The Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh T.D, has launched a new Masters in Irish-Medium and Gaeltacht Education (M.Ed.) in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. This innovative postgraduate programme for primary and post-primary teachers was announced in order to add to the provision of teachers in the education system who teach through the medium of Irish. This teacher education programme represents another step in the implementation of the Gaeltacht Education Policy 2017-2022 and encompasses part of a greater national plan to tackle issues related to the supply of teachers.
This part-time M.Ed. degree is at Level 9 of the National Qualifications Framework, and is accredited by the University of Limerick. The Minister signed a six-year contract, worth €2.1 million, for this postgraduate degree between Mary Immaculate College and the Department of Education and Skills.
This is another important step towards the provision of various supports for Gaeltacht and Irish-medium education. The College must provide at least 70% of the programme in an institutional setting with face-to-face mechanisms, with a maximum of 30% of the provision to be online over the course of the two years of the M.Ed. programme. The provision of blended learning will enable teachers and principals participate in the programme.
In order to ensure that participants of the highest possible calibre and optimum suitability are participating in the programme, successful candidates must provide evidence that they have achieved Level B1 standard in Irish in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, an assessment which is externally accredited.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh T.D. said, “It is great that specific entry criteria for Irish language proficiency are required to gain a place on this postgraduate programme. This programme constitutes a wonderful opportunity to provide different options for participants who wish to gain expertise in the field of Gaeltacht and Irish-medium education. Through this programme, students can undertake a Postgraduate Certificate, a Postgraduate Diploma or a Masters in Education through the medium of Irish.
“I hope that this new postgraduate teacher education programme will go from strength to strength in the future. I have provided funding under the Gaeltacht Education Policy 2017-2022 to register 30 participants every year, which should result in 5 cohorts of 30 teachers/principals over a 6-year period.”
“I’m certain, having completed the programme, that we will have a cohort of teachers and principals in the system with high standards of professionalism and ability as well as expertise and experience in Irish-medium teaching in Gaeltacht schools, in Gaelscoileanna and in Gaelcholáistí.”
Minister McHugh mentioned the importance of having teachers and principals with expertise in the field of Gaeltacht and Irish-medium education working within the system in order to achieve the overarching objective of the Gaeltacht Education Policy 2017-2022 to ensure a the provision of high quality education through the medium of Irish in Gaeltacht areas.
The President of Mary Immaculate College, Professor Eugene Wall said “In keeping with the mission of the College, Mary Immaculate College is deeply mindful of its responsibility to support and enrich pedagogical competencies, leadership and research in language immersion and Gaeltacht education. Mary Immaculate College is delighted to lead innovation in continuing professional development in this continuously evolving sector. We are very much looking forward to collaborating, in this work, with the Aonad um Oideachas Gaeltachta in the Department of Education and Skills and with all other stakeholders to provide an exceptional postgraduate, blended learning, cross-sectoral programme for the sector.”
The Acting Dean of Education at Mary Immaculate College, Dr Angela Canny, said “Immersion education, which successfully promotes additive bilingualism, biliteracy, multicultural competence and academic achievement clearly requires a pedagogical approach specific to the Irish-medium and Gaeltacht context. This cross-sectoral programme, An M. Oid. san Oideachas Lán-Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta will develop an essential knowledge-base, deep understandings and key competencies so as to enable Irish-medium educators to fulfil this complex and dynamic role.”
Speaking at the event, the Programme Director, Dr T.J. Ó Ceallaigh said: “Through a variety of perspectives from around the globe, the M. Oid. san Oideachas Lán-Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta will explore why and how immersion/minority language education is blossoming and flourishing in a variety of contexts in the 21st century and how some models address common challenges. The blended learning nature and design of the programme not only provides the opportunity to host synchronous/asynchronous webinars with key international researchers but also presents flexible and innovative learning opportunities for postgraduate students who may not otherwise be afforded this opportunity.”
The Minister commended Mary Immaculate College on all of the preparatory work undertaken for the new M.Ed. programme and congratulated the participants who have commenced their studies recently.