New figures show that 90.6pc of students who started second-level in 2008 sat the final exam in 2013 or 2014, depending on whether they did Transition Year.
It continues a trend that started after the recession hit and killed off traditional job opportunities for early school-leavers in areas such as retail and construction.
This is the third year in a row that the figure show nine in 10 first year students staying on to do the Leaving Cert.
The dramatic change is obvious when the latest school completion rate is compared with a decade earlier, when 83.6pc of first years went on to sit the Leaving Certificate.
However, students from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds still lag behind when it comes to staying on in school – although the gap is narrowing.
While completion rates in schools covered by the Department of Education’s DEIS scheme for disadvantaged areas also improved significantly over the past decade, the average number of pupils in those schools completing their second-level education was a lower, 82.1pc.
But, while the overall retention rate is up from 90.1pc the previous year, in schools in disadvantaged areas it climbed from 80.4pc.
The figures also show a continuing narrowing of the gap between the sexes as increasing numbers of boys stay on in schools.
Of students starting second-level in 2008, 91.93pc of females and 89.26pc males completed the Leaving Cert.. The gap of 2.67pc is down from 3.59pc the previous year
Ireland is ahead of the EU average of 81pc for the number of 20-24-year-olds who have completed post-primary education and has the eighth highest completion rate across the 28 member states.
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan welcomed the positive nature of the latest statistics, but said it was a cause of concern that almost one in ten students were not completing secondary school.
She said while many of these students are choosing other educational and training pathways such as apprenticeships and Youthreach courses, but there was a proportion leaving school without any plan.
“This is a serious problem and those students who drop out of formal education as teenagers limit their life chances. Continuing to improve retention rates, and to ensure that those who chose to leave school pursue an alternative career or training path is important work that will continue,” she said.
Katherine Donnelly, Irish Independent