Irish influence on Western education began 14 centuries ago. From the 6th to the 8th
century, when western Europe was largely illiterate, nearly 1000 Irish missionaries
traveled to England and the Continent to teach Christianity. During the early Middle Ages,
Irish missionaries founded monasteries that achieved extensive cultural influence; the
monastery at Sankt Gallen (Saint Gall), Switzerland, is especially famous for its
contributions to education and literature. Classical studies flowered in ancient Ireland.
Distinctive also at the time were the bardic schools of writers and other learned men who
traveled from town to town, teaching their arts to students. The bardic schools, an
important part of Irish education, were suppressed in the 16th century by Henry VIII, king
of England. University education in Ireland began with the founding of the University of
Dublin, or Trinity College, in 1592. The National University of Ireland, established in
1908 in Dublin, has constituent university colleges in Cork, Dublin, and Galway; another
leading college is Saint Patrick’s College (1795), in Maynooth, affiliated with the
National University. The Irish language has been taught in all government-subsidized
schools since 1922, but fewer than 10,000 pupils speak it as their first language. Ireland
has a free public school system, with attendance compulsory for all children between 6 and
15 years of age. In the late 1980s some 574,000 pupils were enrolled annually in about
3440 elementary schools. Secondary schools, primarily operated by religious orders and
largely subsidized by the state, numbered nearly 600, with an annual enrollment of
approximately 234,000. Yearly enrollment at universities and colleges totaled about
59,500. Ireland also has several state-subsidized training colleges, various technical
colleges in the larger communities, and a network of winter classes that provide
agricultural instruction for rural inhabitants.
Ireland has very old traditions in the field of education, which go
back to the Medieval times, when the Irish monks were one of the main enlightens, the best
keepers of knowledge. Trinity College in Dublin is one of the oldest universities in the
world. The traditions have been successfully survived. Recently the high quality of Irish
education is internationally recognized, more and more people abroad want to come and to
study in Ireland.
The school year in Ireland is from September till June. Primary school
lasts 8 years, then come 6 years of secondary school and the students have to pass the
Living Certificate examination. This certificate shows that the students’ skills are
good enough to enter a college or a university. Each college has its own requirements to
the applicants. Usually 20 persons apply for everyone university seat. The Irish students
are accepted by colleges and universities through the Central Application Office. Each
year Irish colleges and universities accept a number of foreign students, among which are
some Russian students as well.
English language courses are the most popular among the foreign
students. There are more than 150 language schools all over Ireland and a variety of
programs. Some of them are for young children and offer a good mix of learning and
entertainment, like sightseeing, sports, and cultural activities. Professionals and
businessmen can choose an individual program that fits their plans. The quality of
teaching can be compared only with the quality of education in the British schools.
Don’t forget, English is a mother tongue for most of the Irish. However, the Irish
accommodations, despite good quality, are cheaper than the British.
My own opinion is that Ireland is an ideal place to spend vacations,
especially in summer. Mild climate (not hot like that in Moscow), unspoiled nature is a
perfect environment to relax and get new powers in. The Irish language schools offer a
long list of sports – golf, diving, horseriding, cycling, tennis, many team games.
Cultural activities include part-day and all-day excursions to the main tourist
attractions, like castles, observing animals (probably the most popular is a dolphin named
Fungie in Dingle who greets people, who come to visit him in boats). Many of my friends
have travelled to Ireland. They all were speaking about the nice, friendly people, whom
they stayed with, the beautiful nature, and all of them have good English now. If you have
questions, you can mail me – email@example.com.
By Xenia Gerasimova