On the surface, the Maltese educational system provides multiple models for ensuring academic success for its citizens. Pre-school, primary, secondary and post-secondary education in Malta is free for all students up to a graduate degree level. Religious organizations and the private sector also contribute to granting Maltese citizens educational opportunities through government subsidies.

These multiple avenues for educational development have resulted in increasingly better-educated generations. As of 2006, the net enrollment ratio was 95 percent in pre-primary aged children, 91 percent in primary and 70 percent in post-secondary education. Additionally, reports showed that 97 percent of youth and 92 percent of adults were considered literate in 2006.

In 2012, however, Malta faced decreasing literacy rates among 15-year-olds and a growing gender disparity in reading skills. Experts predicted that if the rates continued to stall, the country would fall short of one of Europe’s top goals. The continent is aiming to reach functional literacy among 85 percent in that age group by the year 2020.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) cites the primary cause of decreasing literacy to be regional and socioeconomic disparities. The National Literacy Survey (NLS) tested the phonological, literacy, reading and writing skills of students aged six to seven years. Consequently, the study determined that children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to possess the learning skills necessary to succeed in school.

The survey also determined a potential cause of low-performance rates to be a lack of parental involvement in school affairs.

In response to this finding, the Foundation for Educational Services (FES) established family-centered literacy programs. The FES provides a range of educational programs including family literacy training and parental empowerment in the education sector. These programs were designed to cooperate with formal education systems to inspire lifelong learning. The FES is funded by the Maltese government, the European Union and the HSBC Cares for Children Fund.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

 Refugees in Malta Facts
Situated by the Mediterranean Sea, the island country of Malta has long been a safe haven for refugees. Although Malta is geographically and economically small, its location between Europe and North Africa makes it a logical first step for refugees seeking a new life in Europe. Discussed below are 10 facts about refugees in Malta.

Top 10 Facts about Refugees in Malta

  1. Malta created its Office of the Refugee Commissioner (ORC) in 2001 and it began functioning in 2002. Since then, the country has received more than 15,000 asylum seekers, primarily from the Middle East and Africa.
  2. Approximately 93% of migrants arriving in Malta by boat are asylum seekers, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch.
  3. Malta often acts as a temporary home for refugees. Less than 30% of the 19,000 Libyan refugees in Malta housed since 2002 remain there, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates. Refugees in Malta have a document that permits them to travel, and many choose to leave the country voluntarily.
  4. In order to keep families together, refugees’ dependent family members receive the same rights and benefits as the refugee.
  5. In 2011, Malta concluded the first European Refugee Fund project, which aimed to improve the information applicants receive about refugee rights and obligations. The project was such a success that the ORC hosted a conference in order to help the Maltese community get to know and connect with local refugees.

  1. Malta operates five mobile offices for refugee services in order to hold information sessions about the asylum procedure for third-country nationals or individuals who belong in neither the country of refuge nor the country they fled.
  2. Due to Malta’s location, many refugees end up in the country unintentionally. Malta is responsible for search and rescue in a large area of the Mediterranean Sea stretching from Tunisia to Crete, Greece and Sicily and Italy to Libya, and is, therefore, a popular transport hub for asylum seekers.
  3. Malta ranked 10th out of the countries with the most refugees per capita, with 14 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a UNHCR report.
  4. Malta’s fertility rate is below the EU average. However, the population has continued to grow in the last few years because of a large number of refugees and other immigrants.
  5. Only 9.2% of asylum seekers in Malta receive refugee status. The majority, 62.1%, receive subsidiary protection status. This allows them some, though not all, of the rights given to refugees.

Despite crowding and tight resources, refugees in Malta are working together to create a sense of community and home despite being so far away from their own.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Major Diseases in Malta: A Continuing Struggle
Known for being a premier island for holiday travel, Malta is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Europe. Since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1964, the island of Malta has made substantial improvements to all sectors of government, including their health care system.

Diseases in Malta are generally under control in part due to the fact that the country has made extensive progress in improving its health care system. According to the WHO, “The health care system is relatively equitable and comprehensive. The health care reforms are well focused on sustainability and quality based on an integrated and holistic approach.”

However, even with these advances to their health care system, many diseases in Malta are still present and increasing within the nation. Major diseases in Malta fall under the category of non-communicable diseases. These diseases range from bronchial asthma to obesity, to heart disease and cancer.

In 2003, ischaemic heart disease was the most deadly disease in Malta, killing almost 22 percent of the population that year. Studies have shown that both Maltese women and men over the age of 30 have a higher percentage of dying from ischaemic heart disease than the average European individual.

Uterine as well as breast cancer is also a major concern in Malta. Research indicates that death rates for these particular types of cancer, in Malta, are above average than other European nations. Additionally, death rates for cervical, ovarian and pancreatic cancer have decreased within Malta, but the percentages are still above European averages.

Despite the majority of diseases in Malta being non-communicable, the CDC also recommends that for those traveling into the country to have their routine vaccines as well as vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yellow fever and rabies current and up to date.

In 2013, both an improved Mental Health Act and a general Health Act were approved by the government of Malta. These improvements have helped to steadily decrease rates of cancer and obesity while also helping those with mental diseases. The new Mental Health Act has seen tremendous success by promoting community treatment and securing the rights of mental health patients.

The government of Malta has sequentially promoted a plethora of health strategies such as the Non-Communicable Disease strategy in 2010, the National Cancer Plan in 2011, the Sexual Health strategy in 2011, the Tuberculosis Prevention strategy in 2012 and the Healthy Weight for Life strategy in 2012. These strategies were designed in order to promote health and prevention methods on a national scale.

Moreover, efforts to reduce diseases in Malta are both ever-constant and ever-changing thanks to the participation of the Maltese people and their government. These positive changes will ensure that rates of non-communicable diseases will continue to decrease while promoting a happy, healthy and well-engaged society.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Malta
The state of poverty in Malta is categorized as relative, but 2014 estimates show that 15.9 percent of citizens live below the poverty line. However, poverty in Malta is a consequence of recent economic expansions at the expense of employment stability, access to child care and has marginalized family incomes, especially for single mothers.

Economic stability in Malta is driven by tourism, trade and manufacturing. The country also boasted the European Union’s (EU) lowest unemployment rate of 3.9 percent in July 2016.

Malta is located between Sicily and North Africa, situating the country within several of the world’s highest trafficking shipping routes. The government of Malta recognizes the potential for growth due to the influence of global investment and trade.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the forms of health technology, communication and information technology, aerospace and defense and finance services to expand the rate of economic development is especially important, according to the U.S. Department of State.

According to the 2010 European Social Watch Report, economic infrastructures in Malta established increased flexibility due to labor market deregulation and liberalization of the market.

Economic developments have resulted in more jobs and profit, but at the cost of the deterioration of labor standards, unstable work status, unemployment and decreased incomes for families.

According to the University of Malta, groups that report the lowest yearly average are single parents, parents of big families and the elderly. These individuals are at a higher risk of poverty than others, while all aforementioned groups report housing inefficiencies to be a notable hindrance. Due to low familial incomes, children often lack access to food, adequate housing, health care and clothing.

The European Commission noted that Malta is relatively far from achieving its poverty reduction target as outlined in the Europe 2020 Strategy in a 2016 Maltese country report. Individuals with low skills and children have been affected most, while the absence of material goods in households further contributes to the facilitation of poverty and social exclusion.

As a recent addition to the collection of member states within the EU, the country is in the process of implementing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has yet to operationalize educational initiatives but stated that, “Malta is fully committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and in this regard is participating and following discussions at both regional and international level.”

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr