English language education
Ireland is a popular destination for people who are interested in learning English. There are many schools and courses available nationwide that cater for everyone from business executives and students who want to improve their English language proficiency, to those who want to learn how to teach English as a foreign language.
The majority of English language education (ELE) schools in Ireland are privately run and provide students with a full package of tuition, homestay accommodation and extra-curricular activities. The majority of schools offer preparation programmes for the major English language examinations, such as TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge and Trinity College (London). English language teaching (ELT) programmes are also available at many private schools and a number of universities (University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Galway, Dublin City University agus University of Limerick).
Accreditation and Co-ordination of English Language Services (ACELS)
It is important to ensure that high standards exist throughout the ELE sector and that courses in ELE schools in Ireland are comparable with other international courses. The Department of Education and Skills has given Accreditation and Co-ordination of English Language Services (ACELS) the responsibility for monitoring the ELE sector. Since January 2011 ACELS is part of Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).
The list of recognised ELE schools and organisations in Ireland is published on an annual basis and is available on the ACELS web site.
Since 2015, on foot of a court case ruling, ACELS has been unable to accept applications from new ELE schools. A new International Education Mark for the ELE sector is due to be introduced in 2019.
Regulations governing ELE schools
New schools receive two inspection visits, 10 months apart. If ACELS is satisfied after the second inspection, the school is officially recognised. ACELS will inspect existing schools at least once every three years to make sure that they are adhering to the regulations. While this is normal practice, it has the authority to visit or inspect a school at all reasonable times.
ACELS has a number of criteria that it uses to determine if a school is worthy of official recognition, which includes the following:
- All premises used by the school must comply with the Schedule of Required Standards prepared by ACELS. These standards include local authority requirements in planning, construction, water supply, sewage disposal, fire precautions and general safety. Schools must also be properly heated and ventilated and provide adequate facilities (learning and recreational) for students.
- Schools must have the correct public and employer liability insurance cover and all employment legislation and health and safety legislation must be complied with. Safety statements and logs must be available for inspection.
- Schools must adhere to all the immigration requirements for students laid down by the Department of Justice and Equality.
- The courses provided by schools must be educationally sound and have content appropriate to their stated objectives.
- Course programmes should clearly state the number of tuition hours. The number of hours should normally not be less than 15 per week.
- Students should be placed in class according to competence and age and there should normally be no more than 15 students per class.
- A complete schedule of supervised activities must form an essential part of all junior programmes.
- If it is appropriate, the school's courses should reflect Irish life and culture.
- All teachers working in language schools must have a Level 7 degree and taken a recognised ELT certificate course.
- The school must make sure that arrangements are in place for teacher induction and that ongoing teacher development is provided.
- Each school must have a person with appropriate skills, experience and qualifications in the field of academic management to deal with the needs of the curriculum. This person must be available to students and staff during a normal working day.
- All information contained in advertising and promotional material (brochures, etc.) must be clear, accurate and verifiable.
- In circumstances where students are referred to other organisations for tuition, the organisations must be recognised by ACELS as an English language teaching organisation. ACELS may at any time withdraw recognition from an organisation. Refusal/withdrawal of recognition from one centre may, at the discretion of ACELS, lead to the refusal/withdrawal of recognition from an organisation as a whole.
- Only centres that have been inspected by ACELS at specified addresses and for which recognition has been obtained can be advertised in publicity material claiming recognition by ACELS.
Requirements for host family accommodation
If accommodation is organised by the school, it must meet the required standards for host family accommodation or residential accommodation. The first requirement is that the student should be well looked after and treated as a member of the family during their stay.
The following facilities should be made available to the student:
- A comfortable bed with good supply of quality bedclothes and weekly change of bed linen
- Adequate space for clothes storage
- Laundry or reasonable access to a washing machine
- Table and chair in bedroom for private study or access at all times to another room with study facilities
- Free access to a bathroom and bath or shower daily
- Adequate heating, lighting and ventilation.
Each host family can accommodate up to three students, but only one student of any particular mother tongue. There should only be two students to a room at any time and a well-balanced and varied diet should be provided. ELE organisations offering residential programmes are required to have the accommodation approved by Fáilte Ireland. Further details are available from ACELS and schools must carry out regular checks on the accommodation they provide for students.
The purpose of ELT courses is to familiarise candidates with current practices in teaching English as a foreign language. Courses also instruct candidates how to construct and teach a series of lessons appropriate to the level and needs of language learners. ELT courses are run in many private schools and a number of universities. They range from basic introductory courses to courses designed to prepare candidates for the workplace. More in-depth courses aimed at ELT professionals interested in further professional development are also available from both private schools and universities.
Test of Interactive English
The Test of Interactive English (TIE) - for English language learners. The test is task-based, with the content chosen by each individual learner, and can therefore be used to assess learners with different needs, such as those learning English for business, academic or general purposes. Learners' communicative and interactive skills are tested in both predictable and spontaneous situations and they must complete both an oral and written exam. The test is offered in two formats:
- The Junior TIE: for English language learners aged 12-18 years.
- The TIE: for English language learners of 18+ (post secondary).
Assessment of the TIE is given according to the Council of Europe's Common Framework Scale of Language Proficiency.
Marketing English in Ireland (MEI)
MEI is an industry body, which represents the majority of recognised ELE schools in Ireland. All members of MEI are recognised and regulated by ACELS. The functions of MEI can be defined by the following categories, each of which has a sub-committee made up from members of the association:
- Quality and Standards
- Education and Training
- Government Liaison
- Industry Liaison
Complaints about English language schools
If you have any complaints about ELE schools, you should contact ACELS - see 'Where to apply' below, which is responsible for monitoring the standards in these schools.
Information about fees for the application for the recognition of ELE organisations by ACELS are in the Regulations Governing the Recognition of English Language Teaching Organisations on the ACELS website.
How to apply
The Test of Interactive English is administered by Interactive English Language Tests (IELT) Ltd and applications are usually made through the candidates' language school or college. You should contact IELT at least 14 working days before your preferred test date to check availability. You can then apply using the TIE application form (pdf).
Where to apply