Due to its colonial past, Malta's state school sector draws its main inspiration from the British educational system. Kindergartens are available free of charge for all students from the age of three upwards. Primary schooling extends from the age of five, which marks the beginning of compulsory attendance, to the age of eleven. Streaming is practised during the last two years of primary education. Students sit national examinations at the end of Year 6 and proceed to Junior Lyceums, Area Secondary schools, or 'opportunity schools'., depending on their performance at this eleven plus hurdle. While an increasing number of students with special learning needs are being placed in mainstream schools, some still receive their education in special primary and secondary schools.

After three years of secondary schooling, students can opt to transfer to trade schools, a system which leads either to employment or to further technical education and training through apprenticeship schemes. Secondary school students can choose to proceed through sixth form to university, or to one of the several specialised vocational schools.

The school-leaving age was raised to 16 in 1974. At the end of their fifth year of secondary schooling, students sit for a local version of G.S.C.E., called Secondary Education Certificate (SEC). After two years at the sixth form Junior College students sit for another set of 'Matriculation' examinations at intermediate and advanced levels. This enables successful students to move on to tertiary education, and particularly to University.

Students in trade schools sit for local craft-level examinations, and some attempt to get UK-based City and Guilds certificates. Following the reform of the trade school sector, trade school students are also encouraged to sit for the SEC examination.

A number of private schools provide paralleled kindergarten, primary, secondary and sixth-form services. Most of these schools belong to the Catholic church but since 1987 there has been a tendency to set up independent schools as parents' foundations, or as commercial ventures. Following a Church-State agreements, Catholic schools are free of charge. The Church transferred much of its land to the State, which in turn finances salaries of school employees. Parents of students attending church schools may be solicited for donations to make up for any shortfall between state financing and funding required to develop structural facilities and pedagogical services. About 30% of all students attend the non-state sector.

Excerpt taken from Sultana, Ronald (1997). Inside/Outside Schools PEG Publishers, Malta

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