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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.