Education is compulsory for children aged 6 to 15 years. In 1993/94 there were approximately 960,000 persons in full-time education, more than a quarter of the population of the State. The education system is administered centrally by the Department of Education which provides the bulk of current and capital funding. In 1994, £1,982m, the equivalent of 5.6% of GDP, was budgeted for the Department’s activities. Education at first and second level schools is free and with effect from the 1996/1997 academic year free education will be introduced at third level also.
- First-level Schools
The vast majority of children receive their primary education in National Schools, i.e. state-aided primary schools. Each school is run by its own Board of Management, comprising representatives of parents, teachers and local clergy, but receives most of its funding, including teachers’ salaries, from the State. There were over 3,317 National Schools in 1993/94 with a total enrolment of 505,800 pupils and a staff of 20,800 full-time teachers. A team of inspectors and advisers ensures that standards are maintained. The present curriculum includes Mathematics, English, Irish, French, History, Geography, Art, Music, Crafts, Social and Environmental Studies and Physical Education. A small number of first-level schools are privately run and do not receive State aid. In 1993/94 first-level schools accounted for approximately 53% of all those in full-time
- Second-level Schools
Second-level schools cater for students from twelve years of age upwards. There are various types of second-level schools. Secondary schools are privately owned, many by religious communities, but most of their expenditure is funded by the State. There were 461 Secondary Schools in 1993/94 with a total enrolment of 224,035 pupils and a staff of 12,514 full-time teachers paid by the State. There are two courses of study. The junior cycle is a three-year course leading to the award of the Junior Certificate. The senior cycle is a two-year course leading to the award of the Leaving Certificate, the basic qualification for admission to third-level education. There is an optional transition year available at an increasing number of schools during which students may pursue non-examination subjects. The curriculum for bothcycles covers a wide range of subjects including Mathematics, English, Irish, Modern Languages, History, Geography, Science subjects and Physical Education.
Comprehensive and Community schools are State-owned second level schools. There were 73 Comprehensive and Community schools in 1993/94 with a total full-time enrolment of 48,850 pupils and a staff of 2,715 full-time teachers.
Vocational schools are owned and operated by the State through local Vocational Education Committees. Vocational schools were, originally, mainly concerned with technical education. In general, however, the range of subjects now offered is similar to that offered in other second level schools. There were 248 Vocational Schools in 1993/94 with a total full-time enrolment of 94,760 pupils and a staff of 5,120 full-time teachers.
Second-level teachers must have a university degree and a postgraduate diploma in education. Teachers of technical subjects must have the appropriate qualifications in their areas of competence. Approximately 38% of all full-time students were in second-level education in 1993/94. Approximately 50% of students who complete the Leaving Certificate course proceed to third level education.
- Third-Level Education
There are four universities in the State. Dublin University comprises one college, Trinity College. The National University of Ireland (NUI) has colleges in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Maynooth. The University of Limerick and Dublin City University were established as independent universities in 1989.
The Regional Technical Colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology place a heavy emphasis on applied science and on technological education, particularly in the area of the new technologies. Other third-level educational establishments cater for medicine, law, art, music and teacher training.
Centres for microelectronics research are located at University College Cork and at the Plassey Technological Park in Limerick. Other third-level institutions specialise in particular areas. Barristers and solicitors are trained in Dublin at the Honorable Society of King’s Inns and at the Incorporated
Law Society of Ireland, respectively. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland provides medical qualifications independently of the university medical schools. There are also a number of colleges of music and art.
The total number of students attending full-time third-level courses in 1993/94 was approximately 86,300. This compares with 62,800 students attending full-time courses in 1988/89.
FÁS, the Training and Employment Authority, is responsible for the operation of training and employment programmes, the provision of an employment/recruitment service, an advisory service for industry, and support for co-operative and community based enterprise. Priority is given to those persons facing greatest difficulties in the labour market, including the long term unemployed and early school leavers.
CERT is the national organisation for the education, recruitment and training of personnel for the tourism, hotel and catering industries. It is responsible for training at hotel and catering schools.
Teagasc - the Agriculture & Food Development Authority, provides agricultural advisers to assist farmers. It operates a number of agricultural colleges and grant-aids other, privately-owned, colleges. Its priorities include the education and training of young farmers.