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Languages Programme

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 22 February 2012

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Questions (119)

Derek Keating


119 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider a complete review of the teaching of Irish as our national language and examine the reason that, after 12 years of primary school and secondary school, the vast majority of students leave school with a negative opinion about the language; the steps he will take to have a fresh look at the teaching of our national language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4753/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

This Government is committed to supporting the overall thrust of 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, and to the delivery of the goals and targets proposed. In addition a National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy is being progressed which is designed to promote curriculum reform in both Irish and English, to strengthen assessment, improve professional development of teachers, extend the duration of initial teacher education and help parents to support their children's learning.

A revised Leaving Certificate curriculum in Irish began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012. The revised programme provides for an increase in the proportion of marks available for oral assessment to 40%, and is aimed at promoting a significant shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, where students can communicate and interact in a spontaneous way, and where Irish is spoken every day in schools. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has been asked to review this syllabus in the light of the experiences of students in the first examination.

In addition, I have endorsed the NCCA's proposals for junior cycle reform which will begin in 2014 for first examination in 2017. As part of the overall approach and the phasing in of reforms, the Irish syllabus will be reviewed, and there will be a strengthening of portfolio and other forms of assessment. It is noted that the ESRI longitudinal study tracking some 700 students as they moved through the second level system reported that Irish was the least liked subject, perceived as least interesting and least useful by students. However, in the Leaving Certificate in 2011, 32.3% of students sat Irish at higher level (of whom 83.9% scored at Grade ABC). 56.8% sat Irish at ordinary level, of whom 76% scored at Grade ABC, and 10.9% sat the subject at Foundation Level.

The results of the 2006 census indicates that 1.66m people reported the ability to speak Irish, that this was most prevalent among students in the school age population, but that it declined significantly in the over 20 age groups. Only 9.1% of the population reported that they speak Irish daily or weekly outside of the education system. Initiatives such as Abair Leat, under which students can improve their Irish by interacting over the internet with native Irish speakers, have been promoted in post primary schools by comedian Des Bishop in moves designed to promote the popularity of Irish. Students can use the website to listen to native Irish speakers, record their own material in Irish and undertake self-correcting exercises.