State’s second-level education rate among highest in OECD

Ireland has second highest completion rate for boys at upper-second level, report finds

Ireland has one of the highest completion rates of upper second-level education, according to the latest OECD report.

Ireland has the third highest completion rate for girls (92 per cent) and the second highest for boys (90 per cent), at upper-second (Leaving Cert cycle) level according to Education at a Glance 2017 which was published on Tuesday.

The report examines the state of education around the world, using the 35 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report says Ireland spends just 1.1 per cent of GDP on third-level education, below the OECD average of 1.6 per cent.


Annual expenditure per student in Ireland is also lower than the OECD average for pre-primary and primary education at around $6,600 (€5,511) and $8,000 (€6,680) respectively, based on data from 2014. The OECD average amount spent by educational institutions per primary student amounted to $8,733 (€7,301).

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said the findings were "a fine testament to a system that is working hard and achieving successful outcomes for Ireland's young people, despite continuing under-investment".

“The report stresses the benefits of investment in education for individuals and countries,” he added. “Adults who have completed second-level are more likely to be in employment, achieve better pay, and are at a lower risk for depression than those with less education.”

Fare badly

Sheila Nunan, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said Irish primary schools fare badly when it comes to funding relative to other levels of education.

“The report which compares education systems across the globe shows that in Ireland, lowest spending is to be found at primary level,” she said. “For every €8 spent on a primary pupil, €11 is spent at second level and €14 at third level.”

The report says “a relatively large share of the Irish population” has attained tertiary, or third-level education.

Almost a quarter of 25-64 year-olds have obtained a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification, 8 per cent have a master’s degree and 1 per cent have a doctorate. A further 13 per cent have attained a “short-cycle” third-level qualification.

“Ireland has both a high share of tertiary-educated people and relatively high earnings for people with a tertiary education,” the OECD states.

“Tertiary-educated workers in Ireland enjoy a somewhat greater earnings advantage than the OECD average. People with a short-cycle tertiary qualification earn 24 per cent more than those with upper secondary education; those with a bachelor’s or equivalent qualification earn 70 per cent more; and those with a master’s doctorate or equivalent title earn 103 per cent more.”

At least 90 per cent of children in Ireland are enrolled in school from the age of five until 18, while the enrolment rate reaches 97 per cent for 15-19 year olds, above the OECD and the highest among countries with data available.

Third-level graduates

Ireland has a larger share of third-level graduates who studied health and welfare (17 per cent), 5 per cent more than the OECD average. The fields with the highest shares of women amongst new entrants are health and welfare (79 per cent) and education (70 per cent).

Women make up the majority of entrants in all fields of study, except for business, administration and law (53 per cent male), information and communication technologies (81 per cent male) and engineering, manufacturing and construction (81 per cent men).

The salaries of some Irish teachers are above average, according to the data collected from the OECD in 2015. It stated that primary teachers working for 10 years receive about $51,815 (€43,235) per annum in comparison to the OECD average of $39,854 (€33,255). Secondary teachers at the top of the scale in Ireland receive about $64, 934 (€54,187) per annum according to the OECD, in comparison to the average of €57,815 (€48,246).

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times