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Doherty secures Seanad debate on Irish language immersion

1 May, 2008


Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty today secured a debate in the Seanad on Minister for Education Mary Hanafin's plans to end Irish language immersion in Gaelscoileanna throughout the state.

Speaking during the debate Senator Doherty said all international research points irrevocably to early total immersion producing significant benefit, not only for the minority language but for the overall educational rounding of children.

He said, "The purpose of total Irish Language immersion, is to give Irish the room to breath in the early years of education, to give children a chance to absorb it when they are best capable of doing so and to give them greater choices by way of language skills throughout their whole education.

"Minister Hanafin intends to end this practice without putting forward one convincing argument to do so. All international research points irrevocably to the fact that early total immersion produces significant benefit, not only for the minority language but for the overall educational rounding of children.

"In Ireland research undertaken by the Department of Education in 1988 and published in 1991 does likewise. More research undertaken by Donal O hAinifein during the past 12 months quantifies the benefit and refutes the notion often wheeled out that immersion education damages English learning. This is simply not the case.

"Donal O hAinifein's research surveyed the English reading attainment tests of 3,298 children in Gaelscoileanna at the end of the 2nd and 5th classes in the last academic year. At the end of 2nd class it showed that the equivalent score achieved by the top 33% of children nationally was attained by no less than 43% of children who had enjoyed at least one full year's early total immersion in Irish.

"We pride ourselves as a nation that achieves high standards of education. It is evident that the models of early total immersion practiced within our national curriculum at present are looked upon as a shining example of how language teaching and nurturing should be undertaken. We should be looking at retaining and extending this practice to more schools rather than ending the practice.

"I am again calling on the Minister for Education and Science to withdraw her proposals to end Irish language immersion in Gaelscoileanna." ENDS

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