Contributed by Sarah Jane Brady, Head of Education and Engagement, BirdLife Malta
Malta is a small island measuring 317km2 island in the Mediterranean. It is the most urbanized country in the European Union (EU), with a population density of over 2000 people per km2. . Environmental education began in Malta around 1962 with the establishment of the country’s first two environmental NGOs, nowadays known as BirdLife Malta and FEE-Nature Trust. Malta’s EU membership in 2004 led the government to adopt the majority of EU environmental law with the exception of certain derogations. The success of environmental education initiatives in Malta is largely coordinated by environmental NGOs who constantly facilitate opportunities for the public to connect nature and opt for sustainable lifestyles. Environmental education is also promoted at a national level through curriculum embedding within the school context and policy-making.
The majority of environmental education initiatives are aimed at school children. These are largely coordinated by environmental NGOs and in collaboration with other relevant institutions and state entities. In this context, BirdLife Malta’s Dinja Waħda (tr. One World) programme embeds environmental education within the school curriculum through lesson delivery, field visits, building of school wildlife spots, educator professional development initiatives, and resources for teachers. BirdLife Malta collaborates with 75% of the primary schools in Malta. Through FEE-Nature Trust’s ‘EkoSkola’ programme, primary schools nominate students committees that promote sustainable lifestyles within the school and local community through various initiatives related to the formal and informal educational context.
Learning outcomes in various subjects and at various levels, including in secondary education, also aim to promote increased understanding of the natural world. Primary Science, middle-school level Integrated Science, Biology, Chemistry, Social Studies, and Environmental Studies at the secondary level are examples of such direct curricular embedding.
Policy & Practice
Malta has several education policies which include: National Youth Policy, A Whole School Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Policy, Malta National Lifelong Learning Strategy, and Early Childhood Education and Care in Malta. All of these policies can be found here.
The Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 has four main goals:
- Reduce the gaps in educational outcomes between boys and girls and between students attending different schools, decrease the number of low achievers and raise the bar in literacy, numeracy, and science and technology competence, and increase student achievement
- Support educational achievement of children at-risk-of-poverty and from low socio-economic status, and reduce the relatively high incidence of early school-leavers.
- Increase participation in lifelong learning and adult learning
- Raise levels of student retainment and attainment in further, vocational, and tertiary education and training
There are also environmental policies for example, the ‘Malta National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan’ and ‘Management Plans for Terrestrial Natura 2000 sites in Malta and Gozo’.
EE in K-12 Education
At a national level, the Science Centre Pembroke, within the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes (DLAP), is the main collaborator in the promotion and implementation of environmental education.
Through collaboration with DLAP, environmental NGOs have been able to embed environmental education outcomes within the national curriculum. For example, fieldwork at BirdLife Malta’s nature reserves is now part of the Year 3 social studies curriculum. DLAP also coordinated other ESD initiatives, namely UNESCO Associated Schools programme and Global Education Network Europe. UNESCO Associated Schools encouraged schools to plan and implement innovative learning programmes that encourage and promote sustainable lifestyle choices, along with intercultural dialogue, peace and human rights, as well as other UNESCO priorities.
The Institute of Education offers the Award in Teaching Outdoor Learning through Nature. There are also ‘learning through nature’ modules which are included in the Institute's Bachelors of Education program.
Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology’s Master of Science in Environmental Engineering does not target environmental educators but does include aspects related to environmental education.
Formal education opportunities for environmental educators also include a Master in Education for Sustainable Development available at the University of Malta.
BirdLife Malta offers teacher training courses (usually 1-2 day courses) which show teachers how to use environmental education in the curriculum as part of the Dinja Waħda programme.
The Centre for Environmental Education Research at the University of Malta works to coordinate education for sustainable development initiatives, conduct research, and ensure that information is accessible across Malta.
EE in National Government
The main progress at a national government level in environmental education has come from the Science Centre under the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes in the Ministry of Education and Employment.
National EE Campaigns and Funding
Environmental education is usually supported by government programmes, EU funding, private sponsorship, and local grant programmes. The government provides seconded staff for NGOs to deliver education programmes. Private companies such as Bank of Valletta sponsor Dinja Waħda, and HSBC offers a grant scheme for schools to develop water catchment projects and sponsors many EkoSkola school grounds projects. Many programmes are funded through Erasmus+ Key Action 2 and Key Action 1 projects, which are strategic partnership projects which bring together a minimum of three European countries to collaborate together on a project that addresses Erasmus’ strategic priorities.
See BirdLife Malta for examples of environmental education projects funded by the European Union.