Calls have been made for the Department of Education and Skills to reinstate a modern language programme at primary level that was shut down two years ago.
In a consultation document on its planned strategy on foreign languages, the department said the decision to terminate the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative had been made “in light of concerns about curriculum overload at primary level”.
However, Tanya Flanagan, a Co Kildare primary teacher and spokeswoman for One Voice for Languages, said she had been surprised to read of this rationale as "we were actually told it was a budget decision".
Curriculum overload was a problem, she said, but almost 450 schools were engaged in the programme; pupils had found it hugely rewarding, she said. Ms Flanagan was one of a number of speakers at a conference in Dublin yesterday organised by EIL Intercultural Learning on how Ireland can reverse its underperformance in languages.
Seánaí Kiely, a TCD law student who studied abroad on an EIL scheme, said being able to speak a modern language was a major aid to employment.