Since the launch of the National Literacy Strategy for All in Malta and Gozo in 2014 there has been a concerted, national effort to create rich and effective literacy education opportunities in schools and beyond.  The results from continuous assessments carried out by the schools, the bench-marking assessment at the end of the primary level and other national assessments, like the one for English held by Cambridge Assessment English of the University of Cambridge have shown consistently steady and positive results in literacy. In the European Survey on Language Competences, SurveyLang, Maltese adolescents fared very well.

Through its popular family bilingual literacy programme: Read with Me, for children of 0-3 years and their parents, the National Literacy Agency is reaching 2,000 children and their parents every month.  Other popular programmes are the Magic of Stories programmes for children of 4 to 7 and 7 to 9 years and family literacy programmes for struggling readers.  The Classroom Libraries programme has placed 100 attractive, reading books in Maltese and English in every state school classroom of 4 to 7 year-olds.

From this year classrooms of 8 to 11 year-olds are receiving their books.  It is a well-known fact that the availability of appealing readers has a positive impact on literacy achievement.

In Secondary schools alternative programmes are run to motivate reluctant readers. Adult education classes which promote literacy in both Maltese and English, also through the digital technologies, are offered by the Directorate for Lifelong Learning and NGOs like the Jesuit Paolo Freire Institute.

The reading gaps between high and low-achieving students, girls and boys, and school types, which are global phenomena, continue to provide challenges for Maltese educators too. In order to entice boys (and girls) to read and write through football, the Football Reading and Writing programme (FRWP) is offered in conjunction with the Malta Football Association in ten centres.

The percentage of Maltese school libraries having more than 500 book titles is significantly higher than the international average. Maltese parents have very positive views of their child’s education. Maltese students’ engagement in school is significantly above the international average. Students’ reading enjoyment has improved too. There are higher rates of book borrowing from public libraries through the Malta Libraries.

In education, and especially in the field of Literacy, there can be no quick fix solutions based on reactions to newspaper headlines.  Real progress in the long-term can only be achieved through focussed work in classrooms by well-trained and dedicated teachers.  The role of the central authorities is to create the appropriate environment, and to provide the necessary professional development opportunities for teachers and the required resources.

Professor Charles L. Mifsud