Ireland || Education System

Primary School Education
The legal age for primary school entry is six years, although the majority children start at four. This first level education covers a period of eight years. Primary schools in Ireland are not State schools.

Secondary Education
There are 810 second level schools in Ireland, 85 of them off with boarding facilities. While all schools follow the curriculum and syllabus lay down by the Ministry of Education and examinations are set and marked centrally by the Ministry.

Third level educational system has comprised the university sector, the technical and technological colleges and the colleges of education - all substantially funded by the State but autonomous and self-governing.

Universities and university colleges offer degree programmes at Bachelor, Master’s and Doctorate level.
A range of undergraduate and post graduate diplomas is also offered and all the universities have continuing and some distant education programmes.

Programmes available at Third Level Institutions are as follows:

  • One-Year Certificate: 1 year full-time course
  • National Certificate: 2 years full-time course
  • National Diploma: 1 year after National Certificate
  • Bachelor's Degree: Normally 3 or 4 year course
  • Graduate Diploma: Usually 1 year
  • Masters Degree: Either by research or through a taught programme-1 or 2 years duration.
  • Doctorate (PhD): Usually takes a minimum of 3 years of original research


Colleges of Technology  
These are the private funded universities as usually specializing in one area of interest. The Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is the biggest third level institution in Ireland.

Regional Technical Colleges
Regional Technical Colleges (RTCs), which were introduced in the 1970s to provide for further technical educational needs, have, over the years, become an integral part of the Irish third level system.

Specialist Colleges
There are also a number of specialist colleges with programmes leading to Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees approved by the National Council for Education Awards (NCEA).

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