Moving to a new country can be a very challenging experience, and this is especially true of your children. To help with the acclimatisation, selecting the right school will play a huge role in your children’s lives. If you have children over six, they will very likely want to have some input into the selection of the school that they end up attending, and you and your child should find out information regarding the different schools together. Doing this will help you to make a decision that is the best for both of you. Below is an overview of the education system and state schools in Malta.
School Types in Malta
Schools in Malta are split in two categories: private schools and state schools.
State schools are free to all, and can be found in all of the main towns or villages. Transport to and from school is free, and books and school materials are as well. However, school uniform needs to be bought by the parents.
Private schools in Malta are further split into two categories: church schools and independent schools. Both offer a mix of pre-primary to upper secondary education, and both are regulated by the Ministry of Education. This means that the curriculum for both schools is similar.
As a rule of thumb, all schools that identify as Church schools belong to the Catholic Church, and do not charge school fees thanks to an agreement that they have with the government. Salaries are also covered by the government, but parents are asked to provide an annual donation that is used to help out with school costs. For these schools, transport, school supplies and uniforms do also need to be paid for by the parents.
To get your children into a Church school in Malta, they need to be entered into a lottery of sorts. Available spaces vary year on year, but are generally limited in number. Nuns and priests teach at the church schools, and some make up part of the management and administration teams as well. As are members of the clergy are decreasing though, there are less nun and priest teachers meaning that staff at church schools now tend to be lay people.
Private and International Schools
There are a decent amount of independent schools, in addition to a number of international schools designed for foreigners moving to the country. At these schools, parents pay the school fees and need to buy supplies, uniforms and transport as well.
There are a small number of special needs resource centres in the country. These schools have specialist equipment and teachers to help children who have learning difficulties. These schools also help with the transition for children of all ages as they move into mainstream schooling.
Since Malta is a bilingual country, English and Maltese are spoken at the schools. While English may not be the native language that your child speaks, Maltese children generally speak at least two languages, and some also speak Italian. This should help your child to integrate into their new school well. However, the language taught at the schools is down to the preference of the school management.
At state schools, Maltese is the favoured language inside and outside of classes, with the exception of English lessons. Private schools tend to operate the opposite way, with lessons taught in English apart from Maltese classes. Students at private schools tend to speak English and Maltese outside of the classes, with the language that their family and peers speak influencing their choice.
It is possible for parents of foreign children to choose for the kids to opt out of Maltese lessons, but they are always welcome to attend these.
Schools in Malta have a very highly regarded education system. International schools support a varied curriculum, but Malta generally follows the British style curriculum of a wide range of subjects, with exams in the in the middle and end of the school year.
The educational system is structured like the British system as well: pre-primary school for ages three to five, primary school at five until 11, secondary from 11 to 18 and then further tertiary education. Being in the education system is compulsory up to the age of 16.
Homework workload can be high, with senior school children having up to two hours of homework daily.
In classes, Catholic religion is taught but religious education is not compulsory for non-Maltese children. If you choose for them not to be taught this, they can study or read in the school library.
Term Times and Holidays
The school year runs from September to June, meaning Summer holidays last three months. Christmas and Easter holidays are roughly two weeks long, and half terms are only two days long. There are also a number of public and religious holidays throughout the year.