Organisation of the education system and of its structure
The Maltese education system is divided into the following levels:
Pre-primary education (ISCED 0)
- Childcare, for children from birth to 2 years and 9 months, delivered in accordance with the National Standards for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (0-3 Years) (2021) and the Occupational Standards for Personnel working within Child Day Care Facilities in Malta (2012); - Kindergarten for children from 2 years 9 months up to 5 years, delivered in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework (2012). Kindergarten classes are grouped according to age, with Kindergarten 1 catering for three-year-olds and Kindergarten 2 for four-year-olds. - More detailed information is provided in ND Chapter 4 (Early Childhood Education and Care).
Education is compulsory for a child who has attained the age of five (5) years and has not attained the age of sixteen (16) years or has not yet completed the last year of secondary school (Education Act, Chapter 605 of the Laws of Malta). Parents are obliged to send their children to school, unless there is a good and sufficient cause for the child to be absent from school. School attendance is monitored.
Compulsory education is delivered in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework (2012), which bases learning content on eight learning areas and five cross-curricular themes. The Learning Areas are: Mathematics, Science and Technology, Health and Physical Education, Religious and Ethics Education, Humanities, Education for Democracy and Visual and Performing Arts. The cross-curricular themes are Literacy, Digital Literacy, Learning to learn and cooperative learning, Education for Sustainable Development; Education for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation; and Education for Diversity.
- Primary education (ISCED Level 1) lasts six years (that is, for children aged 5 to 11 years). Teaching and learning focuses on Maltese and English; Mathematics; Science and Technology; Religious Knowledge/Ethics; Social Studies; Physical Education; Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD); Visual and Performing ArtsExpressive Arts;
- Middle School (ISCED level 2) lasts two years (for children aged 11 to 13 years). Teaching and learning focuses on Maltese, English and a second foreign language of their choice (state schools offer either French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese); Mathematics, Integrated Science, Information and Communications Technology (ICT); Religious Knowledge/Ethics; Physical Education; Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD); History, Geography, Social Studies; Visual and Performing ArtsVisual Arts.
- Secondary school (ISCED level 3) lasts three years (for children aged 13 to 15 years). Teaching and learning focuses on Maltese, English and a second foreign language of their choice (State schools offer either French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese); Mathematics, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and one science subject from Physics, Chemistry or Biology (state schools opt for Physics as compulsory); Religious Knowledge/Ethics; Physical Education; Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD); and History, Geography and Social Studies. Students are also able to choose up to two subjects of specialisation, wherein they can choose from a series of academic, vocational or applied subjects. Towards the end of compulsory education, students sit for their final school examinations. After completing secondary school, students receive a Secondary School Certificate and Profile (SSC&P), which presents a record of academic and personal achievement in students’ formal, informal and non-formal educational experience. Students are encouraged to sit for the national Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) or Secondary Education Applied Certificate (SEAC), organised by the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Board of the University of Malta. Achievement in the SSC&P, SEC and SEAC are recognised at Levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Malta Qualifications Framework.
The government encourages the take-up of post-secondary and tertiary education through offering a range of courses within public further and higher education institutions, which offer full-time courses up to MQF6 free of charge and other courses at subsidised rates. Furthermore, the government funds schemes aimed at increasing the affordability and feasibility of continuing studies beyond compulsory level. These include the Students’ Maintenance Grant, the Get Qualified scheme, the Tax Credit on Higher Educational Qualifications scheme and various scholarship schemes. See Eurydice National Descriptors Chapter 3 for more details on funding support to students and families.
- Post-secondary general education (ISCED level 3) After having completed compulsory education, students may opt to continue general education by:
- attending classes at MQF3, in preparation for SEC/SEAC Ordinary Level exams to improve their grades to qualify for the Matriculation Course; or
- attending classes at MQF4, in preparation for MATSEC Advanced and/or Intermediate Level examinations (generally 2 subjects at Advanced level and 4 subjects at Intermediate level or 3 subjects at Advanced level).
- attending a combination of the above;
- attending a 1-year Proficiency in Foreign Languages course (MQF 3 and 4);
- attending a 1-year course in Maltese as a Foreign Language (MQF Levels 1 & 2); and - attending Non-Formal educational courses (MQF level 3).
These are offered in three state-funded colleges (one of which is run by the University of Malta), 2 church-run colleges and 1 privately-run college. Furthermore, 2 privately-run colleges offer International Baccalaureate Programmes. All colleges organise extra-curricular activities, which aim to develop students’ personal and social selves.
- Vocational further and higher education and training (up to ISCED 8) The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) offers courses from Introductory Certificate MQF Level 1 to MQF Level 8, in applied sciences, creative arts, engineering and transport, business management and commerce, community services, and information and communication technology, offered across six Institutes and the Gozo Centre.
The Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) offers courses specialised for the tourism and hospitality industry, ranging from Foundation MQF Level 2 to MQF Level 7.
The Institute for Education (IFE) offers part-time courses specialised for professional development in the education sector, ranging from MQF level 4 to 7.
Tertiary education (ISCED 5-8)
Tertiary education in Malta is provided mainly by the University of Malta, an autonomous and self-governing body funded by the Government. General undergraduate entry requirements are a Matriculation Certificate, consisting of 2 subjects at Advanced Level and four subjects at Intermediate Level, including Systems of Knowledge; as well as a Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) at grade 5 or better in English Language, Mathematics and Maltese or other native language (in the case of foreign students). Furthermore, the entry requirements of certain courses specify the subject/s required at Advanced or Intermediate Levels. In 2023, the University of Malta hosts fourteen Faculties, eighteen Institutes, thirteen Centres and three Schools. The campus is home to the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI).
Tertiary education is also provided by 106 private universities/higher education establishments.
All post-secondary and tertiary learning opportunities outlined above are also open to adults wishing to return to education, who are afforded favourable entry requirements, and all offer part-time courses. Some institutions also offer courses during the weekend or in the afternoons/evenings to facilitate studying while still managing employment or other responsibilities.
The Directorate for Research, Lifelong Learning and Employability (DRLLE) offers a wide range of courses, ranging from basic skills, academic subjects leading to MATSEC and SEC exams, ICT, personal and civic development, vocational and crafts. Basic skills courses are offered free of charge, while other courses are heavily subsidised.
Furthermore, the University of the Third Age (U3E) provides programmes that are specially planned not only to impart information, but also to be intellectually challenging and to promote exchange of knowledge. The U3E forms part of the University’s European Centre for Gerontology and caters for people aged 60+. Courses are heavily subsidised.
Home education in Malta was introduced in 2021, through Part V (Articles 46-48) of the Education Act, Chapter 605 of the Laws of Malta and is regulated and licensed by the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE). Prior to commencing home education, parents must apply to the DQSE. DQSE’s Board for Home Education accepts the request for home education only after it is convinced that this is in the child’s best interests and that it will offer the child social and educational experiences and facilities commensurate with those experienced at school. Furthermore, the Board ascertains that the child follows an approved accredited programme taught by a Teacher’s Permanent Warrant holder. The quality of home education provision is monitored by external review visits, planned or unannounced, by Education Officers from the DQSE’s Quality Assurance Department (QAD). These visits may recommend improvements to the provision of home education, with commensurate timeframes for compliance, and may also lead to a suspension or revocation of licence.