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Ireland Education System
Ireland has a long and honorable tradition in education. As a result of a sustained investment in this area Ireland now has one of the highest educational participation rates in the world - 81% of Irish students complete second-level and approx 60% go on to higher education. This dynamic, educated population has made its mark at home and abroad with international companies looking to Ireland again and again when hiring graduates for top class positions.
Responsibility for education lies within the Department of Education and Science It administers all aspects of education policy including curricula, syllabi and national examinations. Attendance at full time education is compulsory in Ireland from six to fifteen years of age and is free in the majority of schools, and at undergraduate third-level. Education is considered a fundamental right under our constitution.
The Irish Education System was traditionally divided into three basis levels: Primary (8 years), Secondary (5 or 6 years) and Third level which offers a wide range of opportunities from post-secondary courses, to vocational and technical training, to full degree and the highest post-graduate levels. In recent years the focus has expanded to include pre-school education and adult and further education as the concept of lifelong learning becomes reflected in the education opportunities available within the Irish education system.
Third Level Institutions
The third level education system in Ireland is broad in scope and encompasses the university sector, the technological sector, the colleges of education and private, independent colleges. The institutions, which fall within the first three groupings, are autonomous and self-governing, but substantially state funded.
The number participating in higher education in Ireland has increased significantly in recent decades with over 55 percent of students who complete second level now going on to higher education - one of the highest participation rates in the world. Entry to third level education for Irish students is competitive and based upon performance in the final secondary school examination, the Leaving Certificate. Entry requirements for overseas students are determined individually by each institution and are generally based on national examination performance and English language aptitude.
A number of institutions are authorized to confer their own awards. These institutions include the Universities, the Dublin Institute of Technology and a growing number of the Institutes of Technology. The Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) is authorized to make awards in the non-university sector. HETAC makes awards and sets and monitors standards at all levels of higher education and training up to doctorate level. Therefore, a number of institutes of technology and private, independent colleges provide programmes whose awards are made by Hetac.
All recognized Irish awards will be included in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFE). The Framework was recently established to assist the national objective of moving towards a "lifelong learning society" by ensuring the existence of a single coherent, easily understood award system for all levels of education and training available in Ireland Today. The Framework is maintained by the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI). The quality and standard of all Irish educational awards made by authorized institutions and HETAC are fully recognized globally.
The following academic awards can be achieved at Irish third level institutions:
Higher Certificate
Two year full-time course
Ordinary Bachelors Degree
Three year full time course
Honors Bachelors Degree
Normally a three or four year course
Graduate Diploma
Designed for graduates seeking a vocational reorientation - usually a one year course
Masters degree
Either by research or through a taught program. Normally one-two year(s) duration
Doctorate (PhD)
Usually takes a minimum of three years of original research
The academic year typically runs from September to June and is divided into either two or three semesters with holidays in December (Christmas) and April (Easter).
Most universities run a semesterised system and modularisation have been introduced in the majority of colleges to allow greater flexibility for students. Teaching at undergraduate level generally involves a program of lectures supplemented by tutorials, practical demonstrations and laboratory work (where relevant).
Types of Institutions at Third Level
University Sector
Universities offer degrees at Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate levels and undergraduate and postgraduate diplomas over a full range of disciplines. In addition research is undertaken in many areas and the universities are also involved in continuing and distance education programmes.
Teaching at undergraduate level is normally by way of a program of lectures supplemented by tutorials and, where appropriate, practical demonstrations and laboratory work.
Masters degrees are usually taken by coursework, research work or a combination of both.
Doctoral degrees are awarded on the basis of research.
Universities award their own degrees using external examiners to ensure consistency of standards. There is also a Higher Education Authority (HEA), which oversees the work of the universities on behalf of the Department of Education and Science.
Institutes of Technology
Ireland is the largest exporter of software in the world and rates amongst the top five producers of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals globally. The ever-increasing demands of this high technology economy have ensured that our higher education technological sector offers the highest and most advanced standards and opportunities available today. The Department of Education and Science has overall responsibility for this sector including the formulation and review of policy.
There are 14 institutes of technology located throughout the Republic offering programmes at degree, national diploma and national certificate levels in a wide variety of subjects from craft to professional level. Many also run postgraduate and degree programmes, both taught and by research. Most have schools of Science, Engineering & Technology and Business. In addition some institutes have developed special programmes in areas such as Humanities & Languages, Paramedical Studies and Healthcare, Art & Design, and Tourism.
Colleges of Education
There are several Colleges of Education for primary school teachers in Ireland. These colleges offer three-year full time courses leading to a Bachelors of Education degree, which is the recognized qualification for primary school teaching. Proficiency in the Irish language is currently an entry requirement for courses in primary teacher education accommodations can be made in certain instances. Teachers at second level schools normally take a university degree followed by a one year Higher Diploma in Education.
Independent Colleges
Side by side with the publicly funded tertiary sector are a number of independent institutions and a wide range of institutions mainly involved in the provision of business and professional educational training. Courses on offer include; Accountancy and Business Studies, Law, Humanities, Hotel and Catering, Tourism Studies and Art. Many of the programmes offered by these colleges are validated by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and some have links with universities and/or professional associations through which the courses on offered are accredited.
Academic Entry Requirements
Access to third-level education is highly competitive in Ireland. Students compete for entry based on results achieved in the Irish Leaving Certificate Examination. Students are graded on their six best subjects scores. Entry requirements for courses may vary from year to year, depending on the number of places available and the number of applicants, thus there exists a great deal of competition for the more sought after programmes.
Overseas students wishing to study in Ireland have two options:
a) Attend upper secondary school in Ireland and complete the Leaving Certicate Examination with Irish students. This route is chosen by a number of students who commonly take the examination in conjunction with English language tuition.
b) Undertake recognized public examinations in their own countries. This is a more common route and it is essential that every applicant check that the educational qualifications she/he is presenting are adequate to satisfy entry requirements. To have a realistic prospect these results should be very good, e.g. for medicine 3 good 'A' Level passes (grades A/B) or the equivalent, in relevant subjects are required. The minimum requirement for most degree level programmes is 3 grade 'C's at A level or equivalent. If there is any doubt about the acceptability of an applicant's qualifications, clarification should be sought in good time from the particular third level institution.
As English is the language of instruction at all Irish Institutions of higher education, students must demonstrate a proficiency in English to be accepted for a third level program. Generally, the required minimum score in TOEFL is 550. Many universities and colleges provide English Language training program for intending students. Furthermore, there are over 150 private English language training schools throughout the country, which run both short and long terms courses. For more information click here English Language Schools
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