The education system in the Republic of Ireland

Education is compulsory for children in Ireland from the ages of six to 16 or until students have completed three years of second-level education. State-funded education is available at all levels, unless parents choose to send children to a private institution.

St Columba's College Dublin

St Columba's School Dublin, Ireland

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The Irish education system is made up of:

Early Childhood

The compulsory school age in Ireland is six and all forms of pre-primary education are optional. However, children from the age of four can be enrolled in infant classes in primary schools. Nearly 40 per cent of four-year-olds and virtually all five-year-olds attend primary school, where early education is provided in infant classes.
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Primary

The primary education sector includes state-funded primary schools, special schools and private primary schools. The state-funded schools include religious schools, non-denominational schools, multi-denominational schools and Gaelscoileanna (Irish-medium schools). For historical reasons, most primary schools are state-aided parish schools, although this pattern is changing. Although children are not obliged to attend school until the age of six, almost all children begin school in the September following their fourth birthday. Nearly 40 per cent of four-year-olds and almost all five-year-olds are enrolled in infant classes in primary schools (sometimes called national schools). Primary education consists of an eight-year cycle: junior infants, senior infants, and first to sixth classes. Pupils normally transfer to post-primary education at the age of twelve.

Post Primary

The post-primary education sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools. Secondary schools are privately owned and managed. Vocational schools are state-established and administered by Education and Training Boards (ETBs), while community and comprehensive schools are managed by Boards of Management of differing compositions.School search and education advice - connect with our in-country expertsPost-primary education consists of a three-year Junior Cycle (lower secondary), followed by a two or three year Senior Cycle (upper secondary), depending on whether the optional Transition Year (TY) is taken.Students usually begin the Junior Cycle at age 12. The Junior Certificate examination is taken after three years.The Senior Cycle caters for students in the 15 to 18 year age group. It includes an optional Transition Year, which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle. TY provides an opportunity for students to experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience, over the course of a year that is free from formal examinations.During the final two years of Senior Cycle students take one of three programmes, each leading to a State Examination: the traditional Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) or the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA).

The Leaving Certificate

The traditional Leaving Certificate examination is the terminal examination of post-primary education and is taken when students are typically 17 or 18 years of age. Syllabuses are available in more than 30 subjects and students are required to take at least five subjects, one of which must be Irish. 

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is similar to the traditional Leaving Certificate Programme, with a concentration on technical subjects and some additional modules which have a vocational focus.

The Leaving Certificate Applied Programme

The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) Programme is a self-contained two-year course, intended to meet the needs of those students who are not adequately catered for by other Leaving Certificate programmes. It is a person-centred course involving a cross-curricular approach rather than a subject based structure.
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