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.
Malta was the first EU country to reference its qualifications framework to the EQF in 2009. In 2016, Jobsplus and Malta Enterprise launched a skills survey among employers to map their current and future skill needs.
Skills shortages are experienced because of population ageing, low unemployment and strong economic growth driven by tourism and trade and emerging sectors such as i-gaming, financial services, legal and accounting services and aircraft maintenance.
Moreover, a new legislation strengthening the regulation of apprenticeship and work-based learning, spearheaded by Cedefop’s apprenticeship review, is part of the measures.
A reform planned for 2019/20 intends to make learning more inclusive, flexible and without dead-ends, to give more young people opportunities to develop employability and skills for personal and social development.
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.
Introducing vocational subjects in lower secondary education has also been an important step in preventing ESL by providing alternative learning pathways, but the current system is still mainly one-size-fits-all and lacks parity of esteem between traditional/academic and vocational/applied learning tracks.
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.
- The employment rate of recent tertiary graduates increased by 3.8 percentage points between 2013 and 2015 and is now the highest in the EU, at 96.9 %. (EUROPA – 2016)
- A steady increase in the employment rate between 2014 and 2016 brought Malta within reaching distance of its respective Europe 2020 target. (Euro Stats – 2017)
- The Ministry of Education is also exploring new possible models of work-based learning including apprenticeship that work flexibly around needs of education and industry in order to provide more placements that may lead to permanent employment. (MCAST – 2015)