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Ireland Education System for International Students


Ireland is one of the most famous countries in Europe, most probably known for its history and culture. Being reasonable in terms of cost of living and affordability, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations and a great place to pursue education.  The Irish education system is slightly different. Its schooling is divided into two parts, i.e., pre-primary and post-primary schools. After this, many students move towards Higher or Third-Level Education and Further Education and Training. Many international students opt for studies in Ireland because of the world-class and promising career options available in the country. It is a safe and innovative country. 

Read More:  Study in Ireland

Following are the common reasons for International students seeking admission in Ireland:

  • Ireland is a safe and friendly country for International Students.
  • It offers world-class education with great scholarship opportunities.
  • Education in Ireland is affordable for students belonging to middle-class families.
  • Ireland is home to many top-class colleges, and universities like Trinity College, the National University of Ireland, etc.
  • Ireland offers part-time working opportunities to students.
  • The Education System of Ireland is unique, flexible, and promotes creativity and pragmatism.

Ireland Education System World Ranking


Rank (2022)









New Zealand




What Type of Education System Does Ireland Have?

The Irish education system has a wide range of schools and colleges. They have numerous public and private schools. There are numerous co-eds as well as single-gender schools. One of the Irish schooling and education system variations is that kids don't need to attend primary school until 6 years of age.

Most of the subjects are taught in English so that the students have global exposure. Moreover, the grading system in Ireland is also different from other countries. This grading is generally used in UK and Ireland.  According to this unique grading system, you are considered a failure if you score less than 40%.  You must score 40% - 49% to pass and more than 70% to get first division. However, as per the difficulty level of the studies, it becomes typical for the students to score above 60%. 

Ireland Education System for Pre-Primary Schools

As per the rules, Irish kids start going to pre-primary schools early. However, according to the guidelines, all the students don't need to attend school before six years. Irish schemes like Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and National Childcare Scheme (NCS) provide financial support to schools and parents to afford the expenditure of private childcare for their kids.

These pre-primary schools hire National School Trained teachers. The focus of pre-primary schooling is on the overall development of the children. The Department of Education provides funds for additional expenditures like lighting, cleaning, maintenance, and teacher's salary.

Eligibility Criteria for Pre-Primary Schools

There are no specific eligibility criteria for seeking admission to pre-primary schools other than the age limit. Irish kids can start attending pre-primary schools at the age of 2 years 8 months as of 31st August as the session starts from 1st September.

Children continue to study in pre-primary schools until the age of 6 years. However, children with special needs are eligible for the exemption from the upper age limit.

Ireland Education System for Post-Primary Schools

Post-primary education is divided into two sections, i.e., the junior and senior cycles.

  • Junior Cycle: Junior cycle is considered for children between 12 to 15 years. After 3 years and qualifying for the exams, these students take the Junior Certificate or Cycle Profile of Achievement.
  • Senior Cycle: After successfully qualifying for the junior cycle, the students must attend the senior cycle for another 2-3 years. A 3-year senior cycle includes a Transition year, which offers the students to attend the educational instructions and work experience according to their choices.

During their senior cycle, the students are required to opt for any one of the following certificate programs:

  • Established Leaving Certificate: It sets the main basis based on which the students are allotted universities and colleges for further education.
  • Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme: It is like the Established Leaving Certificate, but it mainly focuses on the technical subjects with some vocational modules.
  • Leaving Certificate Applied: It helps students focus on practical life work experience. The students who opt for Leaving Applied Certificate are not eligible to take admission in third-level courses.

State-level examinations follow all these programs. Most schools provide free-of-cost education. The parents just need to pay for the books, uniforms, and examination fees. The Irish government offers many schemes for financially unstable families to afford their children's second-level education.

Eligibility Criteria for Post-Primary Schools

The eligibility criteria vary from school to school. But the students need to pass the following common eligibility criteria for seeking admission to post-primary schools in Ireland:

  • The age limit of the student must be between 12 to 13 years old as of 1st January.
  • It is mandatory for all the students aged under 16 years to attend the post-primary schools.

Ireland Education System for Higher Education (Third-Level Education)

According to the Irish education system, third-level education generally covers 3 important sectors. These sectors include:

  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Technological Sector

Ireland has 7 universities, 7 colleges, 15 private institutes of education, 14 institutes of technology, and some other private institutes that offer courses in popular disciplines like management, business studies, law, medical science, etc.

The Universities of Ireland are self-governing and do not charge fees to students from Ireland, EU/EEA countries, and Switzerland. Higher education covers both undergraduate degrees and non-degree programs. Non-degree programs like diplomas are usually 1-2 years long, and the duration of bachelor's degree programs is 3 years.

Just like in other countries, the academic year is conducted semester-wise. The first semester begins from September to December, and the second semester begins from January to May. After completing graduation, the Irish government allows a stay-back of 24 months searching for job opportunities.

Quick Read: TOP Universities In Ireland

Eligibility Criteria for Higher Education

The eligibility criteria for higher education depend on the course's type of institution and discipline. But some of the basic eligibility requirements are mentioned below:

Ireland Education System for Further Education and Training

As per the Ireland Education System, you can apply for further education and training programs after graduation. The Education and Training Boards run these training programs, including Post-Leaving Certificate Courses (PLC), Apprentice, Vocational Training Opportunity Schemes, Springboard+, etc.

These training programs mainly focus on technical and practical knowledge. They boost their career and create better job opportunities. Talking about apprenticeship includes on-job training and off-job educational programs. Apprenticeships are offered in various disciplines like engineering, ICT, finance, software development, hospitality, etc.

On the other hand, springboard+ free, part-time courses for the unemployed to boost their career growth. Springboard+ courses include courses in disciplines like ICT, medical science, cybersecurity, sustainable energy, etc.

Eligibility Criteria for Further Education and Training

The eligibility criteria for higher education depend on the course's type of institution and discipline. But some of the basic eligibility requirements are mentioned below:

  • The age of the student must not be less than 16 years.
  • To apply for an apprenticeship, the student must have a qualified Junior certificate or equivalent exam with a minimum required percentage.
  • The International candidate is selected based on their merit and National Examination performance.
  • The students must qualify English language aptitude exam (TOEFL, IELTS, etc.) to opt for studying in Ireland.
  • The students should have basic health insurance, proof of funds, a Letter of Recommendation (LOR) & Statement of Purpose (SOP).

As discussed above, Ireland is one of the ideal places to study for international students at affordable prices. The place offers great education to all the high-scoring scholars. The education system of Ireland differs from other countries. Schools and colleges of Ireland provide unique education to students that mainly focus on their overall development and making a great career in the discipline of their interest.

Moreover, for seeking admission to well-known universities and colleges, you must satisfy all the eligibility requirements of the university or college of your choice. For the admission procedure and visa requirements, you can take assistance from AECC. It is one of the best consultancy firms to guide you throughout the procedure. It will assist in the application process and scholarship schemes for various universities and colleges.

We hope you found the article informative and useful and must have got the answers to all your questions. All the best for your future ahead!

Must Read: Ireland Student Visa


AECC is one of the world's leading educational consultancies with versatile expert professionals who are ready to help you with any queries you may have. Contact us so we can be of assistance to you in your journey of fulfilling your dream.

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