Thursday, 18 December 2008

Bonus points for Gaelscoileanna is educational apartheid.

One great thing about being an atheist is that you never need feel obliged to genuflect. Nor should you ever accept that any cow is too sacred for the slaughter yard. The same applies to those of us who don't believe in the Irish Language Industry.

According to the Irish Constitution Gaeilge is our “first official language" and, as a result, beyond questioning. If it says so in DeValera’s 1937 Constitution - our patriots' bible - it must be true. It follows that we must all do our bit to perpetuate the myth of us being a homogenous race of Gaels, whose native tongue was plundered by the Anglo-Saxon foe. Bad cess to them!

But that mindset does not exist on Gombeen Nation, and Gombeen Man does not feel the need to preface his criticisms with nonsense such as “Irish is a beautiful language, but…”. No such platitudes here. Because while we can question the application of the word “beautiful” to any given language, there is no denying that Irish is a “beautiful” industry – for those employed in it, anyhow.

One group that functions within this sector goes by the snappy moniker of An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & GaelscolaĆ­ochta, whose mission is to “To fulfill effectively, professionally and at a high standard the responsibilities of An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus GaelscolaĆ­ochta for the development of the Gaeltacht and Irish medium sector and the teaching of Irish in all schools.”

Its chief executive, Muireann Ni Mhorain, had a rather petulant letter in today’s Irish Times, in response to a recent article in that paper on the subject of Gaelscoils, where a writer had the temerity to claim that Gaelscoil students had an unfair advantage over their English language counterparts, due to the Department of Education’s policy of awarding extra marks for sitting exams through Irish.

Even by Ni Mhorain’s admission, it seems that "students answering 'certain’ subjects in Irish are awarded between 3 and 10 per cent extra marks”. So, pray tell, what sane person could argue that such a practice does not constitute an unfair advantage? And by extension, constitutes a disadvantage for students answering the very same questions, in the very same subjects, through English?

Do those in the Irish Language Industry possess such a Pee Flynn-like arrogance, that they can feel perfectly entitled to appear on the op-ed pages of a national newspaper and actually defend such an outrageous, discriminatory, practice? Apparently so.

Ni Mhorain concludes the piece by making a comparison with Maths, claiming that bonus points for that subject might be seen as supporting “progressive economic policy”. Well, that could be argued either way - and many might contend it is not a good idea – but as far as Gombeen Man is aware, it is not possible to sit one’s entire Leaving Cert through mathematics, therefore picking up extra points in other subjects as a result.

The only sector of the economy that benefits from bonus points for Irish is the multitude of State-sponsored bodies that make up the Irish Language Industry.

But Ms ni Mhorain would know that.

See also Gaelscoils, no foreigners need apply

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Ella said...

I agree GM, it most certainly does give Irish speakers an unfair advantage. If the powers that be are hell bent on the madness of awarding students extra marks for doing exams through Irish, should not this insanity be followed through to it's logical conclusion, ie. give Polish kids extra marks for doing their exams through English. Afterall, Polish is the second most widely spoken language in this country, after English. I am aware that Polish is not an official language in Ireland but anyway....

The Gombeen Man said...

Applying the logic of those that promote Gaeilge, you have a very valid point, Ella. It has to be in all of our interests that everyone living here has a good command of English (or Hiberno-English as the True Gaels might prefer to call it). So if they need to prioritise something, let it be that. But the last I heard, the Governemt was actually cutting back on English language support.

Bernd said...

There is something rotten in the educational system for sure ... I never heard about these bonus points before, now I have to reach for my horse tranquilizers again ...

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes Bernd... It's something I've been aware of since my schooldays here - and that's not yesterday! So now you know how my attitude to the "native tongue" has been coloured.

Most worringly, it's such an accepted fact here that nobody seems to question the injustice of it - even those who suffer because of it.

I'm still waiting for the Gaelgoeirs to start commenting in its defence. Probably something along the lines of: "Gombeen Man, you are a treacherous West Brit royalist, full of self-loathing".

That's their usual line of "argument".

Bernd said...

Let me ask a question ...

... say some Irish-speaker manages to push up his/her points into the realms of medicine with these tricks ... will that then mean that he/she will only be allowed to practice in the gaeltacht? Or will he/she have to study medicine in Irish?

Or am I missing a point here, like, why is an answer "more right" if given in Irish?

The Gombeen Man said...

No Bernd, the only "reason" they give extra points is to "promote" Irish. It does not mean someone so benefiting from such nonsense is restricted in any way in where they work or study at third level... just that they have an advantage in getting the required points. Sickening.

You are not missing the point Bernd... there is none, other than giving an unfair advantage to those sitting exams in Irish.

No wonder so many of them are so smug!

Merlin said...

So, does that mean, that any foreign child coming to Ireland, and is older than 11 - which means, that this child does not have to learn Irish - has a disadvantage more, than being a foreigner, or are there any exceptions?

The Gombeen Man said...

I'd say that's an accurate assumption Merlin. Anyone, (Irish or non-Irish) who takes the same exam through English is at a disadvantage to someone who takes it through Irish.

Not very fair, is it?

Merlin said...

Not at all.
Mainly because it is a law - and now they turn their own law against the children they did it for.
A mystery to me.

And it doesn`t make the university location Ireland attractive. Not good for sciences.

The Gombeen Man said...

Probably most worrying, Merlin, is how these "bonus" points distort measurement of educational attainment... just as tax incentives distort an economy.

Someone getting the same "scores" in exams, will be credited with more points than someone of equal - or more ability - if they do those exams in Irish. So, logically, they will displace more capable students purely because they did the exams in Irish.

That can't be good, and I will be doing a blog on this in the next day or two (bit hectic here at the moment).

Anonymous said...

Hey, you don't seem to have gotten any opinions from Irish speakers yet, so I'll volunteer one. I'm from the North, so might as well be a million miles away from where this gross injustice is occuring. But I'm not a million miles away. How will this madness affect university places contested between southerners and northerners? "Promoting Irish..." God save us, the only thing the government knows how to do is throw money at its problems. And this is a particularly vulgar way of doing so. I would still speak irish if it were made illegal again, because I earnestly love the language. This does not make me a big red-faced GAA culchie, or dessicated antiquarian grammar junkie. It makes me me, and I would never accept bribery of this sort to make me speak. The only positive things I've EVER seen done for the language have been by private citizens taking their own time and money to do something. I believe a central government can't effectively govern a heavily regionalised language like ours (Or mine, if you're THAT against the damn sprach.) and attempts like this alienate those without the language, and insult those who have it already. Hey, maybe partition wasn't all bad, right?

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks for your well-considered comments, Anon - your points are very good ones.

You see, no-one likes something forced on them, and it's ham-fisted policies like these that create much of the resentment you see on this blog. So as "promotion" goes, its pretty counter-productive.

If it wasn't for all of that, maybe I might be an enthusiast too? ;-)


Anonymous said...

Just to clarify the scheme:
If you get 75% or less in subjects such as Chemistry, Physics, Economic History etc you get 10% of your overall mark as a bonus
If you get 75% or less in subjects such as French, German, Spanish, etc you get 5% of your overall mark as a bonus.
More than 75% and there is a sliding scale, so that eventually there is no bonus for having done it through Irish.
There are also no bonuses for the English or Irish exams.

Having followed the responses in the papers and other media, it seems English-language students have the advantage in that all their materials and resources and textbooks are readily available in English, but not in Irish for the Gaelscoileanna, thereby putting an extra work burden on the Irish-language teachers and students. Any comments on this unfair advantage of studying through English?

The Gombeen Man said...

10% is easily the difference be between a pass or fail, or a higher or lower grade. And this is for a whole range of subjects, remember.

I'm incredulous that anyone can defend this policy - let alone make out that the Irish speakers are at at disadvantage over everyone else because they get bonus points for answering the same questions in Irish. That takes some doing.

The supposed "unavailability" of textbooks is no excuse to penalise the rest of us by giving Gaelic speakers extra marks.

We already have a bureaucracy to tranlsate Government documents into Gaelic... is it too much to ask that they provide textbooks too?

Anonymous said...

Agree with you regarding the bonus points. However, was only making the point that sometimes Irish language students can also be at a disadvantage due to the Government. Seems it _is_ beyond their capability to provide textbooks, but with their handling of the economy (and everything else) maybe it's not so surprising.

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, this Government goes from one crisis to the next. But will we vote them back in the next time, I wonder. Assuming we haven't all emigrated, that is!

Thanks for the info, by the way.

Ella said...

Hi Gombeen Man, are you aware that students sitting state exams through Irish are not the only people receiving a bonus? The educators of this country who teach through Irish also receive an annual bonus of EUR 1,665 and if they happen to be operating out of a school in a gaeltacht area an additional premium of EUR 3,223 is paid.

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks Ella. No, I was not aware of that... but it doesn't surprise me in the least. The Irish Language / Gaelic, or whatever you want to call it, is nothing but a racket for those employed in it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I sat my Leaving Cert through Irish last year so I thought I might add to this. I agree with Anonymous about the schoolbook thing.I was studying eight subjects last year and only about one or two of my mountain of schoolbooks was in Irish. The few books as Gaeilge that were on the market were usually twice as expensive as the same book in English, had to be specially ordered and the Irish in them was so complicated it made your head hurt. We ended up using English books and translating as we went along.

I thought personally that the bonus points were a good thing but I do agree that they do give an unfair advantage. For example, if you got a B3 in something like Maths without the bonus, then you could get around 7% extra if you did it in Irish, and you can end up with a B2 or even a B1 if you were at 74% or so.

Also, I don't know if you're aware of this, but students taking the Junior or Leaving Cert through Irish get two exam papers: the exam as Gaeilge and the English-language exam that everyone else gets. Most of the people I know just ended up using the English paper and writing the answers in Irish, as they tend to use very complicated Irish in the exam papers and it takes too much time to translate it in your head. And they wonder why the Government is broke...