Written Answers - Irish Language.

Thursday, 10 March 2005

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 599 No. 4

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  180.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether, if the situation regarding the standard of Irish in teaching does not improve, no progress will be made with the language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8429/05]

  181.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   the reason for the lowering of pass marks in the Scrúdú Cáilíochta na Gaeilge last year, which is required for primary teachers who trained outside Ireland (details supplied). [8430/05]

[1107]

  186.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether the standard of teaching Irish has been slipping for years (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8435/05]

  189.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether the poor levels of Irish among teachers is one of the main reasons for a shortage of workers who are competent in the Irish language (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8438/05]

  190.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether the standard of Irish among teachers needs to be reviewed in order to help address the problem regarding the shortage of workers who are competent in the Irish language; the action she proposes to take in the matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8439/05]

  191.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether one of the major problems regarding a shortage of workers who are competent in the Irish language is the large number of teachers, particularly those qualified in recent years, who do not have a competency in the Irish language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8440/05]

  193.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on the combinations of factors, of which teacher training is a major element, behind poor levels of Irish resulting in a shortage of workers who are competent in Irish (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8443/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  I propose to take Questions Nos. 180, 181, 186, 189, 190, 191 and 193 together.

My Department’s inspectorate, on foot of a major review of Irish language policies carried out in the Department last year, has recently prepared an internal report for policy discussion. The Coimisinéir Teanga, along with other interest groups, contributed to that process. The principal recommendations highlight the need for improvements in teacher training to sustain communicative approaches at both primary and second level, a greater emphasis on oral competence in pre-service training, improvements in the supply of resource materials and additional courses for those studying for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge. The report also recommends that the increase in pupils being granted exemptions from Irish should be addressed.

My Department is investing significantly to address these issues. In particular, major improvements are being made on the provision of materials and resources for the teaching of Irish. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta has been established to progress this area and to provide support services for [1108]schools. Extensive in-service training has been provided to teachers in the teaching of Irish, emphasising a communicative approach. Marino Institute of Education now provides courses at different levels and an enhanced range of supports for those studying for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cailíochta sa Ghaeilge. A new circular on exemptions from Irish is currently being drafted. However, much remains to be done and these issues will be further progressed in the light of available resources.

The Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cailíochta sa Ghaeilge, SCG, is a requirement for recognition in the case of teachers who completed their training in another EU member state. Such entrants to teaching here have been trained mainly in the United Kingdom. The change in the marking of the SCG arose from the recommendations of a working group, established in 2001, to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination. Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann, the colleges of education, primary school management organisations, INTO, National Parents Council, primary, and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment were all represented on this working group. Its report was published on my Department’s website in 2004.

The SCG was the minimum standard required to teach Irish in mainstream primary schools, in Gaeltacht schools and in all Irish schools up to 2004. Since many candidates did not intend teaching in Gaeltacht or all-Irish schools, it was inappropriate to require the same standard of Irish of all teachers. The group recommended a differentiated approach under which those who gained 70% or more in the examination would be eligible to teach in Gaeltacht and all-Irish schools, while those who gained a pass grade would be recognised for English medium schools. The group recommended the pass mark for all modules be reduced from 50% to 40%, in line with the pass mark commonly used at third level. Entry to primary teacher training in Ireland requires a minimum of grade C at higher level in leaving certificate Irish.

The position on the teaching and learning of Irish will be continuously reviewed and a range of further evaluations and studies in this area is under way. This will be important in helping to bring about sustained improvements, particularly in the area of oral competence and communicative approaches. However, it is an accepted tenet of linguistic research that a language will struggle where a society does not create an environment for its active everyday use.

  182.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether it is unacceptable that many children leave school unable to converse properly in Irish, especially when compared with children from France, Germany and so forth who, after the same amount of study of the English language, have an ability to speak English (details supplied); and if [1109]she will make a statement on the matter. [8431/05]

  183.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether a poor return is being made, after investment of time and money, in terms of learning Irish (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8432/05]

  184.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether one of the reasons there is a demand for Gaelscoileanna is the fall in standard of teaching Irish in other schools (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8433/05]

  185.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   if she will publish the recommendations of the working group that was set up in her Department in 2002 to analyse education through Irish (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8434/05]

  187.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   her views on whether many children are leaving school unable to converse properly in Irish (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8436/05]

  188.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   if her attention has been drawn to the fact that children attending a school (details supplied) arrive with little Irish but that at the end of three weeks they have plenty of Irish; if she will have this matter investigated with a view to improving teaching methods of Irish in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8437/05]

Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  I propose to take Questions Nos. 182, 183, 184, 185, 187 and 188 together.

Under the auspices of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, curricula at both primary and second level have been reformed and are now based on internationally recognised language learning principles developed through research work under the auspices of the Council of Europe and other international bodies. In line with these principles, the curricula place an emphasis on oral language competency, including listening and speaking skills.

My Department’s inspectorate, on foot of a major review of Irish language policies carried out in the Department last year, has recently prepared an internal report for policy discussion. The Coimisinéir Teanga, along with other interest groups, contributed to that process. The principal recommendations highlight the need for improvements in teacher training to sustain communicative approaches at both primary and second level, a greater emphasis on oral competence in pre-service training, improvements in the supply of resource materials and additional courses for those studying for the Scrúdu le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge. The report also recommends [1110]that the increase in pupils being granted exemptions from Irish should be addressed.

My Department is investing significantly to address these issues. In particular, major improvements are being been made in regard to the provision of materials and resources for the teaching of Irish. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscoilaíochta has been established to progress this area and to provide support services for schools. Extensive in-service training has been provided to teachers in the teaching of Irish, emphasising a communicative approach. Marino Institute of Education now provides courses at different levels and an enhanced range of supports for those studying for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cailíochta sa Ghaeilge. A new circular on exemptions from Irish is currently being drafted. However, much remains to be done and these issues will be further progressed in the light of available resources.

We must be mindful of the reality that Irish society does not provide a community conduit for the language except in very limited areas and circumstances and it is an accepted tenet of linguistic research that a language will struggle where a society does not create an environment for its active everyday use.

Question No. 186 answered with Question
No. 180.

Questions Nos. 187 and 188 answered with Question No. 182.

Questions Nos. 189 to 191, inclusive, answered with Question No. 180.


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