Education in Ireland

Posted by George Moga on Jan 8, 2019, 9:16:37 AM

Ireland is known to have one of the highest quality educations in Europe. Ireland remains 19th overall out of 50 countries in the higher education systems of 2018 Universitas21 Ranking. Its position this year is based on a score of 64.8% compared to the performance of top-ranked United States across four main headings of resources, environment, connectivity, and output. Every child in Ireland is entitled to free, state-run primary and post-primary education. While primary and post-primary education is free, there are several costs involved. The main ones are uniforms and books.


Types of schools in Ireland

National Schools: In Ireland, a National school is a type of primary school that is financed directly by the State, but administered jointly by the State, a patron body, and local representatives.

Private School: Private schools are not government funded and rely on other means of funding, such as endowments and donations. This means that tuition can be higher for a private school. Private schools offer a safe environment. Private schools have reputations for maintaining high standards for discipline and respect.

Irish Speaking Schools: Irish speaking schools are known as “A Gaelscoil”. The education is the same in Irish speaking schools, but everything is taught in Irish and only Irish is spoken in these schools.

Educate Together schools: Educate together schools guarantee equality of access and esteem to children irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background. They are centred in education and are run as participatory democracies, with respectful partnership between parents, pupils and staff.


Stages of schooling in Ireland

Primary School: Primary school consists of eight years: Junior and Senior Infants, and First to Sixth Classes. Most children attend primary school between the ages of four and twelve although it is not compulsory until the age of six. A minority of children start school at three years of age

Secondary School: Secondary school is generally 5 or 6 years long, depending if the student does Transition year. Children begin their secondary school studies around the age of 12 and leave around the age of 17 or 18, having taken 2 State exams in that period.


4th year/Transition year

There is no state exam at the end of 4th year and it is an optional year in most schools. It depends on school to school but is often less academic than other school years. It is often an excellent year for international students, providing valuable opportunities for personal development while gaining confidence in the English language, without the pressure of preparing for a state exam.  emphasis is placed on the development of other skills such as sports, photography, other languages, drama, music, leadership programmes etc.  

Subjects & Exams

Secondary School: The Department of Education offers approximately 30 subjects on the national curriculum and most schools will offer between 15 to 20 of these subjects.

Subjects that students most frequently choose from are:

  • English
  • Home Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Business Studies & Accountancy
  • French, German, Spanish & Italian
  • Physics, Chemistry & Biology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Music
  • Art

There are 2 state exams students must complete in secondary school and they are the junior cert and leaving cert. The junior cert is completed in 3rd year and the leaving cert is completed in 6th year, which is the last year of school.

Every secondary school prepares students for these exams by making students complete Christmas and summer exams which are prepared by the teachers. These exams get students used to frequently asked questions, time management and how to deal with exam pressure.


Although education in Ireland is technically free, parents must pay for school uniforms, books and trips. All these costs add up. The average cost of sending a 1st-year student to secondary school is €800. In primary school parents just must pay for uniform, unless it is a private school then parents have to pay the private school fee’s also.

Every child in Ireland is entitled to free, state-run primary and post-primary education. Attendance at full-time education is compulsory for all children between six and sixteen years of age or until students have completed three years of post-primary education.


Irish Universities

7 universities in Ireland:

  1. University College Dublin. (UCD)
  2. Maynooth University. (MU)
  3. Dublin City university. (DCU)
  4. Trinity College Dublin. (TCD)
  5. NUI Galway.
  6. University College Cork. (UCC)
  7. The University of Limerick. (UL)


In 2018 Five Irish universities ranked in latest employability rankings by QS. QS describes UCD as Ireland's most “globally engaged university” and notes that it is also ranked within the top 1 per cent of higher education institutions in the world.

University Rankings

(source: CWUR)

Is University in Ireland Free?

Yes, but not for everyone, EU/EEA students can study for free. The undergraduate degree courses in Ireland are usually. University is free for citizens of Ireland/EU. Nationality, immigration status, residence and course requirements are also criteria that can qualify you for a tuition-free university degree you can apply through the Free Fees Scheme and benefit from studying at university or college in Ireland without paying tuition fees. Only if it is the first time you are applying for undergraduate course at university or college. You will have to be enrolled in a full-time undergraduate course of at least 2 years duration to be eligible for the Free Fee Scheme/Grant.


Topics: Europe, Ireland, Education

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