State’s language policy is costing its citizens jobs, Senator says

Fidelma Healy-Eames makes claims during university entrance requirements discussion

Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames has claimed that the State is costing its citizens jobs by failing to teach them languages. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames has claimed that the State is costing its citizens jobs by failing to teach them languages. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Republic cannot give its own citizens jobs because the State is failing at teaching languages, the Seanad has heard.

Independent Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames said that “70 per cent of the people hired by the likes of Google are from abroad because Ireland does not have enough graduates with languages”.

Ms Healy-Eames said: “We are not even able to give our own people jobs because we do such a bad job of teaching languages.”

Ms Healy-Eames was speaking after concerns were raised about proposals to remove maths and languages as university entrance requirements.

Senator Sean Barrett said discussions were underway on the proposals this week in the University of Limerick and UCC. He said that UCD was reported to be in favour of them while TCD dissented.

Mr Barrett said he did not believe Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan was “in the loop” on these kinds of proposals, because she had previously told the Seanad that “the report of the expert skills group indicated to her that we needed more language skills in Ireland and not less”.

Mr Barrett said: “We are members of a multilingual European Union and we should not be cutting back on languages. Mathematics is the basis of all our investment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Stem subjects.”

He said Ms O’Sullivan should be advised of these proposals because “they seem to contradict what we are seeking to accomplish in the development of this country”.

‘Outrageously wrong’

Senator Feargal Quinn said he believed the proposals to drop language requirements were “outrageously wrong”.

Mr Quinn said: “We need languages if we want to export, and to take languages off the curriculum would be a huge error. We must make sure that we do not do that.”

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) said: “We need to upgrade our language and maths curricula.”

Mr Cummins said the issue should be discussed by the education committee as a matter of urgency, as “there is a need for greater emphasis on language and maths skills”.