The levels of education in Ireland are primary, secondary and higher (often known as "third-level") education. In recent years further education has grown immensely. Growth in the economy since the 1960s has driven much of the change in the education system. Education in Ireland is free at all levels, including college (university), but only for students applying from the European Union.
Ireland has a long and prestigious tradition in education, dating back to the middle ages when it held the position of one of the principal education providers to the western world.
Overall responsibility for education in Ireland lies with the Minister for Education who is a member of the Irish Government and responsible to the National Parliament.
For second level schools the academic year runs from September to June with holidays at Christmas and Easter. For universities and colleges at third level the academic year runs from October to June typically divided into three terms.
The Irish education system is made up of:
Further education comprises education and training which takes place after second-level schooling but which is not part of the third-level system. It includes programmes such as Post-Leaving Certificate courses; the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (second-chance education for the unemployed); programmes in Youthreach for early school-leavers; other literacy and basic education; and self-funded evening adult programmes in second-level schools.