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Pupils with high standard of Irish ignored in new Irish syllabus

March 24, 2010

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is gravely concerned about the publication of an amended Leaving Certificate syllabus for Irish last week, a syllabus which ignores the needs of pupils with a high standard of Irish. The substantial reduction in the literature course and the increased marks awarded for the oral exam will have a huge impact on the pupils’ standard of Irish. Ultimately, these changes will mean that pupils from Gaelcholáistí, or indeed capable pupils in English-medium schools will not be suitably challenged by the new Leaving Certificate Irish syllabus. A high standard of Irish in the Gaelcholáistí is necessary in order for students to tackle other subjects studied at Leaving Certificate level through the medium of Irish. Without the correct level of Irish, they would be forced to undertake other subjects through the medium of English.

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. demands that Minister Coughlan guarantee the availability of an extra Irish subject at Honours Leaving Certificate level, a subject to tackle the challenges in written Irish existing at this level. This subject would provide pupils with a high standard of Irish with a chance to develop their language skills and cultivate a proper understanding of Irish literary heritage. In the English syllabus, a huge emphasis is placed on literature, something which develops skills in pupils and adds greatly to their cultural understanding. The reduction of the literature course on the Irish syllabus raises questions about the perceived value of the language by comparison with the world language, English.

Coupled with the significant reduction of the literature course, the ‘history of Irish’ course has been completely wiped out. Although extra marks will be awarded for the oral Irish exam, it is not yet clear what extra challenge if any it will pose for pupils who already have a competent level of Irish. The criterion for marking this exam is also unclear.

Speaking about the changes, GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. CEO, Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, said “We’re very unhappy that the circular which proposes such sweeping changes for Irish as a subject at Leaving Certificate level was published without consultation with partners and schools.  We’re also dissatisfied with the lack of notice given to schools, making it more difficult for them to make the necessary preparations. There will be huge implications for schools and there is a danger that pupils will not be able to attain the high standard of Irish which is currently being achieved. This will result in a shortage of people with a high standard of Irish available to work in professions which demand this, for example, teaching. If the teaching of the language is not made sufficiently challenging, it won’t develop, in terms of literature, journalism etc. This would be disastrous for training colleges and for the future of the Irish language.”

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the national co-ordinating body for schools teaching through the medium of Irish. It helps parents and local groups to set up new schools and supports the established all-Irish schools. There are 169 primary schools and 38 secondary schools currently providing education through the medium of Irish.