European Education Area Progress Report 2021

Education and Training Monitor 2021


1. Key indicators

Figure 1 – Key indicators overview
Ireland EU-27
2010 2020 2010 2020
EU-level targets 2030 target
Participation in early childhood education
(from age 3 to starting age of compulsory primary education)
≥ 96% 82.4%13 100.0%19,e 91.8%13 92.8%19
Low achieving eighth-graders in digital skills < 15% : : : :
Low achieving 15-year-olds in: Reading < 15% 17.2%09, b 11.8%18 19.7%09, b 22.5%18
Maths < 15% 20.9%09 15.7%18 22.7%09 22.9%18
Science < 15% 15.2%09 17.0%18 17.8%09 22.3%18
Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24) < 9% 11.9% 5.0% 13.8% 9.9%
Exposure of VET graduates to work based learning ≥ 60% : : : :
Tertiary educational attainment (age 25-34) ≥ 45% (2025) 49.6% 58.4% 32.2% 40.5%
Participation of adults in learning (age 25-64) ≥ 47% (2025) : : : :
Other contextual indicators
Education investment Public expedienture on education as a percentage of GDP 4.6% 3.1% 5.0% 4.7%19
Expenditure on public and private institutions per FTE/student in € PPS ISCED 1-2 €7 14712 :18 €6 07212,d €6 35917,d
ISCED 3-4 €9 09512 :18 €7 36613,d €7 76217,d
ISCED 5-8 €11 50012 :18 €9 67912,d €9 99517,d
Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24) Native 11.0% 5.2% 12.4% 8.7%
EU-born 22.8%u :u 26.9% 19.8%
Non EU-born 11.5% :u 32.4% 23.2%
Upper secondary level attainment (age 20-24, ISCED 3-8) 86.7% 94.9% 79.1% 84.3%
Tertiary educational attainment (age 25-34) Native 48.7% 56.0% 33.4% 41.3%
EU-born 43.6%u 47.7% 29.3% 40.4%
Non EU-born 64.4%u 73.6% 23.1% 34.4%

Sources: Eurostat (UOE, LFS, COFOG); OECD (PISA). Further information can be found in Annex I and in Volume 1 ( Notes: The 2018 EU average on PISA reading performance does not include ES; the indicator used (ECE) refers to early-childhood education and care programmes which are considered by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) to be ‘educational’ and therefore constitute the first level of education in education and training systems – ISCED level 0; for Ireland, the ECE rate includes participation in ECEC centres, and also in primary schools, which are attended by many 4-5 year olds; FTE = full-time equivalent; b = break in time series, d = definition differs, e = estimated, u = low reliability, := not available, 09 = 2009, 12 = 2012, 13 = 2013, 17 = 2017, 18 = 2018, 19 = 2019.

Figure 2 - Position in relation to strongest and weakest performers

Source: DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, based on data from Eurostat (LFS 2020, UOE 2019) and OECD (PISA 2018).

2. Highlights

  • Ireland has established a strong framework for well-being and resilience at all educational levels. During COVID-19, Ireland has invested extensively in special measures in education
  • Reforms continue to improve affordability and quality of early childhood education and care, and to further modernise school education.
  • Tertiary educational attainment is growing, and Ireland aims to improve access to higher education among vulnerable groups. Concerns regarding the decreased public spending persist, aggravated by the COVID-19 impact on university revenues.
  • Ireland continues strengthening its apprenticeships system, green and digital upskilling, and prepares a new strategy for adult learning, including in digital literacy.

3. A focus on well-being in education and training

Ireland has implemented a strong policy framework on the well-being of students and staff. The 2018-2023 Well-being Policy Statement and Framework for Practice1 defines well-being and provides an overarching structure for well-being in education. By 2025, Ireland aims to ensure that well-being will be central to every school and educational centre, all schools and educational centres will provide evidence-informed approaches and support, and the well-being of all children and young people will be promoted. Ireland aims to be recognised as a leader in this area. Furthermore, the framework defines the key areas of well-being in education on which schools should focus, the indicators of success and statements of effective practice. Every school and education centre is required by 2023 to use the school self-evaluation process to initiate a well-being promotion review and development cycle. Schools and education centres are supported in this process by the framework, online well-being resources and by the Department of Education and its agencies. At tertiary level, in 2020, the government launched national frameworks to address student mental health and suicide prevention2, and the problem of sexual violence and harassment3.

Well-being and mental health measures of students and educators are integrated across education levels Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, places a strong emphasis on the relationship between education and care. It promotes a ‘nurturing pedagogy’, emphasising children’s feelings and dispositions like motivation, confidence, perseverance, and how they see themselves as learners (NCCA, 2021a). In primary education, the social personal and health education (SPHE) programme supports the development of strong and positive mental health and well-being among children (NCCA, 2021b). One of the 8 key principles of the junior cycle well-being programme is that the student experience contributes directly to their physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being and resilience (NCCA, 2015, 2017). The upper secondary SPHE programme aims to support learners in making choices for health and well-being. The relationships and sexuality programme (RSP) is a key component of the SPHE programme (Government, 1999), and a single, integrated curriculum for RSP and SPHE spanning both primary and secondary is planned. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) provides resources for all primary and secondary teachers and schools, including professional and personal development for SPHE teachers. Higher education institutions (HEIs) have developed individual actions plans to combat sexual harassment, and a ‘Connecting for Life’ group supports the implementation of the national framework on student mental health.

Teacher support contributes to students’ better educational outcomes and well-being. According to OECD (PISA), the proportion of students who are in schools where students agreed that ‘in every or most lessons teachers provide extra help when students need it’ is higher than the EU average (74.8% v 70.7%). Those students have scored significantly better in reading performance4. Despite the existing training opportunities, in 2018, more than half of maths and science teachers (58% and 54%) declared a need for further professional development in addressing students’ needs5. According to the national ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study, the quality of relationships with teachers is an important factor in students’ well-being. Higher levels of achievement among children and students are linked to fewer internalising difficulties and greater life satisfaction (Nolan and Smyth (forthcoming), 2021). Most 13-year-olds (88%) in Ireland were overall faring well in terms of emotional well-being, however less well than their peers in Sweden and Denmark (Nixon, 2021).

Despite numerous policy and practical efforts, bullying and cyberbullying remain an ongoing challenge. The 2013 Action Plan on Bullying6 contains comprehensive anti-bullying measures including initiatives promoting internet safety (‘Webwise’), preventing racist bullying, homophobia and transphobia (‘Being LGBT in School’)7. Nevertheless, in 2018, more than 1 in 5 15-year-old students (22.7%) reported being bullied a few times a month, an increase of 8 pps compared to 2015, now at EU average level (22.1%). Around a quarter of students who were high or heavy internet users reported being bullied (23.5% and 28.4%), more than the EU average (15.1% and 19.4%). In Ireland, bullied students reported lack of life satisfaction more often than in other countries (25.8% vs EU 15.1%). This goes alongside a drop in the reported sense of belonging at school, which fell by 6.6 pps between 2015 and 2018. This aspect is particularly important since students who reported a sense of belonging at school scored higher in reading by 13 points (EU 11 points) (Figure 3) (OECD, 2019). According to research by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University, 49% of males experienced significantly more frequent cyberbullying since the COVID-19 lockdown, and it was more prevalent among younger boys (Milosevic, T. et al., 2021).

Figure 3 – Change in reading performance when pupils do not feel they belong at school, PISA 2018

Source: OECD, (2019). Data for IT and FI after accounting for pupils' and schools' socio-economic profile are not statistically significant.

While support measures helped alleviate some COVID-19 related stress, students and teachers experienced a decline in their well-being. National authorities provided parents, students and school staff with numerous resources and guidance in relation to COVID-19. This included a well-being advice and resources website8, well-being guidance for parents from National Educational Psychological Service, including the online ‘minding your well-being’ programme9, as well as supports for children with special educational needs and their parents10. However, at the end of 2020, 70% of primary and secondary teachers reported feeling more stressed compared to the same time the previous year. Reasons given were due to issues with students who found it difficult to settle back into a classroom environment and a perception that remote teaching impacts their work-life balance (Dempsey and Burke, 2021). Further research (CSO, 2021; Murray et al., 2021) shows the negative impact of COVID-19 on children’s and young adults’ well-being, reflected in worse moods or feeling depressed. At tertiary level, many students struggled to integrate back into college life, in particular socio-economically disadvantaged and migrant students (Fitzmaurice and Ni Fhloinn, 2021). The complex impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and well-being of children and youth11 calls for further monitoring.

4. Investing in education and training

Overall, Ireland continues to increase expenditure on education; however public expenditure on higher education has decreased. In 2019, Ireland spent 5.52% of the GNI* specifically adapted to Ireland on education12. Measured as a percentage of the total public budget, Ireland spent 12.8% on education in 2019 (EU 10%), showing a steady increase in recent years (12.6% in 2018 and 11.6% in 2015)13. Ireland spent 42% of its education budget on pre-primary and primary education, one of the highest shares in the EU (EU 33%). Spending on tertiary education was 13%, a drop of 3 pps compared to 2018 and remaining below the EU average (16%). Overall, between 2011 and 2019, general government expenditure on education increased by 20% in real terms; however, higher education expenditure dropped by 14% (COFOG).

In response to COVID-19, large-scale emergency funding was provided for all levels of education. The funds were intended to address public health compliance measures, boost teacher supply, increase higher education places and mitigate against revenue losses. The funds were also to ensure the safe reopening of schools, early childhood education and care (ECEC) facilities, and further and higher education campuses. The 2021 education budget of EUR 8.9 billion will include 1 065 additional teachers in 2021 over 2020. In total 23 000 new school places and additional student capacity in schools will be provided by more than 200 large-scale projects currently under construction. Funding provided specifically to support schools in their response to COVID-19 from January to July/August 2021 amounts to EUR 226 million. At tertiary level, the socio-economic inequalities were addressed by doubling the student assistance fund, funding to support Traveller students’ access to universities, a laptop loan scheme and funding for HEI access services. Connectivity issues were addressed through the HEAnet eduroam network14. The amount of EUR 47 million was allocated to HEIs to support the provision of costed extensions to research activities disrupted by the pandemic, including for postgraduate research students15. A further EUR 21 million was provided for student supports, including for student well-being and mental health supports, and EUR 84 million was allocated to support the reopening of on-site learning in September16.

Provision for students with special educational needs has been a prominent policy focus. Additional funding for the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) was announced in the budget for 2021 and made available from January17. The AIM payments, which enable ECEC (free pre-school) providers to support the inclusion of children by reducing the adult-child ratio within the pre-school room, rose by 7% from EUR 195 to EUR 210 per week. Following the publication of the in-school and early years therapy support demonstration project18 review, the pilot School Inclusion Model at primary and secondary level will be continued in 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 (European Commission, 2020).

Ireland is preparing a new digital strategy for schools and investing in digital infrastructure, supported also by the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The final tranche of EUR 50 million was provided to schools for ICT equipment under the 2015-2020 digital strategy in December 2020. Under the Irish National Recovery and Resilience Plan, EUR 64 million is allocated to improve the broadband connectivity of at least 990 primary schools, and for digital infrastructure in at least 3 415 primary and post-primary schools to support learners at risk of educational disadvantage through the digital divide. The new 2021-2027 Digital Strategy for Schools will build on the current one, taking into account the progress made, new developments in digital technologies and emerging priorities.

Box 1: The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP)

The Irish plan19 is worth EUR 989 million in grants. Investments in education and skills related measures represent over 20% of the plan’s allocation. Ireland is committed to mainstreaming digital skills across education and training settings, investing in better connectivity of schools, ICT equipment for disadvantaged students, supporting the development of technological universities, ensuring sufficient supply of graduates with high-level ICT skills, intensive upskilling/reskilling and apprenticeships programmes, and enhancing green skills.

5. Modernising early childhood and school education

Participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC) remains high and services adjusted effectively to the new COVID-19 norms. In 2019, the participation rate for children aged 3 and over continued to be at estimated 100%. However, Irish children spend less time in formal ECEC than those in other EU countries. The average number of weekly hours spent in formal ECEC for children above 3 is 25.5 hours v EU 29.5 hours. For children below 3, it is 22.6 hours, while the EU average is 27.4. (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2019). For children below 3, the participation rate in formal childcare increased by 20.8 pps between 2010 and 2019, reaching 40.8%, above the EU average of 35.5%20. The ECEC rate among Irish Travellers is 75%, the highest among the surveyed countries21 (FRA, 2020). Following the first lockdown, early learning and care services reopened on 29 June 2020 and have remained open throughout 2021. The ECEC pre-primary programme was paused between January and March 2021, with services open only for children of essential and vulnerable workers. The support measures allowed services to remain sustainable, including through the employment wage subsidy scheme22. Online continuing professional development programmes saw a significant take-up, and Ireland is evaluating the scope for permanently expanding the online offer.

Quality and affordable ECEC remains at the fore in policy and programme reform. First 5 (2019-2028) remains the key strategy to improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of ECEC (Government, 2020). The first progress report assessed if the key milestones were achieved. The national childcare scheme provides financial support towards the cost of ECEC and school-age childcare during the hours spent outside of pre-school or school. The 2021-2028 National Action Plan for Childminding aims to improve regulation and support to home-based childminders. The Workforce Development Plan for ECEC (to be published in 2021) aims to raise the profile of careers in ECEC, and to move to a graduate-led workforce by 2028. Work has started on increasing the participation of disadvantaged children in ECEC. In April, the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality published its recommendations, calling for establishing a publicly funded and regulated childcare model, and increasing the State share of GDP spent on childcare from the current 0.37% to at least 1% by 2030 (national statistics)23.

Irish primary and lower-secondary students’ performance in maths is the highest in the EU, and above the EU average in science. According to the 2018 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)24, Ireland is the top performing EU country in maths at both fourth class in primary and second year in secondary level. In science, Irish students perform better than the EU average, and their performance in both subjects has been stable over the last four years. Students’ performance from less well-off families in maths was the second highest in the EU, and in science above the EU average. However, there is room for addressing the needs of high performers in Ireland, whose scores were below their peers’ in other countries (DE, 2020).

Ireland prepares for reorganising the curriculum for primary education and considers further reforms at secondary level. In 2021/2022, a consultation on the draft framework for restructuring the primary curriculum will be carried out with teachers, school leaders, parents and children. Particular focus will be put on curriculum structure, allocated time and on teaching foreign languages. The draft framework envisages giving more autonomy and flexibility to teachers in providing learning experiences to children and in taking decisions about children’s learning and development (NCCA, 2020). The reform specifications are to be finalised by 2024. At secondary level, the framework for lower-secondary ‘junior’ cycle is in the final stages of implementation. The evaluation of the junior cycle programme will provide evidence whether similar reforms should be implemented at upper secondary senior level.

The rate of early leavers from education and training (ELET) remains low, at 5% in 2020. This is substantially below the new EU-level target of 8% and the EU average (9.9%)25. Since 2010, the overall rate decreased by 6.9 pps, including in the rural areas by 8.9 pps, which is one of the biggest improvements in the EU. However, certain groups still have high ELET rates, in particular Irish Travellers and Roma at 70%, which leads to a very low employment rate in this group at 15% (FRA, 2020).

Ireland has taken numerous measures to minimise educational inequalities due to COVID-19. Between January and March, primary and secondary schools switched to remote learning due to COVID-19. While it was easier to adapt than in 2020, not all teachers and students had equal access to digital pedagogical modalities due to the difference in broadband connectivity, access to technological devices and digital literacy. Student also felt less motivated to learn and disengagement increased. Students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the Traveller community and those with complex special needs were particularly affected (Mohan, G. et al., 2021; Murray et al., 2021). To remedy the situation, Tusla Education Support Service worked with students and families identified by schools, and in March 202126, further support was allocated to schools catering for students experiencing the highest levels of educational disadvantage in order to, inter alia, reduce class-sizes in DEIS27 Urban Band 1 primary schools, extend the school completion programme to cover more schools, and to facilitate the participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged students in the completion programme. In February 2021, a supplementary programme was made available to pupils with special educational needs. The 2021 summer programme, which was made available to all schools, also provided additional hours of in-school or home support for children with special educational needs. The Youthreach programme supports vulnerable groups. A new programme for primary and post primary schools for 2021/2022 addresses learning loss and student well-being affected by COVID-1928. The Inspectorate of the Department of Education monitors the COVID-19 impact on schools since the 2020 lockdown, including also digital learning and well-being29.

6. Modernising vocational education and training and adult learning

Ireland continues to strengthen its apprenticeships system. According to the 2021-202530 action plan for apprenticeship, Ireland aims to reform its apprenticeship system, making it more flexible and responsive. To mitigate the problem of the sluggish growth in the number of employers, which was further worsened by the pandemic, the government launched as part of the 2020 jobs stimulus package the apprenticeship incentivisation scheme offering support worth EUR 3 000 for each new apprentice that was registered and retained on their apprenticeship. These measures are highly pertinent as the employment rate of recent VET graduates has been dropping, down to 73.5% in 202031, in line with the EU trend

Several measures were put in place to support training centres during COVID-19. ‘ECollege’, an online learning service funded by the Further Education and Training Authority (SOLAS), has been made available free of charge to support learners affected by lockdown measures. The Mitigating against Educational Disadvantage Fund aims to increase the participation of disadvantaged learners in education. To increase fairness and inclusiveness of the further education and training (FET) system, guidance was published for FET professionals to enable the implementation of the universal design for learning, a set of principles for curriculum development to ensure equal opportunities to all learners.

Several measures are being implemented to support the digital and green transition. To address the 2020 country-specific recommendation on ‘digital divide’, Ireland has created the ‘Explore’ and ‘DigiECO’ programmes, which provide digital training to employees, with special focus on people with below-average basic digital skills and older employees. The ‘skills to compete’ scheme, also supported by the RRF, supports those who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It combines three strands of the FET provision: transversal skills development to help employability, building digital capabilities, and specific courses targeting growth sectors and occupations.

In the NRRP, Ireland plans intense activation and reskilling/upskilling opportunities to help jobseekers find employment, and takes a strategic approach to adult learning. The Work Placement Experience programme will offer at least 10 000 places for upskilling and work experience to people who are unemployed for more than 6 months. The recovery skills response programme run by the Further Education and Training Authority (SOLAS) will provide training in green and specific sector skills in growth sectors. In September, Ireland published a 10-year adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy strategy32, also to support the post COVID-19 economic recovery.

The Irish government has adopted a new 2021-2025 pathways to work strategy. It aims to help the unemployed get back to employment through intense activation, upskilling and reskilling opportunities while engaging with employers. The national adult learning organisation (AONTAS) reported that despite additional funding and providers’ and learners’ efforts, adult learning participation for some groups has dropped since the pandemic (e.g. Travellers and Roma, refugees and asylum seekers, people over 50 and people with disabilities)33.

7. Modernising higher education

The tertiary educational attainment rate continues to grow; however, the employment rate of recent graduates dropped in 2020, in line with the EU trend. In 2020, the tertiary attainment rate grew sharply by 3 pps compared to 2019, reaching 58.4%, the second highest rate in the EU (average: 40.5%). This is significantly above the new EU-level target of 45%. The attainment rate among men at 54.5% is the second highest in the EU also, with a decreasing gender gap at 7.7 pps (EU 10.8 pps). The attainment rate among foreign-born people is 63.2%, among the highest in the EU. After a period of steady growth, in 2020, the employment rate of recent graduates was 87.4%, dropping by 3.6 pps compared to 2019 (EU 83.7%, a drop of 1.3 pps). Enrolments in HEIs rose again in 2020 in response to demographic trends and the additional places created in relation to the 2020 leaving certificate circumstances of calculated grading. The participation of international students (over 10%) has been affected by the travel restrictions related to COVID-19, indicating an income loss for the sector. The Irish Universities Association has calculated a loss in revenue of EUR 374 million for Irish universities in the 2020 and 2021 financial years34.

Ireland prepares a new plan to improve inclusiveness in higher education. In 2018/2019, only 10% of the student population came from disadvantaged areas compared to 20% from affluent areas (HEA, 2021). The 2021 report on higher education completion rates also shows major inequalities in higher education, particularly in terms of access to prestigious courses35. Overall, institutes of technology were more likely to represent the local community in their student intake, while there was a more affluent student profile in the university sector. The new 2022-2026 National Access Plan (under preparation) aims to also address the long-term impact of COVID-1936. Early in 2021, EUR 5.4 million was allocated to initiatives aimed at supporting students with disabilities to access higher education37.

Ireland continues upgrading the applied sciences sector. In 2019, the proportion of STEM graduates continued to increase, reaching 25.3% (EU 26%). While the proportions of science and ICT students are high compared to other EU countries, the proportion of engineering and technology students at 10% is among the lowest (Figure 4). In 201838, Ireland established a new form of HEI, the technological university (TU). TUs aim to increase STEM graduate numbers, enhance research-informed teaching and learning, and support enterprise and regional development. In 2020, EUR 34.33 million was allocated to HEIs through the Technological Universities Transformation Fund (TUTF) to help them in their progression towards TU status39. The NRRP aims to complement the TUTF to reform or develop the education and training programmes, which should benefit at least 9 600 students and 4 000 staff from 5 TUs, 3 already established (in Dublin, Munster, and the Midlands and Midwest region) and 2 in development.

Figure 4 - Distribution of students enrolled at tertiary education levels in STEM, 2019 (%)

Source: UOE, [educ_uoe_enrt04]. Note: Data for NL not available. MS are ordered from the lowest to the highest total share of students enrolled in STEM subjects.

Ireland adopts a new law to reform governance and accountability of higher education. The Higher Education Authority Bill 2021 published on 6 May will replace the Higher Education Authority Act of 197140. The new bill aims to advance equality, diversity and inclusion at HEIs, while ensuring they provide accountability and transparency, as well as value-for-money for public funding. The changes constitute the biggest reform in higher education in 50 years and will:

  • significantly slim down university governing bodies;
  • empower the minister to appoint a majority of external members; and
  • provide a legal footing for carrying out reviews into the performance of colleges.

8. References

Central Statistics Office (2021), Social Impact of Covid-19 Survey February 2021: Wellbeing.

Council of the European Union (2019), ‘Council Recommendation on the 2019 National Reform Programme of Ireland and delivering a Council opinion on the 2019 Stability Programme of Ireland’.

Council of the European Union (2020), ‘Council Recommendation on the 2020 National Reform Programme of Ireland and delivering a Council opinion on the 2020 Stability Programme of Ireland’.

Dempsey, M., Burke, J. (2021), Lessons Learned: The experiences of teachers in Ireland during the 2020 pandemic, Maynooth: Maynooth University of Ireland.

Department of Education (2020), Trends in International Maths and Science Study 2019.

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2019), Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe – 2019 Edition. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

European Commission (2020), 2020 Education and Training Monitor, Volume 2 – Country analysis - Ireland. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2020), Roma and Travellers in Six Countries. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Fitzmaurice, O. and E. Ní Fhloinn (2021), Alternative mathematics assessment during university closures due to Covid-19. Irish Educational Studies, 22 April 2021.

Government of Ireland (1999), Social, Personal and Health Education Curriculum: Primary School Curriculum, Dublin: The Stationery Office.

Government of Ireland (2020), First 5: Annual Implementation Report.

Growing Up in Ireland (2020), Growing Up in Ireland: Key Findings Special Covid Survey, Dublin: Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Higher Education Authority (2020), National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework, Dublin: HEA

Higher Education Authority (2021), National Access Plan 2022-2026. Dublin: HEA.

Milosevic, T., Laffan, D., O’Higgins Norman, J. (2021), KiDiCoTi: Kids’ Digital Lives in Covid-19 Times: A Study on Digital Practices, Safety and Wellbeing Key findings from Ireland, Dublin: ABC National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre.

Mohan, G., McCoy, S., Carroll, E., Mihut, G., Lyons, S. and Mac Domhnaill, C. (2020), ‘Learning for All? Second-level Education in Ireland during COVID-19’, ESRI Survey and statistical report series No 92, June 2020.

Murray, A., McClintock, R., McNamara, E., O’Mahony, D., Smyth, E., Watson, D. (2021), Growing Up in Ireland: Key findings from the special COVID-19 survey of Cohorts ’98 and ’08. Dublin: ESRI.

NCCA (2015), Framework for Junior Cycle, Dublin: NCCA.

NCCA (2017), Junior Cycle Wellbeing Guidelines, Dublin: NCCA.

NCCA (2021a), Early Childhood: How Aistear was developed: Research Papers, Dublin: NCCA. Retrieved 29 March 2021

NCCA (2021b), Social Personal and Health Education: Curriculum Framework, Senior Cycle, Dublin: NCCA

Nixon, E. (2021), Growing Up in Ireland: Socio-emotional and behavioural outcomes in early adolescence. Dublin: Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Nolan, A., Smyth, E. (forthcoming 2021), Risk and Protective Factors for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Childhood and Adolescence. Dublin: ESRI.

OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Annex I: Key indicators sources

Indicator Eurostat online data code
Participation in early childhood education educ_uoe_enra21
Low achieving eighth-graders in digital skills IEA, ICILS.
Low achieving 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science OECD (PISA)
Early leavers from education and training Main data: edat_lfse_14.
Data by country of birth: edat_lfse_02.
Exposure of VET graduates to work based learning Data for the EU-level target is not available. Data collection starts in 2021. Source: EU LFS.
Tertiary educational attainment Main data: edat_lfse_03.
Data by country of birth: edat_lfse_9912.
Participation of adults in learning Data for the EU-level target is not available. Data collection starts in 2022. Source: EU LFS.
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP gov_10a_exp
Expenditure on public and private institutions per student educ_uoe_fini04
Upper secondary level attainment edat_lfse_03

Annex II: Structure of the education system

Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2021. The Structure of the European Education Systems 2021/2022: Schematic Diagrams. Eurydice Facts and Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Any comments and questions on this report can be sent to:





4 See Table III.B1.6.7 in OECD, 2019








12 DG EAC own calculations based on Eurostat, UOE, 2019. As a share of GDP it would be 3.1% (EU 4.7%). However, given its specific structure, public expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP for Ireland is not a fully reliable indicator.

13 General government expenditure by function (COFOG) [gov_10a_exp].







20 EU-SILC [ilc_caindformal].

21 Belgium, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom.




25 Eurostat, UOE, edat_lfse_30.


27 The national scheme supporting disadvantaged schools.




31 Eurostat, UOE, edat_lfse_24.