Internal quality assurance in early childhood education and school education is the responsibility of the respective school. The School Internal Review and Support Unit supports state schools to develop and implement their own internal quality assurance mechanisms. Internal quality assurance of subject teaching is supported and promoted by the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programs. Internal quality assurance of teachers is the responsibility of the Directorate for Education Resources. External quality assurance of education establishments, irrespective of the sector, is the responsibility of the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education. Regulation of the teaching profession by the Council for the Teaching Profession.
The Ministry for Education has organised its quality assurance responsibility, in early childhood and school education, to the following entities:
• Internal quality assurance performed by the educational institution – in the case of state schools (hosting children age 3 to 16), these are supported by the School Internal Review and Support Unit;
• External quality assurance performed by the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programs (DLAP);
• Internal Quality Assurance by the Directorate for Education Resources;
• Setting standards and guidelines, monitoring and enforcing external quality assurance by the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE); and
• Regulation of the teaching profession by the Council for the Teaching Profession.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
The Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education
Quality assurance as specified by Chapter 605 of the Laws of Malta, the Education Act, establishes that the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE) is required to establish, regulate, assure and monitor standards and quality in education of all the educational establishments attended by students of compulsory and pre-compulsory school age, irrespective to which sector they pertain to. Such reviews are required so as to guarantee optimum quality especially in terms of educational programmes and services and of operations.
The Directorate of Quality and Standards in Educations supervises the provision of a high-quality service within the early years sector both within Child Care Centres and within Kindergarten Centres. Much is done at the pre-operational stage to ensure that prospective childcare centres and kindergarten centres meet the highest standards of service and conform to both the National Standards for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (0-3) and the National Occupational Standards (2012). Furthermore, once they start to operate, childcare centres’ licenses, which are renewed following external evaluation. This process includes the compilation of a report which is given to each childcare centre in order to support the continual process of improvement. This practice facilitates the process by which all childcare centres are helped to comply to the official national standards for childcare centres.
As regards Quality Assurance at Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary level, a system of External Evaluations is also in place. These are also meant to ensure that Kindergarten Centres and Schools are in line with the aims indicated in the diverse education policies which guide provision at the various levels. Special attention is being given on internal evaluation systems, school development planning, the learning process and assessment strategies. Collectively, these quality assurance mechanisms ensure that there is effective implementation of the principles of quality assurance as enshrined in the National Curriculum Framework (2012, p.32), while they also contribute to the successful achievement of the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024.
Two departments within DQSE and another under the Office of the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Education are responsible for ensuring quality education in schools. These are:
• The Quality Assurance Department (QAD)
• The Regulation and Compliance Section (RCS)
The Quality Assurance Department
The Quality Assurance Department (QAD), forms part of the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE) within the Ministry for Education and has been acting as the regulator for educational institutions since 2005. The QAD fulfils the role of the Educational Inspectorate that is stipulated by law to carry out external reviews in educational institutions within State, Church and Independent sectors. External reviews follow on the principles set by the National Curriculum Framework (2012) and other national policy documents and guidelines that are issued from time to time.
Through the external review structure, the QAD is committed towards promoting, within schools, a culture of continuous professional growth and school improvement. The processes established for external reviews in schools guarantees that each school will be considered and evaluated within its own context. School success and good practice are celebrated and opportunities for further improvement and development are discussed with the schools always within an environment which promotes professional dialogue. External reviews also take place in early childhood educational settings where attendance is not compulsory.
Review Guidelines are disseminated so that all educators, including the school leadership have a clear understanding of the review parameters. The QAD, through different review models, is committed towards guiding schools in further understanding and developing their potential for growth. This is done through discussion on the internal review exercise carried out by the school and the review of the implementation processes currently adopted by the school. It is to be noted that all review models work towards ensuring that each learner gets the best educational experience and quality education.
External reviews in childcare centres regulate the service provided by these institutions in line with National Standards for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (0-3). DQSE officials monitor and regulate these centres and help providers meet the expected standards.
The Regulation and Compliance Section
The Regulatory Compliance Section (RCS) as part of the DQSE is particularly responsible for the Non-State Educational Sector, namely Church Schools, Independent Schools, International Schools and Independent Summer Clubs. The main functions of this section are to:
• Regulate and ensure compliance on the part of Non-State Schools;
• Register new schools and summer clubs;
• Renew Childcare Centre Registrations on a yearly basis;
• Evaluate applications and issue registrations for new childcare centres;
• Renew licenses of schools and educational establishments;
• Evaluate applications and issue registrations for educational establishments;
• Ensure that all schools follow the National Curriculum Framework and adhere to the National Minimum Conditions as outlined in the Education Act of 1988 (amended in 2007), and the related legal notices.
As of 2016 Licensed institutions can submit a programme for accreditation to the DQSE. These programmes are assessed and pegging to the Malta Qualifications Framework. This accreditation process is based on a number of principles, as set in the Referencing Report for Malta (2016) and National Curriculum Framework (2012). The accreditation process adheres to the parameters set in the same Report, with respect to the level descriptors and the number of credits assigned for the learning outcomes stated. At the same time, it also follows the educational philosophy and principles of the NCF together with all national policies related to compulsory schooling. Besides the three formal routes (Academic, Applied, Vocational), the DQSE initiated the accreditation of non-formal programme in 2017 based on the UNESCO four pillars of learning, My Journey: Achieving through Different Paths (2016) policy and the National Curriculum Framework (2012).
The Directorate for Education Resources
An essential element of quality assurance is the induction process for newly recruited teachers, currently managed by the Directorate for Education Resources. A teacher induction policy was launched by the Quality Assurance Department for the state sector. The Education Act requires that all graduate teachers undergo two years of supervised experience in a registered school to be eligible for a Permanent Teachers’ Warrant.
The induction process is considered an essential initial process for teachers to gain the necessary guided practical experience after following theoretical preparation during their studies. This induction process is in fact intended to facilitate the full integration of new teachers so as to become effective and successful professionals.
The induction of newly recruited teachers runs in parallel with the probation period. Throughout these two years newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are expected to focus primarily on developing key professional knowledge, attitudes and skills required to become successful reflective practitioners within the education system.
During their induction process NQTs are required to:
• Participate in a three-day Induction Seminar held before the beginning of the school year;
• Keep a Personal Reflective Journal;
• Attend for a minimum of three formal meetings with the mentor during school hours;
• Attend for a concluding meeting at the end of the school year organised by the Head of College Network.
Ongoing training is provided for Education Officers, Heads of School, Assistant Heads, Heads of Department and prospective Teacher Mentors. It is also envisaged that any other officers and employees within the Directorates, Colleges and schools could request to be mentored at any time in their career for guidance, support and/or encouragement as required by them.
The School Internal Review and Support Unit
The School Internal Review and Support Unit (SIRS) strives to support schools in developing their capacity to become communities of reflexive practice. More specifically, SIRS seeks to assist Colleges and schools in the execution of an effective internal review process, that is the school self-evaluation exercise, which is an integral part of school development planning. To reach this goal, SIRS conducts several school visits and provides feedback on internal review processes and development planning, aimed at bringing about improvement.
In order to further support schools in developing their action plans, SIRS delivers a series of training sessions to all teaching grades and members of the Senior Management Team (SMT), both as part of the Community of Professional Educators (CoPE) training sessions, as well as other professional development programmes that are held from time to time, as the need arises.
The Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes
The key areas falling under the remit of the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes (DLAP) are the leadership and management of all learning and assessment programmes, classroom support related to teaching and learning, provision of textbooks and continuous teacher training.
DLAP supports and promotes quality subject teaching through its Education Officers, who are responsible for monitoring the teaching and learning of a particular subject, mainly through classroom visits and issuing guidelines on interpreting the curriculum. Subjects are organised in four units: Education for diversity and humanities; STEM; Vocational Education and Training; Languages and Early Years. Additionally, DLAP coordinates the work of Education Officers (Curriculum), who work within each College and are tasked with supporting the quality of teaching and learning in Early years settings, Primary, Middle and Secondary schools within the respective College. Furthermore, DLAP has Education Officers responsible for certain at-risk groups, such as migrant learners or children with specific learning difficulties, to ensure that they can fulfil their potential through the provision of a differentiated curriculum, where appropriate.
The Educational Assessment Unit (EAU), within DLAP, monitors and supports teaching and learning through formative and summative assessment procedures. Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategies are promoted by AfL Education Officers in primary and post primary schools, focusing on the process of learning. Learners develop practices whereby the standard of performance they are expected to reach is recognised. Learners are supported to self-monitor their own learning and self-reflect on their own work. AfL strategies in our schools are promoted to improve metacognition skills, particularly the capacity to learn how to learn. Additionally, the EAU monitors and moderates Assessment of Learning (AOL), examined through end-of-year examinations, which take place during the last three years of primary school and throughout secondary education; national benchmark examinations at the end of primary school; and school-based assessment. Students’ summative assessment results are monitored by the EAU, in collaboration with the Heads of Department within schools. Th
e Educational Assessment Unit is also responsible for the administration in Malta of the following international studies:
• The Trends in International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS) that tests the mathematical and scientific competences attained by Grade 4 and Grade 8 students (equivalent to our Year 5 and Year 9 students). This assessment was administered in 2007, 2011, and 2015 and 2019;
• The International Civic and Citizenship Study (ICCS) testing students’ knowledge and understanding of concepts and issues related to civics and citizenship, as well as their value beliefs, at¬titudes, and behaviours (2009, and 2016 while preparations are in place for the administration of ICCS in 2022);
• The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) that assesses nine-year-old students for the level of reading literacy they achieve (2011 and 2016 and to be administered again in April 2021);
• The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) involving 15-year-olds at the end of compulsory education (2009, 2015 and 2018. The 2021 cycle has been postponed to 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic);
• The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) surveys teachers and heads of school regarding their working conditions and the learning environments. TALIS aims to provide valid, timely and comparable information to help countries review and define policies for developing a high-quality teaching profession (2008 and again in 2018);
• The European Survey on Language Competences (SurveyLang) testing the level of competences of Maltese students in English and Italian as foreign languages (2012).
Council for the Teaching Profession
The Council for the Teaching Profession (CTP) was established by virtue of Article 26 of the Education Act (Chapter 327 of the Laws of Malta) to regulate the practice of the teaching profession in Malta, including to review and assessment of teacher qualification and training standards; and to inquire into any allegation of professional misconduct, gross negligence or incompetence by a teacher. The CTP regulates teachers employed within compulsory education (i.e. with students aged 5-16 years). The CTP’s remit will extend to educators employed within kindergartens (i.e. with students ages 3-5 years) once the Teaching and Allied Professions Act (Act XXX of 2019) comes into force.