Enda compulsory Irish for Leaving Cert ?

Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, proposed that Irish should be an optional subject in the Leaving Cert before the annual party conference this weekend.

The Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, is not too happy about this and has accused Fine Gael of electioneering and using the Irish language as a political football.

Enda is clearly after the young vote, although many of those with a particularly strong view on this are not old enough to vote. I would certainly be all in favour of it. In fact, I would go further and think that there should be no compulsory subjects at all after Junior Cert level.

In relation to Irish, it is now quite common for students to drop back to Ordinary Level in order to concentrate on other “proper” subjects, even if they are well able to study Irish at Higher Level. I don’t agree with that at all. It is unfair that students who find Ordinary Level challenging have to contend with this. Higher Level standard students do little if any work, waltz in on exam day, collect A grades and distort the grading system.

Making Irish an optional subject would at least put an end to that and hopefully those left studying the subject would be more interested in it.


  1. I’ve got very mixed feelings towards Irish. I think it is a very important part of our heritage and culture, but I also feel that it is not taught properly. The curriculum may have changed since I left school, but my memories of it were that it was completely out of touch with reality. If we had been taught “practical” Irish as opposed to “theoretical” Irish a lot of us would have probably done a lot better.
    Don’t be surprised if you get attacked by the pro-Irish lobbyists 🙂

  2. I’m with Enda, primarily because removing the requirement for Irish in the Leaving Cert would almost necessitate removing it as a requirement for the NUI colleges. When I entered UCD to do a degree in theoretical physics I was required to have three languages (English, Irish, and a third: in my case French). At the same time there were people starting arts and humanities degrees in the same college who weren’t even required to have maths.

    While I don’t have any data to back this up, I would contend that lack of understanding of maths and the sciences among even the educated portion of society is more damaging than a lack of Irish language skills in the general population. I can see no reason for Irish to be compulsory.

  3. The thing I most remember about Irish in primary school was how boring it was, if I ever see another slide show in Irish I will get upset!
    I lost all interest because it bored me, which left me lagging way behind as I went further up the years. The funny thing about it is that if you are sent to an irish speaking school, you pick it up no problem.
    I would rather see it as non-compulsary then have it drag down my leaving cert points.
    Janine, I don’t agree that you can do your leaving cert without having to sit English and Maths, but perhaps we could spend more time doing things like Technical writing in english then analysing poetry.

  4. Ed – technical writing? I’d disagree. Maybe “practical English” would be better, but unless you are “challenged” I don’t think that analysing poetry etc., is such a bad thing if you can handle the language properly (English that is)

  5. I think that analysing and appreciating poetry and literature is a skill separate from language usage, and that should be reflected in the way the English language is presented at leaving certificate level. Just as maths is manadatory but applied maths is optional, English language should be mandatory and literature should be optional.

    People need to be competent users of correct grammar. They need to be able to structure their ideas into sentences and paragraphs, to present potentially complex concepts in simple words. They must be able to transfer their understanding of ideas through the written and spoken media. These are all necessary skills in most adult occupations, where accurate and efficient communication is vital.

    Conversely, people do not need to be able to analyse whether or not Hamlet was truly insane or merely following through on his promise to act that way. There are few situations outside of a leaving cert English exam where that ability is of practical use, however interesting an intellectual excercise some might find it. I also doubt that Emily Dickinson’s poetry had any lasting influence on my ability to communicate – except for leaving me with a distaste for the hyphen.

    Having claimed that literature study is unnecessary I want to make sure to keep my distance from the “what’s the point?” brigade who always irritated me in school. You know the crowd I mean. They were the people who asked at every opportunity, “When will I need to solve quadratic equations in real life?” or, “Who’s ever going to need to know how stalagtites are formed?” It is in order that I don’t get lumped in with that crowd that I point out: the study of literature can be valuable, interesting and fulfilling. But it should not be mandatory, because it is not necessary.

  6. Rory – very fair point. Language and literature should be treated separately. One of the biggest problems facing society at the moment is that language use has become language abuse and the number of people capable of formulating even the simplest of ideas in coherent language is on the decline (take a look at some of the fora such as boards.ie to get a “taste”)
    However I would also contend that the only way you can hope to express yourself clearly and with an appropriate use of vocabulary is if you are exposed to literature. When I was teaching Spanish in UL a few years ago the biggest problem I had wasn’t explaining the idiosyncracies of Spanish, but the basics of English grammar.

  7. I not sure where I stand on this issue. On the one hand I think Irish is an important part of living in Ireland. But then again there are many people who struggle with languages, should they be forced into taking a language they may never need.

    I suppose a lot of it depends on how you think about the education system. Is it purely a way to get into college? Or is it an end in and of itself.

  8. Michele – it would be difficult to find a better tool for teaching language usage than a well-written text, so modern literature would have a very useful place in a language usage course. But you would have to present it in a different manner to that of a literature course. Where one course would look at character motivation, plot pacing and thematic content, the other would consider sentence structure, word usage and metaphor. One would analyse literature as an end in itself, the other would consider it only enough to gain insights into better use of language.

    Fence – No reasonable person could consider college entry to be the point of secondary education. Unfortunately it seems extremely difficult to move secondary education away from its exam-centered structure.

    I think that the Irish language would survive at least as well as it has done thus far if it was made optional in secondary school, or even just after the junior cert. as suggested. The people who keep the language alive are those who managed not to be turned off it in secondary school; they would continue to take the subject in school. Additionally there would surely be some segment of the population that would take an interest in the language after leaving school if they hadn’t been subjected to it at leaving cert. level.

  9. Rory, I’m detecting a slight lack of appreciation for the humanities, not uncommon among Internet practitioners in my experience. I would prefer that our schools and Universities do not become solely churning grounds for future computer programmers and Engineers. Problem solving is not the only skill necessary in life, your approach sounds rather utilitarian to me.

    I agree with Irish being made optional, Janine’s original point is most relevant. I was exempt from studying it and I’m convinced I got a better leaving cert than some of my peers because I had extra time and space to dedicate to the rest of my subjects. Also my brother, having had to pick up Irish at a late stage, left it as his only ordinary level subject, gave it minimum effort, passed it and concentrated at gaining points in his other subjects. It’s a dire shame that we lost our mother tongue and I admire those who choose to continue to preserve and use the Irish language but making it compulsory at Leaving Cert level is distorting some of the final results for students. I’m not convinced that the English ‘A’ level approach is ideal either, I’ve known friends who’ve taken rather odd combinations of subjects solely for the purpose of achieving the highest possible grades rather than their genuine interest in those subjects or their level of ability.

    However, the day they take classical literature off of the leaving cert is the day I’ll let my kids choose if they want to sit the ‘A’ levels instead. Language skills should be further developed than that by the time a student reaches 5th year. It shouldn’t be the job of Leaving Cert English to teach the basics of the language. Perhaps it’s the Junior Cert syllabus that should be amended in order to address that issue.

  10. Caoimhe – I don’t know what made you think I don’t appreciate the humanities. I made an effort to point out that while not every subject is necessary for all students, they are all worthwhile. I don’t think it’s anti-humanities to think that the University entry requirements are skewed in favour of linguists.

    You raised a point that I had intended to make earlier, in mitigation of my opinion of literature versus language: students should know the fundamentals of English usage before they start the leaving cert. curriculum. If that were the case my arguments so far would suggest making English optional at leaving cert. level too, which is an argument that I can’t bring myself to make.

  11. Nice to see that this is developing into a good discussion 🙂

    Rory – Agreed, though how you could actually get teachers to teach that would be another issue.

    Caoimhe – I think you misread Rory

  12. Caoimhe: just some clarification – if you were exempt from studying Irish, were you required to study a replacement subject? Because if not, I would venture to suggest that the difference is not so much in not having to study compulsory Irish, but in having one less subject overall to study. Perhaps you could clear that one up for me.

    The question of teaching languages in Ireland is fraught with all sorts of difficulty. Leaving Irish aside for the moment, our record on learning foreign languages is equally abysmal, and the most frequent excuse given is “I’m no good at languages”. But I don’t think it’s a talent thing to be honest. I’m of the opinion that language acquisition in Ireland is hampered by laziness, poor teaching, unrealistic assessment of the status quo and an assumption that it’s either not necessary, or in the case of Irish, a waste of time.

    Realistically, there is no reason why Irish shouldn’t be a required subject at leaving certificate level. The French require French philosophy, for example. The problem as I see it is that no one appears to face up to the fact that our methods of teaching foreign languages to school children in this country leaves a lot to be desired. I’m pretty certain that if the foundation work for Irish was done properly at an earlier stage, there would be no argument over whether we should be teaching/requiring it at leaving certificate level because significantly fewer people would feel disadvantaged by studying it.

    To be honest, I would have a lot more respect for Enda if, instead of suggesting we dump Irish at leaving certificate level, he suggested that we figured out why it is the Germans, the French and the Belgians can acquire a second and often third language successfully and the Irish cannot, be it Irish, be it French, be it German. Recognising that for a significant number of students in the country Irish is a foreign language – this, as I recall, seemed to be the big problem, it was not taught as a second language, but as a first – would help Irish. But it doesn’t change the fact that the education system is still failing people in terms of language acquisition, admittedly with their connivance, but all the same…

    My opinion is this: Irish is an easy target and Enda has gone for it. I’m of the opinion that culturally it is important. I’m equally of the opinion that many of the problems associated with it are intrinsic to the methods of teaching it and not inherent in the language itself, and that these issues are also a problem for language teaching as a whole. Arguing over the relevancy of Irish is cosmetic.

    In other words, if we taught all foreign languages properly, this would be a lot less of an issue.

  13. Winds and Breezes – Since you’re the first person to comment who is entirely in favour of keeping compulsory Irish, I wonder if you would do me a great favour? Would you explain why Irish is an important subject? I’d particularly like if you could do that without resorting to hand-waving statements like “it’s part of our heritage”, whcih many people seem to think constitutes a complete argument. This is a legitimate request; I do not personally see the continuation of the Irish language as something that should necessarily form part of every irish person’s experience.

    I think what I’m getting at here is that it’s not clear that the burden should be on the anti-compulsion side to argue their case. It should be up to the other side to say why Irish (or any other subject) should be compulsory. Since Irish has been compulsory for 75 years I imagine such a case has been made, but it may well be out of date. It should be made again.

  14. Rory,

    well strictly speaking, the status quo being that Irish is compulsory at Leaving Certificate level, I would venture to suggest that the onus is on the opposing side to make a compelling case for it to be changed.

    In other words, if the argument for bringing about a change is not compelling, why change? From what I can see, the bulk of argument against proving your mettle at Irish at Leaving Certificate level appears to amount to “and I’m useless at it and it puts me at a disadvantage”. I actually can’t say that I see that as compelling.

    While you may find the idea of “it’s important for our heritage” to be an insufficient argument, this argument is heavily used in objecting to such items as M3 building around the Tara area and extensions to the M50 and various other planning applications. Since you ask me not to address it in terms of Irish, I won’t. I will, however, take this opportunity to ask if you object to protecting any part of our heritage or if your indifference is solely connected to the Irish language.
    In terms of the compulsory nature of Irish, I’d tie it in with the whole question of the compulsory nature of any subject at Leaving Certificate level. I don’t see people arguing against maths or English – and I wonder why. I think it’s because Irish is an easy target.

    A couple of arguments as to why Irish is important: It’s an official language in this country. Given the structure of the school leaving examination here, I would say that if you are removing the compulsion to take a school leaving examination in one of the official languages, you should equally remove the compulsion to sit a school leaving examination in the other official language. Not only that, I would also say that countries which fail to teach all their official languages competently in the school system are falling down on the job of educating their citizens to be good citizens of that country.

    From a practical point of view, it is necessary for a significant number of jobs in this country. It is stated in the constitution that all citizens can choose to deal with the establishment either through Irish or English. You could perhaps argue that given that “everyone speaks English, this shouldn’t be necessary”. But it’s a political hot potato – I would love to see anyone have the guts to tell any remaining native Irish speakers that in dealing with the State, they cannot use their native tongue. At least in compelling people to acquiring some competence in Irish at school level, you are not preventing them from access to some State jobs further down the line.

    From a linguistic point of view, Irish has a broader range of phonemes than say English which facilitates the acquisition of a further language. The earlier and more sounds you learn to say, the easier it is to acquire the sounds in a further language. In other words, it can be seen as a tool and given that this aspect, at least, is taught reasonably well and at an early age, it’s almost invaluable. Unfortunately, we don’t build on this advantage for reasons I outlined above.

    In any case, I have to say that by and large I don’t have any major truck with the position of the Irish language in the Leaving Certificate – my main concern is that languages are not particularly well taught in this country and this needs to be addressed. At least Irish provides us with a tool if we want to learn other languages, including those languages not made available through the school system, at a later stage. Unfortunately, collectively we faff around with “Irish, do we need it, don’t we”, and our inadequacies in other areas go sailing by. If you turned around to me and said “We will address our failings in teaching our young people to communicate effectively in languages other than their native English, including Irish but in return, we want to re-organise the Leaving Certificate in such a way as to enable a greater number of students to play more to their strengths”, I would not object provided the compulsory nature of every other subject came into play.
    So in reality, you could also say that Irish is important because it enables us to avoid facing the reality of how poorly we teach other subjects.

    “primarily because removing the requirement for Irish in the Leaving Cert would almost necessitate removing it as a requirement for the NUI colleges.”

    I’m at a loss to understand why you can’t lobby the NUI on this issue separately. Not everyone applies for NUI colleges, and the Leaving Certificate should not per se be tailored strictly to the needs of the NUI, or to compel the NUI to act in a specific way. Its application is much, much broader than that.

    I also have to say that in your piece about literature above, you fail to convince me that you are avoiding any of the “when am I ever going to need…”-ery that you wish to dissociate yourself from. Although I’m not a great fan of the way English and Irish literature were taught to me while I was at school, I do wonder how, without literary or textual study of some description, you can expect to teach people to write effectively. By write, I do not just mean short stories and novels, but basic industry documentation. Very few jobs come without a requirement for that skill now.

  15. Winds – I studied an extra subject but that can be slightly misleading. The subject was strongly tied in with others and it was by far my easiest, I would still agree that not having Irish gave me extra time that others seemed to lack. It seems either that by its very nature that Irish is just a damn tough subject or that the syllabus is very heavy in comparison to other subjects. I know people that barely scraped their Irish exams and yet sailed through honours French and/or German. Would it not be acceptable winds just to make a language other than English compulsory for the leaving rather than specifying what that must be? You’re right, that would be avoiding the real problem of how Irish is taught, but I’ve been hearing that problem mentioned for years now and I don’t see any moves to address it..

  16. Winds and Breezes – Thanks for the reply. Before I respond to the rest of it I should point out that I wasn’t trying to suggest that the pro-compulsion side should be made to present their case again at a political level; I was only asking that someone in this comment thread would enlighten me on their motivation. Of course the onus is on those who want to change the status quo to make their case in government.

    I asked you to omit arguments about loss of heritage because I see them as irrelevant. There are enough Irish people with an interest in the language to ensure that knowledge of the language is not lost; that part of our heritage is already preserved, and removing compulsory Irish at leaving cert. level would do nothing to alter that fact. I’m not advocating burning books or banning scholarship.

    Yes, the compulsory status of English and maths could easily be questioned. Maths passes trivially; it’s absolutely vital to so many other subjects. English passes as long as you consider it to be the primary means of communication in the country. To avoid discriminating against those people who still speak Irish as a first language it would make sense to change the requirement from English and Irish to English or Irish. In fact, now that you’ve got me thinking in straight lines again, that would seem to be a much more reasonable proposition than simply dropping the Irish requirement.

    Those people who want to work in a field that requires Irish would still be in a position to learn the language were it optional, just as many people study a third language now because their chosen path requires it. You argument from linguistics is invalid. We aren’t talking about primary school.

    My first comment, regarding college entrance requirements, was not intended as a justification to convince others, just as a statement for my own major motivation to oppose compulsory Irish teaching.

    As for your last paragraph: did you read comment 8?

  17. “In relation to Irish, it is now quite common for students to drop back to Ordinary Level in order to concentrate on other “proper” subjects, even if they are well able to study Irish at Higher Level. I don’t agree with that at all.”

    Eh… I hope that wasn’t meant as a direct dig at *me* my dear sister eh? :p As someone who studied higher irish in fifth year, but who *loathed* it so much that they just couldn’t be bothered/motivated enough to put the effort in, i dropped down to pass level for sixth year, basically never opened a book and aced it. The lesson of my experience was that it was pretty pointless making someone like me do irish… when they could have been working much harder at a subject the actually enjoyed. I feel any cultural need etc would be satisfied by irish being compulsory up to the JC.

    And just for the record… G’wan the humanities 🙂

  18. I never expected to start such a lively debate! You are all putting my rather throwaway post to shame with such in depth insightful comments. 🙂

    I don’t have anything major against the Irish language. I do wonder about the public money that must be spent on making everything bilingual and ensuring that those who insist on dealing with the state through Irish rather than English can do so, when there are people lying on hospital trolleys or sleeping homeless, but we can all make things look trivial with such extreme examples and I will leave that argument for another day!

    Getting back to education, I do think that all subjects should be optional at Leaving Cert level (even Maths Rory :)). Of course, in order for this to work, the Junior Cert curriculum would need big changes. I am not proposing that students leave the secondary school system without a solid grounding in English and Maths at a minimum. However, you don’t get this grounding at Leaving Cert level. That needs to be embedded long before that.

    As things stand, with English, Irish and Maths all compulsory, many leave our educational system with terrible grammar and barely able to calculate percentages. They seldom have more than a cúpla focail either, so it’s just as well that they are seldom needed. I think that Treasa made an excellent point about Irish still being taught as a first language, despite being a second langauge for almost all of us these days. A far more practical approach is needed with respect to all 3 core subjects. Students need to be able to communicate effectively both in writing and speech, and have a firm understanding of mathematical concepts.

    As others have pointed out, “technical writing” skills are so often called for in everyday life. And forget about the finer points of calculus, most are stumped by calculating how much tax they pay or what the percentage growth this quarter was in their spreadsheets.

    It’s skills like these that all will need in everyday life. I read somewhere that a staggering percentage (20%, 25%) of people struggle with literacy or basic mathematical concepts. I think that a solid grounding in the 3 Rs should be ensured before Junior Cert, and then students should be able to choose the subjects that interest them for further exploration at Leaving Cert. The broad mix of subjects taken at Leaving Cert is good. I don’t think that A levels are the answer. However, perhaps 5 subjects may be more manageable.

    Finally, Mish: no dig intended – honest! why do you think I did not link to you?
    Now that you are back blogging again at the excellent Penguins Rock (plug plug!) I’m sure you will get your own back 🙂

  19. The problem with making subjects optional is that you don’t always make great decisions when you are a teenager.
    I think I’m coming down on the keep Irish compulsory side. If I hadn’t learnt that little at school I know I’d never bother now. But I agree that it is very poorly taught. Course, so is English. I have a degree in English, but barely know the difference between a noun and a verb 😉

  20. I have to say, I loved Irish in school. It was never the chore that say German was, and that was because I started learning it when I was in primary school, as did the rest of the population.

    How much of the hatred of Irish and the I’m no good at it mindset comes from just not making any effort with it?

    The attiude of the Irish people to languages is as Teresa says is appaling. Given the age irish children start to learn Irish at, I find it amazing that people reach second level with such an allergy to it. Children of four or five are usually open to new knowledge. Sometimes I wonder is the attitude of “oh, i hate irish!” (after a month of two of learning it) passed on from generation to generation. If a child who happens to like Irish has a parent who can’t stand it and has bad memories of it, then they are going to pick up the “Oh, I hate Irish, it’s so difficult!” vibe from their parents and soon, they too will hate it.

    Some might scoff at this notion, but young, spongy minds are poisoned against things by those who came before them and those who are called upon to help with Irish homework.

    If you are going to make Irish optional, then, other European languages would also, presumably become optional. This would be a regression surely from the times we live in where at least one European language is mandatory to matriculate I believe (please correct me if I am wrong). Language skills are very important.

    What is also amazing is that at a time when our immigrant populations are embracing Irish and the children of immigrants are making leaps and bounds with it, Irish people want to turn their backs on it. Why? It’s no more difficult than learning any other language, hands up who didn’t learn another language?

  21. even if all subjects were optional, the entry requirements that most colleges would stipulate would probably still ensure that you had to take some languages and science subjects. so while i’m all for choice, there would probably end up being not that much real choice anyway i suppose…

    when i was sitting the leaving, my maths teacher used to harp on and on that it was essential that nobody failed maths. if you did not pass maths, most universities in ireland would not let you in. i also think that’s wrong. lots of college courses have nothing to do with leaving cert maths and leaving cert maths is not up everyone’s street. why deny someone a college place just because they can’t get their head round geometry?

    i can only restate that i don’t have anything against irish. it was certainly not the subject i hated most! it is nice that we have our own language and it is important that it is supported, but i think that forcing people to sit the leaving cert does not help its image.

    also, while the irish language should be supported, i do not agree with giving it special status. i know that it used to be the case that if you did the leaving cert through irish, you got extra points. i’m not sure if this is still the case but i think that’s a disgrace. if you want to study everything through irish that’s one thing but why get special treatment? rinne tú do leaba and all that…

    laura, your experience of learning irish differs from mine. i actually found the approach to modern languages in secondary school refreshing and after a year or 2 actually felt more confident with french and german than i did with irish, which is sad. i did not have a mental block about irish, but clearly i responded better to the methods used to teach modern languages.

  22. I don’t know how many times I have heard the retarded argument “I cant speak Irish. I had a bad Irish teacher.”
    Many people need to grow up if they think that learing a language stops after they finish school.
    Ah well, they are retarded..

  23. I missed quite a bit while I was offline yesterday evening.

    To be honest, I do think that Enda’s voiced suggestion here is a smokescreen. If Irish were taught effectively, then the question of its being compulsory or not would probably not arise. As such, I do think Mary Hanafin is probably correct in assessing this as political manoeuvring rather than a practical assessment of education needs. That being said…the question of Irish does need to be addressed because it is absolutely clear that there is a major malaise with it, and that is more likely to be because it is not being taught all that well. But this particular question isn’t really being addressed.

    With respect to the whole question of making certain subjects compulsory or not, I do think this needs to be addressed in the context of identifying what we want from an educational system anyway. I don’t want to go off on a tangent about whither educational objectives anyway, but I would have to say that realistically, if you are going to have a school leaving assessment that allows students to cover a significant number of subjects, then there is a lot to be said for ensuring that a number of key subjects are core and mandatory, and those subjects should have a benefit to the nation as a whole.

    The problem is then, you wind up with the vested interests arguing their point. For example, I get the impression that for Rory, there is no contest for maths, it must be obligatory – but realistically, from a practical point of view, more people are going to need a firm grasp of accounting. Basic arithmetic they should already have from primary school.

    I think it’s not a good idea to tinker with something that is fundamentally working – the leaving certificate is largely trusted where as the UK are having all sorts of problems with A-Levels and the perception thereof (a number of schools lookign to move to the internation baccalaureat, for example) – without having a look at the big picture of the system as a whole. The more you tinker, the less effective your system becomes. Because we focus on the debate on Irish, we fail to look at the question of the education system as a whole.

    I’m not hugely in favour of making Irish optional without recognising that the impact of this is that faults within the system can thus be made to go away instead of being addressed.

    What Janine says about basic literacy is interesting, but is also a red herring. The fact that we also failing some people in terms of literacy and numeracy is less linked to the fact that Irish is mandatory at leaving certificate and more linked to failings within the educational system as a whole. I don’t buy the idea that money not spent on Irish could then be spent on fixing the literacy problems because the issues surrounding both are more driven by attitude than finances. In other words, the money is not the problem, but the motivation is.

    To be honest, Irish doesn’t, per se, get any more special treatment over English in terms of its compulsory nature. You don’t get extra points as the points are dependent on your grades. But doing the leaving certificate through Irish used to have a sliding scale of bonus marks which fell, the higher your grades were. In other words, the better a student you were, the less of a difference it made. Should be noted too that for students doing the Leaving Certificate through Irish, the bulk of their teaching material is in English and for a number of students, that’s their second language. This was likely to impact upon less capable students disproportiona, so I think that was, historically, fair enough. Try imagining you, as an English speaker doing the Leaving Certificate through English and all your teaching material being in Irish. I don’t know, however, if this weighting scale still applies, and I don’t think it’s necessary any longer anyway. Most native Irish speakers are bilingual English thanks to television.

    Laura’s point regarding parental apathy is apt, I think. I used it myself recently in a debate regarding the number of students leaving school without any qualification at all.

    I also think Fence has a point regarding the decisions you make when you’re younger and whether they ultimately turn out to be the best for you. I do still think that arguments driving the “make Irish not compulsory” push are based in apathy and laziness, and the idea that consumer choice can be effectively applied to everything and little more. What Fence also says about the quality of English teaching is also interesting. It becomes a lot more difficult to acquire a second language if you do not have the grammar fundamentals of your own language. Ironically, from what I remember, Irish grammar was better taught at school than was English grammar.

    I would also say that because the Leaving Certificate features seven subjects, the primary limitation on studying things which really interest you are is related to how your school deals with the optional part of the curriculum, and not the fact that part of the curriculum is compulsory. At least, that’s my experience.

  24. I understand that students sitting the Leaving Cert. in Irish originally had their marks increased by 10%. That system was changed so that they would get 10% of the marks that they missed, as Winds and Breezes describes. I don’t know if that’s still the case. Allegedly my maternal grandfather was the only person to ever get a mark of 110% in Leaving Cert. honours maths, having sat it through Irish in the old system.

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  26. and you see then this is one of those frequent moments when I feel handicapped in being unable to even listen in……………………………..

  27. I understand that students sitting the Leaving Cert. in Irish originally had their marks increased by 10%. That system was changed so that they would get 10% of the marks that they missed, as Winds and Breezes describes. I don’t know if that’s still the case. Allegedly my maternal grandfather was the only person to ever get a mark of 110% in Leaving Cert. honours maths, having sat it through Irish in the old system.

    No, it doesn’t work like that, not anymore anyway. The system is a curved-based one. Those who sit the Leaving Cert. in Irish and get 40% will get maybe another 8% to their mark while those who get 95% will get 1% extra, probably less.

    Interesting discussion here, I must say. We, at Disillusioned Lefty – currently Leaving Cert. students – have a similar discussion on-going at the moment, if anyone would care to join, we’d be delighted.

  28. i wish i had more time to participate in this discussion this week. i’m missing a good debate!

    thanks for the info on the current marking system for those sitting the leaving cert in irish. things seem a lot more reasonable now, although i’m still unsure whether any special treatment is warranted. as treasa says, very few of the minority who sit their exams through irish would not be bilingual. i appreciate the difficulty with textbooks but nobody forces someone to do the leaving through irish. with the points race pressure cooker, it is vital that everyone is treated equally.

    also, i never meant to imply that literacy problems were caused in part by irish being compulsory treasa. i was actually making much the same point as you did, that our education system needs to be looked at as a whole. i agree wholeheartedly that the question of subjects being compulsory in general depends on this.

    my original post was as much to make the point about subjects in general being compulsory. having said that, i do feel that out of the 3 core subjects, irish is the least essential. i’m at pains to make clear again that i don’t have any major gripe with irish (honest!) but purely from a practical point of view, people can survive perfectly well in ireland without a high standard of irish, even if it does exclude you from some podcasts 🙂

    i do think that the irish language is an important part of our culture. while apathy and general attitudes play a major part, i do think that the teaching of irish in primary schools in particular needs improving. of course, it’s 12 years since i was in sixth class so a lot may have changed since then! apart from being part of our heritage, learning a second language from such a young age should greatly benefit irish students in picking up further languages. i think that the teaching methods when i was in primary school meant that we failed to capitalise on this. as ed recalls, those stupid slide shows were as inventive as it got!

  29. Excellent debate lads!! And excellent post by Treasa: November 14th, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    I’m like the majority of people in Ireland, I come from an English speaking family and learned Irish in school. However I enjoyed Irish, and even though I decided to take lower level Irish for LC (it’s simple) I’ve always had an interest in the language. And now, 14 years after the LC, I’m more interested than ever in the Irish language and fully support having it as a compulsory subject.

    I really detest these sort of “useless language” “waste of time” “learning it for 12 years and can’t speak it” arguments. No language is useless or a waste of time, every single language is valuable in different ways. And if someone can’t speak the language after 12 years then the fault is not with the language, the fault is either with them or with the education system.

    As Treasa has pointed out language education in Ireland sucks (I think she put it better than that though). Rather than whinging about Irish for LC we should be angry that our education system is letting us down. Our English skills are poor, we don’t speak any foreign language but the fault does not lie with Irish, it lies in our crap education system.

    Rory asked the question why is Irish important. Rory, you said do it without resorting to “it’s part of our heritage”, my response to that is how dare you! You may not feel it’s part of your heritage and that’s fair enough, but it is part of my heritage and I feel it’s an important part of my identity and you have no right to dismiss it.
    You might also want to investigate bilingualism. Numerous studies have been done on this subject across the globe and it’s pretty much proven that if you learn a language at an early age it’s easier to learn other languages later on. Irish is an untapped resource in Ireland. If our kids were raised bilingually (even through Irish medium primary schools, sequential bilingualism I think it’s called) you’d probably find our language acquisition improving and chances are our skills in French/German/Spanish would improve also. Obviously of course our education system would need to make some serious changes, a new curriculum for example.

    If you want proof of this just look to Finland. They top the Euro charts on a regular basis in various subjects and this is mainly down to their skills with languages.
    I work in Finland and I can point out 10 people here fluent in 3-4 languages!
    Why aren’t we like that? It’s not because of Irish, it’s because our education system as a whole has let us down.

    As a final point, I think making Irish an option in school would be very bad for the language at this stage. According to one source I read Breton in Brittany suffered greatly, it was just an optional language and pretty soon schools stopped supporting it (again this was just from one source and I haven’t researched it greatly).
    If Irish is promoted/taught properly it could bring big benefits IMO.

    By the way, on a recent poll on Irishjobs.ie 59% of people support Irish being compulsory, only 25% don’t. And a lot of people (more than 50%) consider it an important part of their identity, especially now as Ireland is becoming more multi-cultural.

    Sorry for the long post,
    le meas,

  30. maca: regarding the Breton – would be worth doing a little more research on it. Breton has particularly suffered from the following: mass migration to Paris (the area around Montparnasse is occasionally known as Little Brittany), the fact that it was effectively banned by the De Gaulle government (you couldn’t give children Breton names and La Poste were not allowed to deliver to addresses written in Breton) for example, and I doubt if it were ever compulsory in the school system. I wouldn’t mind reading that source if you could email it to me. There’s a turnaround lately in terms of primary school teaching, through the private/community initiative Diwan but there are still all sorts of legal issues surrounding it. I’ll answer questions if I can, and if you read any French, Christian Le Meut has a blog you might be interested in at rezore.blogspirit.com where he blogs bilingually in Breton and French.

  31. maca – Might I suggest you read all of the comments before making useless strawman attacks. “I asked you to omit arguments about loss of heritage because I see them as irrelevant. There are enough Irish people with an interest in the language to ensure that knowledge of the language is not lost; that part of our heritage is already preserved, and removing compulsory Irish at leaving cert. level would do nothing to alter that fact. I’m not advocating burning books or banning scholarship.” Once again, removing the compulsion to learn Irish is not a matter of denying you or anyone else their heritage.

    I’m missing the step between “I think Irish is important and worth learning” and “Irish should be compulsory for all Leaving Cert. students”. Maybe I’m being naive in thinking that 16-year-olds might be in a position to decide for themselves whether or not they want to continue learning Irish.

    “[I]t’s pretty much proven that if you learn a language at an early age it’s easier to learn other languages later on.” So? Since when is 16 an “early age”? Am I the only one still talking about the Leaving Cert?

  32. i’m only talking about the leaving cert too rory! 🙂 i don’t suggest making any core subjects optional before that.

    and maybe i’m naive too but i think that with only 2 years of secondary education left, you should be capable of deciding which subjects to study for your leaving cert. i certainly think that after 11 years of learning irish, you could make an informed decision on whether you wanted to continue or not. personally, i don’t think that the leaving cert irish syllabus contains anything absolutely vital for everyday life in ireland.

    and maca, are you admitting that you took ordinary level irish despite your obvious passion for the language just because it was simple? if those interested in the language are even doing this what hope is there? did you take this approach with your other subjects? if not, you are supporting the argument that irish is less important than the others! 🙂

  33. W&B
    I’ll have to search for that resource, I found it one day when having a discussion on Slugger.

    Might I suggest you calm yourself down.
    The point is not irrelevant as you claim. In my opinion, and it’s only an opinion, if we make Irish optional for LC soon enough it will be optional for JC. And if Irish becomes optional in secondary school, which is what i think would happen eventually, then I think the language would suffer greatly, schools would eventually stop supporting it.

    The point about age is that our education system has let us down. We’re not learning to speak Irish at an early age, we’re being taught it but that’s not the same thing. If we learn the language early, through Irish medium schools, then it wouldn’t need to be compulsory for LC or even JC. IMO.

    “i don’t think that the leaving cert irish syllabus contains anything absolutely vital for everyday life in ireland”

    Does ANY LC syllabus?? 🙂
    Most of the subjects I learned in school have been pretty much useless for the career path I have chosen.

    “are you admittining that you took ordinary level irish despite your obvious passion for the language just because it was simple?”

    I didn’t have a “passion” for the language when I was 15/16, I liked it as much as any other language but I did ordinary because I was lazy and also my focus was simply on getting points.

    “if those interested in the language are even doing this what hope is there?”

    The problem, as highlighted earlier is with the school system. Change that and we may change attitudes to the language.

    “did you take this approach with your other subjects?”

    Where I could. I just did enough to get the points I needed for college.
    I didn’t chose subjects based on what was important, just on what was easiest to get the grades I needed with as little work as possible 🙂

  34. Rory,

    To be honest, your suggestion that the heritage argument isn’t sufficient is misplaced, and the impression I got when you mentioned it earlier was that you couldn’t actually respond to it. Even having read your opinion that “enough people are interested so don’t be bothering me with it” (more or less), I still feel that you are unable to counter it as an argument. Your response to maca has not changed this impression, particularly since, from a language survival point of view, maca’s point is extremely relevant.


    when I was at school, there were four optional subjects. This is one more than the vast majority of A-level students have, and I think it provides more leeway than students preparing for the baccalaureat in France have also. Effectively, the scope is there for you to study things which interest you, provided your school is willing to facilitate you. Whether Irish is obligatory or not will not change this and in any case, I think maca is a case in point when he describes his own behaviour regarding leaving certificate, points et al. My impression in this country is that a significant number of people go for the easy option. I’m not really of the opinion that a good education system should facilitate this, and by bowing over to shallow demands to remove the obligation on Irish, we would effectively be facilitating this. Basic education is not, after all, a consumer item, and if it does become so, my children will be doing the French bac. Admittedly, then they don’t get to study Irish, but at least I have significantly more faith in the value of the educational qualification at the end of the day. As it is, the higher level mathematics syllabus for the leaving certificate has been “simplified” or “streamlined” at least once, if not twice since I did it, so I’ve mixed feelings about the quality of that qualification at the moment. As I have stated all along, issues surrounding the teaching of all languages need to be addressed, because frankly, together with the English, we are the dunces in the corner as far as language acquisition is concerned. It’s not something I think we should be proud of.

    For the record, I took higher level Irish at leaving certificate level because I believed I could and because I don’t believe in taking the easy option if I think I’m capable of the harder option.

  35. “Where I could. I just did enough to get the points I needed for college.
    I didn’t chose subjects based on what was important, just on what was easiest to get the grades I needed with as little work as possible”

    Which is great for you however what about those who have to struggle like hell just to pass the ordinary level… whilst at the same time being sat next to mostly honours students who are literally going through the motions and completing a basic requirement….it seems unfair to me

    I’d also like to make a quick mention, although I understand its not the norm, of those students who either come from a different country or are the children of returning emegrints. My brother had begun to learn spanish early in London, he went on to do well in it in the Leaving Cert. However he was expected at age 12 to suddenly take up a language that most had been learning since infants, Irish. I can’t began to tell you how tough it was for him but because my parents are much of the same opinion of some here and fully support Irish as a compulsory subject he was given an enourmous amount of support and help including endless grinds. Thankfully he sailed through ordinary Irish, fulfilled basic requirement and walked into Trinity, I can imagine though the predicament of a student who did not recieve as much support!

  36. Caoimhe
    “what about those who have to struggle like hell just to pass the ordinary level… whilst at the same time being sat next to mostly honours students who are literally going through the motions and completing a basic requirement….it seems unfair to me”

    That really sounds like you’re saying it should be optional because it’s too hard for them, is this right? Does the same apply to English, maths and all other subjects? Surely it must. Again the problem there is not the language, it is the education system. Why make the language suffer because of failings in the education system.

    “although I understand its not the norm”

    Yes, it’s a small number of cases. And what of those who never learned French or German but still have to choose a foreign language for LC, should that be optional also?

  37. Caoimhe:

    “Which is great for you however what about those who have to struggle like hell just to pass the ordinary level… ”

    This is not limited only to Irish. It is also a problem in mathematics and English. Again, I see no evidence that Irish has been selected because it is anything other than an easy target. And this is my issue with Enda Kenny’s stance. He is doing nothing to address inherent issues within the education system.

  38. I’m still of two minds. My gut says Irish should be compulsory, but I know that it isn’t the easiest subject to do well in. Whether that is because of the methods of teaching or isn’t really the issue at the moment.

    But then again just cause something is hard doesn’t mean you should drop it. I think once Irish stays complusory up to the Jnr. Cert it’d be okay.

    I don’t think any languages are taught particularly well in Ireland. I mean I would never say I could speak German, despite doing and getting my honour in the Leaving. And while I’d be a little more confident of my Irish I’m still very very far from fluent.

  39. i think that keeping abreast of this debate is as challenging as any leaving cert course! 🙂

    i would argue that no leaving cert subject syllabus is absolutely essential for everyday life. hence, why i’m in favour of no compulsory subjects.
    i really can’t fathom your logic in holding onto irish as a compulsory when you had so little regard for it yourself that you spent as little time on it as possible! the fact that you took that approach in general with the leaving illustrates what many fear: that our secondary school system serves only to get a certain number of points to get into a certain course, which is a sobering thought.

    while i agree with many of your excellent points, i fail to see how making irish optional would facilitate people going for the easy option. as stated in my original post, i think that the best thing about making irish optional would be that it should end the ever increasing trend of students taking ordinary level irish when they are well capable of higher level. this is both insulting and most unhelpful for students who struggle at ordinary level, as caoimhe rightly says. as my original post says, it leaves struggling students competing with lazy high achievers.

    despite what you say about this happening in other subjects, from my knowledge this phenomenon is limited to irish in the main. students certainly to not drop to ordinary level english. politically incorrect though it may be, there is still a stigma attached to sitting subjects at ordinary level, particularly english. maths is a different kettle of fish. it is unusual in that the majority of students take it at ordinary level rather than higher. since many struggle with it, students tend to take ordinary level unless confident of comfortably passing higher level, due to the points involved and the severe college entry problems caused by failing maths.

    however, students are treating irish differently. many perceive it as “useless”, “boring” and “not worth the effort” and get round the constraints of the educational system by dropping back to ordinary level and forgetting about it, while ensuring that all in sundry know that they’re well able for higher level but just cleverly taking the easy option because they can’t be bothered and it will maximise their points.

    if irish was optional, that carry on would stop and that has to be a good thing.

    i do tend to forget about those who join the irish educational system late. i realise it must be extremely difficult. however i thought the cutoff age for irish was 11? could your brother not get a dispensation?

    as yourself, winds and others have rightly said, language teaching does leave much to be desired in general. i’m in the same boat as yourself. got high marks in both french and irish in the leaving and even did some business french in college but am nowhere near fluent in either. but hey, it’s a decade since i did any german and i can still remember the important bits like schwarzwaldertorte (black forest gateau) 🙂

  40. janine
    “hence, why i’m in favour of no compulsory subjects.”
    How is that workable?

    “i really can’t fathom your logic in holding onto irish as a compulsory when you had so little regard for it yourself that you spent as little time on it as possible!”

    You can’t because I think you reading things that I didn’t day. As I said I liked the language just as much as any other subject and I didn’t spend as little time on it as possible, I chose an easy route in general and this applies to all subjects.
    As for keeping Irish compulsory, it’s simple, I am in favour of protecting and promoting the language and I think making it optional will damage the language. I don’t think Irish is ready for that yet, perhaps in future it will be.

    “that our secondary school system serves only to get a certain number of points to get into a certain course, which is a sobering thought.”

    This is the case, focus is on points, hasn’t it always been? But again this does not mean we should focus specifically on Irish, we should focus on the entire system.

    On a point you made to winds:
    “it should end the ever increasing trend of students taking ordinary level irish when they are well capable of higher level.”

    Why is this a problem? What’s wrong with taking a lower level subject even if you are capable of doing them at higher level?

    “this is both insulting and most unhelpful for students who struggle at ordinary level”
    No it’s not. Are you saying people should do higher level in case they offend people who aren’t able to?

  41. “Why is this a problem? What’s wrong with taking a lower level subject even if you are capable of doing them at higher level?”

    sorry maca, I just think that people who do this sell themselves short, that’s all

    Janine – I have known more people to do this to maths than Irish. I have known a handful do it to English as well. The fact that more people do it in Irish is a reflection on people, and not on the language. Enda’s grandstanding is an example of taking the easy option, rather than addressing the fundamental difficulties inherent in language teaching. He is taking pass educational policy rather than honours.

    My point is that if it were taught properly, few would be suggesting it be made optional. Not one person advocating the removal of the obligation to study Irish has actually addressed this point. But it’s not the only subject taught badly, and I would prefer that the question of whether Irish should be optional or not be dealt with after – and only after – the issue of teaching quality across the board has been addressed.

  42. Winds
    “sorry maca, I just think that people who do this sell themselves short, that’s all”‘

    Maybe, but I mean why should this affect the Irish language, it seems (apologies if I am wrong) than Janine is using this as an argument for making Irish optional.

  43. How can any Irish person think this will benefit the language. Use your common sense and realise the conversations that wil occur on this matter:

    “So Deco are you going to do Irish in the Leaving Cert or what?”

    “No way! Irish is a load of shite! Why would I learn a language no one speaks? I’m going to learn French/Spanish (insert language here) instead.”

    “Yeah, I suppose you’re right…”

    It will mean the death of the language.

  44. jeepers, round and round it goes. i wish i had never refused to go on the debating team at school because that experience would come in handy! now i know why bosco is as highbrow as my blog usually gets. 🙂 i’m not great at expressing myself. english was the bane of my life at school!! so i will try to keep this somewhat shorter than my usual ramblings to hopefully avoid further confusion…

    i make no special argument for making irish optional for the leaving cert. i simply believe that all subjects should be optional. i think that forcing people to sit certain subjects is not beneficial and i don’t think that any leaving cert course contains anything absolutely vital for everyday life.

    i am not using the ever increasing numbers of highly intelligent students taking ordinary level irish as the argument for making irish optional. all i am saying is that one positive side effect of doing so would be that it should end this practice.

    from my experience, students are dropping back a level in irish far more often than with any other subject, since they consider irish to be such a waste of time. i am talking about students who are getting A and B grades right across the board. i completely disagree with this practice, because i believe it is unfair competition for students who are only capable of ordinary level. in addition, i may sound like a goody two shoes, but i always try my best at things and i find it sad when others do not.

    right, i think that’s all i have to say on the matter. i bow down in homage to the many highly informed and articulate contributers to this record breaking post at little wysiwyg! 🙂

  45. Not really UI, after all you’d still have to do it up the Jnr Cert. Not doing a language for two years is hardly going to erase all you’ve learned before from your brain is it?

  46. Janine
    “i am talking about students who are getting A and B grades right across the board”

    In my experience those people always do honours Irish. At least every A/B level student I knew in school did honours Irish.

    “i believe it is unfair competition for students who are only capable of ordinary level”

    What competition though? I don’t remember any such competition.

    “Not doing a language for two years is hardly going to erase all you’ve learned before from your brain is it?”

    Making it optional for LC is only a short step from making it optional altogether in secondary school. If that happens eventually many schools will stop supporting the language altogether.

    And again, focussing on this completely misses the important point that language education in Ireland sucks. It’d be much better focussing our energies on trying to fix the real problems.

  47. the problam is that we do Irish for 13 years and have terrible grasp of it. This measure is going to cause no difference either way.

  48. Pingback: Pretty Cunning
  49. Hey………….!!!!! Does anyone have any info on ‘irish should be compulsory for leaving cert’. We are doing a debate on this motion and need help fast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are agreeing with this motion. Anyone??????????

  50. Fi & Rachel, mail me (macaonghusa@gmail.com) and I might have some thoughts. Also Winds made some excellent points above.

  51. Thanx maca,we’l need al the help we can get. We’ve been doing a lot of researching but ev1seems to be disagreeing,thinking it should be optional.

  52. Most people on this site, on politics.ie and on indymedia are for it being mandatory. So are a majority of 15-24 year olds in the two survery carried out- including the one by Fine Béarla.

    I don’t know where you got “ev1seems to be disagreeing,thinking it should be optional.”

    Most older people, who haven’t experienced the changes in the syllabus over the last 10 years- current affairs etc- are for it being mandatory.

  53. Just had to say that I am 100% in favour of Irish remaining required on the Leaving curriculum – I scraped a C grade in ordinary level in mine with a lot of effort and now (years later) plan on doing a nightcourse to get it up to a reasonable speed.

    15/16/17 year olds just do not have a clue – at the time it would have been a cheap cop-out to not have to do it – but now I am so glad I did and see no reason why our national language should be neglected. The goal of Education should not be purely about landing a job.

  54. I have been studing irish and i have spent three years trying hard at higher level but due to other students who are not interested distracting the teacher during class we never get anything done, this is why i think irish should not be compulsury as the students who are truly interested can try it and succeed while those who don’t won’t although i don’t want irish to be a subject nobody does.

  55. If 50% went on the oral a lot more students would be interested in Irish as they would be speaking it more in class. They would gain more confidence in speaking the language instead the way half of them view the current syllabus.

    The numbers of people going to Coláistí Samhraidh in the Gaeltacht would probably increase, and new courses in the Gaeltacht for students from disadvantaged areas might come in if 50% went of the oral.

    Lets see the results of this change i.e 40/50% on the oral, and lets come back to the topic in 10 years.

    Not everything “has been tried”- as some FG’ers will say.

    Their proposal is premature and superrational- typical from a party of nerds.

  56. This discussion always depresses me. I guess it’s time for us to give up on our attempts at language revival where quality is concerned and concentrate on quantity…that’s what I hear from this.

    Instead of having a few people who can speak Irish well, let’s have a whole country that speaks Irish badly. Oh dear.

  57. As a student i think that irish has changed a lot in the past few years u’s were at skul! i’m not saying u’s are old r anyting i think irish is gr8 i’m not fluent in it but it’s gud to know the language of our country

  58. I’m a leaving cert student and I am old enough to vote. This is one of the best things I have heard in a long time, Whether Enda is looking for the young persons vote is irrelevant. It’s just great to see that someone is finally thinking of youth and what they might want/need. Thanks you Enda
    Also as you may have noticed some of my spelling may be incorrect. This is because I have trouble with linguistics. this doesn’t mean that I’m not perfectly capible of achieving an A in another subject….but why should failing ordinary level Irish(which I am) jeopardize my chances of getting into college.
    I would also like to clarify that I am probably one of the most patriotic Irish Girls you will meet, but not wanting to learn Irish in school does not mean that I don’t care about my heritage and history.
    So put this to referendum and you have my vote.

  59. “Whether Enda is looking for the young persons vote is irrelevant. It’s just great to see that someone is finally thinking of youth”

    He’s not thinking of youth IMO, he’s after votes and how can that be irrelevant? Your point doesn’t make sense.

    “why should failing ordinary level Irish(which I am) jeopardize my chances of getting into college.”

    It doesn’t. You don’t need Irish to get into AIT’s or most universities. As far as I know Irish is only required in NUI’s. As for your spelling, what does this have to do with ‘linguistics ability’?

  60. Most young people according to two surveys are for Irish being mandatory.

    Irrelevant really. Those who want the subject to remain madatory obviously like the subject, or feel it has an importance. Should it be made optional, they’d still be able to study the subject. Their opinion however, should not infringe on the unrelated rights – which, concering Irish, are clearly still subject to debate – of the students who do not want to study Irish. In other words, it’s none of the other student’s business whether their classmate should be study Irish. Certainly not any more his business than anyone else.

  61. I think what Enda said was ridiculous. Higher Level students do not ‘waltz in’ and get points easily. Irish is a difficult language and anyone who bothers to do it would understand that. If you want those points to get into your universities so badly, just study. Irish is just as important as any other subject. I think it is important that we know our country’s language, and I think it is a shame that more people aren’t speaking it.

  62. I have to agree with Kate, I’m doing the LC and I think Irish is one of my hardest subjects, but I love it. I know that there is no way that I can just “waltz in” and get a good grade. In fact I would argue that Irish is one of the most challenging subjects on the course and that’s why people would prefer it to be optional. They’d rather spend time on an “easier” subject.
    I understand that people need to play to their strengths in the Leaving Cert and therefore don’t want to waste their time on subjects they know they won’t do well in. But if that is the prescribed outlook, then I should be excused from Maths.
    On the same grounds, I could contest the idea that Irish is “useless”. Perhaps this is true for many people, but if we are each to disregard the subjects that we believe are useless, then I similarly would abolish Maths from my subject choices. In my career, i know I will never make use of Integration and Trigonometry. It simply doesn’t apply to me. However, I sit through the class for the sake of my exams.
    There are people who are good at maths and they benefit from it’s status as a compulsory subject, just as there are people who find Irish easy. The important thing is that we’re all in the same boat.

  63. Honestly, I think there needs to be a scheme in place to gradually shift all primary education to Irish-medium Gaelscoileanna. That way all students would be fluent in both languages, and most would feel more comfortable speaking Irish in the home and with friends, as it would truly be their native tongue in more than name only.

    The Irish state was won from heartless Saxon colonialists by dedicated patriots who thought that Irish ought to be the national language. That’s what they fought and died for, and now people spit in their faces by preferring the language of their former colonial masters to our own beautiful native tongue. For shame!

    It is my opinion that all education should gradually shift to Irish-medium, with special emphasis first on facilitating Irish as the primary language of this country, while at the same time providing native fluency in English simply for its value as an international language of business and commerce. Then there will be a fully bilingual populace from square one, and people will truly have a choice in which language they prefer to use at home, and I think when given that proper choice most Irish people would choose to use Irish.

  64. I’ll never vote for that party as long as Enda Kenny is leader. As it seems some members of the party support him. I wont be voting for them either.

    Irish is the last thing we have left (along with music) that gives us a separate identity.

    Those who moan about learning Irish in school and suggest it held them back need to wake up and see that if they are not linguistically gifted (as I am not mathamatically gifted) rather than moan they can do foundation level Irish or pass Irish, and make it their seventh leaving cert subject – it doesn’t have to count for points.

    Don’t dare deny an entire generation of students and all who follow them the right to learn their own language. If Irish is not taught it will die out completely, heck of an achievement against your own culture.

    I’m completely disgusted with Enda Kenny.

  65. As for attitudes to Irish. I’ve long been aware of linguistically capable people (i.e. it wasn’t a problem of aptitude) who were surprisingly weak at Irish. The key factor was always their parents attitudes, from an early age their parents had denigrated the language to them…and as a result they never tried to learn it.

    Irrational aversion to something is not unknown to me (I have it towards maths- I consciously tried not to absorb anyting) does this mean that I think maths should be optional. No.

    It didn’t have the slightest impact on my college prospects, I did pass and counted maths as a seventh subject. Am I glad I learnt some maths (though at pass level I didn’t have to do anything beyond listening in class), yes. It’s good to learn new things.

    All the talk of “necessity” above – since we don’t speak Irish in our daily lives it’s unnecessary etc. is very misguided. Learning is not about narrowly focusing on just the things we need to know in the workplace. There’s more to life. I’d rather have a conversation with a thinking and educated person than a cog in the machine who has but one interest in life…work.

    Do you think employers want people who are so one-dimensional?

  66. As for Irish needing to be compulsory in order to survive or continue to revive…this is no indictment of the language, but rather a recognition of the fact that learning is hard work and we all need the compulsion of exams in order to pull it off. If work in any context was totally optional we’d all give it up.

  67. James I applaud your suggestion – “Honestly, I think there needs to be a scheme in place to gradually shift all primary education to Irish-medium Gaelscoileanna. That way all students would be fluent in both languages, and most would feel more comfortable speaking Irish in the home and with friends, as it would truly be their native tongue in more than name only.”

    I’m sending my kids to a gaelscoil. My Irish was at a high standard when I finished school but I’m going to work at it again so that I will be able to practice law through Irish also (I want my Irish to be at the standard of a working language.

  68. Hi there,
    I would really love to comment on this debate. I love the Irish language but with all due respect I hated studying it in school. the fact of the matter is that if it had been an option i definately would have quit it and would now most definately have regretted that decision. We NEED our own language. Ireland is becoming ever more diversified with people from all over the world, its so nice to be able to just have our own language the way people from France speak French, Germans speak German – why shouldnt we as the Irish people speak Irish??
    I totally disagree with Enda – the Irish curriculum however does need to be updated – quite frankly – its boring – there is only so much of the “children of lir” that one can take! More emphasis should be on the spoken and written language. children and teens are not encouraged by irish as it is seen as useless. I live in England now as i go to University in Liverpool and it so nice to be able to phone up my friends and if i want to, to slip into irish conversation! Please save our language Ms. Hanafin!!!!!!!!

  69. i seriously agree that irish should be an optional subject not only because its hard for some students but for the ones who came to ireland in their secondry school and is too late to study irish so i hope the government would give permission for making irish language an optional subject. so, i would prefer 110% irish as an optional subject.

  70. I think we should celebrate the fact that Ms. Hanafin has now introduced changes in the curriculum, putting much more emphasis on the spoken, rather than written, word.
    Ta suil agam go mbeidh an Ghaeilge nios suimiuile do dhaltai anois agus go mbeidh Gaeilge liofa ag nios mo daoine amach anseo. Ta suil agam chomh maith go ndearna Mary Hanafin an dothan chun an Gaeilge a choimead mar abhar eigeantach agus chun daltai a spreagadh i a fhoghlaim.
    Slan agus Beannacht.

  71. Doing the leaving through Irish does indeed mean you will probably get higher points. There still exists the sliding scale of added marks which will most almost certainly translate into higher points in at least one subject.

    I do not agree that the sliding scale makes less difference the higher the grade is since as the grade approaches 100%, each percentage is more difficult to achieve ie: the difference between 40% and 45% is a lot less than say 90% and 95% or by far 95% and 100%.

  72. I moved to Ireland from England when I was 7 but with two Irish parents I had already learnt some basics in Irish. I came to school in Ireland knowing how to count to ten in irish and how to say basic things like hello, goodbye and thank you in Irish. I loved this language, it was “cool” and fun…well that was what i thought until I had my first Irish class. From that very first day I hated Irish and I’ve lost more knowledge of the language than I’ve gained.

    I think Irish should be an optional subject. The only way Irish will ever be grasped is by having an interest in it, having proper teachers and a slyabus and teaching methods that actually work.

    My Irish teacher is an example of the pathetic system of teaching Irish in this country. She can’t even find the glasses on the top of her head, let alone teach a class of 25 leaving certs higher level Irish.

    Until the goverment makes major changes in the teaching of Irish no student should be forced to study a near dead language.

  73. As a Leaving Cert student i think having Irish as a compulsory subject is a joke. I understand the argument made that making Irish optional would mean less students would study it, but doesn’t that go to show that love for the language is gone. Many citizens seem interested in the rejuvenation of the Irish language, provided they do not do the leg work. Very few people are personally interested in learning Irish, but seem in favour of its teaching in schools, of Government funding of TG4 etc. It is more guilt that if we lose the Irish language we lose our heritage that makes us care just enough to conserve it, watching it die slowly at enormous expense to the taxpayer.

  74. I am a Leaving cert student myself and Im not fluent in Irish but i do have a good understanding of the language. I dont think that it should be made compulsory as of course, everyone would abandon the language as they did so centuries ago, its not even that hard if you try to sit down and study it. I mean, you just have to learn of a few letters and a scéal! And you can get extra marks on the aural and tape exam…i really dont see what the problem is!!

  75. Ok this is pathetic… are people really moaning about learning their national language??? I dont understand… if ur not willing to keep the language or at least make an effort to preserve it (IE. KEEP IT COMPULSORY) ur not irish at heart and thats for. Gaeilge go deo.. tír gan teanga = tír gan anam !!!!

  76. It is a useless language with little or no use in everyday life. It puts undue pressure on students, and I can only assume it costs the Department of Education money, that could be spent on more practical subjects, such as science and business. Granted, it is part of our heritage, and our Irish identity, but we should still have a choice to take the subject or not, so those who actually want to do it, can, and vice versa. Also, the way it is taught is questionable, for example, the technicalities of Grammer, and its relevance.

    No offence intended.

  77. Hi all.

    Having read all comments from [1] to [84] I have enjoyed the highly intellectual discussion immensly.
    My stance is: I love the native tongue but do not agree with its compulsory inclusion in the flagship exam of our secondary education system.
    Those at Leaving Cert age are fast becoming adults and are expected make decisions for themselves in many key areas including for example, a decision on their political persuasion using their first vote. We should also consider them as mature enough to decide on their use of the Irish language at this stage.
    Having endured years of dogmatic delivery of subject matter by an old village schoolmaster I lost interest in curricular education and concentrated on life skills. There were so many barriers to learning erected by indifferent teachers that I gave up on the Irish Educational System for a while…But I returned to the fold as an adult and am almost finished my second degree TG !
    The Irish educational system and its method of delivery is at fault and is the primary cause of our inability to communicate effectively with one another outside of the English medium.
    Through the past decade we Irish have embraced our new multi-cultural society with open arms in many ways except through education, to continue to use a bonus points system which offers up to 10 per cent extra marks to those competent in the native tongue is fundamentally flawed.
    It smacks of positive discrimination and promotes inequality, it victimises citizens of foreign descent and isolates Irish nationals who find themselves under privileged through geography or circumstance.
    Section 148 of the Nice Treaty (2003) states that as Europeans we have a duty to equally promote the language of all member states – not just our own.
    Today there are Irish citizens of Nigerian, Polish and other decent reaching the Leaving Cert age through our educational system, let us not discriminate against them through a biased sence of nationality and let us not hide behind a cloak of heritage and culture which is centred around a language that most of us can’t converse in anyway. –

    Excuse the rant, but I enjoyed it !

  78. Glad you enjoyed the discussion John and thanks for contributing your views on the matter. Good luck with completing your 2nd degree – impressive! 🙂

  79. compulsory irish helped make me what i am today:
    a bitter angry loser struggling to hold on to a dead end job

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