Ireland and Foreign Language Cuts

The article below was written by Shane P. O’Reilly in http://www.fiannafail.ie, July 23, 2012:

Cavan Councillor Shane P O’Reilly has criticised further cuts in education relating to the MLPSI – Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative which allows children of primary school age to engage in learning foreign languages such as Italian, Spanish, German or French. Currently over 27,000 children, at 550 schools in Ireland enjoy learning through MLPSI which not only lays the foundation for their language learning within the system, it also brings additional benefits, for instance enhanced cognitive skills, exposure to new cultures and learning experiences, as well as enhanced literacy skills. The Fine Gael & Labour Government have abolished the scheme.

Speaking to parents at Billis National School following next Septembers Junior Infants induction morning, Cllr O’Reilly claimed, “Since this initiative was launched in 1998, it has prepared many children to learn foreign languages fluently, adapting them for enhanced educational or professional courses and ultimately careers. Languages assist with integration right across the national school curriculum while also being a valuable tool that allows teachers to address broader issues such as culture, heritage, history and citizenship. What is particularly shocking about this cut is that almost 60% of the teachers teaching it are staff-based, and are therefore of no additional cost to the Department of Education as they are delivering the MLPSI as part of their normal teaching week in the classroom”.

“Ireland is the only EU country which does not have foreign languages as compulsory subjects at primary level, but the MLPSI goes some of the way to dealing with this. It is ironic the decision to end the MLPSI comes at a time when there has never been as much momentum behind the languages agenda. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation recently highlighted the language skills deficit we have in Ireland which is damaging not only indigenous companies wishing to capitalise on export markets but also global multinationals who have their European and international bases in Ireland, particularly hi-tech, pharmaceutical or service related industries” stated Cllr O’Reilly. “Just look at the type of jobs advertised by eBay, Paypal, Google, Cisco and Teva, the vast majority seek second language skills”.

He continued “If Ireland is to truly reach educational excellence and strive to ensure every child gets the best possible chance and career, languages are essential ingredient to this success. St. Kilian’s National School and Billis National School are two schools in my immediate area affected by this cutback. I am now calling on the government TDs for the area to add their voice to the debate and call for these cuts to be reversed. If Ireland is to have a cutting edge advantage in the world, and continue to develop our export-led recovery as regularly highlighted by the government, then second and third languages are of critical importance”.

“Already we are years behind the Barcelona Agreement and the Lisbon Strategy, which called for educational programmes to be in place to facilitate early language learning of at least two foreign languages by 2010 at primary level. If the government foolishly stands over this cut, it erases much of the good work achieved over the past 15 years and we run the risk of diluting our capacity and the capacity of our children to compete in commerce on a global scale” Shane P O’Reilly concluded.

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