Conradh na Gaeilge calls for clarification & urgent meeting with the Education Minister
Conradh na Gaeilge has strongly criticised the decision of the Department of Education and Skills in the south to replace the state oral examination for Junior Certificate Irish with an in-class oral assessment, voicing concern that neither weaker pupils nor native speakers will be treated fairly under the new structure that will see teachers left to grade their own students, with no independent external assessment.
Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:
“Conradh na Gaeilge believes it will be extremely difficult for teachers to apply an impartial, common standard for Junior Certificate students if there is no structure for external assessment in place, and in the absence of information from the Department of Education as regards to a training programme for teachers to this end, Conradh na Gaeilge fears the new system will damage the students’ standard of spoken Irish.”
Conradh na Gaeilge is very concerned that an oral examination without any external assessment will meet the needs of neither strong nor weak speakers of Irish, especially in the absence of a national standard as a frame of reference giving teachers assessing spoken Irish in the classroom a clear benchmark, and with no current comprehensive training programme in place for these teachers. Teachers’ own linguistic skills are deficient in a certain number of post-primary schools, as highlighted in the Chief Inspector's Report 2010 – 2012 where 33% of post-primary Irish-language teachers were reported as having poor Irish themselves, and Conradh na Gaeilge would have grave doubts as to the ability of these teachers to fairly and adequately assess the language skills of their pupils.
Conradh na Gaeilge is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O'Sullivan TD, to clarify the situation regarding school-based assessment, a national assessment standard, the percentage going for the new Junior Certificate oral examination, and a training programme for teachers.
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge says:
“While it is a step in the right direction to see that every Junior Certificate student will undergo an Irish-language oral examination from September 2017 onwards, Conradh na Gaeilge is not satisfied that an oral exam with no external assessment will actually benefit pupils. There are many unanswered questions that the Department of Education must address in relation to the approach and implementation of the new Irish oral examination at Junior Certificate, and Conradh na Gaeilge wants to arrange an emergency meeting with Minister O’Sullivan as a matter of priority.”
Conradh na Gaeilge is recommending that all Junior Certificate students undergo an independently assessed state oral examination in Irish to ensure high levels of spoken Irish are attained among students.