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Irish-Medium Schools in Northern Ireland excelling in English and Maths

April 29, 2009

With thanks from Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta

International evidence has long indicated that children who are being educated through a second language tend to do as well, if not better, in their first language (in our case English), while also becoming fluent in both languages.  Information based on research carried out in countries throughout the world consistently indicates enhanced performance of children who are educated bi-lingually.  This advantage is observed across a wide range of subjects. 

“Recent figures from the Department of Education, in relation to scores in English and Maths, over that last three years, have demonstrated that this advantage may also be the case in Irish language schools” said Dr Réamaí Mathers from Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, The Trust Fund For Irish-Medium Education. 

“When we looked at data from the years from 2005/6-2007/8 in relation to Key Stage 2 results in English (primary 7), Irish-medium schools have achieved higher score averages every year, both at the level 4 category and the highest level 5 category, than non Irish-medium schools.  Indeed in the last two years Irish-medium students’ results, which are heavily biased towards a lower socio-economic group (due to the high number of inner city schools), have produced a higher outcome for level 4 and level 5 when compared to the average across all Northern Ireland primary schools.  

“In relation to Maths it also seems that Irish-medium schools are out-performing their English medium counterparts in the same category, according to these Department of Education statistics.  These results, when reviewed along with international research from all over the world give us the strongest indication yet of the efficacy of learning through Irish”. said Dr Mathers.


Why are children in immersion schools doing better?

There has been much discussion on the question as to why children in schools such as Irish-medium are doing better.  Parental involvement with children in Irish-medium schools may be higher and our teachers are especially motivating, having in effect two vocations.  One vocation is firstly providing the highest levels of education and the second vocation is transmitting a love for and fluency in Irish and English.  However, once again research may be pointing us to more deep seated and permanent advantages that bilingualism brings.  In recent years research on children who are bilingual from an early age is showing advantages both in areas of understanding and mental agility.  Indeed evidence is now so strong that Professor Colin Baker, Pro-vice Chancellor of Bangor University, Wales and one of the worlds foremost authors on bilingualism recently stated at an Irish-medium conference " The benefits that Irish-Medium Education must not be underestimated by society at large, be that parents, educators, business and government.  The question is not should there be Irish-Medium Education but, because of the proven success, the question now should be – is any child not educated bilingually in Ireland being disadvantaged?