Junior cycle (lower secondary education) lies within the compulsory period of education and is usually taken by pupils between the ages of 12 and 15. The aims and intended outcomes of junior cycle emphasise the importance of pupils experiencing a broad, balanced and coherent programme of study across a wide range of curriculum areas in order to prepare them for transition to senior cycle education. This is achieved by ensuring that pupils encounter an educational programme that covers a number of areas of experience.
The junior cycle aims to
reinforce and further develop in the young person the knowledge, understanding, attitudes, skills and competencies acquired at primary level
extend and deepen the range and quality of the young person’s educational experience in terms of knowledge understanding, skills and competencies
develop the young person’s personal and social confidence, initiative and competence through a broad, well balanced, general education
prepare the young person for the requirements of further programmes of study, of employment or of life outside full time education
contribute to the moral and spiritual development of the young person and develop a tolerance and respect for the values and beliefs of others
prepare the young person for the responsibilities of citizenship in the national context and in the context of the wider European and global communities.
Areas of experience
Language Literature and Communication
It is through language that pupils learn about themselves, others and the world around them. It is the key to learning and is supported across a wide range of curriculum contexts. Through language development they develop critical and cultural awareness
Mathematical Studies and Applications
This area of experience supports the development of awareness of patterns and relationships in shape and number as well as skills in estimation and measurement. It is encountered across a wide range of curriculum contexts. At the heart of this area of experience is the skill of problem-solving.
Science and Technology
This area of experience brings the pupils into contact with the world around them, and invites them to discover, understand and manipulate the processes which drive it. It supports the development of inquiry and curiosity as well as creativity and ingenuity
Social, Political and Environmental Education
Pupils learn about the physical, social and cultural forces which have shaped the world in which they live and discover how they will contribute to shaping the lives of future generations
Through this area of experience pupils can develop practical and perceptual skills which promote intellectual and aesthetic development. Curriculum in support of this will emphasise reflection and self-expression and the acquisition of critical skills
The physical and mental well being of pupils can be supported through this area of experience. Pupils can develop and practise physical skills, participate in individual and team activities and learn how to set and reach challenging goals.
Religious and Moral Education
This area of experience brings the pupils into contact with questions of meaning, purpose and value, and provides opportunities for reflecting on how contemporary society, and previous generations have engaged with these questions.
Guidance, Counselling and Pastoral Care
A wide range of personal and social skills is associated with this area of experience which focuses on the pupils’ own lives as young people and their future lives as adults in society.
Programmes of study
The programme of study followed in junior cycle varies. Almost all pupils take courses leading to the Junior Certificate, the State examination taken at the end of the third year of junior cycle when pupils are 15 years of age.
The NCCA undertakes review of junior cycle on a continuous basis. Currently there are several strands to this review, including initiatives related to assessment for learning, transition from primary to post-primary school, and curriculum overload/overlap. In addition, a number of general areas of work within the NCCA have relevance for junior cycle review. These include developments in the areas of Information and Communications Technology, Special Educational Needs and Intercultural Education.
The booklet: A Brief Description of the Irish Education System published by the Department of Education and Science contains a useful overview of junior cycle education and the education system in general.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment:
Junior Certificate Syllabuses and Guidelines for Teachers
Junior Certificate School Programme
Junior Cycle Review