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Education Systems in Ireland

The Irish Educational System: An Overview. Just like most countries we have in the world today, the educational levels in the Republic of Ireland are divided into three main levels; Primary, Secondary and Tertiary.  The country made education compulsory for all its children between the ages of six to sixteen. In the educational sector in Ireland, state-funded education is available at all levels, except one personally decides to send your child to a private school.

Primary Education/Schooling

For this category of schooling, all Irish children are entitled by law. The system is state-run and it is compulsory for all children from the ages of six to sixteen years. Even though children aren’t required to go to school until the age of six, most of the children start schooling after their fourth birthday, within the age range (four to five). Although the cost of education at this point is free, some costs are still incurred by the parents. These include costs of uniforms, books, and others. The primary education here lasts for about eight years. The primary school curriculum is taught in all primary schools and it contains the wide range of areas the primary education covers, which include Mathematics, Arts, Music, Health and Personal Education among others. Nothing is forced or imposed on the child as this primary educational system seeks to celebrate the uniqueness of a child and to express each child’s personality.  In Ireland, most of the primary schools are owned by religious bodies especially the Roman Catholic Church (which have boards of governors) but are still state funded. The primary schools are grouped into three.

  • National Schools: These ones are the oldest and they are controlled by a management board under dioceses that include a local clergyman.
  • Gaelscoileanna: This is a 20th-century development and the lingua franca of these schools is Irish. They are found in English-speaking communities too.
  • Multi-denominational Schools: This innovation is for all children with diverse religious, cultural and social backgrounds.
  • Preparatory Schools: These categories of schools do not rely on funds from the state. They are funded by themselves and they serve as a way to prepare children for fee-paying schools.

Currently, the Roman Catholic schools are the highest number as they are over three thousand in number.

Secondary Level Education

Most times, when pupils leave primary school, they are about 12-13 years of age. This makes them ready for secondary school, of which there are four types of Ireland. Namely;

  • Vocational Secondary Schools: These schools are owned and managed by education and training boards. Most of their needs are also met by the state.
  • Voluntary Secondary Schools: They are owned by private organizations or some religious organization. They are funded by the government as teachers’ salaries and other costs are paid by the government.
  • Community/Community Schools: They were established by merging vocational and voluntary schools. The state also fully funds these schools.
  • Grind Schools: They are fee-paying schools privately run by individuals. They run only the senior curriculum for students in their fifth and sixth year. Also, a one year program is made available for those who want to repeat the program.
  • Gaelcholaiste: They are the second level schools who use the Irish language to teach their students. Less than 5% of secondary students attend these schools.

There is no hard and fast rule in choosing the school the child will attend. At this level of education, the schools prepare the child and equip them to face and solve present and future societal challenges. In the end, most of the students are placed well above average in terms of their academic performance. In Europe, Ireland has the second best teenage literacy with Finland being the first.

Third-Level Education

This one encompasses a wide range of sectors namely the University sector, Colleges of Education, Technological sector and other Independent Private Colleges. Most of which are all fully funded by the state.

In Ireland, there are seven Universities and they offer all types of degree programmes; from Bachelors degree to Doctorate level. The universities are the National University of Ireland Maynooth, National University of Ireland Cork, National University of Ireland Galway, University of Limerick, Dublin City University, University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin.  The colleges of education on the other hand train first-level teachers who seek knowledge. They are about five in number. They also offer a Bachelor of Education degree and a Postgraduate Diploma.

The technological sector comprises of institutes of technology which provides various programmes ranging from Business, Science, to Linguistics, Engineering etc. The responsibility of this sector is carried by the Department of Education and Skills. They are fourteen in number.

For second level teachers, training consists of a full completion of a degree in the University, then a year higher diploma in education. Some colleges of education specialize in training second level teachers whose subject area is Physical or Health Education, Religious studies and Home Economics.

Special Education

For those students with special needs like the blind, the deaf, the lame, the dumb etc., educational provision is made available for them. The support ranges from specialist and additional support from schools, as Ireland take diligent care to adequately provide for the educational needs.


Further Adult Education

This education takes place at all levels of schooling but it isn’t part of the third-level system. Programmes in this category include Vocational training schemes, post leaving certifications among others most of it is self-funded. Short courses are made available by institutes of technology for people who are rookies in some career types like medical laboratory technicians, childcare, farming, retail, tourism etc. It is basically a vocational type of education.

The educational system in Ireland is very favourable to its students; exchange students, citizens and even its international students. The country offers top standard learning in very conducive environments for all the students to learn properly and assimilate. In Europe, the Irish educational system is one in which almost all the countries try to eliminate. There is a balance between academic success and maintaining a social life. All or most of any educational qualification obtained from Ireland is accepted in any continent of the world, likewise, most of the graduates of several fields care a huge competition in the ever-growing labour market.

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