Tuesday, 25 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
259. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding Irish in secondary schools; if Irish is a compulsory subject in secondary schools; if Irish is required to achieve a leaving certificate; if Irish is required for entry to National University of Ireland colleges; if so, the reason, if any, for this; and the plans, if any, he has in relation to the compulsory aspect of the Irish language. [13504/99]
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The requirements in relation to Irish which are set out in Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools must be seen in the broader context of the requirements which apply to the curriculum in secondary schools generally. The curriculum of a secondary school must include instruction in a syllabus approved by the Minister in Irish as one of a number of subjects.
In the case of the established leaving certificate, the approved course for recognised senior pupils must include not less than five subjects from a specified list. One of these must be Irish. Both the leaving certificate vocational programme and the leaving certificate applied have specific requirements regarding subjects to be studied. The study of Irish is a requirement for both of these courses.
It is important to point out that the requirements in relation to Irish have to do with the study of that subject. There is no minimum grade requirement in the case of Irish or any other subject for the award of a certificate in the junior certificate or the leaving certificate examinations.
The requirements which apply to Irish and to other subjects which must be studied exist in order to ensure that pupils receive a broad and balanced education. An exemption from the study of Irish is granted subject to certain conditions which have been communicated to all schools. These apply to the children of foreigners who are consular or diplomatic representatives in Ireland, to those who have had extended periods of residency in other states and to students with certain learning disabilities. Students who are granted such an exemption may substitute another subject from an approved list of subjects for Irish.
As part of the academic requirements for entry to primary teacher training colleges which are  affiliated to universities, all candidates, including mature students and graduates, must have achieved, as a minimum, a grade C3 on a higher level paper in Irish at the leaving certificate examination. The reason for this requirement is to ensure that they have a sufficiently high standard on entry to meet the academic demands of the teacher training course in Irish, both oral and written, which has to equip them to teach Irish to pupils across the whole range of the primary school.
I have no plans at present to alter the rules which apply to the study of Irish in secondary schools. Section 47 of the Universities Act, 1997 provides, inter alia, that the senate of the National University of Ireland shall determine the basic matriculation requirements for its constituent universities. I understand that these requirements include Irish.
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