Structure of the Irish Education System

The education in Ireland is compulsory for children between the age group of six to sixteen or until the student has completed three successful years of second level education. The education system in Ireland comprises primary, secondary and the higher secondary levels. Government funded education is available at all levels, unless one chooses to send the child to a private institution.

There is well developed pre-school education which is usually provided by privately funded childcare facilities or providers. At higher education, three main levels of higher education are Bachelor, Master and Doctoral Degree.

Given below is the structure of Irish Education

Pre-higher education:
Age of entry: 4
Age of exit: 16
Structure of school system: Primary School
Type of school: Primary School
Length of program in years: 8

Junior Secondary
Type of school: Junior Secondary School
Length of program in years: 3
Age level from: 12 to: 15
Award (Certificate/Diploma): Junior Certificate (Teastas Soisearach)

Senior Secondary
Type of school: Senior Secondary School
Length of program in years: 2
Age level from: 15 to: 17
Award (Certificate/diploma): Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP)

Senior Secondary
Type of school: Senior Secondary School
Length of program in years: 2
Age level from: 15 to: 17
Award (Certificate/diploma): Leaving Certificate (Ardteistimeireacht)

Type of school: Vocational Secondary
Length of program in years: 2
Age level from: 16 to: 18
Award (Certificate/diploma): Leaving Certificate Applied

School Education

The Primary education in Ireland lasts for eight years and the Secondary school lasts for five to six years. The school education is divided into a three- to four-year junior secondary cycle, which is followed by another two-year senior secondary school cycle leading to the award of the Leaving Certificate. The Vocational secondary schools in Ireland offer two-year courses leading to the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied.

Higher Education

Higher education in Ireland is offered by universities and institutes of specialised for higher education. Universities are financed by the State in the form of annual grants-in-aid and non-recurrent grants for capital expenditure, in a proportion of the order of 90%, as well as by private donations, endowments and student fees. Each college has its own governing body and exercises full control over its finances. The Colleges are composed of excellent faculties and departments.

Main laws/decrees governing higher education in Ireland:

Decree: Qualifications Act Year: 1999
Concerns: University
Decree: Universities Act Year: 1997
Concerns: Universities
Academic year: Classes starts from Oct till next year Jun
Medium of instructions: English, Irish

Stages of Studies

Non-university level post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type):
Non-university level:
Higher technical and vocational education is offered by Institutes of Technology (formerly Regional Technical Colleges) and specialized colleges. They offer two-year Certificate, three-year Diploma and a four-year Degree programmes in the applied fields of Business Studies, Science and Engineering as well as some postgraduate courses.

University Level Studies

Bachelor's Degree - University Level First Stage

The main stage of higher education leads to a Bachelor's Degree, which in certain cases can also be a professional qualification or a Professional Degree. Generally the length of study generally varies between three to four years. The Bachelor's Degree may be awarded as an Honours Degree, a BA Special Degree or a General Degree. In Dentistry, Architecture and Veterinary Medicine, studies generally last for five years whereas the medicine takes six years.

Master's Degree - University Level Second Stage

The second stage of higher education consists of more advanced (graduate) studies and leads to the Master's Degree. After the award of the Bachelor's Degree, one can enroll themselves for the Mater’s degree and these studies last for a minimum of one year. Candidates are awarded a Master's Degree after attending the proper course of study and/or after presenting a thesis based on research are.

Doctorate - University Level Third Stage

A further two years' study after the Master's Degree are normally required for the candidate to hold the PhD Degree.

Higher Doctorate - University Level Fourth Stage

A Higher Doctorate may be awarded to the candidate after a minimum of five years (usually longer), following the award of the first Doctorate, for original work already published.

Teachers' Education

Pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers training

Primary school teachers in Ireland are trained at five colleges of education. They follow a three-year course which leads to the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.). Each college of education works in a partnership with a university which finally awards the degree.

Training of secondary school teachers

Secondary school teachers take a one-year university course culminating in the Higher Diploma in Education. The University of Limerick offers training for teachers of specialized subjects where the candidates follow a four-year degree programme. The Teachers of Home Economics take a four-year Bachelor of Education (Home Economics) and art teachers take a degree or diploma course at a recognized college followed by a one-year Post-Diploma/Degree course.

Non-traditional Studies

Distance higher education

Oscail -The National Distance Education Centre - is located on the campus of Dublin City University and offers a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing professional education programmes.

Lifelong Higher Education

Short courses are also provided in the Institutes of Technology and the colleges of technology for people at the "apprentice" stage in certain careers (for instance, medical laboratory technicians and trainees in technological employment).
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