5.2 Pre 1940s

In Malta, there has been, historically, a two school system, one private which "tended to reinforce the values and attitudes of a minority within the community, principally members of the nobility and professional classes such as doctors and lawyers, who promoted the concept that Malta was culturally and politically part of the Italian civilization." (Gauci, 1983 p 26); and the other, the State system initiated by the British Imperial government, which was free and provided the population "with the necessary occupational and English language skills for employment in the port, the civil service and abroad" (See Gauci, 1983 p 26)

Although a law was passed in 1924 to enforce "registered" children to continue education until the age of 12 years, it had no effect on non-registered children, and in any case was easily ignored. Attendance at school was irregular and depended primarily on parental push. During the war years 1940- 44, schooling was severely disrupted. This led to a very high degree of illiteracy among the population which provided the bulk of migrants of the early 50's.

The Education Act of 1946 obliged parents to send children to school, and since then the literacy rate has risen substantially.

Following Independence in 1964, there was a wave of Nationalism which affected significantly cultural and educational expectations. There was a marked rebirth in literature and culture, with a renewed interest in Maltese history. Higher education, both technical and classical spread to other than the traditional classes. However, not until the late 1970's did these "educated" persons consider emigration, some for political reasons. In any case, when they arrived in Australia, they hardly ever mixed with the earlier migrants and their number was never large enough to make any serious impact on the overall make-up of Maltese migrants in Australia.

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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