Irish Sign Language (ISL) is among the languages being offered to primary pupils in a new pilot project that will involve at least 100 schools.
The teaching of modern foreign languages is a big gap in Irish primary education but is being explored now as part of a wider revamp of the curriculum.
Under an initiative announced by Education Minister Norma Foley today, third- to sixth-class pupils in a limited number of schools will be given one hour’s tuition per week in a six-week trial.
Schools are being invited to apply to participate in the programme and can nominate a modern foreign language of their choice or ISL, to introduce to their pupils within the normal timetable.
Participation in the language sampler module is open to English-medium and Irish-medium primary and special schools and a minimum of 100 schools will be selected.
Schools will be supported by the Department of Education-funded Post-Primary Languages Ireland in providing the module and will be free to hire their own language tutor or teacher, who will work under the guidance of the class teacher.
Ms Foley said it would provide pupils with opportunities to expand their experience with languages and also give them confidence in engaging with new languages.
It would also inform future developments in the area of language acquisition and development of the primary curriculum framework, she added
A key aim of the project is to encourage uptake of languages at post-primary level to help equip school-leavers for study and work in a globalised world.
It will also promote awareness among pupils of the range of languages used by their peers, including ISL, in their schools and communities to support greater inclusion and appreciation of diversity in society.
The Government’s Foreign Languages Strategy 2017-26 set an ambition to grow the number of students sitting two languages in State exams by 25pc and to increase the number in higher education studying a foreign language as part of their course by 20pc.