New action plan commits to providing new schools, apprenticeship places and Mandarin classes
A new action plan aims to make the Irish education system the best in Europe by 2026.
The strategy, launched today, focuses on tackling disadvantage and improving skills in schools.
It places particular emphasis on the apprenticeship and traineeship system, setting a target to create 50,000 places between now and 2020.
The plan will also see coding being rolled out a primary school subject from 2018.
Computer science is set to become a Leaving Certificate subject, while work will begin on introducing the teaching of new languages such as Mandarin.
Measures to tackle the cost of education include a requirement on schools to take consideration of the needs of parents when taking decisions that have a financial impact, and extra funding for book rental schemes.
Over 366,000 hours of continuous professional development will be provided to teachers by 2017 – a 4.5% increase on 2016.
A building programme aims to deliver over 60,000 additional permanent school places, over 300 extensions to existing schools and construct 14 new schools by 2021.
Efforts will also be made to increase the number of student teachers from underrepresented socioeconomic groups, such as the Traveller community.
Another target is to achieve a 30% rise in the number of disadvantaged students attending higher-level university.
A separate plan for Deis schools, due to be published by the end of the year, will focus on ensuring they hit the national average for school retention levels within the next decade.
The plan will now be referred to an Oireachtas committee for further consultation before its formal adoption as the Department of Education’s official strategy statement.
Launching the document, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said: "Excellent and innovative education and training are the pivot around which personal fulfillment, a fair society and a successful nation should revolve.
"It is central to sustaining economic success and in converting economic success into building a strong community.
"Our ambition in the action plan is to make Ireland the best education and training service in Europe."
The strategy outlines hundreds of actions and sub-actions to be implemented up to 2019, with timelines and lead responsibility assigned.
An updated plan will be published every year from 2017.
The full document can be read online here.