History of Education in Malta

While education in Malta dates back to the period of Arab occupation between 870 and 1090 through the introduction of Arabic numerals, the arrival of the Franciscans in 1350, the Carmelites in 1418, the Dominican Order in 1450, the Augustinians in 1460 and the Friars Minor in 1492 brought religious-based education to the island. Members of these groups were asked to serve as private tutors for the children of wealthy parents, and later moved to set up classes for instruction in Italian, Latin and numeracy. In 1592, the Collegium Melitense (what was to become the University of Malta) was established by the Society of Jesus as a result of a direct order from Pope Clements VIII, and around this institution a number of others flourished, including a grammar school, a preparatory school and institutions for the study of cartography, naval architecture and navigation. In addition to public options, it was possible to hire private tutors in a number of different areas, including accounting, philosophy, navigation and languages. During this period, however, education for those without wealth was non-existent. During the 16th century, philosophy, theology, grammar and the humanities were taught at the Collegium, and following Europe's temporary recovery from the Black Death in 1675, the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller appointed a new lecturer in anatomy and surgery at Sacra Infermeria, essentially establishing the University of Malta's medical school.

The ejection of the Knights Hospitaller by the French Republic in 1798 brought a reformation of the educational system with it due to the disparity between the traditional ideals of the Knights and the revolutionary ideals of the French. Private schooling was banned, elementary schooling was introduced and funded by the state, and adult education was introduced. The gradual introduction of universal education for primary school students was an ideal born before and during the French Revolution, while private schools were abolished due to their traditional association with the Catholic Church, an institution rejected by those involved in the Revolution. In addition, Napoleon I abolished the University of Malta just five days after his ejection of the Knights, although this decision was reversed after the British ejected the French the following year. In 1799, Malta fell under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, and attempts were made to adjust Malta's institutions towards a British style.

On 1 February 1846 education became effectively compulsory till the age of 14. In 1847, elementary schooling was changed to the British model, schools were opened in every village and education was made free of charge. In 1878, the mode of language education delivery changed following the publication of two reports on the matter. Italian language education was replaced by instruction in the English language, and the use of Maltese was encouraged in the primary years. However, English was the language in which education was delivered at all stages of education following primary school. Debate continued until the 1930s over which language should be used in Maltese education - Italian or English.

During World War I, the interwar years and World War II, widespread poverty in Malta prevented the children of the lower classes from pursuing basic education in favor of staying home to assist parents with agricultural work and other income earning activities. To counteract this phenomenon, education was declared compulsory in 1946. In 1964, Malta became an independent nation, and in 1988 a new Education Act was passed, lowering the compulsory education age to five years, decentralising educational decision making and establishing a right for any person to apply for a licence to open a school. The Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Theology at the University of Malta was also reinstated.