Thursday, 2 March 2017
Department of Education and Skills
62. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a recent EUROSTAT report (details supplied) showing that Ireland has the second lowest level of foreign-language learning in schools in the EU27 and a rate significantly below the average; his further views on the decline since 2009; the measures he will take to improve resources for foreign language learning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10852/17]
In Ireland, there are two national languages, Irish and English, given recognition under the Constitution. The recent EUROSTAT report compares Ireland to other EU countries on the basis of the number of foreign languages studied by students at the equivalent of Junior Cycle. Ireland reports on the numbers taking languages other than Irish or English. Several other countries who also have more than one official language report some of their official languages as foreign. The report therefore classifies Irish students as taking one foreign language when in fact the majority of our students are studying three languages (Irish, English and a foreign language). In contrast, in most other countries a student studying three languages will be reported as studying two foreign languages.
As regards the decline since 2009 it should be noted that only four languages are included by Ireland in the survey - French, German, Italian and Spanish, as these are the only foreign languages examined at Junior Cycle level. These figures do not capture those students studying up to sixteen non-curricular languages for Leaving Certificate, or other non-EU heritage languages such as Russian, Arabic and Japanese.
I am committed to further developing and diversifying our provision for languages in post-primary education.
In 2015 the Framework for Junior Cycle was published. New subject specifications are being introduced on a phased basis. A new specification for Modern Languages will be introduced from September 2017. This will involve French, German, Spanish and Italian. In addition, Junior Cycle students may study short courses in other languages such as Polish, Chinese Language and Culture and Sign Language
In Senior Cycle there are a number of languages available, in addition to French, German, Spanish and Italian Russian, Japanese and Arabic are available in the Leaving Certificate examination. For students whose mother tongue is an EU language other than those listed above, they can present for examination in a non-curricular EU language. In 2016 candidates presented in some sixteen EU Languages.
Under the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 my Department is developing a new Foreign Languages in Education Strategy. The strategy will be published shortly and will set out clear actions to further improve the quality and delivery of our provision for foreign languages. It would be hoped with the emphasis that will be placed on foreign languages that more students will study these languages and that the diversity of languages studied will be greater.