More than 500 demonstrators, including students, third-level students, teachers, parents, representatives from the teacher unions, representatives from Irish-language organizations, and other groups, gathered at Leinster House in Dublin on Wednesday, March 29 to call for #Gaeilge4All.
The demonstrators called for a satisfactory learning experience of Irish for every pupil in the Irish education system by developing a Policy for Irish in the Education System from Early Childhood Education to Third Level and the immediate establishment of a dedicated expert working committee, with members who understand and have experience of Irish in the education system, to develop this policy.
NORMA FOLEY LE DO THOIL, #GAEILGE4ALL 📣📣 pic.twitter.com/8VkJF8Tvqu— #Gaeilge4All: Irish in Education, let’s fix it! (@Gaeilge4All) March 29, 2023
Julian de Spáinn, spokesperson for the Gaeilge4All campaign, said: "The system is broken in terms of Irish in the education system.
"The specifications / syllabi are senseless for junior and senior cycles (for example, 90%+ of teachers are unhappy with them at junior cycle level).
"The layout of the leaving certificate is in danger because of the decision to move the Irish language paper 1 to the end of fifth year (although this decision has recently been put back by a year, the decision itself has not been stopped).
"There is a lack of Gaelscoileanna & Gaelcholáistí as an option for parents when only 7% of the country's students can access the limited number of spaces available.
“Exemptions are out of control with over 40,000 students in second level currently with an exemption and there is no plan to support students with special needs to ensure that they are facilitated to continue learning Irish instead of being shut out of it.
"And recently, 30 minutes a week was removed from the teaching of Irish in the primary school curriculum from first class onwards without any research being done on the implications this will have on the standard of Irish.
"Let's fix the system as a whole. To that end, the Gaeilge4All campaign is calling for the following actions from the Minister of Education Norma Foley:
- That every pupil in our education system has a satisfactory Irish language learning experience
- That a Policy for Irish in the Education System from Early Childhood Education to Third Level is developed to ensure this experience for students
- That a specific expert working committee be immediately set up, with members who understand and have experience of the Irish language in the education system, to develop this policy
"A policy for Irish like this was promised in the Programme for Government and it was part of Fianna Fáil's promises in the 2020 General Election. It's time to fulfill those promises now."
#GAEILGE4ALL ANOIS 📣📣 pic.twitter.com/Ct0IjoJHKr— #Gaeilge4All: Irish in Education, let’s fix it! (@Gaeilge4All) March 29, 2023
Shane Ó Coinn, Chairperson, An Gréasán do Mhúinteoirí Gaeilge, said: “Irish language teachers strongly believe that the current system is not working and one of the biggest shortcomings that has existed for some years is that the voice of the teacher and the student have been left out of many decisions on the future of Irish in the system.
"As a result, Irish has been weakened in the system.
"The teacher and student voice must be listened to and acted upon. For example, it is clear from recent research carried out by SEALBHÚ on the opinions of teachers and students about Junior Cycle Irish that there is an urgent need for an oral examination in third year worth 40% of a student’s final mark.
"Unfortunately, this recommendation and other worthwhile recommendations which were strongly put forward by teachers in the same research were not acted on, and only minor changes were made when reforms were announced recently.
"The major problems in the system must be dealt with urgently to put things right. It is time to base the system on a policy for Irish in the education system from early childhood education to the third level, as the Gaeilge4All campaign is calling for. A broken system cannot be allowed to continue.”
Gráinne Ní Ailín, Irish Language Officer of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, remarked: “Students do not understand why there is no integrated approach in the education system for Irish.
"On the one hand, the Minister of Education is moving Paper 1 of Leaving Certificate Irish to the end of fifth year, while on the other hand, the State agency, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, is working to change the specifications / syllabi for leaving cert entirely. It is not possible to do both at the same time.
"Isn't it better to take a step back and let a panel of experts, who understand Irish in the education system, develop the policy that the Gaeilge4All campaign is proposing without further delay?”