.
The resource centres also serve as platforms offering special support services and multi-sensory programmes to students with special educational needs attending mainstream schools. This plan came into force in September 2010 and these resource centres now cater for students of different age groups. In addition, this reform brought with it a new opportunity for students attending special schools to experience the different phases of school-life as their peers in mainstream education by moving from one school to another as they progress from one level to the next. Each resource centre has been incorporated within a state college network and the four centres are providing services ranging from primary to secondary to young adult education.
The latest policy document related to educational inclusion, Education for All: Special Needs and Inclusive Education in Malta assessed not only the issue of inclusion in Maltese schools but also the whole educational system. This study was carried out by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education in 2014.
While acknowledging the multiple areas of strength in the Maltese education system potentially providing a basis for further work, other areas have been identified that require some degree of development in order for policies and practices to be implemented to address emerging challenges. The fact that legislation is in place promoting a rights-based approach in support of the active participation of all learners was highly commended by the Agency as were the motivation and commitment of educational personnel towards meeting the learners’ diverse needs.
On the other hand, an area identified as requiring further development is that of ensuring that all stakeholders take responsibility for all learners so that learners with special needs are not the sole responsibility of specialised personnel.
Learning Outcomes Frameworks
The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) published in 2012 proposed the setting up of a Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF). This framework is aimed at freeing schools and learners from centrally-imposed knowledge-centric syllabi and to lead them to develop their own educational programmes based on knowledge, attitudes and skills-based outcomes that are more suited to their specific learners, whilst remaining in the confines of national educational entitlement.
Work on developing the LOF commenced in 2014 and was completed in May 2018. The LOF started being phased in in compulsory education from school year 2018/2019. Thus, the learning outcomes have started being implemented in Kinder 1, Year 3 and Year 7 with the implementation being extended for successive year groups in the coming years.
The LOF provides for 10 levels of attainment spread over 14 years of schooling from age 0 – 16 (11 of which, Years 1 – 11, form part of compulsory education), in a school cycle consisting of Early Childhood, Junior, Middle and Secondary years.
|School Cycle||Educational Institution||Age|
|1||Childcare||Gifted and talented learners||Learners with|
Special Education Needs
|Early Childhood Education||Childcare Centres||Resource|
|0 - 7|
|2||Kinder 1||Kindergarten School|
|4||1, 2||Primary School|
|5||3, 4||Junior Years||7, 8, 9|
|6||5, 6||9, 10, 11|
|7||7, 8||Middle Years||Middle School||11, 12|
|8||9, 10||Secondary Years||Secondary|
Source: Learning Outcomes Framework
The LOF describes eight Learning Areas with subjects forming part of either the Core Entitlement or the Other Curricular Entitlement area. In the latter, five vocational subjects are included: Agribusiness, Hospitality, Health and Social Care, Information Technology and Engineering Technology. These subjects are taught in a hands-on approach. Successful completion of these courses of study is awarded with a National Certification at EQF Level 3. This is arrived at after being assessed both in a formative and summative way over the period of the whole course, rather than with a final exam at the end of the final year.
The LOF lists a number of learner-centred outcomes around which the subject content can be built up and against which learner progress can be measured.
|SCIENCE AND |
|RELIGIOUS AND |
Source: Learning Outcomes Framework
The beginning of school year 2018/2019 saw the initiation of a reform emanating from the LOF that saw the discontinuation of half-yearly examinations held in February and the introduction of continuous assessment throughout the school year. Therefore, students from Year 4 to Year 8 will not have half-yearly exams with this initiative being extended to the last three years of compulsory education in the coming years.
My Journey - Achieving through Different Paths
The Ministry of Education has been preparing for a number of years for the introduction of a reform in the last three years of compulsory education called My Journey: Achieving through Different Paths to be launched in school year 2019/2020. This reform is intended for education to move from a 'one size fits all' system to more inclusive and equity-oriented programmes catering to students’ individual aptitudes. Thus, students will be able to choose from several education routes among general, vocational or applied subjects for their elective subjects (beyond the core curriculum) in the last three years of compulsory education.
Under the current system, students are focused mainly on areas of general education like science, business or languages. However, in the past few years vocational subjects were introduced and learning outcomes offered at levels 1-3 on the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF). ‘My Journey’ introduces applied subjects thus changing the secondary education system (beyond core curriculum) into three main streams: general, which reflects current subjects offered; vocational subjects which build on existing ones; and applied subjects. Once the new system is in place students will be able to choose either an individual pathway or a mix of the three. The reform is intended to promote inclusion and to reduce the number of early school leavers by making education relevant to more students and to a changing labour market.