New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

Subject Choice and Performance in Chemistry and the Science Subjects in Malta: Patterns According to Gender and School Type

Martin Musumeci, Department of Mathematics, Science and Technical Education, Faculty of Education, University of Malta School of Education, Durham University (Malta)


Malta's educational system has three main branches: a six-year primary cycle (age 5 to 11), five years of secondary school and tertiary education. Malta has three school types: the state, the Church and the independent school systems. The MATSEC Examinations Board of the University of Malta offers 33 subjects at the 16+ Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) level and around 30 subjects at each of the 18+ Intermediate (IM) and Advanced Matriculation (AM) levels. One needs six SEC passes for entry into mainstream Sixth Form, including one of the three sciences. Entry to the University of Malta requires the Matriculation Certificate (MC), comprising two AM and four IM subjects, including Systems of Knowledge (at IM). The MC includes a language, a science subject and a humanistic or commercial subject.

Some subjects are taught throughout secondary school (and carried from Primary) while pupils have options, normally starting at Form III. Integrated Science is taught in Forms I and II and as from Form III one of the three sciences is compulsory; students can also opt to have two or three sciences. Physics has been a compulsory subject since the early eighties but this was replaced to any science subject for Sixth Form entry, although in most state schools Physics is still compulsory due to teacher profiles.

In 2005, a new scheme differentiating between standard and special grants for full-time University students was launched to increase enrollment in science, engineering and IT courses. This decision was fuelled by: (i) the declarations of the constituted bodies and the unions; (ii) the Lisbon agenda aims; and (iii) the OECD standards. A number of courses were identified for these special grants, amongst which the B.Sc.(Hons) and the B.Ed.(Hons)/PGCE courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

The study traces the number of registrations in the three science subjects at the three levels through the last ten years. It compares and contrasts patterns and fluctuations in subject registration and examination performance according to gender and school type. A main focus will be set on Chemistry, it being the least popular amongst the three sciences at both SEC and IM levels, with a more balanced situation at AM level. This would lead to a Maltese Chemistry ‘map’ within a more extensive science ‘map’, purporting all its various ‘topographical’ and ‘morphological’ characteristics. This ‘snapshot’ will be enhanced with the various facets of perception that stakeholders have of the subject, in correspondence to gender, school type, and other parameters.

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