Wednesday 26 June 2019

Children 'will begin learning foreign language at age of three' - FF proposal

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Children will begin learning a foreign language at age three and must take at least one for the Leaving Certificate, under radical plans being proposed by Fianna Fáil.

The main Opposition party wants a major overhaul of language policy amid fears Ireland is being left behind by international standards.

Meath TD Thomas Byrne has said he would like to see one third of university students study a language as part of their course.

His policy paper also suggests:

  • Bilingual immersion in English/French or English/Italian for three to five year olds in pre-school
  • Making the learning of an international language to Leaving Cert level compulsory
  • Add Russian and Portuguese to the Junior Cycle programme
  • Bonus points for students who study Mandarin as a full Leaving Cert subject
  • Re-establish the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative

Mr Byrne warned the onset of Brexit highlights the need for Irish people to start thinking beyond the English language.

"This policy recognises the need to enhance teacher training for modern languages and this will be achieved through the subsidisation of additional in-service courses overseas for secondary teachers to aid their understanding of language teaching.

"Our proposals seek to strategically address the deficit in our education system and will ensure Ireland is well placed to deal with the fallout associated with Brexit," he said.

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman said he would like to see a particular focus on Mandarin with centres of excellence established around the country.

Mr Byrne also suggested that RTÉ should examine the possibility of adding French, Italian, Spanish, German or Chinese news bulletins as part of its RTÉ News Now service.

"RTÉ should be encouraged to broadcast more programmes for young people that involved age-appropriate bilingualism," he said.

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