Minister receives petition over Irish language education policy

Petition of more than 12,000 names delivered to Minister for Education, Joe McHugh

Cliodhna Ní Dhufaigh, Union of Students in Ireland, Julian de Spáinn, general secetary, Conradh na Gaeilge, Joe McHugh, Minister for Education, Antoine Ó Coileáin, Gael Linn, and Aodhán Ó Deá, Conradh na Gaeilge. Photograph: Damien Eagers/Irish Times

Cliodhna Ní Dhufaigh, Union of Students in Ireland, Julian de Spáinn, general secetary, Conradh na Gaeilge, Joe McHugh, Minister for Education, Antoine Ó Coileáin, Gael Linn, and Aodhán Ó Deá, Conradh na Gaeilge. Photograph: Damien Eagers/Irish Times

 

A petition of 12,000 signatures calling for an integrated education policy for the Irish language was presented by campaigners to the Minister for Education Joe McHugh in Dublin on Thursday.

The #Gaeilge4All campaign is seeking a comprehensive strategy spanning all stages of the education cycle from pre-school to third-level.

Incorporating three main elements, the policy would comprise the current Gaeltacht Education Policy 2017-22, a distinct policy for Irish-medium education and a policy on Irish language teaching for schools that function through the medium of English.

“The three parts would be the core of an overall policy,” said Julian de Spáinn, general secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge and member of the #Gaeilge4All campaign.

Fragmented

Campaigners argue the current approach to Irish language education is fragmented and does not meet the needs of those who are learning Irish in English-medium schools or of those who wish to avail of Irish-medium education.

“In second-level some are still learning ‘Dia duit, conas atá tú and cad is ainm duit,’” said de Spáinn.

“People learn that in pre-school as well.”

“We should have joined-up thinking - if we were to use something such as the European Common Framework and we were to tie it in from pre-school to third-level, people would know exactly where they are in terms of learning the language.”

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard that measures language ability on a six-point scale. It ranges from an A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

It is also used to help educational institutions and employers evaluate the language competency of candidates when applying for employment or places in college.

Cliodhna Ní Dhufaigh, Union of Students in Ireland, said “It is very important that we have an overall Irish policyas it would show students that there is an actual roadmap in front of them when they are learning Irish and that they will have achieved a certain standard by the end of it.”

“If that framework is there from the start it will be a lot easier for students (to know) where they are with their Irish.”

Campaigners have long sought a more cohesive and integrated alignment between Irish-medium schools across all stages of the education cycle.

According to statistics provided by Gaeloideachas, which represents the Irish-medium and Gaeltacht education sector, 64 per cent of Irish-medium naíonraí (pre-school settings) have waiting lists. Department of Education figures show that some 45,000 children – or just over 8 per cent of all primary school students – attend 247 primary schools that teach through Irish while there are only 13,000 places available at Irish-medium secondary schools.

Mr de Spáinn said he was hopeful the campaign would succeed.

“We had a very positive meeting with the Minister about it recently. It makes sense on so many levels. We haven’t had a policy such as this since the foundation of the State.”