More Info – English

Aim of the campaign

To strengthen and defend the Irish language in our education system and to ensure that every student can have a positive, meaningful and fulfilling Irish language learning experience from preschool to third level

Objectives of the campaign

  1. To achieve a comprehensive policy for the Irish language in our education system from pre-school to third level, with the following three core-policies included in the policy:
    • the current Gaeltacht Education Policy
    • a policy for Irish-medium education
    • a policy for education that functions through the medium  of English
    • Such an education system would be much more inclusive and cater for all students satisfactorily and at their level of ability
  2. To protect Irish as a core leaving certificate subject
  3. Secure the support of the public for the campaign
  4. Participate in any discussion of the Irish language in the education system on social media or in the traditional media

Why should Irish be kept as a core Leaving Certificate subject?

  1. According to a survey from Kantar Millward Brown in 2019, 60% of young people (aged 15-24) are in favour of keeping Irish as a core leaving subject and only 19% were opposed to it
  2. Any student who does not take Irish for the Leaving Certificate will lose many employment and career opportunities, not only in primary teaching but in other professions also
  3. It cannot be assumed that Irish will be available to all school students if it were optional in the schools. The provision of any subject depends on different conditions: demand from students, supply of teachers, rooms, etc.
  4. If Irish was an optional subject it would go into a pot where everything from Art to Home Economics to Music to Chemistry would also be included. Remember also that there are more subjects been added to the pot all the time – for example, physical education, politics and computer science, etc.
  5. If this system comes in, at least in some cases, students with special needs would not be allowed / not have the opportunity to study Irish
  6. Each level in the school is interdependent – if Irish is optional for the Leaving Certificate there will be less emphasis on Irish in the Junior Certificate or even in primary school
  7. When modern foreign language learning was made optional place in England at GCSE, the number of people studying languages ​​fell from 79% in 2001 in the age group to 41% in 2018. This number would much lower still but some private schools kept foreign language learning compulsory
  8. Irish second-level teachers would gradually lose jobs
  9. It would end many summer colleges in the Gaeltacht, which would cause huge damage to those Gaeltacht areas
  10. PEIG was removed from the Leaving Cert 20 years ago

Why would students not choose Irish if Irish was optional for the Leaving Certificate?

  1. There would be pressure on pupils, due to the points system, to choose the subjects identified as ‘easy’ subjects and Irish (and other languages) could suffer
  2. Irish would compete with other subjects required for third level (e.g., biology is needed for medicine)
  3. The public discourse connects Irish & stress. Neither parents nor students will want to put that ‘stress’ on themselves
  4. Irish will no longer be available in all schools.
  5. There would be a discouragement from Primary school for Irish

Apt Quote:

“We could make it optional for Leaving Certificate; and after a few years we might come to think that it should be optional for Junior Certificate too; and after that – well, what’s the point of bothering with compulsory Irish at primary level, if it’s going to be taken only by a tiny minority at second level? If we follow this path, we may well find that by the end of this decade Ireland has sold its linguistic birthright and staked its entire future – cultural, political, economic – on the continuing international dominance of English. On the other hand, we can respond by taking seriously the linguistic challenge of the European project; recognizing that Irish belongs not just to Ireland’s but to Europe’s linguistic heritage; taking note of the empirical fact that the more languages you learn, the easier it becomes; insisting that Ireland’s membership of Europe requires us to make foreign language learning a compulsory part of schooling; and seeking ways of achieving more effective learning outcomes. This kind of response requires political commitment and a coherent national effort leading to a language education policy capable of generating an integrated language curriculum that in turn can facilitate pedagogical reform.”

Professor David Little from The future of languages in Irish education: policy, curriculum, pedagogy

From Compulsion to Choice in the Civil Service – Spelling Disaster for the Language:

When the necessity to have Irish to get a job in the civil service was removed as an entry requirement in 1974, the number of staff in a position to provide services in Irish fell drastically throughout the entire civil service. For example, a mere 1.5% of staff in the Department of Education and Skills are now competent enough to provide services through Irish today. This fact contradicts the theory that the use of Irish in the civil service would flourish if an end was put to the compulsion to have the language, as purported by Fine Gael in 1974:

“The government is fully confident that this policy change, which promotes encouragement instead of compulsion, will result in increased goodwill towards the Irish language and will help to widen language use inside and outside the Civil Service.”

Minister Richie Ryan, 5 December 1974

Indeed, Conor Cruise O’Brien – who was a Minister in the same Government – admitted that he regretted that such a decision had been made:

“…I would say that without a doubt Irish was reduced in status. Therefore, in retrospect, I do not believe we did the right thing. And I am very sorry about it.”

Former Minister Conor Cruise O’Brien, 24 August 1984

Why do we think the new system for exemptions from learning Irish is not satisfactory:

  1. It is the incorrect approach to solving the problem. People should be enabled and supported to be bilingual (and have the cognitive advantages) rather than disabling them
  2. There is no research showing that a person with dyslexia cannot learn a language. There will be literacy difficulties in the other language also but they do not affect the spoken language.
  3. It is said in the new circular that a student with a standardised score on a discrete test in either word reading, reading comprehension or spelling at/below the 10th percentile will be eligible for an exemption. Low reading comprehension does not indicate dyslexia (in the absence of decoding/spelling difficulties) and should not be used as a determining factor. This is likely to lead to more than 10% of students in our schools being included.
  4. It is not fair to place this additional pressure on principals or class teachers who will be required to participate in the decision to award the exemption
  5. There is no other country with such a system for exemptions

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Policy for Irish in the Education System from pre-school to third level

The policy would include Irish in the education system at all levels and in all sectors, with the following three core policies included in the policy:

  • the current Gaeltacht Education Policy
    • a policy for Irish-medium education
    • a policy for education that functions through the medium  of English

Partial immersion education, total immersion, the curriculum, teacher training, assessment, etc. would all be included. 

“The student learning Irish would have a coherent and comprehensive approach in the system from the first day of pre-school to the Leaving Certificate examination and on to third level”

Would you believe?

There has never been a policy for the Irish language in the education system from pre-school to third level since the foundation of the State in the south.

Why is there a need for such a policy?

  • A policy like this would bring all stakeholders together to focus on a specific target
  • To act on the legitimate concerns of young people in relation to learning Irish and to reassure them with the creation of a system that makes sense from level to level and shows them the opportunities and benefits associated with learning Irish, etc.
  • At a most basic level to deal with many of the lies and inaccuracies of a minority in the community with regard to the language, e.g. ‘Irish is a dead language’, ‘13 years learning Irish and no one can put a sentence together’, ‘It’s too difficult to learn’
  • A policy such as this would encourage the teaching of Irish again and would increase the use of Irish on a daily basis in the country
  • Such a policy would reduce the need to grant exemptions from the study of Irish to students entering the system late or to students with learning difficulties as it would be far more responsive to students needs and abilities

Is such a policy possible?

  • An example of such an integrated and comprehensive policy can be seen in the Education Policy for the Gaeltacht which has support, ownership and input from the public and the education community in the formation and the implementation of the policy
  • The policy could be based, for example, on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ​​(Council of Europe, 2001) which would provide an opportunity to set learning outcomes from pre-school that would align with learning outcomes in primary and post-primary school and at third level

What are we calling on the Minister of Education and Skills to do?

We are calling on the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, TD, to continue his support for Irish as a core leaving certificate subject and to develop a comprehensive Policy for Irish in the Education System from Pre-School to Third Level within 6 months. A consultation process should be undertaken immediately to develop the policy and, as was done with the development of the Gaeltacht Education Policy, the consultation should include submissions from the public, public meetings, stakeholder meetings, etc.