Why the Celtic tiger is smiling

28th March 1997 at 00:00
Growth rates in Ireland are among the highest of OECD countries, inflation could be below 2 per cent this year and employment is growing rapidly. Emigration has been replaced by net immigration as graduates, particularly those with software skills as well as skilled crafts, are wooed back home.

Much of the success of the "Celtic tiger" is due to investment in education over two decades and in the past three years that this has paid off with rapid growth in the economy. About 20 per cent of all social expenditure, or 5.3 per cent of GDP, goes on education. The boom has not benefited some parts of the cities where drugs are a major problem and the government is targeting these areas with educational initiatives called "Breaking the Cycle".

Almost one in three out of a population of 3.53 million is in full-time education. That includes more than 91 per cent of 16-year-olds, 82 per cent of 17-year-olds and 64 per cent of 18-year-olds.

Government policy is to increase the percentage of 16 to 18-year-olds completing secondary education to at least 90 per cent by the year 2000. The secondary school leaving certificate is a broad-based programme under which students take on average seven subjects. Around half of those go on to higher education while many of the remainder go on to one or two-year vocational training programmes.

The main expansion in higher education has been in two and three-year certificate and diploma courses in the network of regional technical colleges. This has been helped in large measure by the European Social Fund. Courses supply most of the technicians needed for the rapidly expanding software industry while the universities supply the bulk of those with degrees for the same industry.

There are 100,000 full-time students in publicly funded universities and colleges and the figure is set to rise to 120,000 by the middle of the next decade. The emphasis on technological education has led to a dramatic increase in engineering and science graduates. The percentage is higher in Ireland than in many OECD countries.

There is strong collaboration with industry, particularly in the emerging high-technology sectors.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today