This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2020.
The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process.
The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:
- Early childhood education and care
- School education
- VET and Adult learning
- Higher education
- Transversal skills and Employability
Inside each thematic area, reforms are organized chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.
Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments
Overall National Education Strategy and Key Objectives
Education is central to our nation’s economic, cultural, scientific and social ambitions. Education supports the development of a strong growing economy while sustaining a fair and compassionate society. The Programme for Government states that “Education is the key to giving every child an equal opportunity in life. No child should be left behind in economic recovery and we should use our strengthening economy to become a leader in the provision of world-class education and skills.”
An excellent and innovative education and training system is pivotal to personal fulfilment, the building of a fair society and a successful nation. It is central to sustaining economic success and in converting economic success into building a strong community.
Our central vision is that, through adopting a whole-of-system approach, the Irish education and training system should become the best in Europe. Being the lead in Europe means an ambition to be the best at:
Delivering a learning experience to highest international standards;
Harnessing education to break down barriers for groups at risk of exclusion and setting the benchmark for social inclusion;
Equipping learners of all ages and capacities to participate and succeed in a changing world;
Leading in innovation and a broad range of endeavours; scientific, cultural, enterprise and public service;
Fostering strong relationships between enterprise and education and building strong bridges with the wider community.
Overview of the Education Reform Process and Drivers
The main policy approaches and drivers of reform are:
Interim Review of the National Literacy/Numeracy Strategy 2011-2020;
Delivering Equality Of Opportunity and Inclusion in Schools - 2017 Plan;
On March 7, the Irish government launched Empowering through Learning, the Action Plan for Education 2019, in line with a commitment in the Action Plan for Education 2016 - 2019 to publish more detailed annual Action Plans. The Action Plan is part of Ireland’s broader strategic framework for the education and training sector, as set out in the Department of Education and Skills’ Strategy Statement 2019-2021. The Action Plan is based on five high-level goals to:
Shape a responsive education and training system that meets the needs and raises the aspirations of all learners
Advance the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage and learners with special educational needs in order to support them to achieve their potential
Equip education and training providers with the skills and support to provide a quality learning experience
Intensify the relationships between education and the wider community, society and the economy
Lead in the delivery of strategic direction and supportive systems in partnership with key stakeholders in education and training
The Plan details over 220 actions to be achieved before the end of 2019, in order to make progress towards these goals. The publication of an annual plan within a broader strategic framework enables the Department to respond in an agile way to the demands of the challenging and complex environment while maintaining a strategic focus for sustainable reform.
The Plan takes account of national and sectoral priorities and commitments contained in Our Public Service 2020 (the national public service reform plan), the National Skills Strategy, the Action Plan for Rural Development, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures-The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, the ICT Skills Action Plan, and other relevant cross-governmental policy frameworks.
Progress on implementation is monitored through published quarterly progress reports and annual reviews.
Our key focus for 2019 includes:
Promoting and encouraging quality, excellence and innovation;
Meeting critical skills gaps;
Leading in key enabling technologies;
Championing inclusion; and
Increasing participation in lifelong learning.
Policy emphasis across the continuum of education from early years to higher education includes:
Taking action to strengthen STEM;
Using digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning and assessment;
Increasing competence in foreign languages;
Initiating a review of senior cycle programmes;
Tackling disadvantage, strengthening inclusion and supporting transitions;
Building leadership capacity and actively supporting a professional workforce;
Continuously improving quality including embedding a new model of inspections and a review of higher education;
Strengthening entrepreneurship and innovation;
Focused engagement with enterprise; and
Enhancing career opportunities and developing strong alternative pathways including Further Education and Training (FET), traineeships and apprenticeships.