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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 21 March 2024
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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 can 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. Young people need 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 for 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 identify areas of strength and limitations of standing practices, suggesting what should be sustained or improved and where prevention or intervention are necessary to equitably promote values that help achieve the targets highlighted in the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 and the upcoming National Education Strategy 2024-2030.

In this regard, the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta: 2014-2024 and its successor are 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. Over the years, experience has taught us that students learn differently- some are academically oriented, while others learn more through practice. For this reason, the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation introduced new subjects in 2019.  The educational system now rests on 3 pillars - which are academic, vocational and applied methods of teaching and learning.  Education nowadays is no longer a 'one size fits all system' but has adapted to the different learning styles of our students.

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 while 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, re-introducing Vocational Education and Training (VET) subjects in secondary schools was a fundamental initiative to provide learners with an alternative assessment based on the learning outcomes approach. The subjects include Agribusiness, Engineering Technology, Health and Social Care, Hospitality, and Information Technology, Fashion and Textiles, Hairdressing and Beauty, Media Literacy, and Retail.  The selection was inspired by priorities and needs expressed by the local industry. Consequently, introducing vocational subjects in the secondary school cycle brings education processes closer to industry needs and ensures 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 prioritises Vocational Education and Training (VET),  emphasising apprenticeship programmes and work-based learning initiatives.  The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) has been responsible for implementing 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 number of apprentices has increased in the past years. In fact, MCAST is currently offering apprenticeship programmes at MQF Level 3,Level 4, and Level 6 programmes. Apprenticeship programmes vary from 544 hours being the minimum for MQF level 3 up to 2008 hours being the maximum for the MQF level 4 courses.

The Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning Department has continued its efforts to enhance the Apprenticeship scheme, including through outreach to attract new industry partners. During 2023 various meetings were held with industry representatives. Several new companies have approached MCAST interested in joining the scheme, leading to multiple one-on-one discussions. As a result, the number of registered industry partners now stands at 2,406. - 771 having an active contract. Additionally, the apprenticeship office in collaboration with MCAST administration organised the event titled "Encounter - MCAST Meets Industry: Quality Apprenticeship - Are We There?"  On the 14th November.

Starting 2024, the 'MCAST Apprentice Onboarding Event', was held to foster networking opportunities between prospective apprentices and industry partners, with 67 companies participating. This initiative highlighted the college's proactive stance in bridging the skill and talent gap in the labour market, offering over 350 apprenticeships to more than 1,650 eligible students. This approach benefits the economy by preparing students for future careers in various industries and underscores the college's commitment to offering valuable apprenticeship opportunities. MCAST has established partnerships with over 2,200 companies, emphasizing the need for more apprenticeship opportunities to develop a highly skilled workforce and add value to businesses.

The National Strategy for Early Leaving from Education and Training (ELET) identifies six primary indicators of ELET: achievement, behaviour and wellbeing, absenteeism, disability and learning challenges, and family disadvantage. It further emphasizes that gender and health are interwoven with these primary indicators. In accordance with these insights, fifteen strategic actions have been formulated around three key pillars: prevention, intervention, and compensation. There's a pronounced emphasis on prioritizing preventative measures, especially on reinforcing the connection between school and home via a family community school link programme.

Addressing the ongoing and often unique education requirements of people in different stages of life is crucial. The development of  Malta’s National Lifelong Learning Strategy 2023-2030 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 Malta Further and Higher Education Authority (MFHEA) 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. MFHEA is also responsible for the validation of informal and non-formal learning process.

The National Skills Council (NSC) was re-established in 2023 as an executive body. Its mandate is to bridge the gap between education and employment, and spearhead an evidence-based skills agenda. Industry dialogues are pivotal in shedding light on the skills in-demand, ensuring that skill imbalances in the current workforce are promptly addressed through learning and development The Council has also a key role in coordinating efforts to understand and anticipate current and future skills within the labour work force, while instigating policy changes to this effect.

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 five to sixteen. This is defined in Chapter 605 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 legally obliged to follow the same national minimum curriculum (National Curriculum Framework) and to abide by all the regulations 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, 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). The school also issues a detailed transcript. 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. Private educational institutions also provide courses at this level of education.

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

MCAST offers VET courses at all levels of the Malta Qualifications Framework and serves as an alternative route for second-chance education and professional training up to doctoral level.

Moreover, the Maltese Public Employment Service (PES), Jobsplus, also provides a number of VET courses to the working age population residing legally in Malta. Jobseekers and unemployed individuals of working age can follow a number of training courses, provided free of charge by the PES. Jobsplus’ courses are demand-driven and pegged to the Maltese Qualification Framework. The aim is to equip the labour force with the necessary transversal skills needed to upskill and reskill to retain or enter gainful employment. 

Tertiary Education: Tertiary education in Malta is provided mainly by the University of Malta, 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 possess 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 language instead of Maltese), English Language, and Mathematics.

Adult Education: Young people aged 15 and over can participate in a number of courses offered by the Lifelong Learning and Employment Directorate. It embraces post-compulsory education, Vocational Education and Training (VET), higher education, and adult education, with a special focus on basic skills and courses up to MQF level 3.

Main concepts

Malta defines Early Leaving from Education and Training (ELET) 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 physical, sensory, intellectual or psychological difficulties”.