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

What is the aim of the #Gaeilge4All campaign?

The #Gaeilge4All campaign is calling on the Minister for Education Norma Foley to develop and implement an integrated and coherent policy for Irish in the education system from early childhood education to third level

Why is the #Gaeilge4All policy necessary?

Such a policy has never been implemented since the foundation of the State in the south. The issue of Irish in our education system is particularly urgent at the moment:

  1. Irish Paper 1 in the Leaving Cert is to be moved to 5th Year from 2025 onwards – a decision that teachers and students are completely against, and has no educational basis.
  2. Over 40,000 students at second level have an exemption from studying Irish, and that figure is growing.
  3. The specifications/syllabi for the new Junior Cycle are failing, and the process to develop new specifications for Senior Cycle is in disarray.
  4. Only 7% of all primary school students and 2.8% of all post-primary students are attending all-Irish medium education, outside of the Gaeltacht. There is a lack of Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáistí as a choice for those who want it.
  5. The amount of time for the teaching of Irish in primary schools has been reduced from 3.5 hours per week to 3 hours, in the new primary school curriculum framework announced by the Minister for Education on 9 March. From 3rd Class onwards, 30 minutes a week will be taken away from the teaching of Irish – as a result, students will receive over 70 hours less Irish teaching in the four year period between 3rd Class and 6th Class.

What would this policy look like, and is it feasible?

An integrated and coherent policy for Irish in the education system from early childhood education to third level

A policy framework for Irish language education must take a holistic, big-picture view, setting out a coherent vision for Irish language teaching, learning and assessment at each stage of the education system and beyond. Such a policy must ensure that any changes or developments in curriculum and assessment at a particular level or in a specific context are not piecemeal or disjointed, but that they are coherently aligned with the broader long-term vision.

The policy should make use of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to support transparency, continuity and progression in Irish language learning from each curricular stage to the next:

The Irish language proficiency standard required of teachers at each level of the education system should also be clearly defined. Use of the CEFR could facilitate this definition. This would be in line with recommendations made in the Language Education Policy Profile, published in 2008 by the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe in collaboration with the Department of Education and Science, following a comprehensive analysis of language education in Ireland. The follow-up to this policy profile, Languages Connect: Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026 (Department of Education and Skills, 2017) incorporated these recommendations in the context of modern foreign languages, defining high-level curricular targets and proficiency requirements for post-primary level teachers according to the CEFR and recommending that all foreign languages examinations be aligned with that framework.

The policy should be based on inclusive education that addresses the needs of students and does not encourage / facilitate exclusion.

A core principle of the CEFR approach to language learning and assessment is the recognition of learners’ partial competences and uneven proficiency profiles across language skills. A CEFR- based approach to assessment could allow learners with additional needs in relation to literacy to focus on oral communication skills in Irish and to gain recognition and certification for those skills, allowing them to access Irish-language learning according to their own needs and abilities.

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

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


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, Norma Foley, 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.