Friday, 13 January 2012

Education system in Ireland

Happy new year to everybody! I know, I know it's a bit late... mid January already??? My God, time absolutely flies!!!

Now I'm back again, sharing my life experiences in Dublin with you all. I hope you still find them interesting during 2012... if so, don't forget to write a comment before you leave my blog!

Today, I'm going to talk about my new year resolution: FIND A GOOD SECONDARY SCHOOL IN DUBLIN FOR MY CHILDREN. Simple to say, but a bit more difficult to carry out, I tell you.

First of all, I'm starting to find out about the education system in Ireland - the big picture. My sons are 5 and 3 years of age, so I've only been able to get to know a little bit about the creches (I'll talk about them in a separate post very soon) and the pre-school years of the public system.

As usual, Internet is a great source of information. I've found a number of sites with fantastic detailed information which has answered my initial questions. Let's see:

There's this site, Education in Ireland, which has shown me the Irish Education system at a glance. The site is administered by Enterprise Ireland. From there, I've extracted this magnificent diagram:

Isn't it great? Now I know what I'm facing in the following years, educationally speaking, of course.

Let's start from the beginning:


This first eight years of your child's academic life are split in two:

2 years of kindergarten: Junior Infants and Senior Infants (which are optional)
6 years of primary school (mandatory for kids living in Ireland).

If your interest is the primary school 8 year period, then this is your page: the primary school curriculum  PDF documents for the 11subjects: Gaeilge, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, Visual Arts, Music, Drama, Physical Education and Social, Personal and Health Education, including also the Teacher's Guidelines. Enough to keep you busy for "a couple" of nights! 

To behonest with you, I haven't read them all yet, but I have gone through the introduction in more detail, and I've extracted a couple of paragraphs for you to get a flavour of what you'll find when you start reading:

The curriculum recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the child. It seeks to develop children spiritually and morally and to foster in each child an ethical sense that will enable him or her to acquire values on which to base choices and form attitudes; it endeavours to equip children with the knowledge and skills that will serve them not only in their lives as children but later as adults; it is concerned to develop their capacity for creative expression and response; and it promotes their emotional and physical development.
In a rapidly changing society effective interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and skills in communication are essential for personal, social and educational fulfilment. The ability to think critically, to apply learning and to develop flexibility and creativity are also important factors in the success of the child’s life. The curriculum places a particular emphasis on promoting these skills and abilities so that children may cope successfully with change.
An important goal of the curriculum is to enable children to learn how to learn, and to develop an appreciation of the value and practice of lifelong learning. The curriculum aims to instil a love of learning that will remain with the child through all stages of formal education and that will express itself in an enquiring mind and a heightened curiosity.

I have to say that this sounded like sweet music to my ears... I know that this is theory and the reality will depend on the professionalism of the teachers, of the principal of the school, on the involvement of us as parents, the good will of the child and many more oexternal factors, but at least the base is good, or isn't it?


You're lucky! Your child is getting to the end of primary and now you're thinking about the next step. What are the options for him/her?

According to the information sources I've been consulting so far, the majority of the kids make the transition from primary to post-primary education. They are required to complete three years of post-primary education (Junior Cycle). The Junior Certificate Examination is taken at the end of Junior Cycle in post-primary schools. 

As you probably know very well, there are different types of post-primary schools in the Irish education system. The second-level sector comprises voluntary secondary schools, community schools and comprehensive schools which are generally denominational (Catholic, Protestant, etc) and also vocational schools and community colleges which are non-denominational. In the Education in Ireland site, you'll find the diference between them all.

So, what will your kid learn during this three years of Junior Cycle? Take a look at the information I've found about the Junior Cycle Curriculum and you'll know in detail. In this page you can look up a current syllabus and set of guidelines for any of the 28 Junior Cycle subjects (28 subjects! did I study that much when I was a teenager????). Not all schools offer the possibility to take the whole 28 subjects though...

Regarding the Junior Certificate, it's assessed by means of a written examination at the end of these three year Junior Cycle, along with practical examinations and project work in some subjects and oral and aural examinations in Irish and continental languages.


Didn't know about this transition year until yesterday, and I find it really interesting for the students! Do you know what it is?

Basically, it is a one year programme that acts as a bridge between the Junior Cretificate and the Leaving Certificate programmes and it is primarily structured as a year for personal development.

I've found a very good explanation in Wikipedia. Take a look at it: Transition Year - Wikipedia


Senior Cycle is currently undergoinga significant pghase of review, so I'l briefly explain the programme as it is now. It may change in the near future.

This cycle may be of two or three years' duration (it'll be three years long if the students chose to follow the Transition Year programme before starting this cycle).

At this starting point, students may choose to follow one of these three distinct Leaving Certificate Programmes:

When you read the documentation, you'll see that the outcomes of each programme are different, but all of them are intended to reinforce the principles of secondary education: to prepare the student for education, society and work.

I hope you've found this post interesting. To me, writing it has been extremely clarifying. Now that I know much more about Education in Ireland, it's become more difficult to look for a secondary school for the kids so long in advance.... I'll be writing about the progress I make in this area (the schools I find, the waiting lists, the fees to be paid, etc) keep reading the blog - I promise you'll find it interesting!

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