Ireland, one of the high-performing education systems across OECD countries, is committed to high quality education and to adapting its system to the challenges that the future presents. Upper secondary is a key stage in the education trajectory of any individual, and holds a key role in Ireland’s strategy to enhance an already robust education system. In a current effort to explore ways to adapt and improve in a rapidly changing world, Ireland embarked on a review of its senior cycle (upper secondary education).

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) led the review and invited the OECD to provide strategic advice to inform the process. To fulfil this role, the NCCA carried out an ambitious consultation process involving a large variety of participants across Ireland. Many students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and other stakeholders (such as unions, employers and higher education institutions) have expressed their views and contributed to a constructive debate about the present and future of senior cycle in the country. This was not an easy journey, but it demonstrated the value of engaging stakeholders in policy discussions and hearing their views about potential solutions. The consultative nature of this exercise should be considered a major success for the education community in Ireland.

In this process, the OECD has engaged with Ireland to provide analysis to support the review process as part of its Implementing Education Policies programme. The assessment presented in this document aims to take stock of Ireland’s senior cycle review process, provide feedback on progress made and offer recommendations to inform next steps. As countries aim to achieve excellence, equity and efficiency in education, one of the aims for the OECD’s Implementing Education Policies programme is to provide implementation support to close the gap between educational aspirations and performance by providing strategic advice, and ensuring the integration of different stakeholders in all stages of the policy implementation process.

This document is grounded on evidence and contextualised with the views of Irish education stakeholders. The OECD’s assessment presented in this document aims at supporting the education community in Ireland to fulfil their aspirations and respond to their needs for this system to continue as a top performer and world reference in education.


Andreas Schleicher

Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General

Director for Education and Skills

This report was completed in February 2020. The analysis presented does not consider any potential effects of the COVID-19 epidemic and how they may have affected education systems.

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