Éire (The Republic of Ireland) is located on an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of England. It is bordered by Northern Ireland, the Irish Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Celtic Sea, and St. George's Channel. The population is 4,156,119 and the literacy rate is 99%. The Irish Constitution states that the Irish language Gaelige is the first official language, and English is the second official language. However, English is the first language of the vast majority of the residents of Ireland, and Gaelige is the first language in a very small area of the country, mostly along the western coast known as the Gaeltacht which encompasses parts of Counties Cork, Donegal, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford. The study of Gaelige is compulsory for all students from the ages 6 to 16.
The first Celtic tribes arrived in the area of present-day Ireland between 600-150 BC. Norse invasions began in the 8th century and continued until King Brian Boru defeated the Danes in 1014. In the 12th century, the English began to lead invasions on the island which led to centuries of rebellions.
In 1921, the 26 southern counties gained independence, and the 6 northern countries remained a part of the United Kingdom. On December 6, 1922, the Irish Free State was established, and on December 29, 1937, a new Constitution established the Republic of Ireland.
In 1949, Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth, and, in 1973, joined the European Community.
Oversight and Regulation of Education
The Department of Education and Skills is the national government body that oversees education in Ireland. It has direct responsibility for oversight of education through the secondary level.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) oversees the governance and regulation of the higher education system in Ireland, including planning and development in the university sector. Higher education is provided by Universities, Institutes of Technology and Colleges of Education.
The Qualifications and Quality Assurance Ireland (QQI) has responsibility for oversight of the sector of further education and training, which includes postsecondary non-university education and training. QQI quality assures programs and providers in this sector. This function includes the validation of postsecondary programs of study and the awarding of degrees based on study in validated programs at postsecondary institutions that do not have degree-awarding authority. QQI also manages the Irish National Framework of Qualifications and hosts the NARIC Ireland, which facilitates the recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland and advises on the recognition of Irish credentials abroad.
Ain Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna oversees the country's education system.
Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 16. Bunscoil (Primary school) is 6 years beginning at age 6. There is no examination or certificate issued at the completion of primary school.
Free secondary education did not occur until 1967, although free secondary vocational education has been available since 1930. Secondary level education is offered at several types of schools: secondary, vocational, and community and comprehensive schools. Secondary schools are all privately-owned and managed, and receive no state funding. Vocational schools are administered by local Vocational Education Committees, and receive 93% of their funding from the State Community and comprehensive schools are administered by local Boards of Management and receive 100% of their funding from the State. They combine academic and technical education.
The Timthriall Sóisareach (Junior Cycle) is 3 years. Upon completion, students sit for the Teastas Sóisearach (Junior Certificate) examination which is an external examination. Most subjects on the exams are offered at 2 levels: ordinary or higher, and a few offer a third “foundation” level. Students generally sit for 5 subject examinations.
Some students opt for a Idirbhliain (“Transition Year”) at the end of Junior Cycle. It is compulsory at some schools, but is optional at most. The curriculum is determined by the local schools and always includes a work experience. The Transition Year is becoming more popular every year.
The Timthriall Shinsearach (Senior Cycle) is 2 years and has general and vocational options. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme was introduced in 1989, and the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme was introduced in 1995 for students whose needs are not met by the Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes. Students in vocational and applied programs have a work experience as part of their program. Upon completion of the Senior Cycle, students sit for one of 3 external examinations: Teastas Shinsearach (Leaving Certificate), Leaving Certificate Vocational, or Leaving Certificate Applied, depending on their program of study. Students sit for 6 subjects on the Leaving Certificate examination, including Irish. The Leaving Certificate Vocational examination is similar to the Leaving Certificate examination, but it includes a high vocational content. Students sit for 5 subjects, including 2 vocational subjects. The Leaving Certificate Applied examination prepares students for adult and working life. It does not lead to post-secondary study.
The results of Leaving Certificate examinations determine where students will study at the post-secondary level as well as State higher education scholarship eligibility.
There are many post-secondary opportunities in Ireland, and more than 55% of secondary school graduates go on for further study. The first university, the University of Dublin, was established in 1592 and is best known for Trinity College. Queen's University was established in 1849 as the country's second university. The National University of Ireland, with constituent colleges University College Dublin (UCD), University College Cork (UCC) and University College Galway (UCG), was established in 1908. By 1967, the need for non-university, post-secondary education was recognized, and regional technical colleges (now known as institutes of technology), including the Dublin Institute of Technology, were created.
Admission to undergraduate programs at State post-secondary institutions is coordinated by the Central Applications Office (CAO) based on points earned on the various Leaving Certificate examinations. On the application, students list up to 10 preferred post-secondary courses. Universities do not require and do not extend admission interviews. Many private institutions are now also a part of the CAO. Admission to graduate programs is handled by the institution directly.
Institutes of technology and regional colleges offer programs in applied fields of study, including business, engineering, computer science, art, design, science, hotel management, nursing, arts, and humanities. Two-year programs lead to a Higher Certificate, three-year programs lead to Bachelor's (Ordinary) and four-year programs lead to the Bachelor's (Honours) diploma. Until June 2006, institutes of technology offered a 2-year National Certificate and a 3-year National Diploma. The National Diploma could also be completed in 1 year following a National Certificate.
There are 4 universities supported by the State: The National University of Ireland, the University of Dublin, the University of Limerick, and Dublin City University. A fifth university, St. Patrick's College Maynooth, is supported and recognized by the Vatican. All diplomas for programs completed at a constituent college of the National University of Ireland (NUI) as well as the National University of Ireland Galway and the National University of Ireland Maynooth are issued by NUI and not by the constituent college.
Undergraduate programs are 3 - 4 years, depending on the field of study. Three-year programs award a Bachelor's (Ordinary) and four-year programs award a Bachelor's (Honours).
Second and Third Cycle
Graduate programs include a 1-year Postgraduate Diploma, and master's programs that are 1 - 2 years of study and require defense of a thesis. Doctoral programs include the Doctor of Philosophy which requires 3 years of study and defense of a dissertation, and the Doctor of Science (DSc) and the Doctor of Literature (D.Litt.) which require 4 years of study and defense of a dissertation.
Primary school teachers are trained in a 3-year program leading to a Bachelor of Education at one the 5 teacher training colleges in Ireland, although some colleges may offer a 4-year Bachelor of Education (Honours) program. The 4th year is taken part-time while the students are full-time teachers. The majority of secondary school teachers are trained in the “consecutive” model of training. In this model, students must hold a bachelor's degree and then enroll in a one-year training program leading to a Higher Diploma in Education. The other option is the “concurrent” model which is generally taken by students who will be teaching applied subjects such as home economics, art, physical education, etc. In this model, students take extensive coursework in their proposed field of teaching as well as teacher education coursework. This is a 4-year program leading to a Bachelor of Education (Honours).