Skip to Content



Learning Irish and English from an early age


All pupils experience language learning in two languages, English and Irish, from the beginning of their education, at the age of four (this stage is known as Early Childhood), until the age of 11, when they finish Primary School. Languages constitute one of the seven curriculum areas. In Irish-medium schools, pupils learn English and in English-medium schools, pupils will learn Irish.

A document entitled ‘An Introduction to the Primary Curriculum’ states that:

‘It is a particular feature of Irish primary education that children, from the beginning of schooling, have an experience of language learning in two languages. An engagement with the Irish language throughout the period of primary education extends the child’s linguistic experience and deepens cultural awareness. The curriculum recognises that an experience and a knowledge of Irish are important in enabling the child to begin to define and express his or her sense of national and cultural identity.’

For an overview of the Primary Curriculum, click here.

More information on Languages in the Irish Curriculum can be found here.

Final Report on the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative, 1998 – 2012 is available here.


Junior Cycle

Students transfer to secondary education at the age of 12 and enter into a stage the Irish curriculum known as the Junior Cycle, which lasts for 3 years.

The mission of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) is “to enable learners to achieve their full potential and contribute to Ireland’s economic, social and cultural development”. By placing students at the centre of the educational experience, the Junior Cycle education improves learning experiences and outcomes.

The learning at the core of the Junior Cycle is described in twenty-four statements of learning, into which Languages (as a discreet subject) fits in different ways. The statements are underpinned by eight principles, which allow schools a flexible approach in planning, designing and evaluating their Junior Cycle programmes. Schools will have the flexibility to decide what combination of subjects, short courses or other learning experiences will be provided in their three-year programme. English, Mathematics and Irish feature in the Junior Cycle for all students in recognition of the key role played by English and Mathematics in supporting literacy and numeracy and the particular status of Irish in both Irish-medium and English-medium schools. 

The Statement of Study states that students will listen, speak, read and write in the L2 (the second language) at a level of proficiency that is appropriate to his/her ability. L2 may be chosen from the following:

  • Irish (in English-medium schools) / English (in Irish-medium schools)
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Chinese

For more information on the Junior Cycle click here to read the 'Framework for Junior Cycle' by the Dept of Education and Skills, Ireland and here to visit the website.

Senior Cycle

The Senior Cycle may last for 2 or 3 years, up to the ages of 17 or 18. Students may follow a two-year Leaving Certificate programme or they may take an additional optional year at the start of their senior cycle, which is known as the Transition Year.

Most students take the Leaving Certificate examination at the end of their Senior Cycle. Students may choose 6 to 8 subjects from the list of approved subjects, normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level. Two subjects, Irish and Mathematics, can be studied at Foundation Level.

The approved languages that can be studied are Irish (in English-medium schools)/ English (in Irish-medium schools), French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Classical Studies and Hebrew Studies.

For most languages, the syllabus aims to develop learners’ communicative skills in the target language, to develop their strategies for effective language learning and raise their awareness of cultural, social and political diversity. Assessment is by means of a written examination, and an aural and oral examination at two levels, Ordinary level and Higher level.

For more information on the Senior Cycle, click here to visit the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website here.

For more information on examinations in the Republic of Ireland, click here.  


Irish-Medium Education

The Dept. for Education and Skills in the Rep. of Ireland launched a 20 year plan to increase on an incremental basis the use and knowledge of Irish as a community language. Specifically, the Irish Government’s aim is to ensure that as many citizens as possible are bilingual in both Irish and English. You can view this document on the Dept. for Education and Skills website here.

To learn more about Irish-medium Education visit the Gaelscoileanna website here.