The system of private schools in Malta offers education from kindergarten up to the end of secondary school – the same age range as Maltese state schools. They are licensed and regularly inspected by the Maltese government, ensuring the education provided is of an acceptable quality.
Types of schools and the main differences between them
There are two main types of Maltese private education: Church schools and Independent schools. These have different sources of funding and may also differ in terms of whether they offer single-sex or co-education. Church schools, which are primarily Catholic and are partially funded by the state, offer single-sex primary and secondary education (this contrasts with state primary schools, which are co-educational). Independent schools are entirely privately funded and tend to be co-educational.
Language considerations: lessons and examinations
A key consideration for expat parents is the language in which lessons are taught. In the state school system, Maltese is the main language used. In Church and Independent schools, lessons are generally taught in English, though students are expected to attend Maltese language classes. It is important to note that private schools follow the national curriculum and the national examination must usually be sat in Maltese.
School admissions arrangements for Church and Independent schools
Independent schools generally ask for a completed registration form detailing school reports from previous schools, vaccination records and forms of identification for the parents and student. At some schools, students must sit tests in Maltese (international students are usually exempt), English and Mathematics. St Martin’s College is an example of a school that operates placement tests. Places at Church schools are limited and admission is competitive. The Maltese Diocese website provides a summary of admissions arrangements.
Costs associated with private schools in Malta
Cost is perhaps the primary factor in school choice, as this varies hugely between Church and Independent schools. Church schools, which are subsidised, may not charge any fees at all, but parents are usually asked to make a specified ‘voluntary donation’. Such donations have increased in value significantly in recent years. Independent school tuition fees range from €2,000 to €6,000 per year. In either case, the cost of sending a child to private school can constitute a substantial investment. There are likely to be other costs in addition to fees, including school uniforms and extra-curricular activities.
Other factors to consider when choosing a school
Other differentiators between schools include exam performance, the ratio of students to teachers, how many students are in the classes and what qualifications the staff are required to have. Another potentially significant factor is whether the school is a certified exam centre for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). It is important to contact schools to make these enquiries and discuss any specific questions or concerns. Schools should also be able to provide information about extra-curricular activities and whether wraparound childcare is available. (For children under 3 years old, private early childcare centres exist that are regulated and inspected by the Department for Social Welfare Standards).
Making a decision
The choice of school for a child is a very important decision and one which must therefore be given a great deal of thought. For expat parents who feel that their child may not adjust well to a Maltese state school because their first language is English, private schools in Malta offer a distinct advantage. The question of whether or not to choose a school with a religious base is key in the private schools in Malta. Cost is of course a key factor, but the other differentiators between schools, particularly class sizes and exam options, must also be taken into account.