Education in Ireland

Last updated: November 20, 2019

Education in Ireland has improved greatly over the last 50 years. Despite there being several similarities with the UK system in terms of age groups and the compulsory need for education, there are also several fundamental differences. This includes an optional transition year, a larger number of faith schools and a later start to compulsory education.

Primary School

Although compulsory education in Ireland doesn’t start until the age of 6 children can be enrolled in primary school from the age of 4. However, early age education in Ireland  is possible through  nursery schools. Thanks to the ‘free Pre-School year scheme’ children in Ireland aged between 3 years and 2 months and 4 years and 7 months in the September of the relevant year are entitled to a free year of pre-school. The first two years of primary school are called infant years before moving on to formal or official classes from the ages of 6-12.

Secondary Education

Secondary education differs to the UK initially as it starts a year later in Ireland. Furthermore it is split up into two separate cycles. The first cycle, known as the junior cycle, is from the age of 12-16 is based around giving a narrow insight into a broad variety of subjects. This is similar to GCSEs in the England.

After the first cycle there are two options. The first is the more traditional option, continuing into the second cycle of education for two years to study fewer and more specialized subjects. The other option is to take a transition year before doing this. Transition years offer a more practical and hands on way of learning away from the classroom. This can be in the form of a year abroad or even a year long vocational course. This option is increasing in popularity and is seen as a great way to improve employability.

Primary school in Ireland


Ireland has some top ranking universities globally, which means that studying there is a great option. Students coming from within the EU will not need a visa and are able to benefit from the Free Fees Initiative meaning that there is only an initial registration fee of €3,000 and no tuition fees. Students from outside of the EU will face significant costs which differs in price based on the course, these can range from €10,000 – €50,000.

What Next?

The education system in Ireland has lead to it becoming one of the fastest growing economies in Europe after the global financial crisis. Are you moving to Ireland, or do you need more information about the schools over there? Sirelo helps you with lots of articles on moving there, such as information about working in Ireland.

Studying in Ireland