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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 25, 2010 @ 10:10 am

    Pupils ‘ignored’ in new Irish syllabus

    Pól Ó Muirí

    Gaelscoileanna,  the national co-ordinating body for schools teaching through the medium of Irish, is concerned that an amended Leaving Certificate syllabus for Irish published last week ignores the needs of pupils with a high standard of Irish. In a statement, the group say that “the substantial reduction in the literature course and the increased marks awarded for the oral exam will have a huge impact on the pupils’ standard of Irish. Ultimately, these changes will mean that pupils from Gaelcholáistí, or indeed capable pupils in English-medium schools will not be suitably challenged by the new Leaving Certificate Irish syllabus. A high standard of Irish in the Gaelcholáistí is necessary in order for students to tackle other subjects studied at Leaving Certificate level through the medium of Irish. Without the correct level of Irish, they would be forced to undertake other subjects through the medium of English”.

    The group’s CEO, Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, said that they were “very unhappy” that a circular proposing “sweeping changes for Irish as a subject at Leaving Certificate level was published without consultation with partners and schools. We’re also dissatisfied with the lack of notice given to schools, making it more difficult for them to make the necessary preparations. There will be huge implications for schools and there is a danger that pupils will not be able to attain the high standard of Irish which is currently being achieved. This will result in a shortage of people with a high standard of Irish available to work in professions which demand this, for example, teaching. If the teaching of the language is not made sufficiently challenging, it won’t develop, in terms of literature, journalism etc. This would be disastrous for training colleges and for the future of the Irish language.”

    The group want the new Minister for Education, Mary Coughlan, to guarantee an extra Irish subject at Honours Leaving Certificate level to tackle the challenges in written Irish. This, they believe, would provide pupils with a high standard of Irish and a chance to develop their language skills and a proper understanding of Irish literature.

    The Irish Times has contacted the Department of Education about the statement from Gaelscoileanna. A spokeswoman from the Department said that they would reply as soon as possible. The response will be posted when it comes.

    • Liam says:

      I didnt understand “extra Irish subject” bit?

    • Aidan says:

      Isn’t it strange that they are taking the same exam in Irish as English medium schools? If your school language is Irish should you really be taking an exam designed for speakers of Irish as a second language?
      Equally it seems strange that Irish medium pupils would sit the same English paper as their English medium counterparts (unless that part of the syllabus is taught exclusively through English). Or do they answer some parts of the English paper through Irish?
      My children don’t speak Dutch at home but they will take the same exams in Dutch as their schoolmates. They will, of course, have an advantage taking English exams designed for Dutch speakers. If they went to an English medium school they would take Dutch exmas designed for second language speakers.
      It seems in Ireland as though the system does not reflect the fact that a child’s school language is generally their main language whatever language is spoken at home.

    • Liam, more from the statement. Is this any help: “GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. demands that Minister Coughlan guarantee the availability of an extra Irish subject at Honours Leaving Certificate level, a subject to tackle the challenges in written Irish existing at this level. This subject would provide pupils with a high standard of Irish with a chance to develop their language skills and cultivate a proper understanding of Irish literary heritage. In the English syllabus, a huge emphasis is placed on literature, something which develops skills in pupils and adds greatly to their cultural understanding. The reduction of the literature course on the Irish syllabus raises questions about the perceived value of the language by comparison with the world language, English.

      “Coupled with the significant reduction of the literature course, the ‘history of Irish’ course has been completely wiped out. Although extra marks will be awarded for the oral Irish exam, it is not yet clear what extra challenge if any it will pose for pupils who already have a competent level of Irish. The criterion for marking this exam is also unclear.”

    • Liam says:

      Thanks Pól. I must say I think it would be unfair to the points system if certain students were able to leverage off one subject to gain points in another if that were one of the consequences. For instance you cant do economic history if you are taking history and economics.
      But at the same time it is odd that the exams do not reflect the capability of the students.

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