Tuesday, 29 February 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
347. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers in second level schools who teach Irish on a daily basis; the average time spent teaching Irish by each teacher on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6253/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): My Department is currently compiling and collating the data submitted by individual second level schools giving the details of the timetables of individual teachers within the schools. When this information has been collated I will have the matter raised by the Deputy examined and communicate further with the Deputy on it.
348. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary teachers trained to teach the Irish language and the numbers actively teaching in schools on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6254/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): All primary teachers trained in Ireland are qualified to teach Irish. Some take Irish as a main degree subject in the BEd and the rest are required to complete successfully courses in professional Irish. All must attend approved three-week courses in the Gaeltacht in order to be recognised as being fully qualified.
Teachers not trained in Ireland must pass the qualifying examination in Irish, An Scrúdú Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge. This is held twice a year and comprises an aural, an oral and two written modules. Candidates may sit each of the modules separately and obtain a pass in the overall examination on a cumulative basis over a period of years. The standard required for a pass in the examination is the equivalent of that applying to teachers who have qualified in the colleges of education in Ireland. As a minimum requirement, candidates must demonstrate that they have attained the level of mastery of the language required to teach Irish to pupils in sixth class in the primary school. Since 1996, qualified teachers from other EU countries have been given provisional recognition for up to three years without having passed the qualifying examination.
349. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the curriculum requirements in the teaching of Irish in primary and second level schools; the time to be spent in each case teaching the language on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6255/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has recently completed a revision of the primary curriculum. As was done in the case of all subjects, teachers were issued with new programmes in Irish in September 1999. These were set out in two booklets – a curriculum statement incorporating the aims, objectives and content for each class level and teacher  guidelines containing suggested approaches to the teaching of the subject. The revised primary curriculum contains two programmes in Irish, a programme for all-Irish and Gaeltacht schools and a programme for schools whose teaching medium is English.
These programmes are based on modern approaches to language teaching and have as their basic tenet an emphasis on communication through the spoken language. The communicative method requires that a message is to be transmitted, understood and responded to through the target language. It involves pupils working in pairs and in small groups and includes games, tasks and activities which engage the learners' attention. There is little or no emphasis, particularly at the early stages, on rote learning nor on grammatical and language drills. Grammatical errors are accepted and regarded as a normal, necessary stage in the learning process. Pupils should enjoy communicating through the second language during activities such as role-play, sketches, drama and dialogue.
The sets of objectives in the revised programmes are set out under four strands, namely listening, speaking, reading and writing. Theses are further sub-divided into strand units, which are developing interest, understanding language and using language. In addition, there is an emphasis on language functions and language awareness. Teachers are encouraged to use a variety of methodologies in their teaching, depending on the topic in hand and on the learning needs of the pupils. The teacher guidelines contain many recommendations and exemplars designed to assist teachers in their efforts to make the pupils' learning interesting, active and enjoyable. The use of Irish as a language of daily communication in the schools is strongly advocated.
The minimum time recommended for the teaching of Irish in the revised primary curriculum is 2.5 hours in infant classes and 3.5 hours in classes I to VI per week. It is envisaged that an appropriate proportion of the discretionary curriculum time of one hour per week for infant classes and two hours per week for classes I to VI would also be devoted to the teaching of Irish.
At second level, Irish is taught in accordance with syllabi approved by my Department. These aim to develop the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Provision is made for the development of language awareness and cultural awareness, especially in the syllabi for the established leaving certificate. Irish can be studied at higher, ordinary or foundation level for the junior certificate and for the established leaving certificate. The junior certificate and leaving certificate syllabi are based on the same general principles of language learning and teaching which underpin the revised programme for Irish in primary schools.
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. The approved course for junior pupils in second ary schools must include a number of specified subjects one of which is Irish. 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.
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.
The rules of the Department of Education and Science for second level schools do not prescribe a specific amount of time to be devoted to the teaching of Irish each day. Depending on the year of study and on the programme being followed, it is estimated that, in general, between two hours and three hours 20 minutes per class group per week are allocated to the teaching of Irish.
350. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 213 and 215 of 23 February 2000, the reasons for not justifying the presentation of valuable and important information regarding the teaching of the Irish language; if he will reconsider his position in view of the decline in the status of Irish in some schools and of the expenditure involved in having it taught on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6256/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I am happy to facilitate the Deputy in relation to the information sought by him to the greatest extent possible. The Deputy will, however, appreciate that precise costings in this area would be very resource intensive to secure. That said, I have asked my officials to ascertain average teaching hours devoted to Irish in both primary and second level schools and to link this with teacher remuneration so as to provide some estimate in response to the Deputy's question.
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