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Sinn Féin President calls on Minister of Education to review decision

19 January, 2008


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has signed the on-line petition at www.rogha.org in support of the campaign fighting for the right to maintain early immersion as an education policy in Irish medium primary schools.

The campaign Tumoideachas Ár Rogha (Immersion Education Our Choice) is in response to The Department of Education and Science sending a circular notice to all Gaelscoileanna which forces them to abandon early immersion education and to teach at least two and a half hours of English each week. This is to begin no later than the start of the second term in junior infants.

The circular will affect the current or future possibility of teaching through early immersion principles in almost 200 schools.

The Sinn Fein President has urged the Irish government's Education Minister Mary Hanifan to withdraw her directive on this issue.

Mr Adams said,

"The Department of Education and Science has placed the system of total language immersion in danger, and risks seriously undermining the progress made in recent years in the development of the Irish language and Irish language medium education.

"The Department proposes to introduce two and a half hours of English language each week to infants beginning at the start of their second term.

"The clear suggestion is that children taught through the medium of Irish are somehow then placed at a disadvantage later. This is not borne out by the facts.

"A recent study of English reading results in second and fifth classes in 70 per cent of Gaelscoileanna revealed that standards of English were higher than the national average.

"Moreover, the world's leading expert on immersion education, Prof Richard Johnstone from the University of Sterling in Scotland, recently told a conference in Limerick that research carried out in Canada found that children living in an English-speaking part of the country but educated through French did not lose out compared to those educated through English.

"The directive now being imposed by the Department of Education clearly runs contrary to research findings and international best practice.

"The Gaelscoileanna are seeking total early immersion in the first year. Through this system pupils achieve a high level of fluency in both English and Irish. In addition the families are demanding their right to make a choice in the education programme being followed by their children.

"Irish schools and the survival of the Irish language must be a priority for any Irish government.

"It has a moral, as well as legal and constitutional responsibility to defend and protect and enhance the use of the Irish language in our society.

"The Minister is failing in her duties by imposing the teaching of the English language. Her decision is wrong. It is unnecessary. And it will undermine the Irish language. I would urge the Minister to urgently withdraw her directive." Deireadh/Ends

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