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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Main trends in young people's participation in education and training
  2. Organisation of the education and training system
  3. Main concepts

Main trends in young people's participation in education and training

Malta regards the investment in young people and job-creation as yielding towards the emergence of an adaptive workforce which is able to actively lead and remain at the forefront of modernisation in an increasingly globalised and rapidly-changing labour market. Various initiatives aim to provide Malta’s youth with the necessary skills and talents for citizenship and employability for the 21stcentury. It is important for young people to develop both personal and social skills, and acquire the appropriate knowledge, key skills, competences and attitudes through a value-oriented formation including equity, social justice, diversity and inclusivity.


Access to relevant learning throughout life is a fundamental cornerstone in our aspirations to have a sustainable knowledge-based society and economy. Malta’s vision is to become a learning nation - a society in which learning plays its full role in personal growth and emancipation, prosperity, solidarity and local and global responsibility.


Malta’s past and present experiences have helped policy experts to identify areas of strength and limitations of standing practices, suggesting what should be sustained or improved, as well as where prevention or intervention are necessary to equitably promote values which help achieve the targets highlighted in the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024.


In this regard, the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta: 2014-2024 is a manifestation of the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation’s commitment to providing present and future generations with opportunities to develop the necessary values, skills, and attitudes for active citizenship and employability in the 21st century and increasingly close the gap between the world of education and the rest of the world, including the world of employment. Malta stipulated four main targets in this framework:

  • Reduce the gaps in educational outcomes between boys and girls and between students attending different schools, and decrease the number of low achievers and raise the bar in literacy, numeracy, and science and technology competence, and increase student achievement;
  • Support educational achievement of children at risk of poverty and from low socio-economic status, by reducing the relatively high incidence of early school leavers;
  • Raise levels of student retention and attainment in further, vocational, and tertiary education and training; and
  • Increase participation in lifelong learning and adult learning.


In this context, one of Malta’s aims is to reach a more equitable quality secondary education. Education and training risks become irrelevant if tangible links with life beyond the school walls, remain sporadic and superficial. In November 2016, Malta’s Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation launched the initiative - ‘My Journey – Achieving Through Different Paths Inclusive and Comprehensive Equitable Quality Learning Programmes’. Secondary school students will be able to choose between academic, vocational, applied subjects, or a combination of the three elements during the senior cycle of secondary education. This will involve moving from a 'one size fits all' system to a more inclusive and equitable programme that can specifically cater to each learner's individual talents.


The intended inclusive and comprehensive equitable quality learning programmes for the compulsory secondary schooling structure are driven both by the values of inclusion, social justice, equity, and diversity. This evolved education system is also inspired by the philosophy of values-based education promulgated in the Respect for All document and guided by the Education for All audit report. It is also very much in line with the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goal 4 in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all”.


The Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation is committed to sustaining this educational journey whilst expanding it to increase accessibility to quality vocational training and provide opportunities for more applied learning programmes to all students ensuring parity of esteem and equivalence of qualifications. Malta aims to have a single structure comprehensive and inclusive secondary school with equitable quality academic, vocational, and applied learning programmes within the same school for all students.


In addition, the re-introduction of Vocational Education and Training (VET) subjects in secondary schools was a fundamental initiative to provide learners with an alternative assessment that is also based on the learning outcomes approach. The choice of subjects includes Agribusiness, Engineering Technology, Health and Social Care, Hospitality, and Information Technology.  The selection was inspired by priorities and needs expressed by the local industry. Consequently, the introduction of vocational subjects in the secondary school cycle serves as a measure to bring education processes closer to industry needs and thereby ensure that education caters better to market realities. An alternative Learning Programme for students who pursue a vocational pathway instead of the one in mainstream education has also been successfully implemented.


Malta has also placed VET high on its agenda, with the emphasis being placed on apprenticeship programmes and work-based learning initiatives.  The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) has been responsible for the implementation of the National Apprenticeship Scheme since 2014. Apprenticeship programmes have been merged with the complimentary modes of the ‘off-the-job’ education and ‘on-the-job’ training brought within the structure of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) level 3 and MQF Level 4. The reformed scheme has created a single focal point for apprenticeship training central to which is the quality of vocational and technical training, and is now offering new apprenticeships at different competence levels to reflect labour market needs.  The implementation of a three-tier framework for work-based learning has been launched wherein young people enrolling at MCAST Foundation College – Levels 1, 2 and 3 (Placements and Apprenticeship), MCAST Technical College – Level 4 (Apprenticeship) and MCAST University College Levels 5, 6 and 7 (Internship) are given the opportunity to access and progress to all levels of vocational education offered by MCAST. The number of apprentices has increased in the past years.  In fact, MCAST is currently offering 50% of all its MQF Level 3 and MQF Level 4 programs on apprenticeship, which provide 1000 apprentices with a minimum of 1400 hours of ‘on-the-job’ training. 


Malta also has a Strategic Plan for The Prevention of Early School Leaving that aims at facilitating focused action that will support students to make the best out of their school years, from early childhood to the end of compulsory school. The aim of this strategic plan is to enable students to develop their potential as citizens and as stakeholders in the economy. School communities have changed over the years in terms of student diversity. Preventing early school leaving enables all students to receive their educational entitlement in terms of the opening up of educational pathways that foster fulfilled individuals, empowered citizens, and productive and creative workers. 


A number of measures that make up Malta’s Early School Leaving strategic plan include ‘prevention, intervention and compensation measures’. Some of the measures include the provision of free childcare for parents in employment, education, or training and the promotion of literacy through family literacy programmes for young children and their parents/caregivers.  Malta has plans to update its ESL strategy and an important study was carried out by the Early School Leaving Unit (ESLU) with 579 students who dropped out of post-secondary education during the academic year 2015-2016 in order to understand the current trends in ESL.


Addressing the ongoing and often unique education requirements of people in different stages of their life is crucial – the development of Malta’s National Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 has been an opportunity to take stock of the state of adult learning in Malta, and challenge what one means by the very notion of ‘learning’.


The National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) was also officially launched to foster the development and achievement of excellence in further and higher education in Malta through research, effective licensing, accreditation, quality assurance, and recognition of qualifications established under the Malta Qualifications Framework. NCFHE is also responsible for the validation of informal and non-formal learning process.


The setting up of the National Skills Council is one strategic initiative to centrally manage the various complementary initiatives and to seek to align the education and training provision to the needs of the industry. A strategy is currently being drafted for the National Skills Council. Furthermore, three committees have been set up within the council each responsible for one of the following areas: work-based learning, digital skills, and research and development. The work of the subcommittees has two aims: gathering information and compiling reports to guide educational entities, and serve as consultative fora which bring together different stakeholders. 


Organisation of the education and training system

The Maltese education system is largely centralised and governed by:

Education in Malta is compulsory for all children and young people aged from five to sixteen years. This is defined in Chapter 327 of the Laws of Malta - The Education Act - and subsequent amendments. Compulsory education covers six years of primary education followed by five years of secondary education.

All schools in formal education are obliged by law to follow the same national minimum curriculum (National Curriculum Framework) and to abide by all the regulations as listed in the Education Act.

Secondary Education (ISCED Levels 2 and 3) - In Malta, secondary education is divided into two cycles: Middle schools and Secondary schools which last till students reach 16 years, this being the end of compulsory schooling.  At the secondary level, students follow a set of core compulsory subjects including the three core subjects of Maltese, English, and Mathematics together with Integrated Science, one compulsory science subject (Biology, Chemistry, or Physics). a foreign language, Religious Knowledge, Physical Education, History, Geography, Art, Personal and Social Development (PSD), and ICT. One compulsory elective subject is also offered during the first two years of secondary education (middle schools) and another one or two elective subjects are offered during the final three years of secondary education.

Students are assessed by sitting for school-based half-yearly examinations and centrally-set annual exams at the end of the year. Continuous formative assessment of the student's work also takes place. At the end of the compulsory education (Year 11), students sit for their Annual Examinations for Secondary schools, and the marks attained form part of the Secondary School Certificate and Profile (SSC&P). This certification shows a record of achievement based on the students’ profiling in formal, non-formal, and informal educational experiences taking into account students’ attendance and development of personal qualities and abilities during the five years of secondary schooling. This new certificate has the advantage that it is accredited at either Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) and the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF). A detailed transcript is also issued by the school. Students may also sit for the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations set by the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Board of the University of Malta.

At the end of compulsory education, students can further their education and training in higher and post-secondary, and tertiary educational institutions.

At the post-secondary level, students can follow a programme of their choice after they have completed compulsory education and are 16 years of age and older. State general upper-secondary education is provided at the G. Curmi Higher Secondary School, the Sir M. Refalo Higher Secondary School, Gozo, and the Junior College. The latter falls under the responsibility of the University of Malta. There are also private educational institutions that provide courses at this level of education.

The overall responsibility for vocational education and training (VET) in Malta lies with the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation. However the two main state VET providers are the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) are self-accrediting institutions offering VET courses.

Tertiary Education:  Tertiary education in Malta is provided mainly by the University of Malta which is an autonomous and self-governing body, totally funded by the Government. The University structure has been reviewed according to the Bologna Process Framework which envisaged the establishment of the European Higher Education Area by 2010. The governing bodies of the university are the Council and the Senate.

To gain entry to University, candidates need to be in possession of two Advanced Level (Matriculation Certificate) subjects and four other subjects taken at Intermediate Level including Systems of Knowledge as well as passes in the Secondary Education Certificate at grade 5 or better in Maltese (a non-Maltese candidate may offer his own language instead of Maltese), English Language and Mathematics.

Adult Education: Young people aged 25 and over can participate in a number of courses offered by the lifelong learning directorate. It embraces post-compulsory education, Vocational Education and Training (VET), higher education, and adult education

Main concepts

Malta defines early school leaving as those persons between 18 and 24 years of age who do not have at least the equivalent of Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) passes (grades 1 to 7) in five different subjects and who are not in education or training. While the EU defines early school leavers as those “young people leaving education and training with no more than lower secondary education”, early school leavers are those who will have limited life chances, will be channeled towards dead-end jobs if any, are more prone to join the working or non-working poor and are at risk of social exclusion. Early school leavers are thus those who will be less likely to fulfill their potential as human beings, as active citizens, and as principal actors in the labour market.  

According to the Education Act ‘Non-formal learning’ means learning embedded in a planned activity organised outside the formal educational system, which activity is not explicitly designed as learning but which contains an important learning component.

The Education Act defines ‘special need education’ and ‘individual educational needs’ as “a minor shall be deemed to have special educational needs when that minor has special difficulties of a physical, sensory, intellectual or psychological nature”.