Irish Language

Ireland needs your vision, not Fine Gael division and spiralling economic injustice.

Irish is a wonderfully rich, cultural gift. It’s an irreplaceable part of the diversity of the planet. It’s a unique infrastructure of thought and a magic door into an Aladdin’s Cave of cultural jewels riches stretching back hundreds of years. It’s been our voice for nearly two thousands and yet we might well be the last generation to have Irish as a community language.

Central to this is the real time collapse of our Gaeltacht regions. The census results published in 2016 showed a drop of 11% of daily speakers. Only 500 children aged between 3 and 4 speak Irish daily at home in the whole of the Gaeltacht. 56% of Gaeltacht children have to attend English language preschools. 94% of principles of Irish-medium schools said that sometimes they had no choice but to hire a substitute teacher with little Irish. The recruitment of full time teachers with fluent Irish in some Gaeltacht areas is becoming next to impossible.

Critically, those who have made a life for themselves in the Gaeltacht are in main faced with a state with a policy of compulsory English. There are seven government departments without any Irish language positions at all, including the Department of Children who are charged with the provisions of Preschool Education. In total only 0.15% positions in the civil services have functioning Irish. When the Department of the Gaeltacht is taken out of the equation, there are only 29 jobs out of 19,795 with an Irish language requirement in the state service. This is not reflective of any effort to build a bilingual state despite the fact that 1,761,420 people self-identified with Irish speaking ability in the last census. Sociolinguists predict that the Gaeltacht will survive only ten, perhaps 20 more years at best. This would be in my view cultural cleansing by government disinterest.

Gaeltacht areas have not received fair play economically. Some of the strongest Gaeltacht areas are also among the most deprived of infrastructure and employment opportunities in the state. Capital funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta, the body responsible for the economic development of Gaeltacht areas has fallen by 70% since 2007. Compare this with a 66% increase in funding for IDA, and a 42% increase in funding for Enterprise Ireland in the same time period. High emigration levels have decimated the Gaeltacht GAA generation.

The 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language was published in 2010 to halt the decline of the Irish language within the Gaeltacht and the state. It aimed to triple the number of daily Irish speakers by 2030 to 250,000. With figures going in the opposite direction this document has been an unmitigated failure and yet we are still awaiting a revised plan, over two years after a review was initiated.

Similarly ‘Language Planning’, which was hailed by Fine Gael as the saviour of the Gaeltacht regions has fallen asunder. 26 different volunteer Language Planning groups grafted to produce a deep and rich seam of shovel ready plans in order to rebuild the Gaeltacht. Before one of these plans was read, the department plucked a paltry funding figure from sky.

While the Policy on Gaeltacht Education which was introduced in late 2016 is to be commended, the absence of pre-schools in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme is a real blind spot. It’s absurd that there is no provision for Gaeltacht school status for pre-schools considering the majority of children in the Gaeltacht receive their pre-schooling through English. This will dilute the efficacy of immersive teaching through Irish in primary schools, with English from the outset the more dominant language.

Outside of the Gaeltacht there is no plan for the development of Gaelscoil education despite huge demand. At least 23% of parents seek Gaelscoil education for their children while only 5% of primary school children actually receive it. There is no state facility to meet this demand through either new schools or the transition of some existing English language schools.

The needs of Irish speakers outside of the Gaeltacht are not being met. A decade after leaving school the number of those who state they have Irish falls by half. Leo Varadkar admitted that his Irish went rusty after school because of the lack of opportunities to use it. There is no Cultúrlann (Irish Language Centre) in Dublin city centre in which people of all ages can socialise. Belfast has had a Cultúrlann since 1991.

Personal efforts of a couple of government TDs to speak the language aside there is no vision, plan or leadership. To the government Irish exists as no more than a hobby. Ministers are appointed with poor knowledge and little discernible interest apart from from a nebulous ‘grá’.

Despite all of this there is much positive energy in the Irish language. 67 per cent of the respondents in the south of Ireland and 45 per cent from the North are positive about the Irish language (ESRI, 2015). Inside the Gaeltacht some individuals, families and organisations are starting to stand up for their language rights. Outside the Gaeltacht more and more patents are choosing to raise their children in Irish, agitate for a Gaelscoil, play for an all Irish GAA club and drink is a Pop-Up Gaeltacht Pub.

The decline of Irish and the Gaeltacht is not inevitable. Resurgence is possible. It’s not rocket science. Volumes of research and detailed policy are available. It needs a government who will no longer kill the language with platitudes and who will draw a line under the past. It does not need a government who after teaching everyone Irish then prevents public services being accessed in Irish. The Irish government needs to create a new deal for the language. We need to send a message to families raising their kids, Gaeltacht communities, students and adult learners, speak the language today because tomorrow the language will be stronger, more extensive and more valuable.

Central to this is the role of Irish within the school system. Some aspects of our policy is detailed below.

An Ghaeilge sa Chóras Oideachais

Importance of the Irish language

The Irish language is of invaluable importance to Irish people as it is an intrinsic part of who we are. It roots us to our surroundings. It is a rich repository of literature, art, song, history, myth and lore. It is a structure of thinking that is unique in a world that is losing language diversity on an annual basis. Irish is etched in our names and landscape. Irish is one of the oldest languages in the world and is the oldest written vernacular in Europe.

Irish is a community language. It is the language of family and of friends. It is a language of business, of ICT and of education. Irish is our national language as well as our first official language. While the ubiquity of English has certainly conferred certain advantages in terms of international ease of communication there is no doubt that we are losing as a nation, a connection to who we are as a people and to our rich cultural heritage.

Much of Ireland’s fame as a country of great English writers ironically sprung from the underlying influence of the Irish language – a characteristic colour and turn of phrase that was christened ‘Hiberno English’. W.B Yeats said that reading translations of the old literature of Ireland had been the “chief illumination of all my life”. There is something terribly poignant in his inability to engage directly with the richness of the language and being denied the self-understanding and insight that the Irish language has to offer.

However even in the beginning of the 20th century, Irish was in decline. The national school system established in 1831 was instrumental in Britain’s continued colonisation of Ireland – a British education to erode the society, language and identity of a nation. Education is still one of the most important components on the future of the Irish language in its development both inside and outside the Gaeltacht. If we get education right we have the power to change the Irish language narrative.

Aontú is committed to the development of a new Irish language deal. We seek the restoration of the Irish language as a spoken language throughout the Gaeltacht and communities throughout the island of Ireland. We want families considering raising their children in Irish to know that Irish has a bright and vibrant future. We will help significantly grow number of Irish language speakers and communities.

Central to this is a sense of pride and motivation. Pride and motivation cannot be achieved when the government continuously reduce the value of the language in terms of investment and status.

Education as a key pillar in functioning Irish speaking communities. 

Fundamental to this is the ending of de facto compulsory English language education and the provision of the choice of Irish language education to all. The pivotal role of early Irish language education cannot be understated. The benefits to children raised bilingually are well documented. There is ample evidence to support the fact that children raised bilingually with Irish have significant linguistic, cognitive and academic advantages over monolingual English speaking children.

The demand for improved Irish language education standards and provision is coming from students and parents themselves. 5% of students receive Gaelscoil Education despite over 23% of parents seeking it (Darmody & Daly, 2015). It is clear that successive governments are significantly resisting demand for more Irish language education.

It increasingly appears that Irish is being side-lined by successive governments in terms of importance. This is no doubt due to the increasing demands being made on educational resources in a time of crisis. It is also of no doubt that amongst some within the political establishment the Irish language is a hobby to be treated with the wrong type of lip service. Increased Irish language standards and provision at all levels of education are not competitors to a broad and economically useful education. They are mutually inclusive.

Improved demand for proficient Irish speaking workers.

There are increasing employment opportunities arising in the broad Irish language sector. Proficient staff are in high demand within the state services, within the EU, amongst private translations services, in film, television, radio, animation and within the Gaeltachtaí. Many posts with mandatory functional Irish are left unfilled. The passing of legislation, both north and south, such as the Irish Language Act and the Official Languages Act will result in an increased need in the public service for Irish speakers.

Education in the Gaeltacht

Without the Gaeltacht the Irish language loses much of its depth and richness. If Irish is no longer a community language, the entire future of our first language will be in jeopardy regardless of how strong the school system might be. Sociolinguists have said that Irish as a vernacular will not survive more than a decade in the Gaeltacht at the current rate of transition (Ó Giollagáin & Charlton, 2015).

The most significant problem in the education system both within and outside the Gaeltacht is the mixed standard of Irish amongst primary and secondary teachers. Schools in Gaeltacht areas and in Gaelscoileanna are finding it increasingly difficult to find teachers who can speak Irish let alone teach complex subjects such as physics and biology to children. Regularly Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools have to recruit teachers from panels where no teacher has indicated that they can teach in Irish.

While the long belated publication of Policy on Gaeltacht Education last year was welcomed, its implementation is very slow, it is currently grossly under resourced and the plan promises much while offering little in the way of credible commitments and time-bound pledges. These are significant issues as teachers and parents considering making the transition into a Gaeltacht school are faced with little or no resources to help in that transition.

Government attitude towards Irish in the education system

There is no overarching, comprehensive strategy for the Irish educational sector in general in either the north or south of Ireland. The ‘20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language’, published in 2010 has been the guide book for safe proofing Irish and includes the educational sector. However it totally lacks time bound commitments, or realistic, costed aims.

Advancing the education elements of this strategy include partial immersion in the Irish language being available to all children and the setting up of a National Centre for Irish-medium Teacher Professional Development, none of which are being implemented in a meaningful fashion. This is just to illustrate how redundant the document has become because of lack of sufficient resources, planning and monitoring. A document examining the progress of the Strategy was due to be published this summer, which we are still awaiting. In the ‘Action Plan for Education 2017’ there is no mention of Gaelscoileanna outside of Gaeltacht areas.

A review of Irish-medium education was carried out in the north in 2008, and a very thorough review of Irish-medium Post-primary education was published in 2014 under the Education Minister of the time, John O’ Dowd MLA. It is telling that reviews such as these, so badly needed, have not been carried out in the south.

In this series of documents, we wish to outline the current state of health of Irish-medium education in this country, and to offer recommendations on how to best cater for needs of Irish speakers within the educational system in its entirety.

The benefits of Irish language education

Children with a second language often excel academically due to the cognitive benefits of second language acquisition and it is much easier for children who have a second language to learn additional languages.

Children with a second language are even shown to have increased mathematical ability.  In addition, there are also numerous social and cultural benefits to having a second language. Research specific to children educated in Irish medium schools has shown the following:

The verbal and visual memory of children who attended Irish-medium schools outperformed children of a similar age from English only schools. In fact, 8-year olds from Irish language schools did as well as, or outperformed 10 year olds from English only schools in several areas (Wylie & Mulhern, 2009).

Responses to the primary research suggest that Irish engenders extended skills in communication, reading and personal skills e.g. team work, problem solving and presentation skills. Respondents believe the subject supports bilingualism and improves and enhances students’ cultural awareness (CCEA Research and Statistics Unit, 2015).

A 2011 study published by the University of Limerick found that learning mathematics through the medium of Irish at primary level may enhance long-term mathematical understanding and attainment in English-medium second-level education (Educational Research Centre, 2011).

Next step for Irish language education

Aontú believes that Irish medium education from pre-school to postgraduate is a right and should be available to whoever wishes to choose it both north and south. We believe that every parent should be able to send their child to a Gaelscoil. Aontú supports immersion education at every level of the education system, particularly at early years.

Aontú are advocating that the Department of Education draft a comprehensive policy on Irish medium education from pre-school to third level. It is vital that we have an overarching strategy to improve and increase Irish use in our educational sector at every stage.

In this series of policy documents we will outline our vision for achieving this aim.

An Ghaeilge sa Chóras Oideachais

Tábhacht na Gaeilge

Is tábhachtach agus is luachmhar le muintir na hÉireann an Ghaeilge toisc gur cuid bhunúsach dínn í. Ceanglaíonn sí lenár dtimpeallacht muid. Is stór saibhir de litríocht, ealaíon, amhránaíocht, stair, miotaseolaíocht agus seanchas í. Struchtúr smaointeoireachta atá inti atá uathúil i ndomhan ina bhfuil éagsúlacht teanga á cailleadh ar bhonn bliantúil. Tá an Ghaeilge greanta ar ár n-ainmneacha agus ár dtírdhreach. Tá an Ghaeilge ar na teangacha is sine sa domhan agus ar an teanga choiteann scríofa is sine san Eoraip.

Teanga phobail atá sa Ghaeilge. Teanga theaghlaigh agus teanga chairde atá inti. Teanga ghnó, TFC agus oideachais atá inti. Is í an Ghaeilge ár dteanga dhúchais agus ár gcéad teanga oifigiúil. D’ainneoin go bhfuil buntáistí le huileláithreacht an Bhéarla maidir le cumarsáid idirnáisiúnta a éascú níl aon amhras ann go bhfuilimid ag cailleadh, mar náisiún, naisc lenár bhféiniúlacht agus lenár n-oidhreacht shaibhir chultúrtha féin.

Is íorónta é gurb é tionchar na Gaeilge a bhí taobh thiar den chlú a thuill scríbhneoirí móra Béarla na hÉireann – blas sainiúil agus nath cainte ar ar tugadh ‘Hiberno English’. Dúirt W.B Yeats i dtaca le haistriúcháin ar sheanlitríocht na hÉireann a léamh go raibh siad mar “chief illumination of all my life”. Tá rud éigin an-tochtmhar faoin easpa cumais seo chun dul i ngleic le saibhreas na teanga agus go bhfuil an fhéintuiscint agus léargas seo ar an Ghaeilge á séanadh.

Bhí an Ghaeilge, áfach, ag meath faoi thús an 20ú haois. Bhí baint mhór ag córas na scoileanna náisiúnta, a bunaíodh in 1831, le coilíniú leanúnach na Breataine ar Éirinn – oideachas Briotanach chun sochaí, teanga agus féiniúlacht náisiúin a chreimeadh. Tá an t-oideachas go fóill ar na gnéithe is tábhachtaí de thodhchaí na Gaeilge maidir lena forbairt sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Ghalltacht araon. Má bhíonn cúrsaí oideachais i gceart beidh an chumhacht againn scéal agus cinniúint na Gaeilge a mhúnlú.

Tá Aontú tiomanta do mhargadh nua a fhorbairt don Ghaeilge. Ba mhian linn go mbeadh an Ghaeilge i réim arís mar theanga labhartha ar fud na Gaeltachta agus i bpobail fud fad na hÉireann. Ba mhaith linn go mbeadh a fhios ag teaghlaigh atá ag smaoineamh ar a gcuid páistí a thógáil le Gaeilge go bhfuil todhchaí gheal bhríomhar i ndán don teanga. Cuideoimid le líon na gcainteoir agus na bpobal Gaeilge a fhorbairt go suntasach.

Tá bród agus spreagadh lárnach sa cheist seo. Ní féidir bród agus spreagadh a bhaint amach agus an rialtas de shíor ag laghdú luach na teanga maidir le hinfheistíocht agus le stádas de.

Oideachas mar chroí i bpobail atá ag feidhmiú trí mheán na Gaeilge. 

Is í an chuid is bunúsaí de seo ná deireadh a chur le Béarla éigeantach mar dhea agus an rogha a bheith ar fáil do gach duine oideachas i nGaeilge a fháil. Tá tábhacht thar na bearta le hoideachas a sholáthar go luath trí mheán na Gaeilge. Is iomaí sin trácht atá déanta ar na buntáistí atá ann do pháistí a thógtar leis an dara teanga. Tá go leor fianaise ann a léiríonn go mbíonn buntáistí teanga, smaointeoireachta agus acadúla ag páistí a thógtar go dátheangach le Gaeilge ar pháistí arb í an Béarla an t-aon teanga atá acu.

Tá an t-éileamh le haghaidh caighdeáin agus soláthair feabhsaithe Ghaeloideachais ag teacht ó na scoláirí agus ó na tuismitheoirí féin. Faigheann 5% de scoláirí Oideachas i nGaelscoil in ainneoin go bhfuil breis agus 23% de thuismitheoirí á lorg (Darmody & Daly, 2015). Is léir go bhfuil rialtas i ndiaidh rialtais ag seasamh in aghaidh an dúshláin le haghaidh breis oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Dealraíonn sé arís agus arís eile go bhfuil rialtas i ndiaidh rialtais ag fágáil na Gaeilge i leataobh i dtéarmaí tábhachta de. Níl aon amhras ann mar gheall ar na héilimh bhreise atá á ndéanamh ar achmhainní oideachasúla in aimsir seo na géarchéime. Níl aon amhras ann ach oiread go bhfuiltear ann sa bhunaíocht pholaitiúil den tuairim gur caitheamh aimsire í an Ghaeilge nach bhfuil ach béalghrá den chineál contráilte tuillte aici. Ní hionann caighdeáin agus soláthar breise Ghaeloideachais ag gach leibhéal den chóras oideachais agus dul san iomaíocht le hoideachas leathan atá úsáideach ó thaobh an gheilleagair de. D’fhéadfadh an dá rud a bheith fíor.

Éileamh feabhsaithe le haghaidh oibrithe atá líofa sa Ghaeilge.

Tá deiseanna méadaithe fostaíochta ag teacht chun cinn i mórearnáil na Gaeilge. Tá tóir ar fhoireann atá líofa sna seirbhísí stáit, san Aontas Eorpach, i seirbhísí príobháideacha aistriúcháin, i gcúrsaí scannánaíochta, teilifíse, raidió, beochain agus sna Gaeltachtaí. Fágtar go leor post a bhfuil Gaeilge fheidhmiúil mar riachtanas iontu gan a bheith líonta. Beidh gá le tuilleadh cainteoirí Gaeilge sa tseirbhís phoiblí nuair a thugtar reachtaíocht isteach, ar nós Acht na Gaeilge agus Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, thuaidh agus theas.

Oideachas sa Ghaeltacht

Gan an Ghaeltacht cailleann an Ghaeilge go leor den doimhneacht agus den saibhreas a bhaineann léi. Mura mbíonn an Ghaeilge ina teanga phobail, beidh todhchaí chéad teanga na tíre seo i mbaol beag beann ar láidreacht an chórais oideachais. Tá sé ráite ag sochtheangeolaíochta nach mairfidh an Ghaeilge mar theanga phobail níos faide ná deich mbliana sna Gaeltachtaí de réir an ráta reatha aistrithe teanga (Ó Giollagáin & Charlton, 2015).

Is í an fhadhb is suntasaí sa chóras oideachais sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Ghalltacht ná caighdeán measctha Gaeilge i measc múinteoir bunscoile agus meánscoile. Is doiligh le scoileanna sna Gaeltachtaí agus le Gaelscoileanna múinteoirí a earcú a bhfuil Gaeilge acu ní amháin ábhair chasta ar nós na fisice agus na bitheolaíochta a theagasc do pháistí. Go rialta bíonn ar Ghaelscoileanna agus ar scoileanna Gaeltachta múinteoirí a earcú ó phainéil nár léirigh múinteoir ar bith gur féidir leo a bheith ag teagasc trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Anuraidh, nuair a foilsíodh an Polasaí ar Oideachas Gaeltachta sa deireadh thiar thall, agus in ainneoin gur cuireadh fáilte roimhe, tá an-mhoill lena chur i bhfeidhm. Níl go leor acmhainní curtha leis, ná baol air, agus gealltar an oiread sin sa phlean ach is beag a thugtar maidir le tiomantais inchreidte agus gealltanais a bhfuil srian ama leo. Is ceisteanna suntasacha iad seo toisc nach mbíonn mórán acmhainní (nó acmhainní ar bith) ar fáil do mhúinteoirí agus thuismitheoirí atá ag smaoineamh ar an aistriú sin a dhéanamh go scoil Ghaeltachta.

Meon an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge sa chóras oideachais

Níl aon straitéis chuimsitheach uileghabhálach le haghaidh earnáil an oideachais Ghaeilge go ginearálta thuaidh ná theas in Éirinn. Tá ‘Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge’, a foilsíodh in 2010 mar theoirleabhar chun an Ghaeilge a chosaint agus tá an earnáil oideachais istigh ann. Níl aon tiomantas a bhfuil spriocam leo, nó aidhmeanna réadúla costáilte leis, áfach.

Áirítear leis na gnéite oideachasúla den straitéis seo a chur chun cinn ná páirt-tumoideachas sa Ghaeilge a bheith ar fáil do gach páistí agus Ionad Náisiúnta a bhunú le haghaidh Forbairt Ghairmiúil Múinteoir Gaeloideachais, agus ní ceachtar acu siúd á gcur i bhfeidhm ar bhealach ar bith fiúntach. Léiríonn sé seo easpa feidhme leis an cháipéis mar gheall ar easpa achainní cuí, pleanáil agus monatóireacht. Bhí cáipéis chun dul chun cinn na Straitéise a mheas le bheith amuigh sa samhradh, ach táimid ag fanacht uirthi go fóill. Sa ‘Plean Gníomhaíochta don Oideachas 2017’ níl aon trácht ar Ghaelscoileanna lasmuigh de cheantair Ghaeltachta.

Tugadh faoi athbhreithniú ar Ghaeloideachas ó thuaidh in 2008, agus foilsíodh athbhreithniú an-chuimsitheach ar Ghaeloideachas Iarbhunscoile in 2014 faoi threoir an Aire Oideachais ag an am, John O’Dowd, CTR. Is suntasach nár tugadh faoi athbhreithniú mar seo, a bhfuil gá leis, ó dheas.

Sa tsraith seo cáipéisí, ba mhian linn a chur in iúl an bhail atá ar an Ghaelscolaíocht sa tír seo faoi láthair, agus moltaí a chur ar fáil faoin dóigh is fearr chun freastal ar riachtanais Ghaeilgeoirí sa chóras oideachais ina iomláine.

Buntáistí an Ghaeloideachais

Baineann an-chuid páistí a bhfuil an dara teanga acu barr feabhais acadúil amach de dheasca na buntáistí cognaíoch atá ag gabháil le sealbhú an dara teanga, agus bíonn sé i bhfad níos fusa ag páistí a bhfuil an dara teanga acu teangacha eile a fhoghlaim.

Is cosúil freisin go mbíonn cumas matamaiticiúil níos fearr ag páistí a bhfuil dátheangach.  Ar a bharr sin, is iomaí sin buntáiste sóisialta agus cultúrtha a bhaineann leis an dara teanga a bheith agat. Léiríonn taighde ar pháistí a fuair oiliúint i nGaelscoileanna an méid seo a leanas:

D’éirigh níos fearr le cuimhne béil agus fhísiúil páistí a d’fhreastail ar Ghaelscoileanna ná páistí ag an aois chéanna i scoileann Bhéarla amháin. De dhéanta na fírinne, rinne páistí 8 mbliana d’aois a d’fhreastail ar Ghaelscoileanna chomh maith le, nó d’éirigh níos fearr leo, páistí 10 mbliana d’aois as scoileanna Bhéarla i réimsí áirithe (Wylie & Mulhern, 2009).

Léirítear sna freagraí ar an bhuntaighde go spreagann an Ghaeilge scileanna breise ó thaobh scileanna cumarsáide, léitheoireachta agus pearsanta, msh. obair foirne, réiteach fadhbanna agus scileanna cur i láthair. Creideann freagróirí go dtacaíonn an t-ábhar leis an dátheangachas agus go bhfeabhsaíonn sé feasacht chultúrtha na ndaltaí (CCEA Research and Statistics Unit, 2015).

Léiríodh i staidéar a foilsíodh ag Ollscoil Luimnigh in 2011 go mb’fhéidir go gcuirfeadh staidéar ar an mhatamaitic trí mheán na Gaeilge ag an bhunscoil le tuiscint agus le gnóthachtáil fhadtéarmach sa mhatamaitic agus ag oideachas trí mheán an Bhéarla ag an dara leibhéal (Educational Research Centre, 2011).

An chéad chéim eile don Ghaeloideachas

Creideann Aontú gur ceart é Gaeloideachas ó naíonra go hiarchéim agus gur chóir dó a bheith ar fáil do cibé duine a roghnaíonn é thuaidh agus theas. Creidimid gur chóir go mbeadh an rogha ag gach tuismitheoirí a pháiste a chur ar Ghaelscoil. Tacaíonn Aontú le tumoideachas ar gach leibhéal den chóras oideachais, go háirithe sna luathbhlianta.

Tá Aontú ag moladh go ndréachtóidh an Roinn Oideachais dréachtpholasaí cuimsitheach ar Ghaeloideachas ó naíonra go tríú leibhéal. Is ríthábhachtach go mbíonn straitéis uileghabhálach againn chun úsáid na Gaeilge a fheabhsú agus a mhéadú inár n-earnáil oideachais ag gach céim.

Sa tsraith seo de cháipéisí polasaí léireoimid ár bhfís chun an aidhm seo a bhaint amach.

Irish in the Pre-School Sector

Education through Irish in pre-school settings has a huge role to play in language acquisition. However, despite the acknowledgment of its importance, Irish-medium pre-schools face a lot of obstacles, many of which could be easily countered with a little political will and investment.

There is an increasing demand amongst parents for naíonraí as they know that their children will be at an advantage cognitively, academically and socially if they receive Irish language education.

As such, there has been huge growth in the Irish pre-school sector in the south of Ireland, with 202 naíonraí now established outside of the Gaeltacht, compared with only 12 naíonraí in existence back in 1978 when Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta was founded.

Huge growth in the sector has been reflected in the north – in the past five years has seen a concentrated period of development with an increase of 58% from over 760 children
attending services in 2012 to nearly 1,200 children in 2017. There are 44 pre-schools and 17 programmes operating through the medium of Irish.

There are 55 Irish language pre-schools established throughout the Gaeltacht with support from Údarás na Gaeltachta. However this amounts to only 46% of the publicly funded early years settings in the Gaeltacht region. With the precarious future for Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht regions, this is a shockingly low figure.

The crucial role of naíonraí in preserving the Irish language has been acknowledged by the government in policy documents such as the 20 Year Strategy as well as being mentioned in the Programme for Government. There is not, however a recognition process being rolled out for preschools to be given special status as Gaeltacht schools under the Policy on Gaeltacht Education. Nor is there any requirement for preschools under the ECCE scheme in Gaeltacht areas to have Irish on the curriculum, despite being in receipt of government funding.

Over 80% of primary schools and 95% of second level schools in the Gaeltacht have sought recognition as Gaeltacht schools. These schools will have a total immersion educational model through Irish. There is no doubt, that as only 46% of early-years providers operate through medium of Irish in Gaeltacht areas, this will impact upon the aspirations set out by the Policy on Gaeltacht Education.  Census figures which show that only 19% of children aged between ages three and four speak Irish daily outside of the education system in the Gaeltacht, indicates the urgent need for increased supports at this level.

Naíonraí which are in existence within and beyond the Gaeltacht regions face many obstacles. The early-years sector in itself is fraught with problems. There has been little real investment in childcare in the state with public spending on it trailing behind that of other OECD countries. Much of the work is precarious and low-paid.  As such it is difficult for early-learning educational providers to recruit and retain staff, let alone staff with high Irish language capabilities.

Recommendations:

Strategic planning to ensure that the continued growth of the sector can be supported and that sufficiently qualified and trained staff are available.

Greater co-operation both north and south in terms of the long-term planning of Irish medium early years education, the pooling of resources and knowledge.

Increase training and professional development of practitioners in Irish-medium early years’ educational settings in Gaeltacht areas, as well as state-wide. Increase the provision of CPD opportunities through Irish as well as specialising in immersion methodology for both childcare practitioners and directors of naíonraí.

Extend the Gaeltacht School Recognition Process to preschools and provide additional resources and supports to those who meet the requirements. Irish should be the language of education in every pre-school that receives state assistance in Gaeltacht regions.

Naíonraí, in which their staff have achieved their Teastas Eorpach Gaeilge (TEG) or similar Irish language qualification, to be awarded an increase in capitation as a recognition of all the additional work that is involved.

Ensure that a programme of Irish is delivered to those who work in pre-schools as part of their training modules FETAC Levels 5-8. Modules on Irish language and immersion education be delivered for level 7 and degree courses.

Naíonraí to tie in with official language planning in each area. The strength and sustainability of naíonraí is dependent on having sufficient qualified and suitably trained staff.

Inspections by cigirí from the Department of Education and Skills, Tusla and Pobal to be conducted through Irish.

Establish funding for developmental officers dedicated to the expansion and improvement of naíonraí.

Mandatory training on child protection and first aid to be provided through the medium of Irish in preschools outside of the Gaeltacht.

Departments to engage with Irish language educational organisations in their working language. All official correspondence including forms sent to naíonraí or online to have an Irish format. This applies to every government department and agency dealing with naíonraí, from the Department of Education to the Department of Children, Tusla and Pobal and to be extended to voluntary bodies who receive government funding.

Establish a dedicated section within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to answer questions in Irish.

An Ghaeilge san Earnáil Réamhscolaíochta

Tá ról ríthábhachtach ag oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge i suíomhanna réamhscolaíochta maidir le sealbhú teanga. D’ainneoin go n-aithnítear an tábhacht, áfach, tá go leor constaicí roimh réamhscoileanna lán-Ghaeilge a bhféadfaí go leor acu a shárú le beagán toil pholaitíochta agus infheistíochta.

Tá méadú ar an éileamh i measc tuismitheoirí ar naíonraí óir is eol dóibh go mbeidh buntáiste ag a gcuid páistí go cognaíoch, go hacadúil agus go sóisialta má fhaigheann siad oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Mar sin de, tá fás ollmhór san earnáil réamhscolaíochta lán-Ghaeilge i ndeisceart na hÉireann agus 202 naíonra bunaithe anois taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht, i gcomparáid le go díreach 12 naíonra a bhí ar an fhód thiar in 1978 nuair a bunaíodh Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta.

Tá fás ollmhór den chineál chéanna sa tuaisceart – tréimhse dhlúth fáis a bhí sna cúig bliana dheireanacha agus méadú 58% ann ó bhreis agus 760 páiste ag freastal in 2012 go beagnach 1,200 páiste in 2017. Tá 44 réamhscoil agus 17 gclár ag feidhmiú trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Tá 55 réamhscoil Ghaeilge bunaithe ar fud na Gaeltachta agus tacaíocht acu ó Údarás na Gaeltachta. Ach níl i gceist leis sin ach 46% de na suíomhanna luath-óige a mhaoinítear go poiblí sa Ghaeltacht. Nuair a chuirtear san áireamh an baol atá roimh an Ghaeilge mar theanga phobail sa Ghaeltacht, is náireach a ísle atá an figiúr seo.

Tá ról ríthábhachtach na naíonraí i gcaomhnú na Gaeilge aitheanta ag an rialtas i ndoiciméid bheartais amhail an Straitéis 20 Bliain le cois tagairt dó sa Chlár Rialtais. Níl, áfach, próiseas aitheantais á chur i bhfeidhm le stádas ar leith mar scoileanna Gaeltachta a thabhairt do réamhscoileanna faoin Pholasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta. Níl aon cheanglas ach oiread ar réamhscoileanna faoi scéim ECCE i gceantair Ghaeltachta Gaeilge a bheith ar an churaclam acu, d’ainneoin go bhfaigheann siad maoiniú rialtais.

Tá aitheantas mar scoileanna Gaeltachta iarrtha ag 80% de na bunscoileanna agus 95% de na scoileanna dara leibhéal sa Ghaeltacht. Beidh samhail lán-tumoideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge ag na scoileanna seo. Níl aon amhras, ós rud é nach bhfeidhmíonn ach 46% de na soláthraithe luath-óige sa Ghaeltacht trí mheán na Gaeilge, go mbeidh tionchar aige seo ar na spriocanna atá leagtha amach sa Pholasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta. De réir figiúirí daonáirimh, ní labhraíonn ach 19% de pháistí d’aois trí agus ceithre bliana Gaeilge go laethúil taobh amuigh den chóras oideachais sa Ghaeltacht agus léiríonn sé seo an phráinn atá le tuilleadh tacaíochta ag an leibhéal seo.

Bíonn go leor constaicí roimh na naíonraí reatha atá laistigh agus lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá go leor fadhbanna ag an earnáil luath-óige féin. Is beag infheistíocht dháiríre sa chúram leanaí a rinneadh sa stát agus an caiteachas poiblí air i bhfad ar gcúl thíorthaí eile de chuid ECFE. Tá go leor den obair neamhchinnte agus ar phá íseal. Mar sin de, is deacair le soláthraithe luathoideachais baill foirne a earcú agus a choinneáil, gan trácht ar bhaill foirne a bhfuil ardchumas Gaeilge acu.

Moltaí:

Pleanáil straitéiseach lena chinntiú gur féidir tacú le fás leanúnach na hearnála agus go bhfuil baill foirne ag a bhfuil na cáilíochtaí agus oiliúint chuí acu ar fáil.

Níos mó comhoibrithe idir tuaisceart agus deisceart i dtéarmaí pleanáil fhadtéarmach oideachas Gaeilge luath-óige, comhroinnt acmhainní agus eolais.

Oiliúint agus forbairt ghairmiúil cleachtóirí a mhéadú i suíomhanna oideachas luath-óige Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, agus i ngach cearn den tír. Soláthar deiseanna FGL trí mheán na Gaeilge a mhéadú chomh maith le speisialú i modheolaíocht tumoideachais do chleachtóirí cúram leanaí agus do stiúrthóirí naíonraí araon.

An Próiseas Aitheantas Scoileanna Gaeltachta a shíneadh le go gcuimseofaí réamhscoileanna agus tuilleadh acmhainní agus tacaíochta a thabhairt dóibh siúd a chomhlíonann na riachtanais. Ba chóir gurbh í an Ghaeilge an teanga oideachais i ngach réamhscoil a fhaigheann cúnamh stáit i réigiúin Ghaeltachta.

Méadú ar chaipitíocht a bhronnadh ar naíonraí ina ngnóthaíonn a mbaill foirne an Teastas Eorpach Gaeilge (TEG) nó cáilíocht chomhionann sa Ghaeilge mar aitheantas ar an obair bhreise ar fad atá i gceist.

A chinntiú go gcuirtear clár Gaeilge ar fáil dóibh siúd a oibríonn i réamhscoileanna mar chuid dá modúil oiliúna Leibhéil FETAC 5-8. Modúil ar an Ghaeilge agus ar an tumoideachas le cur ar fáil i gcomhair leibhéal 7 agus cúrsaí céime.

Naíonraí cloí le pleanáil oifigiúil teanga i ngach ceantar. Tá láidreacht agus inbhuanaitheacht naíonraí ag brath ar a ndóthain baill foirne ag a bhfuil na cáilíochtaí agus an oiliúint chuí.

Cigireachtaí de chuid na Roinne Oideachais agus Scileanna, Tusla agus Pobal le déanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Maoiniú a chur ar fáil d’oifigigh forbartha a bhfuil de shainchúram orthu naíonraí a fhorbairt agus a fheabhsú.

Oiliúint éigeantach ar chosaint leanaí agus ar gharchabhair a chur ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge i réamhscoileanna taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Na Ranna dul i dteagmháil le heagrais oideachais Ghaeilge ina dteanga oibre féin. Formáid Ghaeilge a bheith leis an gcomhfhreagras oifigiúil ar fad, lena n-áirítear foirmeacha a chuirtear chuig naíonraí nó ar líne. Baineann sé seo le gach roinn agus gníomhaireacht rialtais a bhíonn ag plé le naíonraí, idir an Roinn Oideachais agus an Roinn Leanaí, Tusla agus Pobal agus chomh fada le comhlachtaí deonacha a fhaigheann maoiniú rialtais.

Rannóg shainiúil a bhunú sa Roinn Leanaí agus Gnóthaí Óige le freagra a thabhairt ar cheisteanna i nGaeilge.

 

Irish in the primary school sector

The significant cognitive, communicative, and social benefits to Irish language education have been reflected in the huge and growing demand for Irish language primary schools throughout the island of Ireland.

A survey conducted by Kantar Millward Brown this year found that 78% of people in the south and 67% of people in the north agreed that every child should have the right to receive their education in Irish.

However, the availability of Gaelscoileanna lags far behind supply. There are 145 Gaelscoileanna in the 26 Counties outside Gaeltacht areas, 125 in Gaeltacht areas, and 35 in the 6 Counties. This means that just 7.7% of schools in the island of Ireland are Gaelscoileanna. Many of existing Gaelscoileanna can’t cope with demand and, in the 2015/2016 school year, at least 1,656 students were turned away.

Further problems relate to the condition of existing school buildings – 39% of Gaelscoileanna are without a permanent school building. Despite this, almost one-quarter of parents in the south of Ireland willing to send their children to a Gaelscoil according to ESRI findings in 2015.

Slowing growth despite demand

It is clear that increasing Gaelscoileanna seems like a straightforward solution for the government to advance Irish language policy. However, growth in this area has slowed considerably, despite rising demand. Only 11 have been established this decade – in comparison to 61 in the nineties. No Gaelscoil will be established this year.

Government inaction

The government purport to support the building of Gaelscoil education – indeed Leo Varadkar stated in his policy plan ‘Taking Ireland Forward’ directly prior to his becoming Taoiseach, that we should “take a proactive approach in making Gaelscoileanna available to meet the demand for Irish language education”. However, there has been little action taken by the government in that regard since his tenure as Taoiseach. The Department of Education have stated that they have “no plan for drawing up a policy for Irish language education”. There are no tangible plans to increase Gaelscoileanna in the short or long term.

Policy on Gaeltacht Education

The future of Irish is dependent on its continuation as the living language of the Gaeltacht. Currently there are 500 native daily Irish speakers between the ages of 3-4 in Gaeltacht areas. Clearly this is an extremely vulnerable cohort and native speakers must be given every support. The badly needed and long-belated Policy on Gaeltacht Education was published in 2016. This plan aims to strengthen Irish-language learning in the Gaeltacht schools, which until now did not have a distinct curriculum from the rest of the state.

The Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme, whereby participating schools sought special recognition on the basis of the implementation of specific language criteria over a five-year period, was taken up by 79% of schools by the end of last year. However, its implementation is “on a phased basis as resources permit” which does not instil confidence as to the government’s commitment in backing the policy fully. There has also been apprehension as to the doling out of the promised ‘additional resources’ particularly in light of implementing immersion education in two or three-teacher schools.

With the dangers of the well-spring of the Irish language running dry well documented, now is a time for decisive action and serious investment.

Increasing the provision of Gaelscoileanna

There are two ways to increase Gaelscoileanna. For new schools, this is achieved through the selection of a patron to set up a school. For existing schools, this is achieved through the divestment process by which religious schools transfer their patronage to multi- and non-denominational schools.

New schools – patronage process

While the provision of Gaelscoileanna has considerably slowed, there has been an increased emphasis by this current government to provide a greater choice of ethos. However, increased choice of ethos can be provided in tandem with the Irish language. An Foras Pátrúnachta is the largest patron of Gaelscoileanna with almost half of their schools either multi- or inter-denominational.

Unfortunately, the patronage process establishes schools “only where warranted by increased demographics”.  It does not account for the language or cultural ethos of schools. It does not consider demand from outside the catchment area (those wishing to attend Gaelscoileanna are often more willing to travel longer distances to receive it). It does not consider that meeting demographic needs is not the same as meeting the needs of the community.

The process is in contravention to the Education Act 1998 and was successfully challenged by the Coimisinéir Teanga. As a result, the Department of Education is currently reviewing the patronage process to give “additional regard to parental preference for Irish-medium education”.

Existing schools – divestment process

In line with the objective of increasing choice of ethos, the government aims to increase the number of multi- and non-denominational schools to 400 by 2030, with new schools accounting for a third of this. For existing schools, this is achieved through the divestment process by which religious schools will transfer their patronage to multi- and non-denominational schools. As outlined, there is great scope for schools to operate both as Gaelscoileanna and multi-denominational schools.

There are currently 16 areas completing surveys in the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process. Parents are asked to identify a patron of choice and also whether the school should be in Irish-medium. We are advocating that new guidelines be established that will be favourable to Irish language schools, rather than the current system which discriminates against them, so that the government can begin to meet the demand for Irish-medium education.

Case study: Synge Street

In 2017, one of Ireland’s most famous boys’ schools decided to become a co-ed Gaelscoil. Synge Street Primary School introduced a stream (or “sruth”) of co-ed pupils last September, starting at junior infants level, with pupils learning only through Irish. This Gaelscoil stream comprising of both girls and boys ran alongside the classes of boys only. The school decided to ‘go Gaelscoil’ as a response to falling school numbers as well as an increased demand locally for Irish language education.

School management had to convince Archbishop Martin to make the change, as well as the Department of Education. We are arguing that the process of changing from an English language school to a Gaelscoil should be a straightforward that is facilitated by a unit operating within the Department of Education.

Standards of Irish amongst teachers in primary schools

This is a problem which is widely known and long acknowledged. The 2018 Chief Inspector’s Report expressed concerns over the teaching of Irish in primary schools that were not Gaelscoileanna or located in the Gaeltacht. The quality of learning in Irish primary schools was deemed unsatisfactory in 26% of lessons.

This is far lower than that of English and Maths where the overall quality of learning was deemed unsatisfactory in 17% and 15% of lessons respectively.

This same percentage (of 26% unsatisfactory Irish lessons) was reflected in the 2013-2016 report where achievements in Irish were again significantly lower than in English and Mathematics. This report stated that there was “considerable potential for improvement in the quality of teaching and learning in Irish”.

We believe that there should be an intensive Irish language courses available for those who the inspector deems as not to be up to the necessary standard of Irish. There should also be increased professional development opportunities for all primary school teachers as regards the teaching of Irish in tandem with the latest online modes of learning.

We are currently in contact with the Department of Education, the Irish Teaching Council and the Higher Education Authority to devise a strategy by which standards of the teaching of Irish can be improved. We believe it is of particular importance, as primary schooling is the bedrock of education and if standards are poor at this stage, the Irish language learning experience will be negatively impacted upon during the remainder of the education cycle.

We also believe that there should be a standardisation of Irish exams in teacher training colleges to ensure the high quality of results of graduates.

The Irish language curriculum in English speaking schools

There is huge room for improvement in the Irish language curriculum in schools which are neither Gaelscoileanna nor Gaeltacht based. It is recognised that the current curriculum is not as effective as it should be. There are no concrete learning outcomes in the oral language curriculum – only vague milestones for every two years such as ‘demonstrating comprehension of closed questions’, or ‘displaying enjoyment of listening to short simple stories’.

The new Primary Language Curriculum was introduced on a phased basis from 2016. All strands of the curriculum, from oral to reading and writing will be taught to children in junior infants to second classes by September 2018. There is little to differentiate the learning outcomes in English as compared to Irish, which is a new language for the vast majority of students attending these schools. This approach has been derided by language experts who outline the need for a vigorous framework for the teaching of Irish with learning goals concretely outlined each year.

We believe that there needs to be a totally new approach to teaching Irish in primary schools. The teaching of Irish should be an enjoyable experience for both pupil and teacher with the best of resources in terms of text books, games, and online tools.

We believe that a new curriculum is vital for re-energising the way in which Irish is taught and enabling teachers to teach set classes and games in a structured fashion.  We also believe that partial immersion should be available to every child in the South for the first two years of schooling with additional subjects taught through Irish, art and sport initially, to be expanded subsequently. This is known as Content and Language Implemented Learning (CLIL) and has proven to lead to greater linguistic proficiency, increased motivation, greater intercultural awareness and it is suitable for learners of all abilities.

The 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 proposed to “move towards a situation where partial Irish language immersion will be offered to all children.” As this Strategy has not been implemented, this measure never came to pass. An Action Plan published in June 2018 to progress the aims of the Strategy has mooted a “scoping paper” on the implementation of for the teaching of Irish through other subjects and that an “action paper” will be developed for implementation of CLIL. We fully support the introduction of CLIL but are calling on the government to advance the pace of pilot implementation.

Recommendations

  • A comprehensive plan to be drawn up by the Department identifying the required elements of a strategic approach of meeting the demand for Irish medium education.
  • An interim review of the Policy for Gaeltacht Education and supports and resources for the next five years to be outlined.
  • The timely completion of the review on the school patronage process as it relates to Gaelscoileanna.
  • The two Education Departments north and south establish a planned programme of new Gaelscoil builds based on demand and viability.
  • We support partial immersion (or CLIL)being available to every child in the South for the first two years of schooling to be taught through Irish and that two additional subject taught through Irish in primary school (art and sport).
  • All schools in the official Gaeltacht functioning through Irish alone. Schools that are just outside the Gaeltacht but that serve a cohort of Gaeltacht children should be given the option of joining the Gaeltacht Schools Recognition Scheme.
  • Putting in place a formal structure between An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) and the Council for Curriculum, Assessments and Examinations (CEA) to produce and share teaching aids for the benefit of the Irish language sector, education and value for money.
  • The standardisation of Irish exams in teacher training colleges to ensure the high quality of results.
  • A unit to be established in the Department of Education to enable the smooth transition of English language schools into Gaelscoileanna.
  • Adequate Irish-medium special educational needs provision.
  • The design of a language learning course for the Irish language which will facilitate parents to support their child’s learning of Irish in school.

An Ghaeilge san earnáil bhunscolaíochta

Tá na buntáistí suntasacha cognaíocha, cumarsáideacha agus sóisialta a bhaineann leis an nGaelscolaíocht léirithe san éileamh ollmhór fásmhar ar Ghaelscoileanna ar fud oileán na hÉireann.

Fuair suirbhé a rinn Kantar Millward Brown in mbliana gur aontaigh 78% de dhaoine sa deisceart agus 67% de dhaoine sa tuaisceart gur chóir go mbeadh an ceart ag gach leanbh a n-oideachas a fháil trí Ghaeilge.

Ach tá infhaighteacht Gaelscoileanna i bhfad ar gcúl ar sholáthar. Tá 145 Ghaelscoil sna 26 Chontae taobh amuigh de cheantair Ghaeltachta, 125 i gceantair Ghaeltachta agus 35 sna 6 Chontae. Ciallaíonn sé seo nach bhfuil ach 7.7% de scoileanna ar oileán na hÉireann ina nGaelscoileanna. Ní féidir lena lán Gaelscoileanna atá ann déileáil leis an éileamh agus sa scoilbhliain 2015/2016 diúltaíodh do 1,656 dhalta ar a laghad.

Tá tuilleadh fadhbanna ann maidir le riocht foirgneamh scoile reatha – tá 39% Gaelscoileanna gan foirgneamh buan scoile. Ina ainneoin seo, tá beagnach aon cheathrú de thuismitheoirí i ndeisceart na hÉireann toilteanach a leanaí a chur chuig Gaelscoil dar le torthaí ESRI in 2015.

Moill ar fhás in ainneoin éilimh

Is léir gur cosúil gur réiteach simplí é líon na nGaelscoileanna a mhéadú don rialtas le polasaí Gaeilge a chur chun cinn. Ach tá fás sa réimse seo moillithe go mór in ainneoin éileamh a bheith ag fás. Níor bunaíodh ach 11 sna deich mbliana seo – i gcomparáid le 61 sna nóchaidí. Ní bhunófar aon Ghaelscoil i mbliana.

Neamhghníomh rialtais

Maíonn an rialtas go dtacaíonn siad le tógáil na Gaelscolaíochta – go deimhin, dúirt Leo Varadkar ina phlean polasaí “Éire a Thabhairt Chun Tosaigh” díreach sular ceapadh ina Thaoiseach é, “Ba chóir dúinn cur chuige réamhghníomhach a bheith againn i leith Gaelscoileanna a chur ar fáil le riar ar an éileamh ar Ghaelscolaíocht”. Ach is beag gníomh atá déanta ag an rialtas ina leith sin ó thosaigh sé mar Thaoiseach. Tá ráite ag an Roinn Oideachais nach bhfuil aon phlean acu polasaí a scríobh don Ghaelscolaíocht. Níl aon phlean daingean ann le cur le Gaelscoileanna a ghearrthéarma na san fhadtéarma.

Polasaí ar Oideachas Gaeltachta

Tá todhchaí na Gaeilge ag brath uirthi leanúint ar aghaidh mar theanga bheo na Gaeltachta. Faoi láthair tá 500 cainteoir laethúil Gaeilge idir 3 agus 4 bliana d’aois i gceantair Ghaeltachta. Is léir gur cohórt an-leochaileach iad seo agus caithfear gach tacaíocht a thabhairt do chainteoirí dúchais. Foilsíodh an Polasaí ar Oideachas Gaeltachta, lena raibh géarghá agus ar a raibh moill mhór, in 2016. Tá d’aidhm ag an bplean seo foghlaim na Gaeilge a neartú i scoileanna Gaeltachta, nach raibh curaclaim ar leith iontu éagsúil ón gcuid eile den stát go dtí anois.

Ghlac 79% de scoileanna leis an Scéim Aitheantais mar Scoil Ghaeltachta faoi dheireadh na bliana seo caite, scéim inar lorg scoileanna rannpháirteacha aitheantas speisialta de bhun critéir shonracha theanga a chur i bhfeidhm thar thréimhse cúig bliana. Ach tá a feidhmiú “ar bhonn chéimithe de réir mar a cheadaíonn acmhainní”, rud nach spreagann muinín i dtiomantas an rialtais tacaíocht iomlán a thabhairt don pholasaí. Bhí imní ann freisin maidir ‘acmhainní breise’ a gealladh a thabhairt amach, go háirithe i bhfianaise an tumoideachas a chur i bhfeidhm i scoileanna ina bhfuil beirt nó triúr oidí.

Leis na contúirtí go dtráfaidh fíorthobar na Gaeilge ar an taifead go soiléir, anois an t-am le haghaidh gníomh diongbháilte agus infheistíocht dháiríre.

Soláthar méadaitheach Gaelscoileanna

Tá dhá chaoi ann le cur le Gaelscoileanna. Le haghaidh scoileanna nua baintear seo amach trí phátrún a roghnú le scoil a chur ar bun. Maidir le scoileanna reatha baintear seo amach tríd an bpróiseas difheistithe, ina n-aistríonn scoileanna reiligiúnacha a bpátrúnacht go scoileanna il-sainchreidmheach agus neamh-shainchreidmheach.

Scoileanna nua – próiseas pátrúnachta

Cé go bhfuil moill mhór ar sholáthar Gaelscoileanna, tá béim níos mó ag an rialtas reatha seo ar rogha níos mó éitis. Ach is féidir rogha níos mó éitis a chur ar fáil in éineacht leis an nGaeilge. Is é An Foras Pátrúnachta an pátrún Gaelscoileanna is mó le beagnach leath dá scoileanna ina scoileanna il-sainchreidmheach nó idir-shainchreidmheach.

Ar an drochuair, ní chuireann an próiseas pátrúnachta scoileanna ar bun ach “nuair a theastaíonn mar gheall ar mhéadú déimeagrafach”.  Ní chuireann sé san áireamh an teanga nó éiteas cultúrtha scoileanna. Ní chuireann sé san áireamh éileamh uathu siúd taobh amuigh den scoilcheantar (is minic daoine atá ag iarraidh freastal ar Ghaelscoileanna a bheith sásta taisteal níos faide lena fhail). Ní chuireann sé san áireamh nach ionann riachtanais dhéimeagrafacha agus riar ar riachtanais an phobail.

Sáraíonn an próiseas an tAcht Oideachais 1998 agus thug an Coimisinéir Teanga dúshlán rathúil faoi. De thoradh air sin tá an Roinn Oideachais ag déanamh athbhreithniú faoi láthair ar an bpróiseas pátrúnachta “le haird bhreise a thabhairt ar rogha tuismitheoirí le haghaidh Gaelscolaíochta”.

Scoileanna reatha – próiseas dífheistithe

De réir an chuspóra rogha éitis a mhéadú, tá d’aidhm ag an rialtas líon na scoileanna il-sainchreidmheach agus neamh-shainchreidmheach go 400 faoi 2030, le scoileanna nua ina dtrian de seo. Maidir le scoileanna reatha baintear seo amach tríd an bpróiseas difheistithe, ina n-aistríonn scoileanna reiligiúnacha a bpátrúnacht go scoileanna il-sainchreidmheach agus neamh-shainchreidmheach. Mar a léirítear, tá féidearthacht mhór ann do scoileanna le feidhmiú mar Ghaelscoileanna agus mar scoileanna il-sainchreidmheacha araon.

Tá faoi láthair 16 cheantar ag cur i gcrích suirbhéanna sa phróiseas maidir le Athchumrú Scoileanna le haghaidh Éagsúlachta. Iarrtar ar thuismitheoir pátrún is rogha leo a chur in iúl agus ar chóir don scoil a bheith ina Gaelscoil. Táimid ag áitiú go mbunófar treoirlínte nua a bheidh fabhrach do Ghaelscoileanna, seachas an córas reatha a dhéanann leithcheal ina n-éadan, ionas gur féidir leis an rialtas tosú ag riar ar an éileamh ar Ghaelscolaíocht.

Cás-staidéar: Sráid Synge

In 2017 shocraigh ceann de na scoileanna buachaillí is clúití in Éirinn a bheith ina Gaelscoil chomhoideachais. Thug Bunscoil Shráid Synge isteach sruth de dhaltaí comhoideachais i Meán Fómhair seo caite, ag tosú le leibhéal na naíonán sóisir, le daltaí ag foghlaim trí Ghaeilge amháin. Rith an sruth Gaelscoile, ina raibh cailíní agus buachaillí araon, ag rith taobh leis na ranganna ina raibh buachaillí amháin. Shocraigh an scoil a bheith ina Gaelscoil mar fhreagairt ar uimhreacha rolla a bheith ag titim chomh maith le héileamh níos mó sa cheantar ar Ghaelscolaíocht.

B’éigean do bhainisteoirí na scoile a chur ina luí ar an Ardeaspag Martin an t-athrú a dhéanamh, chomh maith leis an Roinn Oideachais. Is é an argóint atá againn gur chóir don phróiseas a bhaineann le hathrú ó scoil Bhéarla go Gaelscoil a bheith simplí atá éascaithe ag aonad ag feidhmiú laistigh den Roinn Oideachais.

Caighdeáin na Gaeilge i measc múinteoirí i mbunscoileanna

Is fadhb í seo atá ar eolas go leitheadach agus atá á haithint le fada. Léirigh Tuarascáil an Phríomhchigire 2018 ábhair imní maidir le múineadh na Gaeilge i mbunscoileanna nach Gaelscoileanna iad nó lonnaithe sa Ghaeltacht. Measadh caighdeán fhoghlaim na Gaeilge i mbunscoileanna in Éirinn a bheith neamhshásúil in 26% de cheachtanna.

Tá seo i bhfad níos ísle nach Béarla agus Mata, mar ar measadh caighdeán foriomlán na foghlama a bheith míshásúil in 17% agus 15% de cheachtanna faoi seach.

Léiríodh an céatadán céanna seo (26% de cheachtanna Gaeilge míshásúil) sa tuarascáil 2013-2016 ina raibh gnóthachtáil i nGaeilge arís eile go suntasach níos ísle ná i mBéarla agus i Mata. Dúradh sa tuarascáil seo go raibh “féidearthacht mhór ann le cáilíocht an teagaisc agus na foghlama i nGaeilge a fheabhsú”.

Creidimid gur chóir go mbeadh dianchúrsaí Gaeilge ar fáil dóibh siúd a mheasann an cigire nach bhfuil siad ag an gcaighdeán riachtanach Gaeilge. Ba chóir go mbeadh níos mó deiseanna forbartha gairmiúla ann do gach múinteoir bunscoile maidir le múineadh na Gaeilge in éineacht leis na modhanna foghlama ar líne is deireanaí.

Táimid i dteagmháil faoi láthair leis an Roinn Oideachais, an Chomhairle Mhúinteoireachta agus an tÚdarás Ardoideachais le straitéis a cheapadh trínar féidir múineadh na Gaeilge a fheabhsú. Creidimid go bhfuil sé go háirithe tábhachtach mar is í an bhunscolaíocht bunchloch an oideachais agus má tá caighdeáin go holc ag an gcéim seo beidh tionchar diúltach ar eispéireas foghlama na Gaeilge le linn na codach eile den tsraith oideachais.

Creidimid freisin gur chóir go mbeadh caighdeánú ar scrúduithe Gaeilge i gcoláistí oiliúna múinteoireachta le hardcháilíocht torthaí céimithe a chinntiú.

Curaclam na Gaeilge i scoileanna Béarla

Tá feabhsú mór le déanamh i gcuraclam na Gaeilge i scoileanna nach Gaelscoileanna ná scoileanna Gaeltachta iad. Aithnítear nach bhfuil an curaclam reatha chomh héifeachtach agus ba chóir dó a bheith. Níl aon torthaí foghlama daingne ann sa churaclam maidir le teanga ó bhéal – níl ann ach clocha míle doiléire le haghaidh gach dhá bhliain, mar ‘tuiscint a léiriú ar cheisteanna druidte’, nó ‘taitneamh a léiriú as éisteacht le scéalta gairide simplí’.

Tugadh an Curaclam Teanga Bunscoil nua isteach ar bhonn céimithe ó 2016. Déanfar gach snáithe den churaclam, ó bhéal go léamh agus scríobh, a theagasc go leanaí sna naíonáin shóisir go dtí an dara bliain faoi Mheán Fómhair 2018. Is beag an difear idir na torthaí foghlama i mBéarla i gcomparáid leis an nGaeilge, atá ina teanga nua d’fhormhór mór na ndaltaí atá ag freastal ar na scoileanna seo. Rinne saineolaithe teanga, a thugann breac-chuntas ar an ngá le creatlach láidir do mhúineadh na Gaeilge le cuspóirí foghlama leagtha amach go daingean gach bliain, ceap magaidh den chur chuige seo

Creidimid gur gá cur chuige iomlán nua a bheith ann i leith mhúineadh na Gaeilge i mbunscoileanna. Ba chóir do mhúineadh na Gaeilge a bheith ina eispéireas taitneamhach don dalta agus don mhúinteoir araon leis na acmhainní is fearr maidir le téacsleabhair, cluichí agus uirlisí ar líne.

Creidimid go bhfuil curaclam nua ríthábhachtach leis an mbealach ina múintear an Ghaeilge a athfhinnmhiú agus múinteoirí a chumasú le ranganna socraithe agus cluichí a theagasc ar bhealach struchtúrtha.  Creidimid chomh maith gur chóir páirt-tumoideachas a bheith ar fáil do gach leanbh sa Deisceart don chéad dá bhliain den scolaíocht le hábhair bhreise á dteagasc trí Ghaeilge (ealaín agus spórt ar dtús agus le leathnú ina dhiaidh sin). Cuirtear Foghlaim Fheidhmithe Ábhair agus Teanga (FFÁT) air seo agus tá cruthaithe go leanann uaidh oilteacht teanga níos mó, níos mó spreagadh, níos mó feasacht idirchultúrtha agus tá sé oiriúnach d’fhoghlaimeoirí de gach cumas.

Mhol Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 “bogadh i dtreo cás ina dtairgfear páirt-tumadh Gaeilge go gach leanbh.” As siocair nach bhfuil an Straitéis seo curtha i bhfeidhm níor tháinig ann don bheart seo. Luaigh Plean Gníomhaíochta a foilsíodh i mí an Mheithimh 2018 le haidhmeanna na Straitéise a chur chun cinn “páipéar scóipe” ar fheidhmiú mhúineadh na Gaeilge trí ábhair eile agus go bhforbrófar “plean gníomhaíochta” le feidhmiú FFÁT. Tacaímid go hiomlán le FFÁT a thabhairt isteach ach táimid ag éileamh ar an rialtas luas an fheidhmithe píolótaí a ghéarú.

Moltaí

  • Plean cuimsitheach le bheith deartha ag an Roinn ag aithint míreanna riachtanacha i gcur chuige straitéiseach le riar ar an éileamh ar Ghaelscolaíocht.
  • Athbhreithniú eatramhach ar an Pholasaí um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus cur síos le déanamh ar thacaí agus acmhainní do na chéad chúig bliana eile.
  • Cur i gcrích tráthúil an athbhreithnithe ar an bpróiseas pátrúnachta scoile mar a bhaineann sé le Gaelscoileanna.
  • Bunóidh an dá Roinn Oideachais ó thuaidh agus ó dheas clár pleanáilte le haghaidh Gaelscoileanna a thógáil bunaithe ar éilimh agus inmharthanacht.
  • Tacaímid le páirt-tumadh (nó FFÁT) a bheith ar fáil do gach leanbh sa Deisceart sa chéad dá bhliain den scolaíocht le bheith á theagasc trí Ghaeilge agus go ndéanfar dhá ábhar trí Ghaeilge i mbunscoil (ealaín agus spórt).
  • Gach scoil sa Ghaeltacht oifigiúil a bheith ag feidhmiú trí Ghaeilge amháin. Ba chóir rogha a thabhairt do scoileanna atá díreach taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht ach a fhreastalaíonn ar chohórt leanaí Gaeltachta dul isteach sa Scéim Aitheantais mar Scoil Ghaeltachta.
  • Struchtúr fhoirmiúil a chur i bhfeidhm idir An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) agus Comhairle Curaclaim, Scrúdúcháin agus Measúnaithe Thuaisceart Éireann le háiseanna teagaisc a dhéanamh agus a chomhroinnt ar mhaithe le hearnáil na Gaeilge, oideachas agus luach ar airgead.
  • Caighdeánú ar scrúduithe Gaeilge i gcoláistí oiliúna múinteoireachta le hardcháilíocht torthaí a chinntiú.
  • Aonad le bunú sa Roinn Oideachais le haistriú seolta scoileanna Béarla go Gaelscoileanna a éascú.
  • Soláthar cuí riachtanas speisialta oideachais don Ghaelscolaíocht.
  • Cúrsa foghlama teanga a dhearadh don Ghaeilge a chuirfidh ar a gcumas do thuismitheoirí tacú le foghlaim Gaeilge a leanaí ar scoil.