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Doherty calls for Seanad debate on teaching of Irish

5 March, 2008

Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty called for a debate on the Irish language in our education system and how best to teach it in our schools. Senator Doherty said he is concerned that the high level of Irish born students exempting from Irish language studies on the basis of what has been described as 'designer difficulties' shows that the way Irish is currently being taught is not attracting students to the subject.

He said, "I ask for a debate on the Irish language in our education system. There is a piece in today's Irish Independent concerning the number of students opting out of Irish as a leaving certificate subject because of learning difficulties. Of the 11,871 Irish-born pupils who received exemptions in 2006, 6,341 studied another modern European language. The TUI is suggesting that these are what is described as "designer difficulties" whereby parents are able to pay for psychological assessments for their children to allow them to opt out of Irish, although they can study Latin, French and German.

"There is a need for a full debate on the role of the Irish language within our education system and how best to teach it. The Union of Secondary Students of Ireland, USI and Conradh na Gaeilge have an interesting policy proposal which suggests that the literature element should be removed from the Irish language leaving certificate course and made into an alternative subject.

"Under the proposal Irish at Leaving and Junior Certificate levels would be taught using two new syllabi - one dealing with Irish literature and the other with the Irish language. This would mean the only compulsory Irish paper at foundation and ordinary level would be the Irish language paper - namely reading, writing, speaking and understanding. This proposal could form the basis of a debate in the house.

"It is urgent that we discuss this given that there are close to 12,000 Irish pupils - as well as those from other countries, who have amounted to 10,000 over the last two years - who are opting out of taking our national language at leaving certificate level." ENDS

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