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Teaching and learning in general upper secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.5Teaching and learning in general upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Students in general upper secondary (post-compulsory) education institutions follow subjects that prepare them for the Matriculation Certificate examination, a prerequisite for taking up studies at tertiary level. Students follow syllabi which are drawn up in collaboration with the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Board of the University of Malta. Courses of study at this level are provided both by the state and also by non-state institutions. Institutions run by the state cater for both students who would have acquired the necessary qualifications at the end of compulsory education to continue with studies at the upper secondary level and also those students who need to acquire further examination passes to do so.

The Junior College

The Junior College caters for students who would have attained the necessary examination passes to continue at upper secondary level. The curriculum prepares students to acquire the Matriculation Certificate (MC) necessary for the furtherance of studies at tertiary level.

The subjects studied at this level need to correspond to the entry requirements of the course the students intend to follow at tertiary level. Students are required to choose one subject from each of the following Areas 1, 2 and 3 and two other subjects from any of the four groups. Two of the five subjects must be studied at Advanced level while the other three subjects are studied at Intermediate level. The subject called “Systems of Knowledge” is a compulsory subject and is levelled at Intermediate level.

The subjects on offer are divided in the following groups:

Area 1  Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Maltese, Russian, Spanish
Area 2  Accounting, Classical Studies, Economics, Geography, History, Marketing, Philosophy, Psychology, Religious Knowledge, Sociology
Area 3  Applied Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics, Pure Mathematics
Area 4  Art, Computing, Graphical Communication, Engineering Drawing and Graphical Communication, Home Economics and Human Biology, Information Technology, Music, Physical Education, Theatre and Performance
Area 5  Systems of Knowledge (compulsory subject)

The Junior College timetable operates on a schedule that runs between 0800hrs and 1700hrs. Students attend an average of seven one-hour sessions per week at Advanced level consisting of lectures, seminars, tutorials and, in some subjects, practical sessions, and two one-hour lectures a week for each subject at Intermediate level.

Similar to the Junior College, a number of non-state institutions offer courses leading students to the Matriculation Certificate. These schools are run both by religious organisations as well as by independent institutions.

State Higher Secondary Schools

The curriculum of these schools offers a variety of courses which prepare students either for further education or to seek employment. Students can follow either the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) (Ordinary Level) or the Matriculation Certificate at Advanced and Intermediate Levels.

The Ordinary Level Revision Course is intended for students who did not achieve good enough grades to enter the Junior College and who want to improve their SEC Grades. These students can select three or more subjects at Ordinary level. Similarly, students who would like to improve their career opportunities can follow the Advanced/ Ordinary Level Course.

Ordinary Level studies last one year while Advanced Level studies last two years. Students can choose a minimum of three subjects and a maximum of six subjects, one of which must be at Advanced Level. Students following these courses are entitled to receive a maintenance grant.

The Matriculation Certificate Examination Course offered at Higher Secondary Schools, which is identical to that offered at Junior College, is intended for those students who would like to sit for the Matriculation Certificate Examination. The course is of two years duration and students must take two subjects at Advanced Level, three at Intermediate Level and Systems of Knowledge.

The number of lectures students have varies according to the programme they are following. Lessons are held from 08.15hrs till 15.00hrs from Monday to Friday from October till June for First Year students and from October till the end of March for Second Year students, when the MATSEC examinations begin and students stop attending for lectures.

There are five lectures at Advanced Level and one tutorial and two practical sessions for science subjects, Art, Home Economics, Computing & Information Technology. Three lectures for the SEC Ordinary Level programme are also given plus another three lectures which are core intensive for students who have attained fewer examination passes. Additionally, three lectures per subject are taken at Intermediate level.

Teaching methods and materials

At upper secondary level different education and training provisions are adopted depending on the different strand of studies being followed. These could range from more direct teaching methods adopted in academic settings to more practical approaches in vocational sectors.

Formal instruction generally takes place in these educational institutions where a lecturing method is adopted with tutorials, seminars and practical work taking place in laboratories and workshops. Lecturing is generally carried out to whole classes with tutorials held with smaller groups so as to focus more on personal lecturer-student interaction.

During tutorials, students have the opportunity to work out examples and discuss work related to the subjects being taught. During seminars, students are often asked to make presentations about aspects or issues relating to the subject being taught. Where there are practical experimental components, these are taught in appropriately equipped laboratories.

The Junior College is also committed to providing students with a holistic educational experience. Various character- and personality-building activities are usually organised on Wednesdays. These are approved by the College administration with certificates of participation awarded to those students who get involved. These activities include field trips, cultural activities and sports activities, amongst others.