Monday 23 April 2018

Languages take centre stage in new schools plan

Education Minister Richard Bruton Picture: Steve Humphries
Education Minister Richard Bruton Picture: Steve Humphries
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese will be on the curriculum for Leaving Certificate students who enter fifth year in September 2020.

This means that pupils who are currently in second year will be able to take a Leaving Cert exam in one of the 'new' languages for Irish schools.

The initiative is among a number of commitments in the long-awaited Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026, which is launched today by Education Minister Richard Bruton.

The thrust of the plan is to create a new culture around foreign language learning and to increase the number of languages taught, with a greater sense of urgency driven by Brexit.

But the ambitious programme faces big challenges, including a lack of language teachers - and that is without the addition of the new subjects.

The strategy includes a detailed five-year implementation plan, setting out a series of 100 actions aimed at delivering on its many targets up to 2026.

Mr Bruton described it as a "road map to put Ireland in the top 10 countries in Europe for teaching and learning of foreign languages".

After Brexit, Ireland will be the only English-speaking country in the EU, apart from Malta. Mr Bruton said in that context, and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries, there was a need to be well prepared for the challenges ahead.

"This strategy is crucial to ensuring that Ireland is prepared for a changed European dynamic," he said.

Much of the detail of the strategy is focused on second level, but it also addresses the need to focus more on foreign language learning in primary schools and at third level.

Key targets at second level include a 25pc increase in the number of schools offering two or more foreign languages by 25pc and the number of students sitting two languages at Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, while Lithuanian is being introduced as a junior cycle short course.

At third level, where only 4pc of students take a foreign language component in their degree, the ambition is to increase that to 10pc by 2022 and to 20pc by 2026.

And, similar to science, technology and engineering subjects, there will be consideration given to awarding CAO bonus points for a language subject for CAO applicants, where languages form part of their undergraduate studies.

Measures to improve the supply of teachers include upskilling and moves to identify teachers who are qualified to teach a language but who may not have had the opportunity to do so in their schools.

At primary level, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment will consider including foreign languages in senior classes in its curriculum review. Among ideas mooted in the plan is teaching some subjects through a foreign language.

Irish Independent

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