Teaching foreign languages should be considered in preschools and primary schools, according to Department of Education school inspectors.
In a new report on the quality of teaching practice, inspectors said pre-school teachers could be trained to integrate languages such as French, German and Polish in early learning settings.
In addition, it says re-instating modern languages to the primary school curriculum would be a timely move.
The bulk of the inspectors’ report focuses on the quality of tuition at second level, which is generallyfound to be positive.
Inspectors found that students experienced a satisfactory or better language-learning environment in 98 per cent of lessons observed during the subject inspections
The fact that the quality of learner engagement in language lessons in post-primary schools was found to be satisfactory or better in 95 per cent of the lessons evaluated “ augurs well for successful language learning”.
When student enjoyment and motivation for learning were surveyed, it found a majority of lessons (72 per cent) were “good” or “very good”, while a further 21 per cent were satisfactory.
For the small minority of lessons where learner engagement was either fair or weak, it was noted that students lacked concentration during the lesson tasks
Findings in relation to the attainment of learning objectives was mixed.
In most cases (74 per cent), the attainment of learning objectives was found to be either “good” or “very good”.
A total of 16 per cent were satisfactory and the remaining 10 per cent were either “fair or weak”.
Inspectors also reported finding examples of preschools using a number of approaches to include foreign language tuition in schools.
Such practices often focused on the promotion of inclusion and diversity, particularly supporting children from heritage language backgrounds.
For example, in one early learning and care setting, Polish was the first language spoken by the practitioners and by the majority of the children.
It found that practitioners worked to enhance children’s vocabulary acquisition and tried to balance listening and speaking to the children in both English and Polish.
They used rhymes and action activities to promote children’s language development in English.
In another setting, families with English as an additional language were supported with a “communication corner” which used symbols to enhance communication with the children and their parents.
Prior to the settling-in period, preschool teachers and practitioners met with parents to build positive relationships and discuss the various approaches used by the practitioners to support children. They also organised an open day to establish effective settling-in procedures.