The education system on the Archipelago of Malta is traditionally considered as being very rigid and has undergone broad-sweeping changes during the past decade. The new educational programme is based on 15 teaching principles including quality, stimulating and developing a critical mind, gender equality, and respect for diversity etc.
Changes have also occurred in the field of vocational education and training (VET). The former vocational schools tended to recruit from working-class environments. They have been closed down. In their place, the Minister for Education has set up a new high school, MCAST, which is in charge of most vocational education and training for the over-16s, combining skills, knowledge, flexibility and mobility.
For greater transparency, the Ministry has also set up a national council for vocational and technical qualifications in charge of drawing up standards and accrediting teaching institutions.
The Maltese education system – 2013
The vocational pathway in Malta
Schooling is compulsory from 5 to 16 years of age. It is structured in 3 cycles:
- primary school, at the end of which pupils must pass an entrance exam to the junior lyceum. If they fail, pupils are admitted to area secondary schools. Pupils with greater learning difficulties go to schools geared to very low achievers.
- upper secondary education (16 years and over) takes place at the junior college or in private upper secondary schools. Junior colleges, also called sixth-form colleges, prepare pupils to take the matriculation certificate over a two-year period. This qualification is required to go to University.
- Upper secondary VET takes place in MCAST (Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology). The college accepts students of 16 and over. MCAST is made up of 9 institutes: arts and design, community services, maritime institute, information and communication technology, mechanical engineering, agribusiness, electric and electronic engineering, business and commerce, building and construction engineering.
Most study programmes are full-time. Each level offers a course programme: from the preparatory year (entry level 0) to the national higher diploma (level IV). A certificate is awarded at the end of the study programme.
The Higher National Diploma covers 2 years of study at MCAST. It offers diplomas in several fields including design, IT and construction.
In addition to MCAST, there is the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS), which trains employees, managers and technicians in the trades of hotel management and tourism. Students who have been awarded the higher diploma in hospitality management can go directly into the 3rd year of the Bachelor’s degree in tourism at the University of Malta.
This takes place in a work-study programme partly within the enterprise and partly at MCAST or ITS. It is divided into 2 levels:
- The Extended Skills Training Scheme (ESTS) giving the level of skilled worker
- The Technician Apprenticeship Scheme (TAS) giving the level of technician
This vocational training covers, among others, trades in the building, mechanics and aesthetic industries.
- Between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of young people aged between 20 and 24 having achieved at least higher secondary education level increased from 39% to 73,6%. (Eurostat – 2013)
- In 2011 in Malta, 49% of boys and 27,3% of girls in the 2nd cycle of secondary education were enrolled in the vocational stream. (Eurostat – 2013)
- The unemployment rate for young people under 25 years of age stands at 11,2% in 2013 . (Eurostat – 2013)