Ireland’s educational context
Students: Ireland is a high performer in PISA 2012 in mathematics, reading and science, with improvement in science, unchanged performance in mathematics and decreased performance in reading across PISA cycles. The impact of socio-economic background on Irish students’ performance in mathematics in PISA 2012 is around the OECD average. In recent years, the percentage of students with immigrant background increased. Some aspects of Irish education contribute to a high level of equity. Children aged 3-4 are provided with a free year of pre-primary education, and students aged 4-6 can enrol in either pre-primary or primary school. Education is compulsory from age 6 until age 16, with low grade repetition compared to the average among OECD countries, and tracking starting at age 15. Academic selection of students for admission to schools is not allowed. Attainment rates in upper secondary education are around the OECD average. The enrolment rate in vocational education and training (VET) upper secondary programmes (limited to a narrow set of occupations) is comparatively low, even though transition from VET to other educational pathways is ensured. Tertiary education attainment is above average, and proficiency levels in literacy and numeracy among 16-65 year-olds and 16-24 year-olds are slightly below the average of their peers in countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills. In the context of the economic crisis, unemployment is above average.
Institutions: Autonomy over the use of curriculum and assessment in Irish schools is around the OECD average, and autonomy over resource allocation, such as hiring and dismissing teaching staff, is below average. Teachers in Ireland need to have a credential or license in addition to pre-service training (five years for lower secondary teachers), as well as a mandatory teaching practicum. In primary and secondary schools, their teaching time is longer than in other OECD countries. The Inspectorate undertakes external school and system evaluations, using various sources of information, including standardised tests and examinations focused on student achievement.
System: The school system is steered by schools and the central government through the Department of Education and Skills. Schools are locally owned and managed by private (mainly religious) organisations, and universities are autonomous. In the context of the economic crisis, the government has been assessing how to reallocate resources to ensure sustained investment in education. Expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP (for all educational levels combined) is above the OECD average, with a higher share of public funding than the OECD average. Ireland had also one of the greatest increases in expenditure per student among OECD countries during 2005-11 at the tertiary level.
Selected indicators compared with the average
Click here to access the underlying dataNote: For each indicator, the absolute performance is standardised (normalised) using a normative score ranging from 0 to 180, where 100 was set at the average, taking into account all OECD countries with available data in each case. See www.oecd.org/edu/policyoutlook.htm for maximum and minimum value countries. Source: The Ireland Snapshot was produced combining information from Education Policy Outlook: Australia, (OECD, 2013) with OECD data and the country’s response to the Education Policy Outlook Snapshot Survey (2013). More information on the spider chart and sources is available at www.oecd.org/edu/policyoutlook.htm.
Key issues and goals
Students: A challenge for Ireland is helping all students from different socio-economic and increasingly diverse immigrant backgrounds to reach their potential. Ireland has had to cope with many difficulties during the economic crisis, including an increase in youth unemployment.
Institutions: Irish school leaders and teachers need to meet the particular challenges of learning environments in small schools and to deliver quality education across all schools. Schools need the capacity to raise performance and deliver quality education for all students, with special attention to diversity and students from the most disadvantaged back grounds. School self-evaluations, teacher appraisals and assessments for improvement can be strengthened. An integrated evaluation and assessment framework can help improve teaching and student outcomes.
System: Ensuring that those working at the local and school level can respond to national education objectives is a key goal for Ireland. Due to the economic crisis, Ireland has had to deal with significant budget cuts in education. Therefore, it is seen as important to maximise resources to ensure that budget cuts do not affect the quality and equity of the system.
Selected policy responses
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Permanent URL: www.oecd.org/edu/policyoutlook.htm
OECD work on education: www.oecd.org/education