Uptick in numbers studying remotely at third-level institutions

Those in apprenticeships more than double in past five years, according to education data

In 2019, 74% of women aged 25-34 years had a post-secondary education or higher compared to 66% of men of the same age. File photograph: Getty

In 2019, 74% of women aged 25-34 years had a post-secondary education or higher compared to 66% of men of the same age. File photograph: Getty

 

The number of students studying remotely in Irish third-level institutions increased significantly in the years before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.

The Department of Education report, published on Monday, reveals those studying part-time or in flexible way, including remote online learning, has increased steadily, rising by more than a third from 6,015 in 2015 to 9,207 in 2018. The number of higher-education students studying on a flexible basis also increased by 17 per cent during the same time period.

The number of students studying part-time in higher education rose by more 13 per cent between 2015 and 2018. But those receiving support in the form of grants in the past five years has dropped significantly, falling from 80,622 in 2015 to 71,347 in 2019, according to Education Indicators for Ireland which is designed to map trends in the sector over a five year period.

The number of people taking up apprenticeships after secondary school more than doubled over the past five years, rising from 8,317 in 2015 to 17,829 in 2019.

Numbers in full-time higher education, including universities, institutes of technology and colleges, rose by 3 per cent to 185,474 between 2015 and 2018.

At school level, the average pupil-teacher ratio in primary stood at 15.0 in 2019 while in secondary it was 12.8.

The number of pupils in primary schools increased from 553,380 in 2015 to 567,716 in 2018 while secondary school figures rose from 345,550 to 371,450 during the same time.

Despite the increase in primary school students, the number of schools available to them dropped from 3,277 in 2015 to 3,240 in 2018. Two more schools were added to the list in 2019 bringing the total number of primary schools to 3,242.

However, more than 55,000 additional permanent places have been made available in primary schools over the past five years.

The number of post-primary schools rose from 709 in 2015 to 723 in 2019 and more than 26,000 additional permanent places were made available.

The number of children in pre-school under the Early Childhood and Care Education (ECCE) scheme jumped significantly between 2015 and 2016 – from 77,449 to 120,843 – before steadily dropping each year since. In 2019, there were 105,978 children in ECCE pre-school childcare.

Teacher numbers have steadily risen over the past five years with 37,839 primary school teachers working in 2019, compared to 34,576 in 2015. There are 29,093 secondary school teachers working compared to 25,123 five years ago.

The number of students taking a Leaving Cert programme has continued to rise with 86,347 sitting an LC programme in 2019 while the number of transition year students increased by more than 16 per cent between 2015 and 2019.

The number of 6th year students studying at least one foreign language has continued to drop each year since 2015. Only 67 per cent of male leaving cert students studied at least one foreign language for in 2019 compared to nearly 85 per cent of 6th year girls.

Nine out of 10 students in Ireland attend primary schools with a Catholic ethos with 8 per cent of primary school students in Irish language schools. Just half of secondary school students attend Catholic-ethos schools with 3.6 per cent in Irish language post-primary education.

In 2019, there were 153 multi/inter denominational and 250 Irish-language primary schools with 352 multi/inter denominational and 69 Irish language secondary schools.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

The number of students receiving direct support from a National Educational Psychological Service psychologist dropped by nearly 14 per cent between 2018 and 2019 while the number assessed under the Scheme for Commission of Pyschological Assessments has also significantly dropped in recent years, from 2,683 in 2016 to 966 in 2019.

Significantly more boys than girls continue to take Stem-related courses at second level. Some 72.5 per cent of 6th year boys took one or more Stem subject (excluding maths and biology) in 2019 compared to just 41. 6 per cent of 6th year girls. However, more than 85 per cent of 6th year girls took one or more Stem subject when only Maths was excluded, compared to 90 per cent of 6th year boys.

Retention rates in Deis secondary schools to Leaving Cert level has hardly changed in recent years, with an 83.8 per cent retention level in 2019 compared to 82.7 per cent five years ago. The percentage of early school leavers has marginally increased from 4.3 per cent in 2016 to 4.9 per cent last year.

There are nearly 15,800 special needs assistants working across the country with 2,560 in special schools, 9,948 in primary schools and 3,291 in secondary schools.

The number of international students attending public and private third-level institutions increased by 17 per cent between 2015 and 2018 while the number of English language students increased by 12 per cent during the same time period.

In 2019, 74 per cent of women aged 25-34 years had a post-secondary education or higher compared to 66 per cent of men of the same age.