Full-time education is compulsory from the age of 6 to 16 and there is no nationwide subsidised pre-school system. The Department of Education and Skills is responsible for the educational system in Ireland.
The Irish government provides free education at both primary and secondary level. The schools are of very high quality compared with other European countries.
In recent years there has been a growth in the number of private schools, especially in south Dublin. The Department of Education funds teacher salaries so the schools are economically feasible for many parents at a cost typically between €5,000 and €8,000 per student per year.
The other major category of private schools is the Gaelscoileanna or Irish language high schools. At these schools all subjects are taught using Irish/Gaelic language. In recent years, there has been increased interest in these all-Irish schools and they're a growing part of the educational mix.
Third-level education is made up of a number of sectors. The university sector, the technological sector and the colleges of education are substantially funded by the State (some registration fees apply). In addition there are a number of independent private colleges. Entry to approved third level courses is extremely competitive and places are allocated on the grades achieved in the Leaving Certificate – the final secondary level school exam.
Improving your English
If you are a new arrival in Ireland or are thinking of moving to Ireland to work, you may be interested in exploring opportunities to improve your English. There are plenty of language schools offering a range of courses from basic to advanced, as well as specialist courses in business English or focusing on Irish culture.
For example, Dublin City University offers a range of courses: http://www.english.dcu.ie/
You will also find a comprehensive listing of accredited schools across Ireland at the ACELS website: http://www.acels.ie/
Bear in mind also that there are ex-pat communities from most European countries, many of whom make their own private and informal arrangements for improving their English – as well as meeting people with whom they share the same language.