Ending of Modern Languages Initiative a serious blow: Deputy Seán Crowe
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe has described as a ‘serious blow’ the decision to end The Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI). The Dublin South West TD was speaking after educationalists involved in the initiative made a presentation to the Dáil’s Education Committee.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Some 545 schools participate in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative which aims to create a positive attitude towards language learning, creating links between primary and post-primary schools and facilitating and supporting diversification in the curriculum.
“The initiative is now in its thirteenth year and Minister Quinn’s budget proposals will bring to an abrupt end.
“The majority of modern-language teachers have said to me that, were it not for the project, few if any of their pupils would have studied the language at primary level. It has made a huge difference to rural schools and has given children from disadvantaged schools an opportunity to compete with wealthier children whose parents can afford private tuition.
“This decision will also result impact negatively on the job prospects of Irish students.
“The loss of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative comes at a time when many employers have signalled the importance of developing expertise in foreign languages as a means of helping the country out of its current difficulties. Surely any fool could see it is counterproductive to remove an essential scheme that has been instrumental in extending the learning of a new language to primary level children.
“The move is all the more surprising as it comes at a time when much of the hope for our economic recovery is reliant on exports. France, for example, is Ireland’s fifth largest trading partner, but we are closing off the possibility of pupils having the opportunity to learn its language. The same can apply to languages such as German, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin.
“When we look at other European countries, even those that are currently experiencing economic difficulties, they continue to prioritise the learning of a second and third language. Learning languages is an essential skill that is needed for young people to be able to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.
“It is essential that a review of the modern language provision be undertaken which would accurately inform the Minister for Education and Skills of the benefits of early modern language learning to students and as well projected industry needs and help inform future curriculum reform.
“A National Strategy for Primary Modern Languages needs to be developed which would foresee the opportunity to learn a modern language being extended to all children by 2020. In the interim, the MLSPI should be allowed continue to support teachers and schools who wish to offer this learning opportunity to their pupils.”