The MQF has eight learning-outcomes-based qualification levels, plus the two entry levels below EQF level 1; introductory levels A and B. These two new levels have no equivalence on the EQF and have been introduced to recognise any prior learning, as well as to provide a stepping stone towards MQF/EQF level 1 and further learning and employment ( They were introduced with the 2016 version of the Referencing report. These are not yet included in legislation. ). The MQF levels are described in terms of knowledge, skills and competences and are accompanied by a more detailed set of learning outcomes aimed at aiding operationalisation of MQF requirements; these are defined in terms of knowledge and understanding, applying knowledge and understanding, communication skills, judgemental skills, learning skills, autonomy and responsibility, with strong focus on key competences.
MQF is a comprehensive framework with all types of qualifications, including general, vocational, higher education and adult education, acquired in formal, non-formal and informal learning; it provides a clear commitment to focus on the learning outcomes approach at policy level and programme and qualifications design.
Strengthening the learning outcomes approach has become fundamental to education and training reform in all qualifications and at all levels. It is reinforced by the education strategy framework 2014-24 – Sustaining foundations, creating alternatives, increasing employability ( Maltese Ministry of Education and Employment (2014a). ) – linked to the MQF and the National lifelong learning strategy 2020 (  Maltese Ministry of Education and Employment (2014b). ), and to update of learning programmes and assessment modes.
In general education, the reform of the national curriculum framework (NCF) has led to the development of learning outcomes for all subjects in compulsory education, promoting inclusion, diversity and citizenship. Following the 2016 preparation of the learning outcomes framework (LOF) by the government ( http://www.schoolslearningoutcomes.edu.mt/en/ ) to support the national curriculum framework (NCF), implementation started in September 2019, under the new 2017 collective agreement ( In December 2017, the Malta Union of Teachers and the Education Ministry signed a sectoral agreement for 2018-22. The agreement includes a significant salary increase for educators across the different levels; allowances for professional development and career progression based on voluntary professional development (European Commission, 2018).). The LOF is intended to lead to more curricular autonomy of colleges and schools and give them the freedom to develop programmes that fulfil the framework of knowledge, attitudes and skills-based outcomes that are considered a national education entitlement for all learners in Malta. Each attainment level in the framework comprises of a list of learning outcomes and/or grading criteria in the case of vocational subjects ( There are three categories of (general education) subjects, one category of VET MQF level 1 subjects and entry level subjects. More information at: http://www.schoolslearningoutcomes.edu.mt/en/dashboard ). Both the NCF and the LOF will form the backbone of Maltese education programmes and will serve as national benchmarks of excellence for schools during each of the three cycles: the early, primary and secondary years ( Gradual implementation will continue until the year 2022/23 when new learning programmes will be available throughout the compulsory education system (European Commission, 2019).).
The government has also worked on a reform called My journey: achieving through different paths, that started implementation in lower secondary school in the school year 2019/20 ( See MEDE (2016). ). As of September 2019, secondary school students can choose between general, vocational or applied subjects, in addition to the core curriculum. The current focus is to move from a 'one size fits all' system to a more inclusive one catering to pupils' individual aptitudes, and to make it more equitable to reduce the number of early school leavers ( The Ministry for Education and Employment has already set up a committee of different education bodies such as the University of Malta and Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) to provide training for new and existing teachers. The Haaga Helia University of Sciences will provide training to teachers in vocational education. https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/ongoing-reforms-and-policy-developments-43_en ) (European Commission, 2019). Measures are being taken to retain teachers in the service and attract more students to the teaching profession ( This includes a higher grant to students who follow the initial teacher education (ITE) course at the University of Malta and the introduction of a number of ITE courses as part time evening courses both by the University of Malta and the Institute for Education.): work conditions and teacher salaries have improved following the latest sectoral agreement and teachers currently have the possibility of accelerated career progression through professional development (European Commission, 2018).
In vocational education and training (VET), Malta is developing national occupational standards – referred to the MQF – to inform VET programmes ( The national occupational standards published by NCFHE consist of a set of job-related standards that highlight the performance expected from an individual when carrying out a specific function. These standards define the main jobs that people carry out, and link qualifications to the requirements of the labour market.). The NCFHE has published around 80 national occupational standards in different sectors. The MQF level descriptors are utilised in the drafting, reviewing and publishing of occupational standards in the following sectors: automotive, building and construction, hair and beauty, health and social care, hospitality and tourism, IT, printing and digital media ( https://ncfhe.gov.mt/en/services/Pages/All%20Services/vinfl_nos.aspx ). Occupational standards are used in validation of non-formal and informal learning and help guide the curriculum development ( Malta continued to implement the 2018 Work-based Learning and Apprenticeship Act, in the year 2019-20 (European Commission, 2019).). Malta also has a range of adult education courses accredited and level-rated on the MQF. These qualifications and awards enable adults to engage in lifelong learning and progress to higher MQF levels.
Learning programmes developed in higher education are being remodelled based on learning outcomes ( The course descriptions are the ones offered by the state VET providers, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS), and the higher education provider, University of Malta.). There are two types of higher education institution: self-accredited and licensed private further and higher education institutions whose courses are accredited by NCFHE; these courses are described in terms of learning outcomes (NCFHE, 2016a). The programmes of self-accrediting institutions ( In Malta there are self-accrediting education and training institutions as identified by Subsidiary Legislation 327.433. These include the University of Malta; the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology; and the Institute of Tourism Studies.) are subject to external quality assurance audits where they are checked for a learning-outcomes base distinguishing between knowledge, skills and competences (NCFHE, 2016c). Following the setting up of ESF project 1227 Making quality visible ( ESF Project 1.227 Making Quality Visible. https://ncfhe.gov.mt/en/resources/Documents/Publications/Quality%20Assurance/National%20Quality%20Assurance%20Framework%20for%20Further%20and%20Higher%20Education.pdf ), the NCFHE has established the national quality assurance framework (NCFHE, 2015a), which sets the standards for internal and external quality assurance for all further and higher education providers.
Malta also embarked on the VET credit conversion system project with the aim of testing and implementing the ECVET credit system at a national level ( This was supported by the Leonardo da Vinci project for lifelong learning of the European Commission.). Through this project, 30 courses ( The courses represented a variety of areas and fields of study at different MQF levels from both the public and private sectors, featuring a variety of initial VET (IVET) courses and continuing VET (CVET) courses targeted for all ages of the population.) were selected from different VET providers and an ECVET conversion manual was developed ( The ECVET manual which includes information for ECVET in the Maltese VET system, the use of learning outcomes and MQF for different stakeholders: https://ncfhe.gov.mt/en/resources/Documents/Publications/Accreditation/ECVET%20Conversion%20manual.pdf ). Since then, ECVET in Malta is used for all VET programmes from MQF/EQF level 1 up to MQF/EQF level 4.