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Moving with your children to a different area and new school can be very stressful. When you add relocating to another country into the equation you get a whole load of new problems.
However, the good news for families wishing to relocate here is that education in Malta is highly rated. While there are various international and specialist schools that cater to an array of different expat cultures on the island, Malta mostly follows the British curriculum. So much so that children from Britain who have gone to live in Malta permanently or even temporarily have slotted right into pretty much the same lessons that they were doing in the UK.
If you want to read a guide to the curriculum in Malta then visit the government website which will tell you all you need to know.
Take time out to visit all the schools in your area, even those you don't think are suitable. Only when you have seen all that one area has to offer can you make an informed decision. Go to open days and make a separate appointment to visit yourself. This will allow you to take the time to tour with the head teacher and ask any questions relevant to your situation. Take your child with you if possible so that they feel involved and included in the process.
Schooling in Malta
Education is compulsory in Malta from the ages of 5 to 16 and most children also attend kindergarten from the age of about 3 years old. Kindergartens are free and tend to focus on play, communication and development rather than a structured education. Around 95% of children in Malta attend a kindergarten, so it's a good idea for your child to go along and perhaps make a few friends that they will then start primary school with.
Primary schools are from the ages of 5 to 11 and there are no shortage of schools as every village in Malta has a primary school. Children go up in years so again it's very similar to the UK system.
When they have finished primary they will start secondary school from the age of 11 until they are 16. Here they will go up in forms so they will start in Form 1. Most state secondary schools are single sex schools.
After 3 years of secondary education, children are given the choice to transfer to a Trade School which will focus on vocational studies and students are given the opportunity to train as apprentices. If students want to stay on in further education they will attend Tertiary College which is similar to 6th form. Here they will prepare for University education.
There is one University in Malta which is internationally recognised and renowned with quite a number of international students opting to study there. It's one of the oldest educational establishments in the world.
Educational standards are taken very seriously in Malta and so do expect your child to be swamped with homework, especially in secondary school where they are generally expected to spend up to 2 hours a day on homework.
The school leaving exams (unless you are in an international school) are referred to as Matsec and are equivalent to the old UK O Levels. These exams are sat in Maltese so this might be an influence upon your decision whether or not to have your child taught in an English language private school or a state Maltese language school.
School Holidays and Terms
The school year begins in September and ends in June, so students have a 12 week summer holiday to make the most of Malta's hot summer weather! The only other long breaks are Christmas and Easter. There are no half terms, just a couple of day's holiday. There are, however, many public and religious holidays.
Private and Independent Schools in Malta
There are a large choice of catholic primary and secondary schools as Malta is primarily a catholic country. Although, there have been changes recently and as a result a lot of independent schools have also opened up. These independent schools also focus upon the catholic religion but parents do have the right to opt their children out of any religious activities. However, do bear in mind that your child may still be required to say a blessing before meals and prayers during assembly. If you don't want your child to have any involvement in religion then your best bet is to enrol them in an international school.
There are just a few international schools in Malta.St Edward's College is a catholic boys school which follows British curriculum and prepares boys for GCSEs. The Verdala International School is a mixed sex school that offers American-style education and prepares children for international baccalaureate or IGCSEs. Boarding is optional and the school is non-denominational. The International Vocational College, St Julien's, Malta is a new college offering a level 3 Edexcel BTEC and level 4 Malta Qualifications Framework programme for business knowledge and skills aimed at 17-20yr olds. This is equivalent to 2 A Levels. Places are however very limited. QSI International School of Malta (accepting 5 to 18 years old) is an English language school accredited through the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges and is based in Mosta. Russian Boarding School in Malta which integrates the Russian curriculum with the European one offering an International Baccalaureate program with the basic Russian curriculum. This school is based in Bugibba.
State schools largely, depending on area, teach the children in Maltese while English is taught as a foreign language. If you want your children taught in English then the many private schools will be happy to cater for this, as English is generally the language of the playground and in lessons.
Private school fees vary but you will find them extremely affordable when compared with elsewhere in Europe.
There are of course a number of schools which are most popular with the expats and to date these are:De La Salle College in Kottonera (Junior and Secondary) St Aloysius College in Birkirkara (Secondary) The Sacred Heart School in St Julian's (Secondary) St. Dorothy's in Mdina (Primary and Secondary)
You will find that the popular areas for expats such as St Paul's Bay and Pembroke have a high intake of international pupils even in state schools so some of these schools will have a large number of lessons in English. While in Paola, the Mariam Al Batool School, established by the Malta Islamic Welfare Fund, teaches Arabic language curriculum and Islamic education in addition to the local Maltese curriculum at kindergarten, primary and secondary level. More information on Arabic Community Schools in Malta can be found on the EPASI website.
Maltese Specialist Schools
There are four special needs resource centres which have been set up primarily to help with the inclusion of children with learning difficulties into mainstream schooling. These centres provide specialist teachers, equipment and other resources to this end and they cater for all ages, from kindergarten to young adults.