Despite the millions being spent annually in the educational system, Malta still has the second highest number of persons with a very low educational attainment in the EU, only behind Portugal. This trend is largely identical across all levels of educational attainment where Malta ranks among the worst performers.

It transpires that in 2020 Malta had the second highest percentage of its population whose level of education ranged from level 0 to 2, meaning they have less than two O Levels. According to Eurostat, 40.3% of the Maltese fall in this category, which is the second highest rate in the EU after Portugal where the respective rate stands at 44.5%. 

Though in the last decade there has been significant improvement as in 2010 the respective figure in Malta was of 60.3%, there is still a significant gap when compared to the rest of Europe as the EU27 average in 2020 was of 25.1%.

These results are largely mirrored in the next cohort which comprises those whose educational attainment ranges from level 3 to 4 meaning anybody having 2 or more O Levels and at least one intermediate or A Level. In this case the respective percentage in Malta in 2020 was of 31.7% which was significantly below the EU27 average which stood at 46%. In the overall league table Malta ranked third from bottom ahead of Spain and Portugal. Looking at the bigger picture, there has been a modest improvement as in 2010 the percentage of the population having this level of educational attainment was of 25.6%.

The Eurostat data also covers those whose educational attainment varies between upper secondary level up to doctorate level. In this case Malta made significant progress moving from 39.7% of the population in 2010 up to 59.7% in 2020. Once again, however, it is still below the EU27 average which stands at 74.9%. In this respect, only Portugal ranks below Malta in the overall league table.

Meanwhile, according to the National Statistics Office the number of persons in Malta with a low level of educational attainment amounted to 203,151 which is nearly half those aged 15 and over. Moreover, the NSO said that the rate of early school leavers in Malta (those who do not further their education after secondary school) has gone down to 12.6% but is nonetheless above the EU target of 10%.

In its 2022 Budget proposals UHM Voice of the Workers is proposing greater emphasis on vocational education at secondary level, through the re-establishment of trade schools. The aim behind this recommendation is to cater for students who are getting ‘lost’ in the educational system at a very early stage in secondary education. Under this proposal these students will focus more on vocational rather than academic subjects in order to be in a better position to obtain some kind of qualification in elementary skills which will improve their employability. Moreover, this could also address the acute shortage in the Maltese labour market of tradesman and manual workers.