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MA in Early Childhood Education

The MA in Early Childhood Education is a unique, internationally renowned course, which has been running successfully in the UK since 1998. The course is designed for a range of early childhood professionals including; early years practitioners, FE and HE lecturers, teachers, kindergarten practitioners, preschool assistants, voluntary and independent providers, advisors, inspectors and managers working in areas relevant to early childhood. Since 2009 Malta based students have successfully completed this distance learning course which covers a broad range of issues, encourages students to reflect on their practice, on current policy, and to address theory and research relevant to their interest.

Course Information

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Course Information

This mixed-mode, distance-learning course is designed to be completed in two years, with students studying 4 modules and completing a dissertation. Five compulsory weekend study schools take place at St Catherine's High School, Malta; 3 in the first year and 2 in the second year. Students work with their tutors on a mixed-mode programme of lectures, seminars and workshops. Specialised library services exist for distance learning students including a wide range of electronic journals and data bases.

The course supports students to:

  • Examine their work within the changing field of early years provision.
  • Further understand and support children’s learning and development.
  • Develop research skills and conduct small-scale projects.
  • Examine current policies.
  • Study international developments and consider developments in the Maltese context.
  • Critically evaluate a range of literature.
  • Enhance their understanding of early childhood education and care from birth to eight.

Who is the programme for?

The course is for a broad range of professionals working with and for young children. Students working in education and related areas focusing on children from birth to eight years study the programme. Previous MA students have come from a wide range of backgrounds including the following sectors:

  • Early years teachers
  • Classroom assistants
  • Further Education lecturers
  • Headteachers
  • Parent educators
  • Library services
  • Childcare and education charities
  • Independent day care providers
  • Support staff i.e. special needs support assistants and facilitators
  • Managers of units or institutions
  • Trainers in a range of professional organisations
  • Local Authority Inspectors and Advisers
  • Learning support Assistants
  • Kindergarten Practitioners
Course Team

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The Programme Team

The Programme has been designed and developed by Professor Cathy Nutbrown. She was previously an early years teacher and has experience of in-service training with teachers and multi-disciplinary teams on a wide range of early childhood issues. She has published widely in the field.

The team also includes:

Dr David Hyatt

Course Structure

Graduation Event

Course structure

The course allows students from a diverse range of settings and backgrounds to gain further qualifications, drawing on their own experience. Five features of the MA are particularly suited to the needs of those working with and for children in a range of settings and services:

  • The possibility of completing the degree in two years;
  • A structure which allows students to study at their own pace within the course timetable;
  • Assignments related to the professional interests and roles of all students;
  • The research expertise of staff within the School of Education at the University of Sheffield;
  • Studying with the University of Sheffield whilst remaining locally based in Malta.

The course has four modules – with unique, specially prepared units:

Module 1: Early Childhood Education: History and Policy

The development of early childhood education provision; The history and social construction of childhood; The language of early childhood education; Early intervention studies; Current policy initiatives; Special educational needs and inclusive education; Equality and diversity.

Module 2: Development, Learning and the Curriculum

Child development and learning; Babies and toddlers; policies on curriculum and learning; Curriculum development; Foundation Stage practices; Pedagogy in early education; Theories of learning; Assessment; Parental roles in children´s learning.

Module 3: Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Education

`Quality´ in early education and care; Children´s rights; Parental involvement; Inclusion; The Arts; Gender; Family literacy; Home learning; Birth to three; Popular culture; Digital literacies, Current issues in early education in Malta.

Module 4: Research Methods and Methodology

Observation, interviews and questionnaires; Assessment; Basic research designs; Key concepts in statistics; Qualitative research; Involving children in research; Ethnography; Life historical study; Evaluation; Ethics; Research writing.

These are followed by the dissertation, which is the focus of the fifth study school.


Malta prize awardAssessment

Each module will normally be assessed through a 30-credit assignment. Students will be able to negotiate with their personal tutor assignment themes most suited to their circumstances and interests. Students work with their academic tutors at weekend schools, by telephone, skype and online.


The dissertation is an opportunity to focus on an issue of personal/professional interest to the student. The dissertation represents one third of the MA (60 credits out of 180, approximately 15,000 - 20,000 words).

Dissertation topics in recent years have included:

Assessment; Curriculum; The learning of babies and toddlers; Language development; Inclusion; Equality; Attachment; Bilingualism; Early literacy development; Gender and early childhood; Meeting children’s individual needs in group settings; Play and learning; Children’s story telling; The impact of national policies on provision for young children; Children's creativity; Digital literacies; Children’s rights; Parental involvement; Children’s friendships; Men in early childhood education; Children’s drawings; Popular culture