IRISH has this year leapfrogged French as the second most popular language A-level in Northern Ireland.
That’s according to the Northern Irish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT).
The Queen’s University-based organisation says French has now slipped into third place behind Spanish and Irish.
Irish on the rise
Figures released by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) show 325 candidates took Irish this year, up from 315 last year and 291 in 2019.
French meanwhile had only 322 candidates this year, having dropped from 333 in 2020, continuing the fall from 2019 (358).
Northern Ireland A level 2021.
Irish overtakes French for the first time to be second position. French always top until 2019
1. Spanish 451 candidates
2. Irish 325 candidates
3. French 322 candidates
4. German 90 candidates
5. Other ML 44 candidates
— NICILT (@NICILT) August 10, 2021
According to CCEA figures, French last topped the A-level language rankings in 2015.
Spanish however continues to be the most popular, having had 451 candidates this year, accounting for roughly 1.4 per cent of all A-levels sat in Northern Ireland.
Commenting on the results, the British Council Northern Ireland said it predicted the rise in Irish language entries.
Jonathan Stewart, Director of the arts and educational organisation, said: “It’s encouraging that numbers for A-level languages have remained relatively steady this year, but this has to be seen in the broader context of a huge decline over the past 20 years.
“Spanish is still the most popular A-level language, but for the first time, Irish has overtaken French to become the second most popular language at A-level, which we predicted in our Language Trends survey earlier this year.
“As education begins to recover from the pandemic, it’s essential that schools prioritise language learning and look to build back international opportunities and connections.”