Secondary-Level Education

Secondary-Level Education

Secondary-level education in Ireland comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensiveschools. All of these schools provide the Certificate courses prescribed by the Department of Education and Skills, enter their students for the same national examinations.

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools, which educate approximately 54% of second level students, are privately owned. The cost of teachers’ salaries is, in the main, met by the State. Over thirty Irish secondary schools provide boarding facilities and many of these have a strong tradition of enrolling students from abroad.

Vocational schools and community colleges

Vocational schools and community collegeseducate over 33% of all second level students, are administered by statutory vocational education committees. They are also the main providers of adult education and community education courses. The main thrust of these schools was directed towards the development of manual skills and preparation of young people for trades. However, the full range of second-level courses is available.

Comprehensive schools

Comprehensive schools combine academic and vocational subjects in a wide curriculum. They are managed by a board of management and are financed entirely by the Department of Education and Science.

Community schools

Community schools are managed by Boards of Management entirely funded by the Department of Education and Science.  They offer a broad curriculum embracing both practical and academic subjects. They also provide facilities for adult education and community development projects.

Second level education in Ireland generally starts at the age of twelve and consists of a three year Junior cycle followed by a two or three year senior cycle.

The Junior Cycle: The Junior Certificate Examination is taken at the end of junior cycle in post-primary schools. The Junior Certificate is assessed by means of a written examination at the end of the three-year programme, along with practical examinations and project work in some subjects and oral and aural examinations.

The senior cycle offers a “Transition Year” which is an optional one-year programme that forms the first year of a three year cycle. Transition year is intended to be a broad educational experience which assists in the transition from the school environment by encouraging creativity and responsibility for one self.  At the end of the senior cycle the Leaving Certificate Examination is taken.

Students may choose one of three Leaving Certificate Programmes:

The Leaving Certificate Programme –Those intending to pursue higher education at a third-level institute normally takes this examination and access to third-level courses depends on results obtained. Students must take at least five subjects, including Irish (with the exception of those entering the system after 11 years of age).

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is similar to the programme detailed above, however there is an added vocational content and a concentration on technical subjects. Pupils taking the LCVP take five Leaving Certificate subjects (including two vocational subjects); a modern European Language and three link modules on Enterprise Education, Preparation for Work and Work Experience.

The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) – The Leaving Certificate Applied is a two-year Leaving Certificate available to students who wish to follow a practical programme with a strong vocational emphasis.  While certification in the LCA does not qualify for direct entry to third-level courses, students who successfully complete the programme are able to proceed to many Post Leaving Certificate courses.