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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 17 May 1989

Vol. 390 No. 2

Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - In-service Language Training.


asked the Minister for Education the provision which has been made for in-service teacher training in languages for 1989; the arrangements which have been made to assist children whose parents cannot afford to send them abroad to improve their oral competence in languages; and the assistance which is available to schools who wish to organise student exchange schemes.

Provision for in-service teacher training in modern continental languages takes the form of seminars and summer courses in Ireland and scholarships abroad. The total cost of the in-service training in modern languages planned for 1989 is of the order of £40,000.

Technical assistance on the organisation of school exchanges is provided by the Youth Exchanges Bureau, the body set up by my Department to improve the quality of exchanges for young people generally.

The Council of European Education Ministers will meet on Monday next in Brussels to discuss with a view to adoption of a Commission proposal on the Lingua Programme. This proposal provides for inter alia the in-service training of existing teachers abroad.

The in-service provision for second level courses this year has been increased from £300,000 to £700,000 approximately. The wish of the teachers unions, the ASTI and the TUI, who have met me on the matter is that the main direction of in-service training should be directed towards the new syllabi.

Could the Minister indicate what the cost is likely to be of fulfilling the proposals in the Lingua Programme whereby teachers will go abroad to France or Germany? The Minister mentioned the Youth Exchange Bureau. Has she any proposals to assist students to go to foreign countries where they can acquire proficiency in the language they are studying? Unfortunately it is the case that parents who have the means can effectively buy honours in language proficiency by sending their children away for three months of the year. The vast majority of children cannot avail of that facility.

If the Deputy is asking whether I have finance to assist children to go abroad to increase their language proficiency, the answer is that I do not have a direct national fund for that purpose. I am hoping to get through the Lingua Programme next Monday, but the UK is raising objections which my Department officials are trying to offset in Brussels. One of the components of the Lingua Programme relates to student exchanges between various countries.

The Lingua report mentions specifically that countries on the periphery of Europe should be given special attention in regard to both teacher exchanges and student exchanges. The amount available for teachers should be known on Monday next when we finally agree the Lingua Programme. I understand from media reports that the UK objection is based on what they see as unwarranted interference in the national curriculum of their country. I hope that all the other countries in Europe will come together to see that the Lingua Programme is passed successfully because a very integral part of that is teacher and student exchanges. If one does not get to hear the language one is at a disadvantage.

I appreciate that there are still things to be sorted out in relation to the implementation of the Lingua Programme, but will the Minister give an assurance to the House that particularly in relation to schools in disadvantaged areas, whatever assistance is needed to participate in exchanges will be available from her Department?

If the Deputy is asking me will I be giving direct cash allocations, the answer is no.

I said whatever assistance.

Whatever assistance is needed in regard to making arrangements will be available through the Youth Exchange Bureau, which is a body set up in an interim way under the Department of Education and which is empowered to do this.