Education in Ireland

An OECD Assessment of the Senior Cycle Review

image of Education in Ireland

Ireland is undertaking a review of their senior cycle (upper secondary education) led by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). It aims at collecting the views of all relevant stakeholders to identify the strengths and challenges of senior cycle in its current form, and identify priority issues and actions to move forward. As part of OECD’s implementing education policies project, an OECD team was invited to support the review of Ireland’s senior cycle. The team has carried out the assessment presented here and provided strategic advice based on four analytical aspects: smart policy design, inclusive stakeholder engagement, conducive context and a coherent implementation strategy. Each one of these dimensions matters to ensure that the review of senior cycle can move forward based on evidence and with strong support from stakeholders.


Senior cycle in Ireland

This chapter introduces the characteristics of the current senior cycle in Ireland to understand the review process and its potential development. It identifies several strengths: senior cycle aims to cater to the needs of different types of students; its Transition Year is highly valued by students; in general terms, the formal aims and learning methodologies stated in senior cycle programmes seem to be aligned with international good practice; and the final assessment enjoys high levels of trust.On the other hand, there are issues in the current senior cycle that require attention: the vision of senior cycle does not appear to be fully aligned with Ireland’s future aspirations; the final Leaving Certificate assessment seems to drive (excessively) decisions that students, parents, teachers and schools make; there is perception of misalignment with the recent junior cycle reform among some stakeholders; and there is a perception that limited resources might jeopardise effective provision of a broad range of subject choices in disadvantaged schools.


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