New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Choice in the Science Subjects: Trends in Malta

Martin Musumeci, Faculty of Education, University of Malta (Malta)

Dario Pirotta, MATSEC Support Unit, University of Malta (Malta)


There are three sectors in the educational system in Malta: Church, independent and state schools. Students have to adopt subject choices (in almost all cases) at (roughly) age 12-13, prior to the beginning of their third year of secondary schooling. Pupils sit for an external 16+ Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examination at the end of secondary school. Pupils who satisfy the requirements can proceed to a two-year post secondary Matriculation course. At Sixth Form, students choose two subjects at Advanced level and three subjects at Intermediate level and have the compulsory ‘Systems of Knowledge’; the six subjects constitute the Matriculation Certificate, an external 18+ examination, which is a passport to university. Considering the data for the past 14 years, from 2004 till 2017, the study presents the trends, changes and fluctuations as regards subject choice and performance with respect to the science subjects (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) at both SEC and Matriculation Certificate (Intermediate and Advanced) levels. The levels of subject registration and performance at the two levels are compared, contrasted and analysed. These trends for the science subjects are also compared and contrasted with those of a number of compulsory SEC subjects (as Mathematics and English Language) and with those of other groups of subjects, namely the foreign languages, the commercial subjects and other subjects (as Home Economics, Design and Technology, Computer Studies, etc.).  Data is also analysed per school-type and per gender. Possible fluctuations, shifts and displacements from one ‘area’ to another will be highlighted.   

Keywords: Subject choice, performance, science subjects;


[1] Fullarton, S., Walker, M., Ainley, J. & Hillman, K. “Patterns of participation in Year 12”, LSAY Research Report No. 33, Melbourne, ACER, 2003
[2] Khoo, S. T., Ainley, J. “Attitudes, intentions and participation”, LSAY Research Reports. Longitudinal surveys of Australian youth research report; n.41, 2005 
[3] Murphy, P., Whitelegg, E. “Girls in the Physics Classroom”, Institute of Physics, 2006
[4] Francis, B. “The Gendered Subject: Students' Subject Preferences and Discussions of Gender and Subject Ability”, Oxford Review of Education, vol. 26, no. 1, 2000, pp. 35 – 48
[5] Wellcome Trust, “Subject Choice in STEM: Factors Influencing Young People (aged 14–19) in Education”, The EPPI-Centre, Institute of Education, University of London, 2010
[6] MATSEC Examinations Board, “SEC Examinations 2017 Statistical Report”, MATSEC Support Unit, University of Malta, 2018 – similar reports for the sessions from 2004 onwards
[7] MATSEC Examinations Board, “Matriculation Certificate Examinations 2017 Statistical Report”, MATSEC Support Unit, University of Malta, 2018 – similar reports for the sessions from 2004 onwards

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