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The general distribution of responsibilities
Much of the Irish education system’s administration is centralised in the Department of Education. At regional level, the 16 Education and Training Boards are education authorities which have responsibility for a range of statutory functions including youth work, education, and training. At local level, the governance of schools is provided for in the Education Act, 1998 (Government of Ireland, 1998). Further information on the general distribution of responsibilities is available in articles Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level and Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level in the Eurydice national description for Ireland.
The Department of Education
The Department of Education is a department of the Irish state with responsibility for education and training. It is under the direction of the Minister for Education. The Department of Education’s mission is to enable individuals through learning, to achieve their full potential and contribute to Ireland's social, cultural, and economic development. There are 18 Education Agencies which operate under the aegis of the Department of Education. Further information on the Department of Education’s role is available in the article Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level in the Eurydice national description for Ireland.
Curriculum and Examination
Ireland's primary and post-primary schools’ curriculum is determined by the Minister for Education, who is advised by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). NCCA was established on a statutory basis in 2001, to lead developments in curriculum and assessment and to support the implementation of changes resulting from this work.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) was established in 2003. It is responsible for the development, assessment, accreditation and certification of the Irish state’s second-level examinations; the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate. SEC is a non-departmental public body under the aegis of the Department of Education.
Education and Training Boards and Education and Training Board Ireland
Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and Education and Training Board Ireland (ETBI) were established under the Education and Training Boards Act 2013. There are 16 ETBs in Ireland. They are education authorities which have responsibility for a range of statutory functions including youth work, education, and training. ETBs manage and run:
further education colleges,
pilot community national schools,
adult and further education centres delivering education and training programmes.
ETBI collectively represent education and training boards and promote their interests. Its main aim is to promote the development of education, training and youthwork in Ireland. Its role includes:
representing, negotiating and advocating on behalf of member ETBs
consulting and negotiating at national level on behalf of ETB members with Government Departments, Trade Unions and with a range of other relevant bodies and authorities
promoting the development and implementation of appropriate education and training policies, procedures and guidance for member ETBs
conducting research, devising and delivering education and training programmes.
The Higher Education Authority
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The HEA has wide advisory powers throughout the third-level education sector. It is also the funding authority for the universities, Institutes of Technology and a number of designated higher education institutions. Further information on the Governance of Universities is available in the article Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level in the Eurydice national description for Ireland.
Quality and Qualifications Ireland
Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is an independent State agency responsible for promoting quality and accountability in education and training services in Ireland. QQI was established in 2012 by the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012. QQI is responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training (including English language provision) and validates programmes and makes awards for certain providers in these sectors. QQI is also responsible for the maintenance, development and review of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).
National Council for Special Education
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established as an independent statutory body in December 2003. It was set up to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities, with particular emphasis on children.
Skillnet Ireland is the national agency responsible for the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning in Ireland. It was established in 1999 and is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education. Skillnet Ireland funds learning networks that provide subsidised training to companies and employees, and free training to jobseekers. Each year, Skillnet Ireland funds over 50 industry representative groups, supporting over 15,000 companies and 50,000 trainees.
The Teaching Council
The Teaching Council is the professional standards body for the teaching profession, which promotes and regulates professional standards in teaching.
Teachers' Union of Ireland
The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) is a Trade Union organising teachers and lecturers engaged in post-primary, higher and further education in Ireland. TUI represents over 19,000 members in the education service.
Teacher Education Section
The Department of Education’s Teacher Education Section (TES) promotes the quality of teaching and learning through the provision of quality teacher training programmes, Continuing Professional Development and support for principals and teachers. This is done through the teacher education programmes, education centres and support services for teachers at primary and post-primary level.
As stated in Cumasú Empowering through learning, Statement of Strategy 2019-2021 (2019), the Department of Education works with other Government Departments to ensure the advancement of its strategic priorities and on cross-cutting priority areas. These departments include:
- Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
- Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
- Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
- Department of Environment, Climate and Communications
- Department of Foreign Affairs
- Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
- Department of Health
- Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
- Department of Justice
- Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
- Department of Rural and Community Development
- Department of the Taoiseach
The Department of Education also chairs the Sponsors Group; a cross-departmental group to progress implementation of the Online Safety Action Plan 2018-2019 (Government of Ireland, 2018). Other members of the group are the Departments of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Communications, Climate Action and Environment; Children and Youth Affairs; Health; and Justice and Equality.