After that long summer break, the school year usually starts around the 3rd week of September, ending in late June. There is a two-week break at Christmas and a week at Easter as well as three-day ‘half term’ breaks in November and February.
The government provides free childcare for children aged 3 months to 3 years if both parents are employed or in education. There are lots of centres across the country. There are also private childcare centres available. Choose one that is registered with the Department for Social Welfare Standards. Read more about Childcare.
The state school system is free and text books are mostly provided. You will only need to shell out for uniforms, stationery and school trips.
If you’re used to the British system, education in Malta will feel familiar. Primary schools are for ages 5 – 11, followed by secondary schools from 11-16, and post-secondary education until age 18+. Teaching is done primarily in Maltese with some obvious exceptions such as learning other foreign languages.
There’s a state primary school in most towns and larger villages across the country. Secondary schools are usually only in larger towns.
One unusual part of the system is that state schools are organised into ten ‘colleges’ with each one responsible for a number of schools in particular locations. For instance, St. Clare College (Kullegg Santa Klara) consists of the primary schools in Gzira, Pembroke/Swieqi, San Giljan, San Gwann and Sliema, as well as Pembroke and Sliema Boys’ Secondary Schools.
A full list of state schools is available here.
Church schools are also free but require donations from parents. These have increased in the past few years and you can now expect to pay between €150 - €600 a year per child. They are generally single sex although there are moves to make them co-ed. These church schools are accessible by a ballot only. In theory, anyone, including non-Catholics or even non-Christians, can apply to attend the schools however they do tend to have a long waiting list and siblings of children already attending the school, do get priority. Church Schools usually use English as the preferred language for teaching and communicating.
As you would expect, private schools charge fees. They also teach in English rather than Maltese – if your children are overwhelmed by the idea of starting a new school in a foreign language (and you’ve got the cash), this could be a good option. Malta does not currently publish a league table of school exam results so it’s hard to compare between the public and private sector, but private schools often publish their own results. Private schools include:
A full list of independent schools is available here.
Fees were an average of €3,666 per year in 2015/6, but vary considerably between schools.
The International Schools in Malta are:
Days generally start at 8.30am and end at 2.30pm. If your child is at primary school and you need to start work early, there are breakfast clubs available.
Enrolling in School
EU citizens should be able to register directly at the school. You may need some of the documents listed below so check with the school before you go. Non-EU citizens should visit the Ministry of Education to enroll. As a foreigner, you are likely to need the following items (original and photocopy):
The list could be subject to change though, so call before you go. Everyone will need to fill in the paperwork required by the school of your choice. You will also need to buy stationery and a school uniform.
Transport to School
There is a free bus network for state school children. Some church schools also offer transport at a cost of up €600 a year. Private schools also have their own buses at a cost.
Maltese children tend to receive quite a lot of homework; up to 2 hours a night at secondary school is not unusual.
Between 16 and 18, students go to Sixth Form or College. Education at this level is not compulsory. The options are:
Students can attend the University of Malta, which is the oldest university in Europe at 400 years old. In order to be admitted to University, students typically need their Matriculation Certificate however the University has special admissions criteria for foreigners wishing to study at this institute.
There are a number of other private institutes which offer tertiary level of education. It is advisable to check whether the courses offered and qualifications attained are recognised in Malta.
It would be wonderful to report that you’ll be conversing freely in Maltese in a matter of months. The truth is that Maltese is a tricky language to learn, especially when it comes to the verbs. This is a Semitic language, where verbs are ‘triliteral’ and conjugated with prefixes, suffixes and infixes (i.e. three different consonants denote the general meaning of the word, and the combination of vowels before, after and in between those consonants denote the tense or specify the meaning). For speakers of Latin based languages, it’s a difficult concept and makes it hard to pick up the language from listening or reading without a fair amount of study. Maltese is peppered with familiar English and Italian words however, which helps you to get the context and many speakers weave in and out of English and Maltese naturally. The other hurdle is that the Maltese will inevitably speak to you in English all the time, so it’s quite difficult to practice the language. Still, free lessons are available through the government and it’s certainly not impossible to learn if you put in some effort. Here's how you can learn Maltese.Where shall I live?
Where you choose to live will depend on where your work is based and/or the children’s schools. Many foreigners start off in the Sliema area if they can afford it – nearby Swieqi, Msida, Gzira and Pembroke are a little cheaper and less busy. St Paul’s Bay is popular too, especially with older residents. Xemxija is an up-and-coming village towards the north, which is cheaper and away from the crowds.
Bugibba and Qawra are principally holiday zones, popular especially with the British – unless you like hanging out with your fellow countrymen abroad, you might want to look elsewhere.
Towns such as Balzan, Attard, Birkirkara and Lija are quaint and pleasant places to live and not too far from all the action. Madliena or Gharghur tend to be a little more expensive but are highly sought after. Mellieha is a beautiful town, but far north if you have to commute to work every day. The same could be said for Marsascala and Marsaxlokk, which are situated at the other end and to the south of the island.
Gozo is caught in a dreamy time warp – this is the place to settle in if you genuinely want to get away from it all. Here's a quick guide to the regions of Malta.