Education in Dublin- A Detailed Overview [2023]

It’s a matter of concern to all the native and immigrant parents and guardians living in Dublin to opt for the best educational institution for their children. Education in Dublin covers a systematic structure for all the students, which turns Dublin into one of the top learning faculties. It includes mainly three educational levels:

  • Primary education for students from the age of six,
  • Secondary education for teenagers,
  • Tertiary education for adults who want to enrol in university or college.

Here, in this article, we will get a thorough overview of each educational level, their respective curriculum, tuition fees etc., so that you do not have a headache selecting the best educational institution in Dublin according to your child’s needs.

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Now, to our topic at hand. Without further adieu, let’s get started.

Education in Dublin

As we’ve already mentioned, there are mainly three levels of education in Dublin. So let’s discuss each level one by one. 

Basically, Primary education revolves around two sections.

  • Pre-school education, and
  • Primary school education.

Everyone has access to avail State-funded education. But you can also send your child to a private fee-paying institution. In order to get a thorough idea of the whole school opportunities in Dublin, visit our other blog on “Schools in Dublin- A Comprehensive Analysis

education in dublin

1. Pre-schools and Childcare

Attending preschool education is not mandatory in Dublin. It’s totally up to the parents who have jobs and have no time to prepare their children for becoming eligible for Primary education. 

So, is preschool free in Ireland? Since 2009, in response to public demand for affordable childcare and to ease parents’ expenses, the government has introduced the “Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme.”

This scheme helps children receive two years of free preschool the years before starting primary school. Children can start ECCE when they are two years and eight months of age and continue until they transfer to primary school.

Besides ECCE, preschool education is usually given by privately paid childcare services too. The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), however, offers financial assistance to parents in order to help them cover the costs of private childcare.

Additionally, the Department of Education provides funding for programs like the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL) for those Pre-schoolers who have poor attendance at school and are at risk of leaving school early.

2. Primary Schools

Dublin is home to hundreds of schools. A public school will undoubtedly be nearby if you wish to enrol your child there. However, one important thing is that you must enrol your child in school by six per the Irish educational system. If you wish, they can begin their school once they turn four. To sum up, all children above the age of six must attend school in Ireland

The primary school cycle usually takes 6 or 8 years. Schools usually have two years of infant classes, followed by classes 1 to 6. The primary education sector consists of several kinds of primary schools, such as

  • Denominational schools, 
  • Multi-denominational schools, 
  • Irish-speaking schools (known as Gaelscoileanna), 
  • Special schools, 
  • and Non-State-aided private primary schools.

All primary and secondary school students must learn the Irish language. However, those who were born outside of Ireland are eligible for exemptions. However, English is the language of instruction in the vast majority of Dublin’s schools.

2.1: Primary School Curriculum

The primary school curriculum is child-centric, consisting of 13 topics. The following are some of them:

  • Irish,
  • English, 
  • Maths,
  • History, 
  • Geography,
  • Science, 
  • Music, 
  • Art, 
  • Music, 
  • Drama, 
  • Physical Education, 
  • Ethical Education, 
  • and Personal Education.

2.2: Primary School Educational Cost

State primary school education is free of charge. The government provides most of the funding for primary schools’ operating and capital expenses, including teacher salaries, with additional local support.

So, how many primary schools are in Dublin? SchoolDays gives a helpful list of all the best primary schools in Dublin so you can see what’s available in your neighbourhood.

3. Secondary/Post-Primary Education

Different kinds of post-primary schools offer secondary/post-primary education. Junior cycle and Senior cycle are the two stages of post-primary education.

  • Junior Cycle: 12 to 15 years old (approximately)
  • Senior Cycle: 16 to 18 years old (approximately)
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3.1: Junior Cycle

The first three years of secondary school are known as the Junior Cycle, culminating in the Junior Certificate examination. Around the age of 12 or 13, children begin secondary school (post-primary school). The Junior Cycle ends with an examination and student evaluations, and students typically take the test when they are 15 or 16.

Junior Cycle subjectsNumerous Junior Cycle subjects are available, although not all schools offer all subjects. All students must take Irish (unless exempted from studying Irish), English, Maths, and History. Other subjects might also be required, depending on your school. For example, you can study English, Irish and Maths at either Ordinary or Higher level. All other subjects are studied at a common level.
Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA)The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) completely replaced the Junior Certificate in 2022. The Junior Cycle now includes a classroom-based evaluation. The written test is held in June of the Junior Cycle’s third year.

3.2: Senior Cycle

Students start the Senior Cycle program after finishing the Junior Cycle. The senior cycle for students can last two or three years, culminating in the Leaving Certificate examinations (age 17–18). This exam is the centre of public interest because it directly relates to students’ ability to enrol in third-level education. Universities and colleges in Ireland, the UK, and many other nations across the world acknowledge the Leaving Certificate.

At this stage, if you decide to include the Transition Year, the Senior Cycle will last three years. 

The Transition year permits students to experience a variety of educational instruction and work experience. After that, students choose one of three programs throughout their last two years of the Senior Cycle. Each program results in a State examination:

3.2: Senior Cycle

Students start the Senior Cycle program after finishing the Junior Cycle. The senior cycle for students can last two or three years, culminating in the Leaving Certificate examinations (age 17–18). This exam is the centre of public interest because it directly relates to students’ ability to enrol in third-level education. Universities and colleges in Ireland, the UK, and many other nations across the world acknowledge the Leaving Certificate.

At this stage, if you decide to include the Transition Year, the Senior Cycle will last three years. 

The Transition year permits students to experience a variety of educational instruction and work experience. After that, students choose one of three programs throughout their last two years of the Senior Cycle. Each program results in a State examination:

  • The Established Leaving Certificate
  • The Leaving Certificate Applied
  • The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme
The Established Leaving CertificateStudents mostly get admitted to universities, technological institutions, and colleges of education on the basis of their performance on the Established Leaving Certificate. 
The Leaving Certificate AppliedThe Leaving Certificate Applied Programme’s objective is to provide students with meaningful learning opportunities to prepare them for adulthood and the workplace. It is intended for those who want to pursue a practical or vocational curriculum.
The Leaving Certificate Vocational ProgrammeThe Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme contains elements of the Established Leaving Certificate but focuses on technical subjects and includes additional modules with a vocational orientation.

Not every school adheres to all of these programs. Therefore, you must research the options available at your current school or the one you are considering.

Senior Cycle subjects

Maths, English and Irish remain compulsory for the Senior Cycle. There are even more subjects available, and many students can take an exam in their native language too.

4. Private Schools in Dublin

Dublin has 34 private, fee-paying schools. Twenty-eight of them offer the Leaving Certificate exam. For each grade they receive, students are given a set number of “points.” These are then added together to generate a final score. 

Even those students who desire to retake the Leaving Certificate find these private schools’ curricula, which tend to emphasise study skills, appealing. On top of that, twenty private secondary schools in Dublin rank among the top 50 in Ireland for college progression rates.

Annual day tuition at private schools in Dublin ranges from €4,000 to €10,000. Boarding costs can amount to $24,000.

5. International Schools

Dublin is home to several international schools. Along with the International Baccalaureate, they offer to teach programmes from France, Spain, and Germany. All of these schools charge tuition fees too.

Numerous ex-pats want to enrol their kids in one of Dublin’s many top-notch international schools so that they can continue with the curriculum from their native country. International schools provide the SATs and other exams required for higher education in the home country of an international student. Among these schools, International Schools of Dublin offers only primary education, and SEK Dublin International School offers only secondary education.

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6. Special-needs Education in Dublin

There is a constitutional right to free education for all special needs and disabled children in Ireland until they are 18. Students with exceptional educational needs receive specialised support in special schools or extra support in regular schools. A student with a disability might sign up for a course in:

  • Mainstream class with additional support
  • Special class in a mainstream school
  • Special school

In Dublin, a variety of special schools cater to specific disabilities and needs. These include-

  • schools for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities, 
  • schools for visually and audibly impaired students, 
  • schools for students with physical disabilities, 
  • and schools for students with psychological disorders.

7. Further and Adult Education

Many students pursue Further education or Third-level education (see third-level education below) after post-primary education. In addition, there are ten levels of education in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), which allows you to compare the various standards and degrees of education offered throughout the educational system in Ireland.

7.1: Educational Training Board programmes

Across the nation, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) offer a variety of adult and further education and training programs, including Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. PLCs provide a pathway to higher and third-level education and technical and practical education.

7.2: Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer both off-the-job education and on-the-job training. There are apprenticeships available in known craft trades like plumbing and electrical engineering and in more trendy fields like

  • ICT, 
  • finance, 
  • software development, 
  • and hospitality.

You must be at least 16 years old, and you might need to pass an exam with a minimum Junior Cycle grade.

7.3: Springboard+

For persons who are unemployed (or were self-employed) and those aiming to re-enter the workforce, Springboard+ offers free higher education courses. You might be required to pay for the course cost if you are employed. ICT, medical technologies, cybersecurity, and sustainable energy are topics covered in the courses.


8. Tertiary or Higher Education

Dublin’s higher educational institutions have recently achieved great success in commerce, technology, and digital innovation. Dublin is home to four of Ireland’s eight top-ranked universities, including Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin (UCD), rated 98th and joint-181st in the QS World University Rankings® 2023. The following are well-known institutions of Dublin:

So, the degree of education that comes after secondary education is called tertiary education, sometimes known as third-level, third-stage, or post-secondary education. For a small city, Dublin has a diverse range of colleges and universities offering every potential course. 

The State provides significant funding for a number of the sectors that make up this third level of education. These sectors are: 

  • University Sector
  • Technological Sector
  • Colleges of education
University SectorUniversities are generally self-governing and autonomous. They provide bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Visit our other blog to gain a detailed overview of the universities in Dublin.
Technological SectorThe technological sector includes technological universities (TUs) and institutes of technology (ITs), which offer certificate, diploma, and degree-level education and training programs in fields like business, science, engineering, linguistics, and music.
Colleges of education
Dublin is also home to many public colleges specialising in everything from law and medicine to art and music. Additionally, several private colleges provide courses in popular fields, including business, IT, and computing.

The good news was that the government declared plans to create combined degree programs for higher education and further education in December 2022. In addition, students may start several degree programs in further education and advance to higher education beginning in September 2023.

Wrapping up

Dublin offers top-notch student life in addition to outstanding academics. For this reason, Dublin is routinely ranked as one of Europe’s top cities for students. It is also rated as one of the top places for international students. Hopefully, this write-up has presented a thorough demonstration of education in Dublin in front of you. So, for individuals whose ideal student city combines world-class academic resources with beautiful surroundings, an exciting social scene, and renowned friendliness among the citizenry, you should put Dublin on your list without any doubt!

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1. Where do most students live in Dublin?

Rathmines, only 3 kilometres from the city centre, is a favourite among students since the rent is reasonable. It is only a short taxi ride from the city centre and your university, plus it has an excellent bus service.

2. Does Ireland have a good education system?

Ireland is among the top twenty nations for education, according to the US News rankings from 2022. Since schools and universities are interconnected on a worldwide scale, graduates of Irish educational institutions have access to opportunities in a wide range of professions around the world.

3. Is Dublin Ireland a good place to study abroad?

You must consider Dublin if you want to study abroad and are looking for a wonderful location. Dublin is one of the best cities in Europe, and studying there will be a memorable experience for you. Dublin has a rich history and culture, and everyone there is so friendly.

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