The launch of the #Gaeilge4All campaign this week has been welcomed by Éirígí For a New Republic. The campaign is demanding a comprehensive overhaul of the Irish language in the education system of the Twenty-Six Counties.
Over the summer, the Department of Education and National Council for Curriculum Assessment carried out a review into the question of derogations from studying the language at second level.
Irish language educationalists argued that the derogations system was being abused and that the measures introduced in the wake of the review would further weaken the status of Irish within the education system.
This also brought the question of Irish as a compulsory subject for the Leaving Certificate back into the public light.
Some senior civil servants have for years worked behind the scenes to marginalise Irish in the education system. Many Irish speakers believe that the issue of derogations is merely the thin end of the wedge and that the compulsory status of Irish will come under fire next.
It is within this context that the #Gaeilge4All campaign has gotten underway.
The campaign seeks to push for an all-encompassing strategy for the teaching of Irish. This would link a student’s development in the language through each stage of learning, from playschool, to primary, onto secondary, and up to third level.
The message being put forward by #Gaeilge4All is that every child and student are entitled to an education in Irish. Rather than seeking to downgrade the language due to the failed educational policies of the past, now is the time to look at international best practice.
This would mean introducing a syllabus with more flexibility and with a focus on first achieving oral proficiency. After that, students who want to progress to more challenging written and literary components could do so.
It would also mean investing adequately in teacher training colleges for Irish and in funding crucial immersive spells in the Gaeltacht.
Éirígí supports these calls and will work to assist the #Gaeilge4All campaign where it can.
The Irish language is under immense pressure from the global dominance of English, not just in the education system. Irish is also being eroded in the Gaeltacht, in the media and in state bodies.
The restoration of Irish is a necessary central component in the building of a New Republic. As Pádraig Pearse noted, “if the Irish language disappears, Irish nationality ... will disappear”.
The #Gaeilge4All campaign petition can be accessed here