The Education Structure of Ireland

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Category: Study Destinations
Posted on September 09, 2019
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Ireland has the most number of educated workforces in the world. The survey shows that there are around one million people in full-time education in the country, engaged in the different levels of education from primary to higher studies.

Education is compulsory for children from the ages of 6 to 16, i.e., from primary to secondary levels. Although, kids below the age of 6 attend pre-primary or kindergarten, which is optional and delivered outside the formal education system. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs administers pre-schools, few of them are privately funded childcare facilities. And the Department of Education and Skills supports those pre-schools which are focused on children at risk.

The Irish education system builds up into three stages;

  • Primary
  • Second
  • Third-level and further studies.

Education that is funded by the state is available at all levels unless you choose to send your child to a private school.

Primary (first-level) education

Children start the first level at the age of six, where the necessary foundation starts. There are different levels of primary school;

  • Junior Infants (Naíonáin Shóisearacha) –For children aged 4-5/5-6
  • Senior Infants (Naíonáin Shinsearacha) – For children aged 5-6/6-7
  • First Class (Rang a hAon) – For children aged 6-7/7-8
  • Second Class (Rang a Dó) – For children aged 7-8/8-9
  • Third Class (Rang a Trí) – For children aged 8-9/9-10
  • Fourth Class (Rang a Ceathar)– For children aged 9-10/10-11
  • Fifth Class (Rang a Cúig) – For children aged 10-11/11-12
  • Sixth Class (Rang a Sé) – For children aged 11-12/12-13

The medium of instruction in Irish school is English, and for Irish language schools such as Gaelscoileanna, Irish is the primary medium of instruction.

Religious communities privately own primary schools, boards of governors but are usually state-funded.

Types of Primary Schools

  • National schools
  • Gaelscoileanna
  • Multidenominational schools
  • Preparatory schools

Second-level education

Most students enter secondary school at the age of 12–13 years and transition happen upon completing the Junior Cycle (JCPA) or the Junior Certificate examination. The secondary level education consists of a three-year junior cycle followed by a two to three years of senior period.

Students experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience and co-scholastic activities.

Upon reaching the final two years in the senior cycle, students take up either of the three State examinations i.e.

Established Leaving Certificate - It is the primary basis of allotment to students to find places in universities or institutes of technology or colleges of education.

Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme- It is the primary basis of allotment to students to find in universities or institutes of technology or colleges of education.

Leaving Certificate Applied - This certificate enables students to take Post-Leaving Certificate courses. It is the preparation of participants for adult and working life through relevant learning experiences which aims to develop the following areas of human endeavor;

  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Aesthetic
  • Physical

Second-level education has different types of post-primary schools;

  • Voluntary secondary schools
  • Vocational schools
  • Comprehensive schools or community schools
  • Gaelcholáiste's or Gaelcholáistí
  • Grind Schools

Third-level education

Third-level education has many sectors;

  • The university sector
  • The technological sector
  • The colleges of education
  • Independent private colleges

The university sector

There are many universities which are self-governing and autonomous, and they offer degree programs at three different levels;

  • Bachelor
  • Masters
  • Doctorate

The technological sector

The technological sector include technological universities and Institutes of technology that provides training and programs of education in different sectors at certificate, diploma and degree levels;

  • Business
  • Science
  • Engineering
  • Linguistics
  • Music

The colleges of education

The colleges of education mainly focus on the specialization in training primary school teachers. Many third-level institutions provide training for post-primary teachers. The colleges of education also specialize in the preparation of;

  • Home economics teachers
  • Teachers of religion
  • Physical education teachers

Further studies and Adult education

Further education takes place after second-level schooling, but it is not a part of the third-level system. Programs include;

  • Post-Leaving Certificate courses
  • The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (It is a second-chance education given for the unemployed)
  • Programs in Youth reach for early school-leavers
  • Other literacy and basic education
  • Self-funded evening adult programs

Special needs education for students with disabilities

Training is provided for students with special educational needs that range from additional support in mainstream schools and to specialist support in special schools. Disabled students can enroll in;

  • Mainstream class with additional support
  • A special course in a mainstream school or
  • A special school designed to cater to the student with his or her category of disability

Here's a highlight on few top Universities in Ireland

Top Universities in Ireland

  1. Trinity College Dublin
  2. University College Dublin
  3. National University of Ireland, Galway
  4. University College Cork
  5. Dublin City University

Grading System

A: Excellent - 70% or above

B: Very good - 69% - 60%

C: Good - 59% - 50%

D: Satisfactory - 49% - 45%

E: Fail - 44% - 40%

We hope that the information provided will be helpful to equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to move up in your career. All the Best!!


Bhumika Sharma
Bhumika Sharma

Bhumika has more than 4 years of experience as a software engineer. Having done MCA from Dayananda sagar Institutions, Bangalore and BCA from Sikkim Manipal University, Sikkim, she found her calling as the head researcher at PlanAll. In her free time, her 5 year old daughter, Mishka, keeps her busy and happy.

Ryan Roona
September 11, 2019 - 04:45am
Ryan Roona September 11, 2019 - 04:45am

This is nice blog you shared great information. Thank you!

Rihana Amala
September 10, 2019 - 05:47am
Rihana Amala September 10, 2019 - 05:47am

Thanks for sharing this blog, it is very helpful to me.

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