Academics Ireland

A brief guide to the Irish education system

The Irish education system has a very good reputation, and with the exception of the 4th Year (Transition Year) the curriculum is more traditionally academic than in the UK. In some rural locations schools are quite small (approx. 250 students), and benefit from smaller class sizes than in the UK. 

Junior Cycle (1st, 2nd, 3rd Year)

The first three years of secondary school in Ireland is known as the Junior Cycle, and is intended to provide a well-balanced, general education suitable for pupils who leave full-time education at the end of compulsory schooling. Students start the Junior Cycle at 12 years old and finish this at 15 years old.  For the 1st to 3rd year, students study a combination of 7 or 8 core subjects and 2 or 3 chosen subjects, giving a total of 9 to 11 subjects. This all culminates in the Junior Certificate examination at the end of 3rd year. 

Transition Year (4th Year)

The Transition Year (4th Year) is a one-year course with continuous assessment. It is intended to be a personal development year with many new subject options, as well as incorporating preparation for the start of the Leaving Certificate Course (called Subject Sampling). The wide range of practical/vocational subjects and lack of year end exams make this a popular choice with international students who want to improve their English while engaging in new activities. 

Core subjects that students follow throughout the year may include: English, Mathematics, PE, ICT, RE

Subject Sampling may include: Environmental Studies, Science, Spanish, Drama, History, Business Studies

New experiences & one-off activities: Mini Company, Work Experience, Photography, Tourism Awareness, Outdoor pursuits, Drama production, horse-riding, field trips, visiting speakers, fashion design, arts and crafts, film production

The exact curriculum on Transition Year is set by the school. There are no end of year examinations.  

Senior Cycle (5th, 6th Years)

In the 5th and 6th years schools generally offer the option of studying seven subjects. These are a combination of 3 core subjects and 4 chosen subjects. The best six grades, achieved in one sitting of the Leaving Certificate, is used to calculate the point score for entry purposes to college courses. 

Many Irish students go on to study at Irish or British universities.