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Number of students entering third-level education boosted by pandemic


The Coronavirus pandemic has directly contributed to a sharp rise in students going from secondary to third-level education last year.

The reason for the spike in education was probably a mix of inflated Leaving Cert grades and the fact that school-leavers weren't allowed to travel abroad because of public health restrictions.

After the traditional exams were abandoned in favor of calculated grades, grades were higher, and more places in third-level colleges and universities were created to meet increased demand.

Education Indicators For Ireland noted that the number of people on apprenticeships almost doubled over the past year. The amount went up almost 90% between 2016 and 2020.


Teachers have increased by more than 7,000 since 2016, from 61,942 to 69,343. The pupil-teacher ratio has gone down from 15.7 to 14.5 in primary schools, and from 13.4 to 12.3 in post-primary schools.

There have also been significant increases in the number of special needs pupils in mainstream primary schools, from 4,836 in 2016 to 7,510 in 2020, while special needs assistants (SNAs) have gone from 12,634 to 17,713 in the same period.

According to the Department of Education, there are still very few girls taking STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects other than maths and biology. The percentage of schools offering two foreign languages is increasing, as is the percentage of students taking a foreign language other than French in the Leaving Cert.


As of 2020, 40% of boys in sixth year are taking at least two STEM subjects, while only 8% of girls are. These numbers have barely increased since 2016, despite repeated calls for more STEM students to supply the future workforce.

Education Minister Norma Foley said: "I'm pleased with the publication of the report, which provides a snapshot of the whole education system and provides us with invaluable tools to formulate future policy. We are encouraged by the fact that several key indicators continue to trend in a positive direction. We'll keep working to address these key areas and ensure there is progress throughout the education sector."


"This report offers a great opportunity to assess what we've achieved, and what more needs to be done to make Ireland a world-class education centre." said Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.


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