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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and Learning in Primary Education


5.Primary Education

5.2Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Last update: 30 January 2024

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

The National Curriculum Framework (NCF), adopted in 2012, laid out a paradigm shift away from what was a highly prescriptive knowledge-based curriculum towards a framework based on knowledge, attitudes and skills-based learning outcomes. The learning outcomes allow for internal flexibility at school level, enabling learning to be centred around the individual student, while still outlining what expected to be achieved by children in each of the primary school years. It also recommends that, rather than having stand-alone subjects, teaching and learning should be construed around learning areas that form the entitlement for all pupils.

Thus, the NCF affirms that in the Early Years cycle (comprising kindergarten and the first two years of primary school), emphasis should be given to general competencies developed through cross-curricular themes which contribute to establishing the foundations for lifelong learning. Such competencies can be translated into learning outcomes expected to be achieved by young children by the time they move to the Junior Years cycle (years 3-6 of primary school). The Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF) started to be phased in in 2018.

The National Curriculum Framework apportions time dedicated to each subject per week as follows: 

In primary schools, a certain level of flexibility is embedded since teachers can decide to dedicate more time to a particular subject if they believe that it would be of benefit to their pupils. This flexibility was highlighted through DLAP Circular 092/2023, which emphasised the need to move away from a prescriptive curriculum in Years 1 and 2. The Circular promotes an emergent curriculum, which guides children towards achieving learning outcomes through internal flexibility, cross-curricular learning and sowing the seeds for lifelong learning. 

Maltese and English, the two official languages of Malta, are taught at all levels within compulsory education. English starts to be formally taught from the first year of primary education, although children will have already been exposed to the language at home, in childcare, in kindergarten and throughout their life outside school. Bilingualism is considered the basis of the educational system, entailing the effective, precise, and confident use of the country’s two official languages. This goal is to be reached by all students by the end of their schooling experience. Hence, schools are encouraged to adopt a policy of using two languages and to develop a linguistic strategy that reflects the linguistic needs of their pupils and to provide effective support to individual pupils to overcome their linguistic difficulties. It is recommended that teachers at primary level use English when teaching English, Mathematics, Science and Technology. Code switching is suggested when the use of English inhibits the understanding of the subject. Additionally, schools are encouraged to follow the guidance in Language Policy for the Early Years and Language Policy for the Junior Years, which documents promote the teaching of Maltese and English in a multilingual context, including language teaching in primary education.

The Early Leaving from Education and Training Strategy: The Way Forward 2023-2030 proposes the establishment and monitoring of new and explicit guidelines for Primary Schools on the minimum acceptable time to be allotted to reading and language instruction. It proposes a minimum of 90 minutes per day on language and reading instruction, with low-achieving students having additional time dedicated to reading.

The NCF also proposes that, in addition to the simultaneous development of Maltese and English, in the later years of the Junior Years cycle, children are encouraged to experience foreign languages to encourage the development of multilingualism. Several schools implement the Foreign Language Awareness in the Primary (FLAP) with a view to introduce foreign language appreciation, develop plurilingual and intercultural competences, promote speaking and listening in a communicative environment, enable reflection about own languages, help learners in the process of becoming global citizens. Schools opting to introduce FLAP are guided by the learning outcomes relevant for Years 3 and 4 and Years 5 and 6, with most schools introducing FLAP in the latter 2 years of Primary school.

Teaching methods and materials

The NCF asserts that in primary education, children are entitled to a stimulating, happy, safe, and caring educational environment that builds on early childhood experiences. The pedagogical approaches to be used are ones that promote the development of the young child’s full potential in different aspects of learning. Indeed, the guidelines for the early years emphasise that focus should be on stimulating students’ innate curiosity and providing different learning opportunities for children to engage in meaningful learning experiences. Similarly, the learning outcomes for the primary years focus on acquiring knowledge, skills and competences through engagement, inquiry/problem-solving and evaluation of the learning process. In this context, primary educators are encouraged to provide opportunities conducive to the child’s holistic development, development of 21st century skills and preparation of each young learner to become a lifelong learner.

Primary school teachers employ a variety of methods for organising teaching and learning. DLAP Circular 092/2023, which applies to Kindergarten and the first two years of Primary education, recommends a pedagogy that emerges from the interests, strengths and needs of the children and is framed by the educator. Through an emergent curriculum, the teacher uses observations, knowledge about children’s development and professional knowledge of the curriculum to scaffold learning and help the children to achieve their potential in preparation for formal education. This pedagogy takes on a flexibly integrated approach that provides diverse learning experiences where the educator takes the lead; the children take the lead and the teacher observes and participates; and both educators and children work together on a set task and activity to co-construct knowledge. 

Throughout Primary education, activities range from children undertaking individual or group tasks to whole class activities/lessons. Teachers in the first three years of primary schooling adopt teaching methods such as storytelling, drama, role-play and games. In this way, learning becomes an enjoyable experience and pupils are motivated to take an active role in their learning.

The use of eclectic approaches facilitates the achievement of the teaching objectives. Primary school teachers use a combination of approaches to meet students’ needs and to suit the objectives of the curriculum content. Furthermore, the heterogeneous teaching methods employed by the teacher accommodate the different learning styles of the learners.

Teachers in primary schools are encouraged to adopt a problem-solving or inquiry-based approach to teaching subjects such as science. Indeed, through the teaching of science, teachers seek to provide opportunities that encourage pupils to develop an investigative approach to solving problems.

In 2018, A National Homework Policy was published. This policy provides a working definition of homework and informs on what constitutes effective homework, gives examples of diversity in homework, information on reporting of homework and the amount of homework that should be given to students per year group. Thus, in Years 1-2 the total amount of homework should not exceed 20 minutes per day and in Years 3-6 the total amount of homework should not exceed 30 minutes per day. 

Textbooks (some of which include access to digital platforms) and resource packs are assigned, on a free-of-charge basis, to all pupils in state primary schools. The textbooks related to the different subjects are selected following consultation between teachers, the respective Education Officer (EO) and/or Head of Department (HoD). Textbooks may vary between State colleges since Heads of College Networks can recommend the introduction of textbooks that reflect the educational needs of the pupil cohort within the cluster of schools in the college.

Each primary classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard or an interactive flat-screen panel TV and relevant teaching/learning software. All primary school teachers are provided with a personal laptop computer. Furthermore, pupils from Year 4 to Year 6 (in state and non-state schools) are each provided with a tablet which they use at school and at home. This is funded through the One Table per Child Scheme  which aims to provide equitable access to technology.

This technology enables teachers to deliver lessons in which pupils take a more participative role, making learning more engaging and enriched through ICT applications. Primary school teachers are provided with regular training to facilitate the use of technology and software applications. These measures go hand in hand with the eLearning Strategy for state schools, launched in September 2011, that ensures that pupils have access to high-quality interactive learning content from school, at home and elsewhere.

Most primary schools are equipped with one or more special rooms such as a music room; science room; art room; Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) room; and special education resource room having specialised apparatus. Such rooms are furnished with specialised equipment and resources for the teaching and learning of related subjects. 

Furthermore, all primary schools host a school library that provides a selection of books and digital resources, teacher resources and computer workstations to be utilised by both pupils and teachers. Many of these offer comfortable and attractive places for children to read. Many of these libraries are run by the Local Council.

Most primary schools also have a Nurture classroom, which small groups of children with social, emotional and behaviour difficulties (SEBD) attend for up to two hours per week, during school hours. Through structured activities, games, circle time sessions, talks, discussions and sharing of ideas/news about particular topics, the Nurture Group teacher aims to enhance the pupil’s trust, communications skills, self-esteem and their confidence amongst other skills. 

Additionally, some primary schools have a Multisensory classroom, where students with different needs can be given support targeted to their needs.