Overhauling the Teaching of Irish

Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Colm Hamrogue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, and Nikolai Trigoub-Rotnem, President of the Union of Secondary Students, launched a nationwide campaign for a major overhaul of the teaching of Irish in our schools. They are seeking all-party support in the run-up to the general election for the education policy they announced at a press conference on Monday, 05 February 2007, at 11.00 a.m. in the Georgian Suite, Buswells Hotel, Dublin and a commitment to include the policy in the next programme for Government.

The policy announced included three main recommendations:

  1. All trainee primary school teachers to be taught through Irish in an all-Irish environment, learning through and about immersion education, for the equivalent of one academic year of their training course, divided over the total length of that 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.
  2. One subject, along with Irish, to be taught through Irish to all primary pupils, initially on a pilot basis with the necessary support and training;
  3. Two syllabi to be developed for Irish at second level with two separate examination papers for the Leaving Certificate and the Junior Certificate:-
  • "Irish Language" to be taken by all students: teaching and assessing the skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing using the Common European Framework as reference and encompassing language awareness.
  • "Irish Literature" to be taken by all higher level students and taught in an integrated manner with the "Irish Language" element at the appropriate level.

This will allow students at Foundation and Ordinary level to concentrate on acquiring Irish and have only one paper to sit at Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate level.  The work load of literature for higher level students will be recognised by marking "Irish Literature" as an extra subject.

Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, President of Conradh na Gaeilge said: "Many strides have been taken in recent years toward ensuring the future of Irish: TG4, status as an official EU language, the Official Languages Act which is increasing the level and quality of public services in Irish and the growth of Irish medium education.

"However, the teaching of Irish in English medium schools, which cater for over 90% of school goers, produce very few fluent speakers of Irish and the syllabus is often the cause of frustration for students, parents and teachers alike. The policy that we are proposing to address this is based on best international practice, could be implemented on a phased basis over the lifetime of the next government, and would radically improve the acquisition of Irish in our schools.

"These reforms must be part of, and a step toward, an integrated language curriculum. Languages are acquired by use and practice. Other methodologies do not bear fruit."

Colm Hamrogue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland said: "Many trainee teachers leaving their education colleges are not satisfied with their command of the Irish language. They deserve the necessary training.

"Language teachers at second level spend a year of their third level course on the Erasmus programme achieving an adequate command of the language they will teach in the future. What we are proposing will provide a similar experience for primary school trainee teachers."

Nikolai Trigoub-Rotnem, President of the Union of Secondary Students, said: "The current system of teaching Irish is failing many students and it is in need of a new innovative, exciting and fresh approach.

"There is lack of emphasis in our second level schools on Irish as a spoken language and too much of an emphasis on Irish language literature. The new system for second level which we are proposing today will encourage students to learn the four basic skills of understanding, listening, reading and writing especially at Ordinary and Foundation level, while at the same time recognising the workload of literature at Higher level."

Co-ordinators for the campaign have being appointed in most constituencies at this stage and they will be promoting debate and highlighting this educational policy in the general election campaign. They will be asking all candidates to sign a pledge of support for the policy.

 USI's press release regarding the launch of the initiative can be downloaded here.

Further information:
Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh
President, Conradh na Gaeilge.
01 4757401 / 087 2368364
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Julian de Spáinn
General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge.
01 4757401 / 086 8142757
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Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge