In a rare step several Irish language and education stakeholder groups have come together to jointly call for the postponement of a consultation process relating to the new Irish syllabus for the Leaving Cert.
In a letter to the head of the State’s advisory body on the curriculum seen by The Irish Times, the groups said the process should be postponed pending an analysis of changes made to the Junior Cert syllabus in 2017.
Under proposed reforms published in February, Leaving Cert Irish will comprise two specifications: a more challenging T1 course designed for schools in Gaeltacht areas and Irish medium schools and the T2 course which is designed for pupils attending English medium schools.
In a letter addressed to Arlene Forster, chief executive of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the groups jointly call for a pause in the process on the basis that an objective view cannot be formed about proposals for the Leaving Cert in the absence of information on the new Junior Cert course.
The stakeholders says the Leaving Cert is “too important” for decisions to be made about course specifications and assessments without having evidence-based data to consider.
The letter, which is also raddressed to Minister for Education Norma Foley, says Covid-19 restrictions mean conditions are not conducive to holding an effective consultative process. "It is of vital importance that any changes to course specifications should be discussed in the community, and this cannot be effectively done online."
The letter was jointly signed by An Foras Pátrúnachta, Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn, Conradh na Gaeilge, Gael Linn, Gael Taca, Gaeloideachas, Gréasán Náisiúnta na Múinteoirí Gaeilge, Ógras, SEALBHÚ, Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta.
The signatories say their request to postpone the process is in keeping with the provisions of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017- 2022, which says work on Leaving Cert curriculum specifications would commence when the curriculum for Irish has been developed at junior cycle and is working well in schools.
This determination cannot be made, the letter says, unless a comprehensive review has taken place.
While the existing Leaving Cert syllabus includes an Irish oral examination worth 40 per cent of the overall marks, the new syllabus would feature an added focus on literature and would allow 35 per cent of marks to the oral examination.
Critics have warned that a reduced emphasis on spoken Irish could turn some students away from the more challenging T1 course, while others have said the course should be treated similarly to higher level mathematics, where additional points are awarded to an applicant’s score for a H6 or higher in recognition of the additional work involved.
It is expected that the new specification will replace the current syllabus for Irish in September 2022.