The law regulating Education in Malta (Act XXIV of 1988) defines the rights and obligations of students, parents, the State and Non-Governmental Organisations (foremost amongst which is the Catholic Church) in the sphere of Education.
The Maltese educational institutions - State, private, and religious - provide an extensive system which caters for all requirements. Schooling is compulsory from age 5 to 16 but kindergarten classes are provided from the age of 3 and more than 54% of students continue with their education and training after the age of 16. Church schools are substantially subsidised by Government and tuition is free. There is a National Minimum Curriculum set for all schools and there are National Minimum Conditions to es tablish standards of hygiene, safety, dimensions of classrooms, and amenities.
The State primary school system is localised in every town and village. The State secondary school ystem is streamed into Lyceums and secondary schools. Studenst can opt to go to a trade school after three years of secondary level education, but most cont inue with their studies towards the Matriculation Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC).
On completion of the compulsory school cycle, the students are encouraged to choose from about 50 different vocational and academic courses in the post-secondary sectors. These courses range from academic (as preparation for entry to University) to techni cal, tourism,secretarial, health care, nautical, agricultural, hairdressing, and beauty therapy. Students in most of the post-secondary sector, besides being given free tuition, are also given financial stipends during their course of study.
The University of Malta, which has a four-hundred-year history, has a long tradition of scholarship and research in most disciplines. It awards degrees in Architecture and Civil Engineering, Arts, Management, Accountancy, Economics, Dentistry, Education, Engineering, Medecine and Surgery, Science, and Theology.
The Quality of education available in Malta attracts students from the countries bordering the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Expatriates in the region find Malta an ideal place for their children's education.
A number of foreign students attend several State schools as well as St. Edward's and De La Salle College at Cottonera, and St. Aloysius' College in Birkirkara (for boys), the Sacred Heart School in St. Julian's, and St. Dorothy's in Mdina (for girls). St udents with an American educational background can attend the Verdala International School. In line with Malta's relatively low cost of living, tuition and boarding fees are most reasonable.
At University level, the international dimension finds scope in the Foundation for International Studies of the University of Malta which organises international conferences on a variety of subjects. The Foundation has also promoted, through its International Environment Institute, several projects, notably a world-wide network concerne d with the Rights of Future Generations (under UNESCO auspices) and a system of protection against natural and technological hazards (under Council of Europe auspices) as well as courses in cultural tourism and diplomatic studies with an innovative anthro pological bias.
Interdisciplinary specialisations are also being developed at the University, notable in genetics and geriatrics (in collaboration with the International Institute on Aging, set up by the United nations in Malta). Attached to the University are a number o f other institutes, including the IMO - International Maritime Law Institute - and the Institute for Diplomatic Studies.
The University has a distinctive Mediterranean Studies program which has proved very attractive to foreign students, notably from the United States, and which draws upon a wide range of marine-centred studies, from aquaculture to international law.
It must be noted that Education in Malta caters for all sectors of the population, including the handicapped for whom a Special Education Section within the Education Department is set up. The Department also offers various ancillary services, e.g. guidan ce and counselling, welfare, psychological, medical, and spiritual, which enhance the quality of education offered.