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Call for new Irish subject rejected

August 31, 2010

Minister for Education Mary Coughlan has rejected a call for the addition of a new Irish language subject to the Leaving Cert curriculum.

Educationalists had sought the introduction of the new subject after it emerged that the revised Leaving Certificate syllabus being introduced this September includes a reduced volume of literature for study by higher level students.

Instead, the syllabus has a greater focus on spoken and aural examinations with 40 per cent of the marks to be allotted to the oral examination, and 10 per cent for the aural examination.

The syllabus no longer contains an entire novel and students are only required to read seven chapters of Maidhc Dainín’s A Thig Ná Tit Orm  and specified excerpts from Tóraíocht Diarmuid agus Gráinne.  The history of the Irish language has also been removed as an element of the course.

Lobbyists say the revised syllabus does not recognise the existance of native Irish speakers, Gaelscoileanna, or students of higher proficiency who may wish to attain a high standard of education in the Irish language at second level.

Citing duplication of resources and the “possible inequity” for students without a high proficiency in Irish “in terms of CAO access,” the Department of Education said Tánaiste Mary Coughlan “is not convinced” of the merits of introducing a new subject for Irish.

The revised syllabus will continue “as planned”, but the Tánaiste has directed the National Council of Curriculum and Assessment to undertake a review of the implementation of the new syllabus, as is normally the practice.

Meitheal na Gaeilge ATAL, comprising representatives from Gaelscoileanna Teoranta, Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta, has lobbied the Department of Education for the introduction of a new literature-oriented subject.

The collective contends the new syllabus represents a retrograde step in the teaching of Irish in that it provides an insufficient challenge for students with a high proficiency in Irish.

Meitheal believes the new syllabus will damage the Irish language as a community language, a school subject and as an academic subject unless a more substantial provision is made.

The Department of Education said the review would “take account” of the issues raised by Meitheal and the experiences of the first tranche of candidates under the new system.

The first exam based on the new revised syllabuses will take place in 2012.

Numbers taking Junior Cert oral Irish test double

August 31, 2010

The number of students who did oral Irish tests for this year’s Junior Certificate has more than doubled since last year and quadrupled since 2006, despite a union ban on teachers marking their own students.

Marks for the optional Junior Certificate oral doubled to 40% of the total for those who took it in June, but numbers were expected to be small.
Unlike the Leaving Certificate, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) does not send out teachers from other schools to assess students’ language skills.

Instead, a school-based assessment must be carried out and the marks are then notified to the SEC, but the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) forbade their members from co-operation.
In previous years, only around 300 students at a dozen schools presented marks to the SEC from the oral exam, but figures obtained by the Irish Examiner suggest the new marking scheme has incentivised more schools to do the non-compulsory oral Irish test. The numbers rose to 22 schools in 2008 (the year after the increased marks were announced) and to 24 last year, when 725 students did the test.

But, with 40% of the Junior Certificate Irish marks available for it this year, provisional SEC figures show almost 1,700 students getting their results next month took an oral Irish exam. The 54 schools concerned are across the different sectors in which members of both second level teacher unions work, although it is unclear if the tests were done by the students’ own teachers or by others brought in from outside.

“We are aware that management at a small number of schools were making arrangements for some form of external assessment in Junior Certificate Irish. We remain opposed to teachers assessing their own students because of possible complications to their classroom relations and undermining of the exam system’s transparency and objectivity,” an ASTI spokesperson said.
While around one-third of this year’s Junior Certificate students will sit the first exam with increased marks for oral Irish in the 2012 Leaving Certificate, most will go into transition year.

The Irish Examiner revealed yesterday that a review of the controversial increase of marks in Leaving Certificate Irish for the compulsory oral test from 2012 has been ordered by Education Minister Mary Coughlan, even though schools are beginning to teach students the revised syllabus this week. Groups representing all-Irish schools which oppose the changes said that, rather than a review, proper research and a pilot programme in some schools should take place to assess the likely impacts.

Irish Examiner – Niall Murray
31 Lúnasa 2010

Town opens ‘unofficial’ gaelscoil

August 30, 2010

A SCHOOL and its 11 junior infant pupils entering the education system mark a double first today — but the Department of Education doesn’t want to know.

The all-Irish Gaelscoil Ráth Tó, in Ratoath, Co Meath, opens its doors for the first time but the school, with one teacher, Tricia Ni Mhaolagain, has been set up despite a refusal by the department to recognise it or provide state funding.

The lack of official recognition meant the school had to find up to €100,000 to cover its costs for the first year, with funding coming through donations, fundraising and from Irish language organisations both in Ireland and abroad.

Today marks the culmination of two years’ work by parents and Irish language enthusiasts to set up a gaelscoil in the expanding town.

Last year, hopes were high that the gaelscoil would be recognised after the department announced that, based on population trends, a new school would be needed in Ratoath.

However, earlier this year, the department changed its mind and said that existing schools could cater for the projected increase in pupil numbers.

A department spokesperson said they had “no comment” to make on the school’s decision to open today.

The Ratoath gaelscoil promoters say the department’s position not to recognise their school ignores the desire of parents to have their children educated through Irish.

At one stage, over 30 local children were signed up for the Gaelscoil Ráth Tó, but after the department’s decision, some parents looked elsewhere, reducing the number of enrolments to 11.

– Katherine Donnelly

Irish Independent

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Young Gaeilgeoirs hopeful about Gaeltacht’s future

August 24, 2010

Earlier this year, a leading scholar in language planning visited Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair to discuss the future of Irish.

The researcher was one of the authors of the comprehensive 2007 report on the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht, which found that unless there were major changes in language-use patterns, Irish would cease to be the predominant community and family language in the Gaeltacht in 15 to 20 years.

Recently, two Leaving Certificate students at the pobalscoil discussed their own hopes for the language. Brídín Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh and Simon MacGiolla Easpaig, both 18, each received student of the year honours at the school’s awards night earlier this year. They served on the Donegal Youth Council, and they are musicians with An Crann Óg, the Gaoth Dobhair-based group of young trad musicians.

This summer they are working at the summer camp at An Chrannóg, the community and cultural centre in Gaoth Dobhair. In the autumn, Brídín plans to study theatre/performance studies and Irish, and Simon plans to study law and politics. Both said their identity as Gaeilgeoirs underscores everything they do. Their cultural involvement goes hand in hand with their commitment to the language, Simon said, adding, “One complements the other.”

And while they recognise all young people their age do not share their passion for the language, they have also considered ways of improving the way Irish is taught and promoted that could encourage younger people to embrace and speak Irish.

As an example, Simon pointed to the work of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta presenter Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí, whose programme “Rónán Beo @ 3” offers a very contemporary look at news and feature stories, music, culture, politics and humour. “We need to have more shows and radio programmes like that,” Simon said. TG4’s wealth of animated programming in Irish caters for the very young, and documentaries and dramas attract more mature audiences. But there are fewer offerings for teens. Adolescents, around age 13 and 14, want their peers to consider them cool, and Irish is not always seen as a part of that, Brídín said. “Certain courses need to be modernized,” she said.

Both young people welcomed the increased emphasis on spoken Irish in the new curriculum. “A vital part of learning any language is the ability to speak it,” Simon said. He said that his blood boiled when he watched the RTÉ programme Frontline earlier this year and listened to people who were unable to speak Irish after studying it in school. He attributed that to courses that emphasised the final examination, rather than the long-term benefits of speaking Irish.

“Education should be with you for life, not just for the exam,” he said. Brídín’s mother, Bríd Ní Bhaiceir Uí Mhaoldomhnaigh, taught Irish at Loreto Letterkenny, “and really helped us appreciate the language,” Brídín said. Bríd encouraged them to participate in public speaking, recitations and drama, and wrote Irish pieces and dramas for Brídín. A new trophy in Bríd’s memory was presented at this year’s Éigse Uladh for the best new poem in the recitation competition.

“She did a lot to promote Irish,” Brídín said. Bríd died earlier this year, and Brídín said that some of mother’s former students have told her of the impact Bríd’s teaching had on their appreciation for the language. “Things like that show what can be done,” Brídín said. Irish is a living, community language at An Chrannóg. The staff at the centre and the young people who work at the camp always speak to each other in Irish.

“There’s a certain amount of pride among our age group in the language,” Simon said. But they understand that some of their contemporaries have returned to Gaoth Dobhair from other countries, and are not fluent. “It’s an uphill struggle for them and we have to accommodate them,” Simon said. He said sometimes people find a new appreciation for Irish when they leave the Gaeltacht. Or they find it when they are abroad and want to talk about people without being understood, Brídín said, and Simon laughed and nodded in agreement.

Both appreciate the need for people to speak English. But they were passionate about the importance of promoting Irish.
Earlier this year when Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, head of the language planning unit at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Co. na Gaillimhe, was at the pobalscoil, he said now was the time for change. “Hopefully some day we will come out of the economic recession, but linguistic crises don’t wait,” he said. “They have to be solved when they occur. Twenty years down the road will be too late.”

He described a stark future: “A laissez-faire attitude toward current policy endeavours will see the demise of the Gaeltacht as a linguistic and cultural entity,” Conchúr said.
Brídín and Simon remain hopeful about the future of Gaeltacht. Simon said that he does not think there will be much change in the Gaeltacht in 10 years’ time. He does not see a great surge, but he does not see a great decline, either. Though sometimes he wishes he were better able to help others to feel as passionately as he feels about the language.
Brídín spoke of a recent night at the local GAA, where about 80 per cent of the young people who signed in had signed their names in Irish. “It was good to see,” she said. She mentioned a 4-year-old girl whose first language was Irish and what had difficulties with English. Brídín knows the girl will learn English, but she was delighted to see a youngster so immersed in Irish.

“It lifts your spirits,” she said. And she says she will remain hopeful.
“You can’t get anywhere without hope,” Brídín said. “I hope people realise how precious it is to have our own language.”

Donegal Democrat – Carolyn Farrar
19 Lúnasa 2010

Maoiniú de €22,500 ceadaithe do thrí scoil

August 13, 2010

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