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