Italian pupils are largest foreign community in Maltese schools

According to the National Statistics Office Italian children form the largest group of foreign students from the EU in Malta’s primary and secondary schools

Italian children form the largest group of foreign students from the EU in Malta’s primary and secondary schools, according to the National Statistics Office.

In the scholastic year 2017/2018, there were 920 Italian students in Malta’s obligatory schooling system, surpassing British students, who totalled 813.

The numbers tally with population figures of recent years that show a growing number of Italian nationals making Malta their home.

The largest student group from non-EU countries was Libyan with 571 students attending primary and secondary schools, followed by Serbian children (336).

The NSO figures covered pre-primary, primary and secondary schools run by the State, the church and private institutions.

During the 2017/2018 scholastic year Malta had a student population of 56,715 up to secondary school level. These included 3,499 children from EU countries and 2,767 from non-EU countries.

Foreign children made up 11.1% of Malta’s school-age population, an increase of almost two points on the year before.

Class sizes and foreign language learning

A general breakdown of student figures showed that 58.1% of all children (Maltese and foreign) attended State schools, followed by 28.7% who attended church schools and 13.2% private schools.

Average class sizes in both primary and secondary were the biggest in church schools, with State schools having the lowest average class sizes.

Church schools at primary level (Year 1 to Year 6) had an average class size of 24.9 students, as opposed to State schools where the average class size throughout the six-year groups was 17.1.

In secondary schools, Church institutions had an average class size of 23 students across the five years as opposed to State schools where the average class size stood at 17.3 students.

From the optional foreign languages learnt in secondary school, Italian remained the most popular choice, followed by French, German and Spanish.

There were 11,658 students who chose Italian as an optional foreign language, while 5,899 chose French. Another 2,747 students chose German and 2,323 chose Spanish.

Interestingly there were 42 students learning Chinese and 30 learning Russian. Arabic, which up until 1987 was an obligatory language was chosen by 132 students.

Apart from learning Maltese and English, students in secondary school are obliged to choose a foreign language of their choice, which they learn for the full five years.

Students enrolled in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in 2017/2018 academic year

Nationality Number % change 2016
Maltese 50,442 +0.4%
EU states 3,499 +17.3%
Non-EU 2,767 +15.6%

Top EU nationalities 

Nationality Number % change 2016
Italian 920 +24.5%
British 813 +6%
Bulgarian 344 +12.1%
Romanian 167 +35.85
Swedish 155 +11.5%

Top 5 non-EU nationalities 

Nationality Number % change since 2016
Libyan 571 +8.9%
Serbian 336 +50%
Syrian 306 +39.1%
Russian 200 +0.5%
Ukrainian 116 +11.5%

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