What is it like to attend secondary school in Ireland?
Preparing your children for the Irish Education System
When you search for schools in Ireland, you’ll likely come across a range of articles on Ireland’s higher education institutions, namely, Trinity College Dublin. But for parents with children yet to enter higher studies, how is school life in Ireland like for them?
Irish School System Explained
The Education System in the Republic of Ireland is made up of primary, second, third-level, and further education. Similar to Hong Kong, where school is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 to 15, Irish education is compulsory from the ages of 6 to 16 or until the student has completed 3 years of second-level education. Second-level education, which is also referred to as the junior cycle, starts when the child is 12 years old. At the end of the junior cycle, students are required to take The Junior Certificate or JCPA examination, followed by a Transition Year. This year is particularly interesting because it focuses on education and training for the students through work experiences. There are no formal examinations during this year.
Then, in the post-primary school phase, students enter their senior cycle, which is 2 years of school education that prepares them to enter higher-level institutions. Children in Ireland get to choose between one of three programs, including the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, or the Leaving Certificate Applied. Each of these state examinations prepares children with different learning experiences.
If your child is planning to enter universities, institutes of technology, or colleges, the established Leaving Certificate sets them up for that. Instead, if your child already recognizes what technical subjects they are interested in, they can choose the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, specialized in vocational training. Different from Hong Kong, the education system in Ireland also offers a third option, which is the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme. With a primary objective to prepare children for the adult working life, this programme is more focused on establishing the children’s spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, aesthetic, and physical abilities.
With the Irish school system extremely child-centered and based around the concept of collaborative learning, students get the option to experience a range of subjects, encouraging them to take part in things like business studies and entrepreneurial competitions. Here, we have an Irish secondary school teacher giving her insights into the Irish school system:
Local and International Students Entering the Ireland Education System
International students in Hong Kong mostly take the GCSE and IB Diploma Programme, following the UK system. Whereas, as mentioned, Ireland students take one of the three Leaving Certificates. Though there is not an apple-to-apple equivalent, International students do not have a problem applying for higher education in Ireland with their GCSE (broadly equivalent to the junior cycle) and IB Diploma (similar to the Leaving Certificates). On the other hand, Hong Kong education qualifications, such as the HKDSE, is also recognized by higher-level institutions in Ireland. On average, a grade of 44333 meets the general entrance requirements for university colleges, such as University College Dublin.
There are lots of studies in Ireland seminars happening around Hong Kong, which should well be able to facilitate further understanding of the alignments of the different educational systems. Here are some helpful links as well:
- Department of Education and Skills (DES)
- Department of Education
- Education and Training Boards Ireland
- Careers Portal.ie
Students can decide to further their studies in Ireland, where universities are as good as, if not even better in certain subjects, than Cambridge and Oxford. Students who have obtained their Leaving Certificate in Ireland with a grade of H1, H2, H2, H2, H3, H3, have already met the minimum grade for enrolling in universities in the UK. Therefore, the option of continuing their studies in the UK is also completely attainable.
Overall, student outcomes in Ireland and student attainment are extremely positive. Ireland now is an extremely multicultural society, where there is net inward migration and all students would and do feel very welcome in the system.
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