Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin T.D. today announced a series of measures which will ensure that primary teachers are given the support to promote a Grá don Ghaeilge among the next generation of Irish people.
A new 30 strong team of Cuiditheori (language experts) to be in place next Autumn to work with teachers in schools to improve their fluency in the language, with an emphasis on interesting ways of teaching it;
One of the three drama in-service (training days) next year to be a 'Dramaiocht trí Ghaeilge' day. This will provide an innovative way of teaching the language so as to make it fun for children;
Funding for two-week Summer day camps for 10-13 year old children in their own locality from 2007, with emphasis on learning Irish through sports and games. Priority will be given to establishing these in disadvantaged areas and the Minister also is also looking at providing scholarships for children from disadvantaged areas to go to the Gaeltacht;
CD to be sent to every school of the National Children's Choir singing the national anthem, along with other songs as Gaeilge;
Courses for teachers in the evenings, at weekends and during holiday periods to improve their Irish.
The Minister announced the measures during her address to over 750 primary school teachers attending the annual INTO congress in Killarney.
Minister Hanafin said with the commemoration of 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising this week, it is timely to focus on our values as a Nation and the place of our language and culture in the Ireland of today. "The 1916 leadership - poets, teachers, shopkeepers, journalists - were motivated in large part by a passion for the protection and revival of our Irish language and heritage. In the intervening years the role of guardian and promoter of that language and culture has fallen in very large measure to our primary teachers."
The Minister recognised the challenge that this presents for schools and said that she was confident that these new measures will give children a stronger grounding particularly in spoken Irish and help them to enter second level with an enthusiasm for learning the language.
She also stated her determination to ensure that this work be built upon through reform of how Irish is taught at second level. "I have asked the national advisory body on curriculum reform to make proposals to me as a matter of priority on reform at second level, particularly with a view to placing greater emphasis on Oral Irish" she said.
Minister Hanafin said she is committed to ensuring that all students study Irish to Leaving Cert. "What we must do is ensure that young people enjoy learning the language, not encourage them to turn their back on it. They should leave school with a sense of pride in their identity, culture and history and be well able to speak their language. Reform, rather than rejection is the way to go."
Measures to ensure that newly qualified teachers leave the training college with a strong command of Irish and to address the specific needs of Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools are also being examined.