17 September, 2018 - Minister Bruton Launches Campaign to Encourage Learning of Foreign Languages & Announces Funding for School Exchanges

Government prioritizes teaching of foreign languages in context of Brexit  

€15,000 for schools to offer school exchanges 

Upskilling opportunities for teachers & new website launched as resource for schools, students & teachers 

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D. today (17th September 2018) launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of foreign languages and announced new funding for teacher upskilling and school language exchanges.  

The campaign is aimed at school principals, teachers, guidance counsellors, parents, students and higher level institutions. Embassies, cultural services and bodies such as IBEC and Enterprise Ireland (EI) are also involved in supporting the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of learning foreign languages.  The campaign will be supported by a new website (www.languagesconnect.ie) which will act as a one stop shop for schools, parents and students on language learning. 

The Minister is today inviting existing post-primary language teachers to apply for funding to upskill in a foreign language. The scheme enables existing language teachers to apply for funding to upskill in a language they are not currently teaching but are qualified in. The scheme is available to all post-primary schools and the overall goal is to increase and diversify the uptake of languages learned in post-primary schools.  The Department are also developing postgraduate courses, aimed at training existing language teachers to teach in another language, that they are not qualified in. 

The Minister also announced dedicated funding to support schools in organising language exchanges with schools in other countries. Schools are invited to apply from today and ten will be awarded €15,000 each to contribute towards exchange costs such as flights, to offer scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to participate, or for other needs that the school identifies as contributing towards language learning on the exchange. 

In the context of Brexit and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries, Minister Bruton is taking action to ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, Ireland will be one of only two English speaking countries in the Union. The government are committed to ensuring Ireland is prepared for a changed European dynamic. 

Speaking from Jakarta, where the Minister is on a trade mission to Indonesia and Malaysia, Minister Bruton said, “We have set the ambition to put Ireland in the top ten countries in Europe for the teaching and learning of foreign languages, as part of our overall goal to have the best education system in Europe. We are pursuing a number of measures targeted at improving proficiency in foreign languages, more diversity in the provision of foreign languages, and increased access to immersion experiences.” 

“We are launching a website (www.languagesconnect.ie) today, which will be a great resource for schools and students and will help us spread awareness of the personal, social, professional and economic benefits of language learning. 

“We are also providing upskilling opportunities for teachers, to allow existing teachers to brush up on a language, that they are qualified in, but are not currently teaching. We are also working with the higher education institutions to develop postgraduate courses to train language teachers to teach in another language, that they are not qualified in. 

“Finally, I am also delighted to make funding available to support schools in organising student exchanges. We all know that immersion is the best way to learn any language. Ten schools will be awarded €15,000 each to contribute towards exchange costs such as flights, to offer scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to participate, or for other needs that the school identifies as contributing towards language learning on the exchange. The skills developed through taking part in language exchanges which include adaptability, problem-solving, networking and communication skills as well as actual language skills, are critical for students to develop and thrive in the future as well as to find employment.” 

Notes to Editor 

Funding for School Exchanges Scheme

Details on the Funding for School Exchanges Scheme are available on Languages Connect website. 

The scheme will offer the opportunity for all schools to apply for €15,000 in funding to use over 3 years to meet costs associated with an exchange such as flights, organised trips or events on the exchange, subsidise the cost for students,scholarship for students who would not otherwise be in a position to participate or for other costs the school identifies relating to the exchange programme. 

Applications will remain open from today until 12th October. 

Successful applications will be notified by 26th October.

An event for transition year students called #ThinkLanguages will take place in Dublin Castle on 20 November, with talks and practical workshops to help transition year students engage with learning foreign languages and understand the possibilities that are open to people who speak foreign languages. 

For more information on Languages Connect - Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026, please visit: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Curriculum-and-Syllabus/Foreign-Languages-Strategy/Foreign-Languages-Strategy.html 

More information on the campaign

The campaign aims to target school principals, teachers, guidance counsellors, parents and students, and all stakeholders in the third-level sector.  Embassies, cultural services and bodies such as IBEC and Enterprise Ireland (EI) and IDA are also involved in supporting the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of learning foreign languages. The idea is that the campaign will support targets in the strategy such as increasing the number of post-primary schools offering two or more foreign languages by 25%, increasing the number of students sitting two languages at Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate by 25%, and improving learners’ attitudes to foreign language learning. 

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits and opportunities that learning foreign languages brings to students personally, professionally, societally and culturally. It will include a series of videos of Irish people, who use a foreign language that they have learned in their work, focussing on the benefits of languages for careers. Videos of industry experts highlighting the importance to Ireland and to business of having multilingual staff will also be hosted on the new website, www.languagesconnect.ie .  These people are role models, to positively influence students by speaking of their own valuable experiences of learning languages and the beneficial impact this has had on their careers and experiences. The website will provide information to schools, parents, students and business to encourage the take-up of foreign language learning. 

Modern Foreign Language (MFL) Teacher Upskilling

Modern Foreign Language (MFL) Teacher Upskilling has been developed to meet another goal of the strategy which is to diversify the provision of foreign languages in schools. The MFL Teacher Upskilling scheme enables Post-Primary schools / MFL Teachers to apply for funding to upskill teachers qualified in a language they are not currently teaching and which they can introduce and develop to build additional language teaching capacity in the schools. Post-Primary Languages Initiative (PPLI) is administering

The MFL teacher upskilling scheme is, in particular, being developed for curricular languages including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese. More information including the guidelines for application and link for application are available here