Secondary school in Ireland


Secondary schools in Ireland offer an excellent level of studies. In particular, they excel ence in the study of  computer science, law or even agriculture, agri-food, biotechnology, electronics … sectors that are highly in demand.

I – Ireland, a country full of surprises

In addition, studying in Ireland brings much more than learning and practicing the language of the country. Studying in the country of James Joyce to learn the English language is one thing, but studying in an exceptional natural setting and enjoying a warm and friendly student life is another.

Ireland has managed to preserve the quality of life that makes it one of the most pleasant countries to live. The sea and the green countryside are never far away.

The Irish Republic, once its British neighbor has left the EU, will be the only English-speaking country in the European community.

The Irish population has changed in recent decades. The extremely young population, 40% of it is under 30, has adapted to new ways of life and work, and has adopted the values and behaviors related to a globalized economy.

In conclusion, it is  « A friendly, safe country” as the Irish administration proudly claims. And a small country where « wild », « nature », « authentic » are the qualifiers used by those who lived there.

This is why each year Ireland is the English speaking country of choice for international students.

II– Some figures and statistics on the irish economy and education system

The economy of Ireland is the most flourishing in Europe. It is currently the fifth richest nation in the world per capita. It has managed to overcome the economic crisis and become the fifth richest nation per capita in the world. As a result, new industries such as software, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology production are rapidly expanding.

Similarly new technologies are creating jobs in Ireland in AI (artificial intelligence) and other applications such as hardware and software production. As a result, Ireland has become the center of European software production.

New job-creating industries are flourishing, such as Biotechnology, Medtech (Medical Technology) and the pharmaceutical industry. As a result, Ireland is considered the European leader in food science and pharmacology.

But underpinning this economic success:  a successful high quality educational system.

The study level in Ireland : An objective evaluation using the Pisa survey

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey conducted by the OECD. More specifically, PISA is test 15-year-olds from 34 countries on science, literacy and math.

The PISA tests are a criterion to objectively measure the level of an educational system by international standards.

Irish high school students are among the best in reading literacy in the developed world, according to this major international survey. They rank third among students in 35 OECD countries (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and rank well above the mathematics and science average.

It is important to note that the PISA survey takes a holistic approach to these topics. It classifies students not on memorized facts, but tests their problem solving skills across a broad spectrum. For example, solving « real-world problems » and creative thinking are important components of the test. This is to determine their degree of preparation for future studies or work environments. In conclusion, the test is about skills, not about knowledge.

The level of higher education

In higher education Irish universities are in the top 2% in the rankings of the world universities.

Irish education has a well-established reputation in medicine, veterinary medicine, computer science and software development. Its Universities and Institutes of Technology (Institute of Technology) contribute significantly to Ireland’s development with research funds from the Government but also from the United States and around the world.

And Irish universities have developed special ties and research programs with major academic institutions around the world.

The inauguration of our international high school

For all these reasons, our school inaugurates its international section thus setting up studies to obtain the Irish baccalaureate. The course takes place in Paris for the first two years and in Ireland for the final year. It’s our:

III – The secondary school in Ireland

The curriculum is divided into two cycles, the « Junior Cycle » and the « Senior Cycle »

Pupils start in, secondary school in Ireland, at about 12 years of age with the ‘Junior Cycle’. This leads to the ‘Junior Certificate’ after three years of study.

Thereafter there is a non-compulsory transition year, named « the transition year », which can be done at the end of the junior cycle. It is a learning period to allow young people to better understand the world of business and understand the issues of the Senior Cycle.

The Irish Leaving Certificate

Finally, 95% of the students, that is continue their education and integrate the ‘Senior Cycle’, to prepare the « Irish Leaving Certificate » which corresponds to the French baccalaureate. It is both the exam that crowns high school and the university entrance examination.

To obtain this diploma, students must choose a minimum of 6 subjects, including English and mathematics. In addition to the basic subjects, students can choose their subjects from a wide range. Science and technology, languages, art, music as well as more traditional subjects such as history and geography. Although foreign languages are not compulsory they are generally chosen. Thus, French is the most popular language before German, Spanish and Italian.

The Gaelic language is a compulsory subject. But non-Irish students studying in Ireland are not subject to this requirement. They can thus replace it with a French language exam.

Students can present as many subjects as they like for the Leaving Certificate but the final grade is the sum of the 6 best marks obtained in the various exams presented to the student.

Access to the major academic institutions of the world

The « Irish Leaving Certificate » or « ILC » allows students to enter the Universities or Grandes Ecoles of their choice in the world and of course in Ireland. It is recognized and highly valued by academic institutions in the UK, Europe, the US and around the world.

While the Leaving Certificate is the main exam, there are alternatives. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Program, prepared in the vocational schools, is close to the normal exam but with a more professional orientation. As for the Leaving Certificate Applied, it is mainly intended for students who do not wish to pursue higher education, and focuses on essential social and professional knowledge.

Sport in secondary education

Irish secondary education has more than a tradition of academic excellence. In Ireland sportsmanship is deeply rooted in the culture of the country, it is synonymous with passion.

Most schools offer a wide range of group sports activities; football, rugby, basketball, hurling, Gaelic football, swimming and handball among others. The school teams participate in local and national tournaments and championships.

The practice of sports activities is considered essential for the development of team spirit and personal development. Thus, from 2020, students will be able to present sports activities for the Leaving Certificate: swimming, rugby, dance, modern jazz and coaching.

A very important factor is the approach developed for sports disciplines. The pedagogical principle insists on the notion of pleasure in sports activities, and not competition and winning as formerly promoted by the coaches and sometimes by parents. The reasoning is that these « old » values could provoke a feeling of failure.

Music and arts

In parallel, schools also promote music and the arts. Students studying in Ireland can develop their artistic and creative talents on or off the stage.


Ireland has a large pool of highly qualified teachers. The combination of the recognized quality of teaching staff, a demanding and rigorous curriculum and a ‘sana in corpore sano’ approach has formed one of the best education systems in the world.

Contrarily to most countries, Irish teachers are not civil servants. Thus the teaching profession in Ireland has always kept its distance from the state. Their status is similar to that of other liberal or semi-liberal professions.

Ireland and the french language

Irish people have a keen interest in France and the language. Thus French is taught in 680 of the 720 secondary schools. Similarly, the Irish ‘Francophonie’ is very developed: 60% of young Irish people choose French as their first foreign language in secondary school. The Alliance Française in Dublin is the third French Alliance of Europe in number of students, after those of Paris and Brussels

There are two dynamic institutions that support this linguistic cooperation. A cultural center, the College of the Irish of Paris, and the French School of Ireland (LFI).

France ranks first as host country for Irish students in the framework of the Erasmus program. Conversely Ireland is the 4th destination in the EU for French Erasmus students.

Health insurance for those who are going to study in Ireland

Ireland is a country of the European Union. As a result, the French leaving for study in Ireland benefit from the Community social security regulations. So French and European students can claim health insurance.

Mis à jour le 13 Juillet 2023 à 22:32

Par Annie Reithmann

Directrice IPECOM Paris. DEA de Philosophie, spécialiste des méthodes d'apprentissage. En 1996 elle prend seule la direction d’Ipécom Paris.