Whilst there is much to commend in the new Primary Curriculum Framework, Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Minister of Education, Norma Foley, TD to start the immediate development of the Policy for Irish in the Education System from Pre-school to Third Level, as was promised by Fianna Fáil in the general election in 2020 and which is mentioned in the Government Programme, to get ahead of problems that will arise from the reduction of time for teaching Irish under the new curriculum framework.
The President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Paula Melvin, said:
"Whilst there is much to commend in the new Primary Curriculum Framework, it was revealed today that the amount of time for the teaching of Irish in English-medium schools will be reduced from 3.5 hours to 3 hours a week from third class. We believe that this is a regressive step for the schools that operate through the medium of English (92% of all schools). We have some basic questions about this - has the Department researched the implications for the standard of Irish in primary schools if the amount of time for teaching Irish is reduced by 14% per week? How will this time reduction help to solve the current problems in the system, for example the following was mentioned in research published last week and carried out by SEALBHÚ in relation to the Junior Cycle:
‘teachers did not think that the specifications were adapted to the standard of Irish for students entering post-primary school. The standard of Irish students had, in their view, was too low to meet the goals of the specifications and the main challenges related to literature. The students agreed with this opinion and did not feel ready for the material of the classes.'
We understand that in the new curriculum there will be flexible time for the schools to focus on subjects they want to. There is no guarantee that this time was used to replace the 30 minute reduction, especially in primary schools that do not sufficiently prioritise the language. In addition to all that, is there research showing that three and a half hours a week was not necessary to teach Irish?”
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said:
"We believe that the consultation carried out by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to put together recommendations for the Minister of Education was flawed from the start. We raised this several times with them, especially that there was no opportunity in the survey, which was part of the consultation, to choose the current amount of time for teaching Irish and English as the correct amount of time to be allocated into the future. It was clear to us, therefore, that the decision that there would be a change in the amount of time allocated was made before the public consultation and we are disappointed but not surprised that it was chosen to reduce the amount of time for teaching Irish.
To get ahead of problems that will arise from the new curriculum framework with the reduction of time for teaching Irish we are calling on the Minister to start the immediate development of the Policy for Irish in the Education System from Pre-school to Third Level, as was promised by Fianna Fáil in the general election in 2020 and which is mentioned in the Government Programme.
It worries us that part of the Government is looking progressively to promote the Irish language in the community, such as the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and the Media, with the new legislation that will require 20% of the people who will be recruited in the future to be competent in Irish and English. The decision of the Minister of Education regarding the reduction of time per week for the teaching of Irish in schools that operate through the medium of English will not help achieve this goal. There is also a risk that many pupils will have a weaker foundation in Irish upon leaving primary schools and as a result it will be more difficult for them to access the career opportunities for people competent in Irish and English in the future.