A Deeper Look Into Why Many Teachers Are Leaving Malta’s Education System

Listening To Teachers

Across the world, there’s a major concern about the shortage of teachers. Over the past year, 97 teachers quit their jobs & left the profession.

Recently, a local teacher opened up about leaving the profession, even saying that “the education system is pushing dedicated teachers away." This prompted the Malta Union of Teachers to ask the education authorities to provide information from resignations about the reasons why teachers are leaving the sector.

Even though there have been various policy reforms over the years, these changes still don’t reflect the concerns of the majority of teachers - who are at the core of education.

Salaries Reflecting Value

With a starting salary of €17,509 compared to the average across EU countries of €25,055, Malta ranks 19th out of 36 countries (EuroNews, 2023). Various studies have shown that Maltese educators aren’t happy with their wages*.

In 2019, the OECD studies 48 countries & found that only 18% of teachers in Malta are satisfied with their salaries, which is lower than the OECD average of 39%.

Teachers also feel like their jobs aren’t as equally valued as other professions (Attard Tonna & Calleja, 2023; Bezzina & Portelli, 2005; Galea, 2020). Only 15% of educators agreed that the profession is valued, compared to the OECD average of 26%.

Rapid Policy Changes

Policy changes are often well-meaning changes to help develop & improve the sector. 1 change was introducing formative assessments (informal assessments throughout the year) along with summative assessments (end-of-year exams).

This change meant that teachers need to assess learning in new ways, & most have needed to learn these new ways on their own without much support. Educators have said that they didn’t feel well-prepared for such changes*, & that these changes were too rapid**.

This has also been linked to stress, with 28% of teachers reporting high levels of stress when compared to the OECD average of 18% (2019).

(*Attard Tonna, 2015; Attard Tonna & Calleja, 2023; Galea, 2020; **Borg & Giordmaina, 2012)

Emotional Environment

Teaching has sometimes been described as 'emotional labour' (Hochschild, 1983). 

I didn’t understood this at first. Then 1 day during COVID-19, a student started crying because their grandma died. In a few minutes, the whole class was crying & sharing similar losses.

As the adult, I had to find a way to contain my emotions & their emotions to de-escalate the situation, even though my heart was breaking. This is the emotional ‘labour’ that comes along with the other assumed labours of teaching.

Coping skills have become a pre-requisite for teachers, yet not everyone is taught these.

“We call upon countries to ensure that teaching is transformed everywhere into a more attractive & valorised profession [. . .]. Bold actions must be taken, if we are to reverse the current decline and successfully increase teacher numbers.” -  UNESCO on International for World Teachers’ Day (5th October 2023)

Transforming Teaching

However, with increasing social issues, teachers require adequate tools & sources of support to meet these new needs and succeed.  

Otherwise, an atmosphere of collective burnout is created, which could in turn strain relationships amongst colleagues within the school environment (Attard Tonna & Calleja, 2023; Bezzina & Portelli, 2005; Galea, 2020).

We’ve all experienced the important role of teachers in our lives & it’s about time we re-evaluate the situations that teachers are currently facing. These changes start with actively listening to our teachers to find out what needs to be improved in the sector.


  • Attard Tonna, M. (2015). Teacher Professional Development and Social Networking: A Case Study of a Professional Learning Experience. In Johnston C. and Calleja C. (Eds.), A learning paradigm informed by knowledge of the learning self: A compendium of applied research of the Let Me Learn Process (pp. 101–118). Malta: Horizons
  • Attard Tonna, M. and Calleja, J. (2023) An investigation of the professional behaviour, status, career and identities of teachers in Malta, European Journal of Teacher Education, 46:1, 95-113, DOI: 10.1080/02619768.2021.1889508
  • Bezzina, C., and V. Portelli. 2005. “Teachers and Teaching in Malta: Some Key Issues.” Journal of Maltese Educational Research 3 (2): 8–22. 
  • Borg, M.G. and Giordmaina, J. (2012) Towards a Quality Education for All – The College System Examining the Situation, Report presented to the Malta Union of Teachers on 11 June, unpublished, Available: www.mut.org.mt/files/College Research 2012.pdf
  • Euronews (2023). Teachers' wages: How do salaries for educators compare across Europe? https://www.euronews.com/next/2023/07/05/teachers-pay-which-countries-pay-the-most-and-the-least-in-europe
  • Galea, F. (2020). Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Investigating Teacher Attrition in Malta. Malta Review of Educational Research, 14 (1), p. 93 – 114.
  • OECD (2019). TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris.
  • UNESCO (2023). Joint Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General, International Labour Organization, Ms Catherine Russell, Executive Director, UNICEF, Mr David Edwards, General Secretary, Education International for World Teachers’ Day, 5 October 2023. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000387005
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