Skip to the content

Irish High School Education System & Curriculum

International House Dublin places high school students in a wide range of high schools throughout Ireland, all of which are registered with, and inspected by, the Government's Department of Education and Science.

Schools may be private or state schools (state school education is available only to students from EU countries), day or boarding schools, single-sex or mixed. International House Dublin can help you to choose the school that best suits your needs.

The secondary school cycle in Ireland consists of 5 - 6 years of study which is divided into 3 parts: Junior Cycle, Transition Year and Senior Cycle.


The Junior Cycle

The High School Junior Cycle comprises first, second and third year and leads to the Junior Certificate Examination, an external state examination. Students starting the first year of secondary school will usually be aged 12 or 13.

Fourth Year / Transition Year

There is no state exam at the end of this year and it is an optional year in some schools. The course varies from school to school but is usually less academic than other school years. It is often an excellent year for international students, providing valuable opportunities for personal development while gaining confidence in the English language, without the pressure of preparing for a state exam.  emphasis is placed on the development of other skills such as sports, photography, other languages, drama, music, leadership programmes etc.  

The Senior Cycle

Fifth and Sixth Year form the Senior Cycle. At the end of the two years, students take the Leaving Certificate Examination which is the examination for high school graduation and university entrance in Ireland. It is recognised and highly regarded by academic institutions in the UK, Europe and the United States.

High School Curriculum in Ireland

High Schools in Ireland follow a national curriculum set out by the Department of Education and all students follow the same courses and take the same state examinations regardless of the type of school they attend.

The Department of Education offers approximately 30 subjects on the national curriculum and most schools will offer between 15 to 20 of these subjects.

Subjects that students most frequently choose from are:

  • English
  • Home Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Business Studies & Accountancy
  • French, German, Spanish & Italian
  • Physics, Chemistry & Biology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Music
  • Art