Schools struggling to keep up with foreign students admission requests

Private schools in Malta have registered a record increase in admission requests by foreign students over the past two years, with students coming from all over the globe

Verdala International School pupils during an assembly. Photo: Verdala International
Verdala International School pupils during an assembly. Photo: Verdala International

Private schools have registered a record increase in admission requests by foreign students over the past two years, raising demand for more places in international schools. 

Heads of independent schools contacted by this newspaper have confirmed the increase in requests, with St Catherine’s High School, Verdala International School and Chiswick House School confirming that the waiting lists have increased.

“We have long waiting lists at the moment for each class level, both coming from a local and an international arena,” Sue Midolo, head at St Catherine’s High School, said.

Totty Aris, head at Verdala, said that their school was the “preferred choice” for foreigners on the island.

Chiswick House School registrar Roberta Zammit Briffa said that every level of the school was full-up, and that the school had long waiting lists for both local and foreign students.

MaltaToday contacted eight independent schools – servicing primary and secondary education – but only four were willing to give their comments.

St Edward’s College said that students had to meet strict admission requirements for their request to be accepted. 

Edwardian headmaster Nollaig Mac an Bhaird explained that students seeking to get into the school have to meet admission requirements that allow the school to ascertain the suitability of the student and the education the school can provide them with. 

“To date we have managed to handle our admissions admirably with excellent results provided by our Admissions Department,” he said.

Parliamentary questions show that in Malta there are three schools that specifically cater for foreign students: the Quality Schools International Malta, in Mosta, the Russian Boarding Upbringing and Education Centre Ltd in Marsaskala and the Libyan School in Ta’ Giorni. A fourth school, Russian Boarding School in Bugibba, has ceased operations.

Verdala and the Mariam Albatool School in Paola also host Maltese students.

The increase of foreigners in Malta – which EU data placed at 6% of the total population in 2014 – means that the education system must now cater for foreign students who are spending their early years on the island.

Adding to those attracted by job opportunities in Malta, amongst others, is the 2014 launch of the Individual Investor Programme which grants Maltese citizenship against €650,000, apart from a €115,000 investment in government bonds, and a €350,000 property (or €16,000 rental investment, annually for five years).

The government now plans to issue a request for proposals for the development of an international school at Mtarfa. A consortium made up of independent schools is being mooted as backers for the project.

Students come from all over the globe: Midolo said students came from both within and outside the European Union whilst Aris said Verdala’s student body was representative of 47 countries.

At St Edward’s, 25% of the current student population are non-Maltese, Mac an Bhaird said.

“We currently have students from as far afield as Korea, China, Canada, Libya, the US and Ireland to mention a few. In our IB, Form 6, we have 30 students from 17 nationalities,” he said. 

“We have seen an increase in the number of South Koreans, Russians, Chinese Libyans, French and Italians.”

Importance of flexible curricula

Aware of the different demands, the four schools emphasised the importance of flexibility in education, offering various curricula or study programmes in order to adapt to the needs of the students. 

St Catherine’s High School, for one, offers different types of provision to international students depending on their level of English proficiency, Midolo explained. This includes the provision of classes in English at their A Class Academy of English while following the mainstream curriculum for other subjects. 

Students whose level of English is good follow the mainstream curriculum. Similar provisions are available for Maltese and religion classes. 

“These different pathways facilitate the integration of these students in the school both socially and academically,” Midolo added.

Chiswick House School offers an international programme which replaces conventional Maltese lessons with other foreign languages, including also Maltese as a foreign language, Zammit Briffa explained.

St Edward’s offers two curricula leading up to two types of examination. “We follow the national curriculum at SEC and offer MATSEC ‘O’ levels along with the IGCSE, an international equivalent. In Form 6, we teach the International Baccalaureate which is recognised nationally by the university and by top universities internationally,” Mac an Bhaird said.

Being an international school, Verdala also offers adaptable education in order to cater to the requirements of the students and their parents. 

“International parents choose us because we celebrate diversity and seek through our learning journey to empower and inspire our students. Our parents are looking for a curriculum that is adaptable to their own systems and the IB Diploma, which is globally-recognised, is an exceptional pathway to universities across Europe, the UK , USA  or Asia,” Aris said.

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