The Science Curriculum in Primary and Lower Secondary Grades

The Primary Science Framework aims to develop foundational knowledge, understanding, skills, and attitudes toward science through firsthand experience. This foundation is intended to lead to a deeper, progressive understanding of scientific activity, forming a basis for further study in science at the secondary level.

The primary science curriculum is designed to implement the objectives stated in the National Curriculum Framework, and focuses on students having a “greater awareness of the role of science and technology in everyday life.” The primary science syllabus is divided into three core areas of science related to biology, chemistry, and physics—Sharing Our World, Energy, and Materials—each of which is developed into 11 specific topics.

In the early primary years (Years 1 to 3), students are expected to use their senses to observe and group objects and events in their immediate environment, and to identify opportunities for scientific investigation. They use observations to make predictions, suggest possible solutions and simple investigations, and take simple measurements. Students also conduct investigations in groups, make simple evaluations (e.g., describing whether what happened was expected), and share their procedures and findings with the class.

In the later primary years (Years 4 to 6), students are expected to compare and classify objects and events in their immediate environment, use these ideas to make testable predictions, and discover ways to conduct fair tests. They also learn to select appropriate resources and instruments, and to use standard measurements with appropriate precision. Students gain experience organizing themselves in groups and working in teams. They record and analyze data using simple graphs and information processing technologies to find patterns. Groups draw conclusions based on the information collected, evaluate the process, and generate ideas through presenting well reasoned, complete reports to the class.

At the primary level, geography is taught as part of a social studies program that encompasses history, social studies, and geography. The geography program aims to enhance students’ awareness of the different influences on Maltese society, using the nation’s Euro-Mediterranean background as a starting point for moving toward a broader and more global perspective. It is expected that by the end of primary education, the majority of students will have attained Level 4 in the compulsory program for geography. Student attainment levels in geography may be summarized as follows:

  • Level 1—Students develop awareness of their immediate local environment (i.e., their classroom and their local town or village) through class discussion and by observing natural life cycles, including day and night and the seasons.
  • Level 2—Students develop awareness of the physical and human elements in their immediate surroundings through class discussion, artistic expression, and some basic writing. Students are encouraged to reason and express their views on daily life events, including the weather.
  • Level 3—Students develop awareness of the physical and human elements in Malta, the Mediterranean, and the world. These include physical and environmental features that encourage and support basic geographical research.
  • Level 4—Students are able to describe many of the physical characteristics of the Maltese islands through oral and written communication, as well as through pictures and maps. They focus on the contrasts between the Maltese environment and the environment in other Mediterranean countries. Students carry out a geographical study in school involving the collection of geographical data and its presentation. They use simple map interpretation, photos, and technological support for data collection.

The Integrated Science Curriculum for secondary education builds on the Primary Science Framework, and guides students in learning integrated science during Years 7 and 8. This curriculum has three strands: Life Processes and Living Things, Materials and Their Properties, and Physical Sciences.

  • Life Processes allows students to understand and investigate life processes as well as appreciate the diversity of living things and how they interact with each other and with the surrounding environment.
  • Materials and Their Properties allows students to become aware of a diversity of naturally occurring materials, particularly through inquiry and investigations, to become familiar with the structures and properties of mixtures, and to understand ways of processing raw materials to form new products with different properties.
  • Physical Sciences allows students to understand the properties of a variety of forces existing in the universe and to investigate their effects. Consequently, students discover how interactive forces produce conversion in energy from one form to another.

Each strand is organized into a number of units while each unit comprises a number of teaching objectives, examples of teaching activities and experiences, and indicators of learning outcomes. The approach to teaching and learning science is inquiry-based and student-centered, and units support a constructivist approach by following the 5E model: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. During each session, teachers determine the topic of inquiry or focus question to engage students’ interest and curiosity. Students observe, explore, predict, plan, and conduct investigations; collect and interpret data; and give explanations. Students then are challenged to elaborate on their understanding by linking the known with the new and by applying concepts and skills in new contexts. Students are encouraged to evaluate their understanding and competencies, and teachers assess areas of strength and weakness highlighted by student performance in the activities.

During the last three years of secondary education (Years 9 to 11) students choose two subjects to study as core curriculum options. In Years 9 to 11, students are required to study at least one science subject (physics, chemistry, or biology) and may choose one or two additional science subjects. Students in state schools may choose biology and/or chemistry, as physics is compulsory in Years 9 to 11. In most nonstate schools, students may choose any one of the science subjects together with one or both of the other science subjects as an elective.