Are you one of those who chose to switch location and live on a sunny Mediterranean island? You are not the only one. You’ll find many foreigners on Malta, with whom you’ll be able to exchange the impressions.
We are coming from Slovenia. When we first arrived in Malta, more precisely on Gozo, my kids were two and three years old. For my daughter, it was easier, because she already turned three, and that’s the age when they can start preschool.
State schools are free to all students. The educational system is structured in four stages: pre-primary (ages three to five), primary (ages five to 11), secondary (ages 11 to 18) and tertiary education. So you don’t need to pay for the expensive nursery if your kid is already three.
From age 3-5 they mostly create and play. But children do need to wear the school uniform. For little ones, it is only a tracksuit and polo shirt, which will cost you around thirty euros. From Year 1 on (five years onward), they need a more extensive collection of clothes, because they need a different outfit for sport. You can expect to pay around 200€ for all of it. It is possible to get second-hand uniforms, which are much cheaper.
I am not sure how it is on Malta, but on Gozo, you have different regions. Each region has a school for its residents. For example, we live in Xlendi, and school for our area is in Sannat. We cannot enroll our kids in Victoria's primary, even though it's easier to get there by public transportation. Kids are allowed to go on a school bus (it is free) from five years onward. It can be challenging to get your kid to preschool if you don’t have a car and you live far away from school. Preschoolers have their premises in primary school.
When you find out where is your school, you can go directly there and ask for a meeting with the head of the school. I’ve never heard that someone wouldn’t be accepted, you just have to fill out some forms, with details of the father, mother, and child. You need birth certificate of your kid, copied ID card/passport, and a lease contract (or a letter from your landlord) to prove you live in a right region. If you are not the only legal guardian, your partner needs to come personally to the school to sign the papers.
Another thing necessary before your child can start the education is a visit to the doctor. You’ll get an appointment in the school (they will also direct you, where to go). If the doctor gives you a note, that your child is healthy, he/she can start attending classes. Having certificate of vaccinations is essential. Without it, you won’t get the green light.
When you get doctor's approval and school uniform, you only need school supplies. The teacher will give you the list what you need to purchase. In general, your kid needs: school bag, lunch box (yes, you’ll have to prepare lunch every morning), bottle, napkin, pencil case (with crayons, rubber, ruler, sharpener, glue, scissors, pencils), plastic folder, tissues. Those items all the kids need, even the one in preschool. From Year 1 they need notebooks (it is all on the list you’ll get), and we had to pay 17 euros for photocopied workbooks.
State schools are free of charge, but they do like to get donations. I am not talking about high figures, but 2€ now and then is expected.
Be ready for homework when your kid turns five. They start to learn how to read and write, and they have to do a lot of repetitions at home.
Schools are bilingual, but Maltese is primary language. If you tend to stay on Malta, it is better if your kid learns Maltese - it will be easier.
As for religion: they are Catholics. Religion is not separated from state schools. Don’t be surprised to see crosses on every corner of the school. They pray before they start the school day (at least in our school), and say grace before they eat (all in Maltese). They have many trips to churches, especially during Christmas and Easter time. You can state, that you don’t want your kid to have a religious education, but on Gozo is quite hard to avoid it. Maybe it is different on Malta. If you practice other religion or you are an atheist, it's better you talk to your child about Maltese religious practices, so he/she won’t get confused.
That is about it. If you have any more questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me.