An Overview of the Irish Education System

The Irish education system dates back to the 18th century when Irish Catholics were not allowed to have schools by the penal codes, set up the hedge schools which were mainly secret operations. However with time the hedge schools would later be accepted and grow into the modern 21st century schools although with a better defined system.

Children are introduced to the system at the age of 4 years and progress with the system until at least the age of 16 years or having undertaken the junior certificate examination. At this period, education is compulsory to all children between those ages.


With modern families who have all parents working and have little time to home-school their children, the rise of pre-school education. Childrens who haven’t attained school going years are enrolled in playschools and Montessori schools among others. These schools are privatized and are run in a business manner.

Primary schools

Primary education runs for a period of 8 years and the eight year categories are; junior infants, senior infants and first class-sixth class. Majority of the students in primary schools are between the ages of 4 years to 13 years. Students are taught based on the primary school curriculum and this is followed across all schools. Lessons for the junior and senior infants start at 9:00am -1:30pm while for the older children the duration is 9:00am – 3:00pm.

Primary education is culminated by the primary certificate examination.

Secondary schools

At this level, students are involved in three cycles, the junior cycle, transition year and the senior cycle. The junior cycle runs for three years and culminates with the junior certificate examination. This examination can’t be undertaken before attaining an age of fourteen years. In the junior cycle education is majored on what was learned in the primary schools and students take their examinations on all the subjects offered.

After the junior school, students proceed to the transition year which is their fourth year in the secondary education. The fourth year depends on schools thus it can either be compulsory, optional or totally unavailable in some schools. The content covered in this year is decided by the school and the students desires.

After the transition year, students join the senior cycle which lasts for two years culminating into the leaving certificate examination. This cycle tends to build more on the education received in the junior cycle.

Third level education

This is the education offered by colleges, universities, institutes of technology and other national institutions. This is not compulsory and is eligible to students who have done the leaving certificate examination.

Special needs education

The Irish education system factors in special education in order to help the disadvantaged students and those from extremely poor backgrounds. A special needs assistant is employed to the schools in order to look after the students who require extra attention.

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