THERE is a new initiative being rolled out in Irish schools.
Irish-speaking primary schools will start teaching foreign languages such as France and German to children as young as junior infants.
The project is being launched through An Foras Patrunachta, the patron body for more than 70 Gaelscoileanna across Ireland.
In the initiative, children will be taught a core subject such as maths exclusively through an additional language
The introduction of the initiative is based on research conducted over the past two decades which indicates this method is linked to impressive results.
Experts are set to discuss the rollout of the new project at An Foras Patrunachta’s national conference in Mullingar on Saturday where one of Europe’s main specialists and co-founder of the European Language Council, Professor Piet Van de Craen will be in attendance.
Caoimhin O hEagra, general secretary of An Foras Patrunachta said that the innovative method of language learning had already been implemented in parts throughout the education sector.
“Research shows that children who attend bilingual schools have the capacity to learn a third or fourth language more easily.”
“In the context of Brexit, we’re acutely aware of the rising need for a multilingual workforce. We think Gaelscoileanna are really well-placed to build on our immersion model and to introduce another language.”
In terms of the exact language to be introduced to classes or schools, O hEagra said that it would depend on the expertise of the individual teacher, before pointing out that teachers in Gaelscoileanna were more likely to have qualifications in other languages.
“Everything in our schools would be taught completely as Gaeilge, with the exception of one subject. That would be taught through a third language such as German.”
The new 10-year strategy is understood to include ambitious targets to increase the number of students studying foreign languages.
Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese will also be introduced as “heritage languages” on the Leaving Cert curriculum, aimed at immigrant communities.