Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (104, 105)

John Lyons

Question:

103 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the supply of domestic foreign language capability to act as a boost to enterprise activity and export potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35701/12]

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John Lyons

Question:

104 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to develop a national foreign language education policy with a five to ten year vision to provide an integrated and coherent approach to foreign language teaching in all learning contexts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35702/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 104 together.

The Department's policy, detailed in the Government's National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, is that pupils will learn two languages, English and Irish in primary schools. The Strategy is being implemented since its publication in July of last year. There are no plans in the current budgetary situation to extend the range of languages available as part of the curriculum in post-primary schools but substantial changes will occur in the teaching of languages as a result of the curriculum changes that will take place as part of the reform of the Junior Cycle. The languages English, Irish, French, German, Spanish and Italian will continue to be offered as part of the curriculum at junior cycle. At senior cycle, the languages English, Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Arabic will continue to be offered. The availability of Transition Year and the option of school developed short courses proposed as part of junior cycle reform will provide opportunities for schools to provide additional languages, if they wish to do so. A number of developments are also ongoing which should help to ensure that there is greater coherence to language teaching including foreign language teaching. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is developing an integrated language curriculum for primary schools in the context of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. While the focus of this curriculum will be on English and Irish, it should help children to transfer skills acquired in one language to other languages and so establish a sound foundation for the learning of a foreign language in post-primary school. As part of junior cycle reform, it is expected that the syllabuses for the foreign languages currently available will be revised and that students will reach proficiency in one of these languages. At senior cycle, the syllabuses for French, Spanish, German and Italian have been reviewed within a common framework and are expected to be finalised during the 2012/2013 school year following a process of consultation with relevant parties.

Apart from curricular languages, studied and examined in the Leaving Certificate examination, as noted above, the State Examinations Commission provides examinations in a range of non-curricular languages. These are languages which do not appear as part of the normal school curriculum but students may opt to be examined in these languages under certain conditions. The conditions, for the candidates in the Leaving Certificate examinations, include:

they must be from a member state of the EU

they must speak the language in which they opt to be examined as a mother tongue

they are following a programme of study leading to the Leaving Certificate and

they are taking the Leaving Certificate examination in English

For 2012 Leaving Certificate Examination there were 1,495 entries for 16 such European languages. The availability of the complete suite of languages will help to improve the supply of domestic foreign languages. Almost 12% of our post-primary students are of nationalities other than Irish and a number of them would have a mother tongue that is not English.