- Jan 31, 2009
Irish times 15 April - Forcing students to learn Irish has failed, says HayesPAMELA DUNCAN
FORCING STUDENTS to learn Irish is not working and is driving young people away from the language, according to the Fine Gael spokesman on education and science Brian Hayes.
The 1,326 Leaving Cert students who are exempt from sitting Irish at the Leaving Cert but who were studying other languages, highlighted the major problems with the teaching of the Irish language, he said yesterday.
It must be acknowledged that compulsion, as the political engine to revive the Irish language, has failed, Mr Hayes added. Forcing students to learn Irish is not working, and is actually driving many young people away from any real engagement with this beautiful language.
The fact that so many students are not taking Irish, yet can study other modern languages, has once again shone a light on the problems with teaching our national language.
He said the problems with the language began well before Junior Cert level and he accused successive Fianna Fáil governments of ignoring the problems affecting the national language.
We need a radically different approach to the Irish language, in both our education system and in society more generally.
At primary level, the curriculum needs to be changed with a greater focus on the spoken word and with teachers given greater support.
However, he added that the subject should also be overhauled at second level.
Surely it is time to acknowledge that, after students have completed the Junior Certificate, they should be offered the choice to take Irish to Leaving Certificate level.
Of course, every student would have a guaranteed right to study Irish until the Leaving Certificate in all post-primary schools, he said, adding that proper reform of the curriculum would result in the majority of young people choosing to learn Irish.
Irish needed to be taught in such a way that makes it more accessible and attractive for students to take it on voluntarily as a subject. That is the heart of the matter, he said.
& Letters Page (Same Day)
The Irish Times - Lettersadam, It has become painfully clear that many students will go to great lengths to avoid learning the Irish language (Irish-Exempt students study other languages, April 13th).
As somebody who achieved a higher level A1 in Irish in the 2003 Leaving Certificate, and would consider myself fluent in the language, I am torn. While I enjoyed studying Irish, I acknowledge fully that the benefits of learning it for so many years, and in such depth, end as soon as one completes secondary schooling at the age of 18. As difficult as it may be for many to digest at home, Irish is, to all intents and purposes, a dead language.
Perhaps it is time that the Department of Education reclassified Irish as an optional language. Forcing students into learning Irish as a mandatory subject from a young age serves no purpose. It does not keep the language alive, nor does it foster a love of it among our young people.
I work in the international arena in the United States, and in my line of work I would be a more valuable asset were I capable of speaking Mandarin Chinese, Russian or one of the Middle Eastern tongues (Persian, Arabic, etc) to the same level as I can speak Irish. While I have recently turned my hand to the intensive study of two new languages, the task of mastering a new language with consummate fluency becomes much more difficult as one gets older.
The Department of Education should move with the times, stop forcing Irish on our school students, and begin offering more internationally progressive languages from a younger age in schools around the country. Yours, etc,
Mintwood Place NW,
Washington, DC, US.