Education Structure in Malta

School education
Schooling is compulsory from the age of five, although free-of-charge kindergarten is available to all students beginning at age three. Approximately 94 per cent of three- and four-year-olds attend kindergarten. A number of private operators exist, but free state-run institutions are also popular. State-run Maltese kindergartens are required to have one staff member present for every ten children present, while this ratio decreases to 1:20 for independently run institutions. During the kindergarten years, the focus is on play, not formal education. From kindergarten, students transition to primary school, which is compulsory from the age of five. Since 1980, all state-run primary schools have been co-educational, with many independent schools following suit. However, church-run primary schools are usually single-sex. Classes usually have a limit of thirty students, and a minimum teacher to student ratio has been set at 1:19 in all schools, whether they be state-run, church-run or independent.

Formal end-of-year examinations commence starting in Year 4 to dictate class streaming arrangements for the following year. Students are examined in English, Maltese, mathematics, religion and social studies. Despite the fact that eleven-plus examinations highlight inequality and failures, and are recognized as ineffective educational tools by experts, Malta still implements such exams. In Year 6, when most pupils have turned eleven years of age, an eleven-plus exam is given to students to determine which students attend which secondary schools. Students are tested in English language, Maltese language, mathematics, social studies and religion; the latter is optional for those not adhering to the faith taught in schools. While 73 per cent of eleven-year-old students sat the eleven-plus exam in 2001, only about 54 percent pass it each year. Students achieving success in the eleven-plus exam go on to attend prestigious 'junior lyceums' during their secondary years, whilst those who do not attend 'area secondary schools'. This is similar to the operation of the Tripartite System in the United Kingdom following World War II.

State-run junior lyceums and area secondary schools are single-sex. Junior lyceums are divided into two grade stages. The first stage is an introductory stage, and runs for the first two years of secondary schooling. Students study essentially the same subjects with very limited curriculum options in order to provide a good grounding for future studies. Following the two-year introductory cycle, a three-year specialist stage occurs during which students study a common core curriculum as well as a number of elective subjects. This orientation is similar at area secondary schools, although the introductory period is longer, at three years in duration, and the final specialist period is shorter, at two years. The staff-student ratio is set at 1:11, and the school leaving age is 16.

Examinations in Maltese secondary schools are taken at both age 16 and 18, with the latter being a final optional set of matriculation examinations. The examinations taken at age 16 are the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) exams, which have operated since 1994, before which the GCE Ordinary Level was used as a secondary certificate examination. The examinations taken at 18, those enabling entry into university, are the Matriculation Certificate examinations, based on the International Baccalaureate. These examinations replaced the GCE Advanced Levels.

Day-to-day operation
A number of students travel to school using the nation's bus network, which is free for state school students to use. Schools in Malta generally begin their school day at 8:30am and finish at 2:40pm. Students receive three days of holidays in November 15 days of holidays over Christmas, two days of holidays in March and eight days of holidays in April, in addition to public holidays. Maltese school students receive the highest number of days off of all school students in Europe, with 90 days during the 2010-11 academic year being non-school days. This is 14 days more than the European average of 76. Virtually all Maltese state schools run tuck shops, while some secondary schools are home to cafeterias.

State schools provide textbooks free of charge to their students, while private schools generally require their students to pay for their textbooks, enabling the latter to change their textbooks and textbook editions more frequently. All primary schools have at least four computers, one printer, a large monitor and a teacher's laptop computer in their classrooms, while many secondary schools have specialised rooms necessary to teach subjects such as Home Economics and Food Technology. An average of 22.5 students are enrolled per primary school class, with the average rising to 24.3 in secondary school classes. Primary school teachers are expected to dedicate five hours per week to each of Maltese, English and mathematics, one hour per week to science, two hours per weeks to arts and crafts, two hours per week to social studies, one hour and 15 minutes per week to social studies, and two and a half hours per week to physical education and religion. State school syllabi at the secondary level are set by the local examination bodies.

Tertiary education
Under the Education Act of 1988, the Government of Malta is obligated to provide free university education to eligible residents with sufficient qualifications for entry. However, due to funding constraints, the University of Malta offers some courses only every other year in order to maximise course offerings with optimum funding usage. 10,000 students currently study at the University. Most Bachelor degree courses run for three years, including law, which in other common law countries is often lengthier.