Thursday, 30 March 2006
Irish Language: Statements.
Fergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
I accept that the rules of the House must be applied but would be happy to debate this issue in another forum. Irish, English and mathematics have been compulsory subjects at leaving certificate level, but the reality is that Irish has suffered because people do not take it. Many young people in my constituency cannot read or write English, never mind Irish. People should want to study Irish, yet fewer students take Irish at senior level than any other language. Irish classes to leaving certificate level should be populated with students who would choose to learn Irish and are committed to the language. They should be in such classes because they want to be, not because they must be.
At primary level, the most constant trait for new and practising teachers is meant to be immersion in the Irish language. The reality, whether we like it or not, is that many teachers do not understand and cannot teach Irish, even in primary school. Not alone can these teachers not do that, at secondary level the textbooks do not exist for the subject. The issue of unavailable resources is significant. The reality of the debate must take priority.
We must use the best available modern technology and teaching methods for the Irish language and develop a specialist language support corps to help individual primary schools which are having problems. There must be reform at second level, and the curriculum must be loaded with topics that are modern, relevant and useful. This would be the precise opposite of the current curriculum. A new syllabus and teaching method must be developed using the best available linguistic expertise. There should be an oral component at junior certificate level which should be introduced immediately. More emphasis should be put on the spoken word rather than the written word and the gramadach.
Textbooks and educational resources, particularly those which are computer and Internet related, must be significantly improved for all Irish and Gaeltacht schools. After the junior certificate, all students should have the choice of two Irish subjects. One would be a new subject focusing on communicating in Irish. Some 50% of the marks for this subject should be devoted to spoken Irish, with the remainder of the curriculum focusing on useful and applicable reading and writing tasks in Irish. The second Irish subject would focus on literature and heritage, and it would be aimed at those with a deeper knowledge and competence in the language.