Ireland:Overview

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Overview Ireland

Contents

Ireland:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Ireland:Historical Development

Ireland:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Ireland:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Ireland:Political and Economic Situation

Ireland:Organisation and Governance

Ireland:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Ireland:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Ireland:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Ireland:Organisation of Private Education

Ireland:National Qualifications Framework

Ireland:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Ireland:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Ireland:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Ireland:Funding in Education

Ireland:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Ireland:Higher Education Funding

Ireland:Adult Education and Training Funding

Ireland:Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Organisation of Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Assessment in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:Primary Education

Ireland:Organisation of Primary Education

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Ireland:Assessment in Primary Education

Ireland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Ireland:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Ireland:Organisation of Lower Secondary Education

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Lower Secondary Education

Ireland:Assessment in Lower Secondary Education

Ireland:Organisation of Upper Secondary Education

Ireland:Teaching and Learning in Upper Secondary Education

Ireland:Assessment in Upper Secondary Education

Ireland:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Ireland:Higher Education

Ireland:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Ireland:First Cycle Programmes

Ireland:Bachelor

Ireland:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Ireland:Second Cycle Programmes

Ireland:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Ireland:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Ireland:Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Distribution of Responsibilities

Ireland:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Ireland:Main Providers

Ireland:Main Types of Provision

Ireland:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Ireland:Teachers and Education Staff

Ireland:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Ireland:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Ireland:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Ireland:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Management and Other Education Staff

Ireland:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Staff Involved in Monitoring Education Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Ireland:Management Staff for Higher Education

Ireland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Ireland:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Quality Assurance

Ireland:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Ireland:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Educational Support and Guidance

Ireland:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Ireland:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Ireland:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Ireland:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Ireland:Mobility and Internationalisation

Ireland:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Mobility in Higher Education

Ireland:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Ireland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Ireland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Ireland:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Ireland:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Ireland:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Ireland:National Reforms in School Education

Ireland:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Ireland:National Reforms in Higher Education

Ireland:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Ireland:European Perspective

Ireland:Legislation

Ireland:Glossary

 

Overview of Irish Education System

 

1      Key Features of the Education System in Ireland

 

Context

The recession in Ireland included a major property crash, failure of the banking system, rising unemployment, falling tax revenue, and significant public debt. A bailout was agreed in November 2010 of €85bn. The recovery plan agreed at that time required a significant cut in public spending, and a range of measures to stabilise finances, return to growth and correct the banking sector. Ireland exited the bailout successfully at the end of 2013.

 

Unemployment is now 7.9% Quarterly National Household Survey Q3 2016) having fallen from a high of 15.0% in 2012) and GDP is forecast to grow at 4.2% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2017 (Budget statement 2017). The impact of Brexit on Ireland's recovery is not yet clear and will depend heavily on the nature of the settlement reached with the EU. In planning ahead, risk mitigation steps are in place to set aside a "rainy day" fund of the order of €1bn annually, and to move towards a reduction of the national debt  from 120% of GDP at the peak of the crisis to 45% by the mid 2020s. It is expected to reach 76% by the end of 2016.  

 

Key challenges for the education system are to

 

  • Cater for a rapid growth in enrolment in schools
  • Promote a more pluralist school system which better caters for diversity, particularly religious diversity, in line with the changing profile of the population
  • Address the high levels of youth unemployment (19.0% in Q2 2016, having fallen from 31.2% in 2012)
  • Re-structure the Further Education Sector to better meet the needs of business and the unemployed
  • Continue to enhance quality, relevance and achievement at every level of the system

Features of the Irish education system.

 Key features include

  • A large number of small schools
  • A system which is mainly "private" in the sense that all primary schools and the majority of second level schools are not public schools, but are locally owned by organisations or religious denominations. Nevertheless, there are only about 27 fee-paying primary schools and 55 fee-paying second level schools  
  • An early childhood education and care sector (outside of infant classes in primary schools) which only began to receive significant State investment since 2000
  • A lack of intermediate structures at local or regional level to coordinate the activities of all primary schools and the majority of second level schools
  • 2 official languages, Irish and English. English is the medium of instruction in the majority of schools, while Irish is also taught. However, in designated Gaeltacht schools along areas of the western and southern seaboard, Irish is the medium of instruction, with English also being taught. There are also a limited number of Irish medium schools in urban areas outside the Gaeltacht

The Department of Education and Skills (DES) (http://www.education.ie/) is responsible for policy, ensuring provision, funding and regulation of education at all levels of the system. Since 2010, responsibility for the vocational training sector rests with DES.

Early learning

Early learning has been, until recently, comparatively underdeveloped in Ireland outside of the infant classes in primary schools. Responsibility for early childhood education and care is shared across the DES and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Since 2000, with EU support, a programme of investment in childcare has been expanded progressively.

In January 2010 Ireland introduced a free school year (38 weeks) for all children aged between 3 years and 2 months and 4 years and 7 months, and 94% of eligible children are enrolled in this.  From September 2016, all children aged 3 or more may access early childhood education and care between age 3 and the start of primary schooling. Apart from subsidies to early learning centres in disadvantaged areas to enable parents to access childcare at nominal cost, childcare below age 3 is generally paid for by parents.

Further improvements were announced in the 2017 budget, to come into effect in September 2017. These will

  • Provide a universal childcare subsidy (averaging €80 per month for those attending 40 hours per week with registered child care providers) aimed at children aged 6 – 36 months. Catering for under 3s is the most expensive aspect of childcare for parents. About 25,000 children are expected to benefit from this.

 

  • Provide a targeted childcare subsidy at a tapering hourly rate for situations where the net family income is less than €47,500. The maximum subsidy will be paid in cases where family net income is below €22,700. The subsidy will cover childcare costs with registered childcare providers for children up to 15 years of age.  Net family income is income after tax, pension and social insurance costs have been subtracted. The income threshold will increase where there is more than 1 child receiving childcare. The subsidy for a child receiving 40 hours per week childcare in a family where net income is below €22500 could be of the order of €8000 p.a. An estimated 54,000 children are expected to benefit from this, of whom 31,500 were already receiving some level of support previously.

 

  • The existing free pre-school scheme for children from age 3 to start of primary schooling will be continued.

 

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has initiated a public consultation process on the proposals so that provision can be adjusted in the light of the responses received and the funds available. Additional capital funding has been provided to support an increased number of childcare places.


Primary schools

There are some 3,100 State funded primary schools, called "national" schools. These are managed locally by boards of management representing teacher, parent, community and patron interests, and are funded directly by the DES.

In addition to this, there are an estimated 27 private (fee-paying) primary schools which receive no funds from the State.

Second Level schools

Some 735 post primary schools provide lower and upper secondary education. 30% of these schools, called vocational schools, are operated regionally through a network of 16 Education and Training Boards. The rest are funded directly by DES. All second level schools have a board of management.

Second level schools consist of secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools, which have somewhat differing management structures and historical origins. However, they now all offer a mix of academic and vocational subjects, and are subject to the same State Examinations.

Included above are 55 secondary fee-paying schools. These schools have their staffing costs funded by the Department to an agreed level (less than other State funded schools), but must, as a rule, meet their own overheads and capital costs.

State funded primary and second level schools, and early learning centres, are subject to inspection by the Department of Education and Skills Inspectorate. Reports are published on the Department's website.

Further Education and Training.

The regional Education and Training Boards mentioned above are responsible for policy, co-ordination, funding and monitoring of

  • the vocational schools offering second level education in their areas

 

  • provision of Further Education and Training. This sector covers all activity outside of primary and post primary schooling, and which is not part of higher education. This includes adult literacy, vocational education and training, second chance programmes for early school leavers and the unemployed, adult and community education. It covers awards at levels 1-6 of the national framework of qualifications (EQF Levels 1-5). Provision may also be contracted out to community or private sector providers.

Since 2013, policy, funding and co-ordination of the 16 regional Education and Training Boards is undertaken by a new Further Education Authority, called SolasAn tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna (Continuing Education and Skills Service). Solas also contracts out VET services to providers in private and community settings under a range of special initiatives, based on competitive tendering.  

Higher Education and Training.

The Higher Education system is principally a binary system with universities and institutes of technology. A Higher Education Authority is responsible for policy, funding and research in these institutions, while respecting academic autonomy.  The higher education sector offers awards at levels 6-10 of the national qualifications framework (EQF levels 5-8).

Since 2015 it is possible to offer apprenticeships in either further or higher education settings. 

Quality and Qualifications Ireland

Quality and Qualifications Ireland is responsible for maintaining the national qualifications framework covering all awards in the State, in public, private, workplace and community settings. It is also the external quality assurance agency for further and higher education and training awards.

2      Stages of the Education System.

By law, all children are required to attend school, or otherwise receive a suitable minimum education, from age 6 to 16, or if over 16, to completion of lower secondary education.  In practice, however, the norm is to start school at age 4, and 99% of all children are in school by age 5. Some 90% complete upper secondary education.

Children normally attend primary schools for 8 years from age 4 to 12. They transfer to a second level school of their choice and follow

  1. a 3 year programme of lower secondary education, for students generally aged 12-15, leading to the award of the Junior Certificate. (This is a national exam run by the State Examinations Commission.) Early school leavers may enter a 2 year Youthreach programme in the Further Education Sector.
  2. an optional 1 year programme called the Transition Year – an estimated 66% follow this option), which forms part of upper secondary education. Those who do not follow this programme may move directly into (c).
  3. a two year Leaving Certificate programme culminating in a national Leaving Certificate examination run by the State Examinations Commission. This marks the end of upper secondary education. Leaving Certificate students are generally aged 15-18.

After that, the majority of students enter Higher Education (c 55%) or Further Education or Training (c 28%), following programmes of varying lengths as shown below.

 
 


Structure of the national education system

2016 diagram IE.pngsource: Eurydice 2016
 

 


3.      USEFUL LINKS

 

 

http://www.education.ie/

 

 

 

http://www.ncca.ie/

 

 

 

 

http://www.ncse.ie/

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.examinations.ie/

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.solas.ie/

 

 

 

 

http://www.hea.ie/

 

 

 

 

http://www.qqi.ie/

 

Department of Education and Skills website

 

 

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment advises on and develops the curriculum in primary and second level schools, and in early childhood education settings.

 

The National Council for Special Education advises on policy and educational provision for persons with special educational needs, with a particular emphasis on children.

 

The State Examinations Commission is responsible for operating the Junior Certificate at the end of lower second level education, and the Leaving Certificate at the end of upper second level education.

 

 

SOLAS is responsible for policy, co-ordination and funding of programmes of Further Education and Training which are delivered mainly through 16 regional Education and Training Boards

 

The Higher Education Authority is responsible for policy, co-ordination and funding of higher education institutions

 

 

Quality and Qualifications Ireland is responsible for maintaining the national framework of qualifications covering all awards in the State across the education and training sector. It is also the external quality assurance agency for further and higher education and training, and is responsible for developing an International Education Mark and code of practice for institutions catering for international learners from outside the EU/EEA.

 

Common European Reference Tools Provided by the Eurydice Network

Structure of European Education Systems 2016/17: Schematic Diagrams

 

OECD                                                                                                                                          

OECD Education Policy Outlook Ireland 2013 sets out a useful overview of the Irish system.

OECD Education at a Glance 2016