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Irish-medium education sets a high standard

August 6, 2013

IN his opinion piece on Irish-medium education (Comment, July 30), Danny Kinahan is unfairly dismissive of the role of Irish-medium schools in helping to create a truly integrated education system.

He rejects the many possibilities it affords for educational cooperation and plurality. Contrary to Mr Kinahan, I unequivocally state that Irish-medium schools are open to all parents and pupils who seek an excellent, bilingual educational experience. Regarding the question of whether Irish-medium schools deliver a quality education, the previous chief inspector’s report, under the previous assessment arrangements, shows that 83% of Irish-medium pupils achieved Level 4 or above in English Keystage 2 assessments. It also showed 79% achieved a similar standard in maths, out-performing their peers in English-medium schools. This trend continues under the new assessment arrangements.

I challenge Mr Kinahan’s defeatist presumption that the low percentage of pupils from a Protestant background at Irish-medium schools won’t change. If anything, the argument should be made that the percentage will increase, particularly following the growth of Gaelic-medium education in Scotland where the vast majority of pupils are Protestant. This refutes the assertion that there is a lack of interest or a disconnect among the Protestant community. Our view is that demand for this new, vital and dynamic sector will increase across all sections of the community when parents become more aware of the choices available to them. Prince Charles has spoken passionately about the Gaelic language, acknowledging not only its cultural and linguistic benefits. A truly shared vision for education should not pigeon-hole entire sectors and pander to the ‘them-and-us’ mentality.

I challenge Mr Kinahan to play a positive role in ensuring that language is never perceived as a political weapon, rather that it can be enjoyed and learned by all for the many benefits it offers to children – bilingualism, cognitive advantages, greater tolerance and cultural awareness.

Chief executive, Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta