With the possibility that the status of the language will be lowered at Leaving Cert level in the wake of the 2011 general election, Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta invited interested parties to an emergency meeting in the Menlo Hotel, Headford Road, Galway, this weekend.
Educational organisations, teacher trade unions, Irish-language organisations, summer colleges, mná tí representatives, youth organisations, and Gaeltacht groups, were amongst the groups that attended the Conradh na Gaeilge agus Guth na Gaeltachta meeting, and Éamonn Mac Niallais, a spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta, feels it was a good, spirited meeting:
"We wanted to demonstrate to the politicians of the country that all of the interested parties in the Irish-language community are united on this point with the 2011 general election drawing closer quicker than ever. There will be a strong campaign to ensure that every political party supports the demand that Irish should remain as a core-subject that every student studies for the Leaving Cert; the way forward is to radically change the way that Irish is taught and learned."
Éamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, assured the Conradh na Gaeilge delegation that the Labour Party will support the language community and will ensure that Irish remains as a core Leaving Cert subject at a meeting with the Irish organisation earlier this week.
Speaking of the next stage of the campaign, Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said:
"Conradh na Gaeilge are organising public meetings across the country in conjunction with Guth na Gaeltachta, to give people the opportunity to show their support for this critical campaign, as it is imperative to ensure the support of all the political parties for keeping Irish as a core Leaving Cert subject." Show your support and vote for the Irish language!
Julian de Spáinn
General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge
Phone: 01 4757401 / 086 8142757
Éamonn Mac Niallais
Spokesperson, Guth na Gaeltachta
Phone: 074 9532208 / 087 6387468
Reasons to teach Irish to everyone as a core-subject until Leaving Cert level:
- o 93% of the country's population want to revive the Irish language (ESRI)
- o 1.6 million people in the country have Irish (2006 Census)
- o 79% of people are of the option that another subject should be taught through Irish at primary school level (Ipsos MRBI 2010)
- o 65% of people (aged 15 - 24) are of the option that Irish should be compulsory for the Leaving Cert (Ipsos MRBI 2010)
- o Learning Irish as a second language helps people to learn even more languages, fostering a better understanding of other cultures and furthering Europe's policy of multilingualism
- o A student who doesn't take Irish at Leaving Cert is losing out on employment opportunities, as any job applicant with the added skill of fluency in Irish has an immediate advantage over someone with no Irish - translators at home & in Europe; doctors in hospitals; producers in the media; etc.
Recommendations to improve the teaching of Irish:
The following are recommendations to improve the teaching and learning of Irish in our schools:
- All trainee teachers should be taught through Irish in an all-Irish environment, learning through and about immersion education in Irish, for the equivalent of one academic year of their training course, divided over the total length of their course and including the vital first few weeks. Students to be given the option to complete the entire course through Irish if they so wish;
- Two syllabi should be developed for Irish at second level with two different examination papers for the Leaving Certificate and the Junior Certificate exams:
- Teanga na Gaeilge, or the Irish Language, to be taught to every student, where language awareness, comprehension, spoken, reading and written skills would be taught and assessed using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL);
- Litríocht agus Saíocht na Gaeilge for higher level students only where Irish-language literature and cultural historical context would be taught in conjunction with Teanga na Gaeilge at the appropriate level.
The recommendations of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 - 2030 should also be implemented, including:
- Teaching another subject matter, in addition to Irish, through Irish to every primary school student on a phased basis, with adequate support and training provided (drama, PE, art or other);
- To increase the tuition time and attendance of student teachers who attend Gaeltacht courses, and to give current primary teachers the chance to attend intensive courses in the Gaeltacht;
Problems with making Irish optional:
- Every level of education depends on the other - should Irish be made optional for Leaving Cert, there would be less emphasis on the language at Junior Cert level and in primary school even.
- Languages have been optional for the GCSE in England since 2011, and the number of students studying languages has dropped dramatically from 78% in 2001 to 44% in 2009. Moreover this figure would be even lower still had a number of private schools not retained languages as compulsory.
- Less second level students could continue on to study to be primary school teachers.
- Second level Irish teachers would progressively lose their jobs.
- A number of Irish summer colleges would close, despite playing a vital role in encouraging young people to speak Irish and in supporting the local economy, especially in Gaeltacht areas.
- The connection between language learners and native speakers of Irish.
Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community working to promote the language. There are 200 branches of Conradh na Gaeilge and since its foundation in 1893, members of the Conradh have been actively promoting Irish in every aspect of life in Ireland and especially its use in their own areas. Conraitheoirí are at the forefront of campaigns to secure and strengthen the rights of the Irish language community. It is also possible to register as an individual member of the Conradh. www.cnag.ie
Guth na Gaeltachta is a non-political, cross-party campaign concerned with the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. This community campaign was founded in the Gaeltacht in August 2009 to inform the public on the effect the proposed cuts for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht would have, and to oppose such cuts. This campaign will focus wholly and completely on Irish language and Gaeltacht issues only. www.guthnag.ie