Many aspectsof the administration of the Irish education system are centralisedin the Department of Education & Science. Public expenditure oneducation accounts for around 16 per cent of Government currentspending and approximately 5 per cent of GNP.
First-level (Primary) Education
The primary education sector serves some 470,000 pupils. There areover 3,200 schools at first-level. The great majority of thesereceive capital funding from the State, supplemented by localcontributions. Primary education emphasises a child-centredapproach with a curriculum related to the child’s needs andinterests.
Second-level (Post Primary) Education
The second-level sector comprises secondary, vocational, communityand comprehensive schools. There are over 360,000 students in thissector attending over 750 schools.
Almost 60 per cent of students at second-level attend secondaryschools. These schools are privately owned and managed. Most aremanaged by religious orders and the rest by boards of governors orby individuals. The State meets over 90 per cent of the cost of theteachers’ salaries. The vast majority of secondary schools belongto the free education scheme and receive allowances and capitationgrants from the State.
Vocational schools, educating just over a quarter of second-levelstudents, are administered by Vocational Education Committees. TheState provides some 90 per cent of their costs. The balance isgenerated by the Committees themselves. Community and comprehensiveschools, educating 14 per cent of second-level students, receiveindividual budgets from the State.
Second-level education consists of a three-year Junior Cyclefollowed by a two- or three-year Senior Cycle. In the Senior Cyclethere is an optional Transition Year Programme. During the finaltwo years of Senior Cycle students take one of three programmes -the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving CertificateVocational Programme or the Leaving Certificate Applied.
The third-level education sector consists of universities,technological colleges and colleges of education. All of these aresubstantially funded by the State and are autonomous andself-governing. In recent years, several independent privatecolleges have opened offering mainly business-related courses.
There are more than 140,000 students in full time third-leveleducation. Almost half of Ireland’s young people proceed fromsecond to third level and some 50 per cent of these take degreelevel programmes.
There are four universities, the University of Dublin (TrinityCollege), the National University of Ireland (NUI), the Universityof Limerick and Dublin City University.
The NUI has four constituent colleges, NUI Dublin, NUI Cork, NUIGalway and NUI Maynooth. The Royal College of Surgeons, theNational College of Art and Design, the Institute of PublicAdministration and the Milltown Institute of Theology andPhilosophy are also recognised colleges of the NUI.
Institutes of Technology (13) are located around the countryoffering education and training, full-time and part-time, for tradeand industry in the area of business studies, engineering andtechnology, and science and paramedicine.
The Dublin Institute of Technology is the country’s largestthird-level institution with some 15,000 students. It hasconstituent colleges specialising in technology, catering,marketing and design, commerce and music.
Fourth Level Education
In 2006, the Government published its Strategy for ScienceTechnology and Innovation. The strategy sets out a vision androadmap for the coherent development of research, technologicaldevelopment and innovation with a view to supporting Ireland’scontinuing development as a knowledge economy.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have a critical role to playin 4th Level Ireland. The vast bulk of research is carried out inthese institutions. The last ten years have seen very significantincreases in funding for research being carried out in HEIs, muchof it coming through the Higher Education Authority’s Programme forResearch in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) and major researchinitiatives funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Governmentresearch support is set to continue to increase under the NatioanlDevelopment Plan, 2007-2013.
Public expenditure on health accounts for around 24 per cent ofGovernment current spending and approximately 8% per cent ofGNP. The expenditure is allocated to hospitals, communityhealth services, community welfare services, community protectionservices, psychiatric services and services for the handicapped.
The health services in Ireland are centrally directed by theDepartment of Health and Children. The provision of Healthand Personal Social Services for everyone living in Ireland is theresponsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) under theHealth Act, 2004. The objective of the Executive is to usethe resources available to it in the most beneficial, effective andefficient manner to improve, promote and protect the health andwelfare of the public.
The HSE manages services through a structure designed toput patients and clients at the centre of theorganisation. It has three clearly defined interdependentareas - Health and Personal Social Services, Support Services andReform & Innovation. All of the services provided by theHSE to the public are delivered through four Administrative Areas -Dublin Mid- Leinster, Dublin North-East, West, and South.
The participation of voluntary bodies in the provision of servicesis encouraged and many voluntary organisations receive grants fromthe State. The health services are financed out of centraltaxation.
Those with low incomes and persons aged 70 years and over receivemedical services free of charge. The rest of the population canavail of the public hospital services at a relatively low charge.They also have to pay certain charges, such as for visits to thefamily doctor.
Patients in public hospitals may opt to be treated privately. Thereare a number of private hospitals, some 14 per cent of the total,which essentially serve private patients. There is a system ofhealth insurance to help meet the costs of medical treatment.
In 2006, the birth rate was 15.2 per 1,000 people, based on a totalof 64,237 births registered during the year. Over 99 per centof births take place in hospitals. The death rate for 2006was 6.5 per 1,000 people based on a total of 27,479 deathsregistered.
The Social Welfare system covers all of the internationallyrecognised forms of social protection. Incorporating a mix of bothsocial insurance and social assistance programmes, it providesfinancial support to people in certain situations such asunemployment, illness, old age or widowhood.
Other features of the system include supports for people seekingemployment, in-work benefits and family support for people at workon low pay, free or reduced-cost dental and optical care, and arange of secondary benefits such as free travel for pensioners andfinancial support towards the cost of fuel, TV licences andtelephone rental charges.
Spending on social welfare accounts for approximately 28% of grosscurrent Government expenditure (about 9% of GNP) and providesbenefits more than 1.5 million people.