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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.2Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education is guided by the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), which aims to provide young learners in compulsory education with an appropriate entitlement of learning that enables them to accomplish their full potential as individual persons.

The NCF provides the vision, objectives and values which guide the curricular aspect of the secondary education cycle. It also provides the framework in which schools construct their educational goals and guides teachers to develop adequate teaching strategies and resources.

The following table lists the compulsory subjects that are studied during the secondary cycle, together with the optional areas of study.


Compulsory subjects

Maltese, English, and one foreign language (from among French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic);


Integrated Science (in Grades 7 and 8) and then Physics (in Grades 9 to 11), ICT, Design & Technology;

Religious Knowledge/Ethics, Personal, Social & Career Development (PSCD);

History, Geography, Social Studies;

Expressive Arts;

Physical & Health Education (PHE).

Elective subjects offered during the final three years of the secondary cycle

(a combination of two subjects to be chosen; some restriction may apply)

A foreign language from among French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic;

Chemistry, Biology;

Art, Accounting, Agribusiness, Business Studies, Design & Technology, Physical Education, Geography, Graphical Communication;

Home Economics, Music, History, European Studies, Computer Studies, Social Studies, Textile Studies;

Engineering Technology, Hospitality, Information Technology, Health & Social Care and AgribusinessVET subjects – Engineering Technology, Hospitality, Information Technology, Health & Social Care, Agribusiness, Hairdressing & Beauty, Media Literacy Education, Retail, Fashion and Textiles;

Applied subjects – Engineering Technology, Hospitality, Information Technology, Health & Social Care, Agribusiness, Hairdressing & Beauty, Media Literacy Education, Retail, Fashion and Textiles.


The NCF builds on the principles of entitlement and quality education that were outlined in previous curricular documents such as the National Minimum Curriculum (NMC). Continuing on the foundations put down in the NMC, the NCF addresses the holistic development of each learner and advocates a quality education for all.

Since the NCF, which came into practice in February 2013, is the first curriculum framework put forward since Malta joined the European Union in 2004, it takes into consideration important policy-related documents issued by the European Commission. Indeed, the NCF proposes a long-term vision for the educational entitlement of all learners in pre-school and compulsory education within a wider lifelong learning dimension. The NCF allows for flexibility within which colleges and schools determine aspects of the curriculum to address specific targets within the college/school community.

The NCF has also proposed a perspective to learning that merges a cognitive and social constructivist approach for effective teaching and learning. Within this context it recommends that teachers adopt a differentiated teaching and learning environment to facilitate the progress and achievement of each learner. Principles of diversity and inclusion underpin the NCF. Indeed, the NCF places emphasis on student-centred learning and focuses on teaching methods that support students to become autonomous learners.

Several proposals laid out in the NCF have been put in practice among them the recommendation that the schools’ timetable in the secondary cycle is to have a minimum of 40 lessons per week. Another measure that has also been implemented is that based on the 2 + 3 model, in which the first two years of secondary schooling have a curriculum that is practically common to all and optional subjects are then taken in Grades 9, 10 and 11.

The NCF proposes a smooth transition from primary to secondary school whereby the learning experiences in primary education are further consolidated in the secondary level. The NCF aims for secondary education to reinforce and extend the eight learning areas proposed in primary education, these being Languages; Mathematics; Science; Religious Education; Citizenship Education; Technology Education; Arts Education and Health Education.

The NCF offers an alternative perspective of curricular content from the current system of portioning the secondary curriculum into independent subjects. The proposal does not imply the abolition of traditional subjects but rather the integration and linking between subjects.

The NCF entailed the re-organisation of the traditional subjects’ content into eight learning areas. This required the introduction of modular learning and a certain degree of interconnectedness within each learning area, achieved through the creation of a Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF) that included an overhaul of all curricula.

The LOF aims to facilitate a move away from standalone subjects to learning areas that form the learners’ entitlement towards inclusivity, citizenship and employability. The aims of the LOF are being implemented through the establishment of Learning Outcomes (LOs) for each learning area.

The Learning Outcomes started being phased in as from September 2018 when these were introduced in Kindergarten 1, Grade 3 and Grade 7 while in September 2019 these were extended to include Kindergarten 2, Grade 4 and Grade 8. This process will continue to be extended so that by September 2021, the LOs will cover all the primary years while the last year of the secondary cycle, Grade 11, will be following the LOs by September 2022.

In conjunction with the NCF, a document entitled A Vision for Science Education in Malta was issued in 2013 aiming to make a fundamental component of the curriculum in secondary education. Indeed, the document had recommended a programme of Core Science for Grades 7 and 8 which could then be extended to the last three years of secondary schooling. Such a programme would be aimed to target students who do not wish to specialise in science. This core science subject will be offered as an exam which students can sit for at the end of Grade 11.

These curricular initiatives are aligned with other strategies and policy documents through the implementation of the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024. This coherent and comprehensive strategic framework is bringing together and aligning all strategies, policies and plans under the Ministry for Education and Employment.

This framework, encompassing all educational cycles, aims to ensure for all children and young people, amongst others, to have the opportunity to obtain the necessary skills and attitudes to be active citizens and to succeed at work and in society. To achieve this aspiration, the Framework has four measurable targets, two of which concern students in the secondary cycle.

These targets are aiming to reduce the gaps in educational outcomes, decrease the number of low achievers and raise the bar in students’ literacy, numeracy, and science and technology achievement; and to support educational achievement of children at-risk-of-poverty and from low socio-economic status, and reduce the relatively high incidence of early school-leavers.

It is envisaged that success in attaining these targets will result in a rise in the levels of student retention and attainment in further, vocational and tertiary education and training and also an increase in the participation of adults in lifelong learning activities.