Forcing students to learn Irish has failed, says Hayes


FORCING STUDENTS to learn Irish is not working and is driving young people away from the language, according to the Fine Gael spokesman on education and science Brian Hayes.

The 1,326 Leaving Cert students who are exempt from sitting Irish at the Leaving Cert but who were studying other languages, highlighted the major problems with the teaching of the Irish language, he said yesterday.

“It must be acknowledged that compulsion, as the political engine to revive the Irish language, has failed,” Mr Hayes added. “Forcing students to learn Irish is not working, and is actually driving many young people away from any real engagement with this beautiful language.

“The fact that so many students are not taking Irish, yet can study other modern languages, has once again shone a light on the problems with teaching our national language.”

He said the problems with the language began “well before” Junior Cert level and he accused successive Fianna Fáil governments of ignoring the problems affecting the national language.

“We need a radically different approach to the Irish language, in both our education system and in society more generally.

“At primary level, the curriculum needs to be changed with a greater focus on the spoken word and with teachers given greater support.”

However, he added that the subject should also be overhauled at second level.

“Surely it is time to acknowledge that, after students have completed the Junior Certificate, they should be offered the choice to take Irish to Leaving Certificate level.

“Of course, every student would have a guaranteed right to study Irish until the Leaving Certificate in all post-primary schools,” he said, adding that proper reform of the curriculum would result in the majority of young people choosing to learn Irish.

Irish needed to be taught in such a way that makes it more accessible and attractive for students to take it on voluntarily as a subject. “That is the heart of the matter,” he said.

Provisional figures released by the Department of Education show that 2,297 Leaving Certificate students will not sit this year’s Irish exam due to an exemption, but 1,326 of them intend to sit an exam in another European language.

The figures also indicate that the numbers obtaining exemptions from learning Irish have risen from 4,497 in 2008 to 5,818 this year.

This represents more than 10 per cent of the 55,400 students who intend to sit this year’s exams.