Thursday, 30 June 2011

Elitist Gaelscoil movement rejects educational reforms

Is the green carpet about to be pulled out from under the cosy feet of the Gaelscoil movement?

Its adherents loved telling us how popular the medium of Irish language education was, and how De Language was undergoing a "renaissance".   Even, it seemed, among parents who did not speak any Gaeilge, but were happy to send their little Oisins and Roisins to a school that taught through a medium they themselves did not understand.  Why? 

Factors behind the alleged "surge" in popularity:

1) Misguided types who saw Gaeilge as the badge of authentic Irishness (rather than the badge of our corrupt State and ruling political class who jumped onto the Gaelic League cultural nationalist bandwagon of  the late 19th century).

2) Those who saw the potential of bonus points for their progeny in Leaving Cert results (worth an extra 10% for answering  "As Gaeilge" in some subjects).  

3) Shinners (cultural nationalists, see "authentic Irishness" above).

4) Those who wanted to send their children to a school where they were less likely to share a classroom with "foreigners" (this cropped up a few years back in a Sunday Business Post article, but I have heard people express the same sentiments myself since).

5) The fact that it was very easy for a well-organised interest group to get a school set up..

To date, in order to establish a primary school all that was required was for 17 pupils to be "identified".  That is, a well-organised lobby group such as the Gaelscoil movement only had to collect some signatures, preferably with a few fadas, in order to establish a case for a school in a given area.

Now it seems that the DoE - if it acts on a report submitted from the Commission of School Accommodation - will require greater numbers of potential pupils, along with three class streams for each year.   In addition, before a new school is established in a given area, a thorough survey will be carried out in order to establish what type of school best reflects an area's needs.

Predictably, those in the Gaelscoil movement don't want this.  To quote a report from the Indo last May (Katherine Donnolly, May 3rd):

"Letters of objection from Gaelscoileanna Teo and An Foras Patrunachta have been published as appendices to the report.

An Foras Patrunachta chief executive Caoimhin O hEaghra claims the report "places an obstacle to the provision of all-Irish education to the children of the country".

He said it was likely that those looking for an all-Irish education would be in a minority at first, so a parental survey would not meet their needs.

Gaelscoileanna Teo acting chief executive Nora Ni Loinsigh agreed it would be difficult to establish an all-Irish school on the basis of a survey of parents."

Which would support what many of us on Gombeen Nation have believed for years. Some of those in the Gaelscoil movement have been pushing to establish themselves in areas where there is no real demand for - and can be no benefit from - their brand of schooling.  If not, what is the problem with an extensive area survey?

Let us hope the DoE belatedly sidelines this particular lobby group -  in the best interests of education, social cohesion, and the future.

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Harvey Norman said...

This is just another example of the backwardness of this country. Some people just will not accept the uselessness of the Irish language and the inevitability of it's demise (along with the catholic church). Of course they are well supported by the gombeen men in govt because they see the opportunity to win a few votes by speaking out on the issue comfortable in the knowledge that no-one will speak out against them.

Like everyone else reading this, I suffered 13 years of learning Irish throughout primary and secondary school and have not needed to use it even once in a formal situation in the 22 years since my Leaving cert.

In primary school, our Irish lessons consisted mainly of the teacher reading Jimin or some other Irish text to us and then translating it into English. In secondary school, Peig and 'Diarmuid agus Grainne' were delivered in a similar fashion. We got basic grammar lessons but the classes were always conducted in English. Although I found Irish quite easy at the time and got honours at Inter (Junior) and Leaving Cert, I cannot now and never could understand the Nuacht or hold a proper conversation in Irish.

Then I go working abroad and encounter people in Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, etc who could speak 2, 3 and 4 languages. When I asked them how they managed it, they said they learned them in school from an early age.

The only people who need or want to learn Irish in this country are those who want to be teachers or work in the public service and the aspiring gombeen men politicians. The recent televised leaders debate on TG4 for the General Election is a perfect example of the ridiculous status of our 'native language' when it had to be recorded in advance so that English sub-titles could be added. What did that debate achieve exactly? To my mind, it was further proof that the language is effectively dead.

Why don't the concerned Fiachra's, Noirin's and gombeen men get vocal about the appalling standard of other EU language tuition in our schools?

The Gombeen Man said...

Go Harvey go!!!!

Thanks for your comments.

For the record, according to Irish Language Commissioner (for we have such a thing in Ireland) Sean O Cuirreain... I wonder what his salary is... is on record as saying €700 million a year is spent on teaching Gaeilge. €700 million!!!!

30 June 2011 19:57

Anonymous said...

gdyeGM gaelge is certainly not in use here in hollywood after many years as a performing artist in the adult motion picture industry i have heard much language even the most reserved proper ladies become rather vocal during certain stages of the production process some atrocious unspeackable language but never gaelge so far , its a shame coz i got many a wallop from a christian brother with a big red alcholic face for not being interested in his gaelge ,while its mostly excutive work these days i still do the occasional scene for the right price and to set standards. with the irish economy in the toilet we may see a colleen or two headed this way so i can practice my native language ihope cheerio BH

The Gombeen Man said...

I don't know, BH. You might be eligible for a subsidy from An Foras Somethingorother.

Eamon O'Cuiv might be able to advise.

PS. Any jobs going there?

Anonymous said...

yes indeed mrGM there are many jobs as you know the main wealth creation activity in this here neck o the woods is porn with the right combination of stats and stanima its show time and cash. rollers. rolexes. penthouses, babes if you can deliver quality on time on budget its all yours, sorry no retirement packages or severance. no pensions or sick leave as in holy oirland, your leaving cert phds gaelge etc dont mean shit,if you are still interested please post all relevant stats, and stanima levels and i will pass them along to the adult moguls and my good friends lady gaga and paris who are all just soooooh impressed with all big things oirish cheeerio for now BH

Ponyboy said...

Ah BH you're as lucky as can be - How nice to hear that you're going to get an opportunity to use your "native tongue'" on all those colleens fleeing ireland for career opportunities in the adult movie genre in your part of the world. I do remember once seeing Tarzan on telly back in the 60's giving orders to a whole tribe of pygmies who were carrying medical supplies from one place to another for him. He was trying to get them to get a bit of a move on cos the bad guys were catching up on them and funnily enough I understood exactly what he was saying to them "Brostaigh ort" LMAO.
Buachaill capaillin

Dakota said...

What a country? How many words in OIRISSSH for DISASTER? Or MIRAGE? I wonder? Not enough obviously.
The "Commission of School Accommodation" sounds like another QUANGO to me GM.
The ironies of History? The Gaelic language has become the language of choice for the Irish elite. Only in Ireland........

Anonymous said...

I think oyu left out of your list the peopke that would love to send their kids to private schools but do not have the cash so the gaelscoil is the next best thing so send Dorais agus fhuinneog

The Gombeen Man said...

@ BH. Ah, I'll have no problem there! ;-)

@ PB. Yes, you'd often hear that Tarzan roar in our classroom, if someone failed to pass muster in the Noble Tongue. Which was quite often, as it happens. It was a jungle.

@ Dakota. Yes... usually I'm all against quangos, but if the CoSA do their job - and their advice is acted on, I'll be happy. For once ;-)

@ Anon. Indeed. I think there is a fair bit of that. And don't forget the bonus points... even private school pupils don't automatically get them.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yawn. Fact of the matter is that Gaelscoils are streets ahead of most other pedagogical institutions (public and private). This, of course, stands to reason given the early exposure to a second language which leads to an altogether more challenging educational experience.

What really lies at the root of this post is a dated and tired inferiority complex in respect of Irish identity. You gave the game away with the utterly laughable assertion that the Irish language was "the badge of our corrupt State and ruling political class who jumped onto the Gaelic League cultural nationalist bandwagon of the late 19th century."

The Gombeen Man said...

Yawn. You fit nicely into category 1, so.

I have no "inferiority complex" with regard to what you call "Irish identity". I simply detest your tired, boring definition of Irishness, which the majority of Irish people do not subscribe to.

Oh, and your hackneyed notion of "complete immersion" was rejected in the Ireland of the 40s, 50s and early 60s when infants from English-speaking homes were "taught" through Gaelic, and ended up learning nothing. A language, by the way, that does not have linguistic ties with the Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Swedish) OR the Romance ones (French, Italian, Spanish).

Gaelscoils are "streets ahead"? Then what's their problem with a parental survey? They are "streets" ahead because they cater for a select section of the community who then benefit from bonus points for answering the same exam questions as Gaeilge, rather than in our mother tongue, English. They are instruments of elitism, exclusion and discrimination.

Your Gaelscoils are on the way out, driven by democracy and democraphic change.

Anonymous said...

There have never been more Gaelscoils then there are at present so the "your Gaelscoils are on the way out" jibe is factually baseless. Of course, it's now apparent to me that the truth isn't something you concern yourself with, as evidence by your claim that you get an extra 10% for doing subjects through Irish. No, you get 10% of the marks you didn't get in certain subjects (not including Maths, languages etc.). For high end students, the bonus has very little impact and hardly compensates for the disability suffered by having every up to date book in English only.

You're entitled to view my interpretation of Irishness as 'boring'. Incidentally, I don't see that you have an interpretation of what it is to be Irish, other than a detestation of all things Gaelic, which is every bit as pathetic a definition of Irishness as the "Anything but England" crowd offer.

The Gombeen Man said...

As I have already pointed out, the number of Gaelscoils is attributable due the fact that it was easy for a such powerful lobby interest to get funding for their brand of schooling - recently this was happening a lot in areas with high immigrant populations... now the government wants to introduce parental surveys to ensure that areas get education appropriate to their needs. That is what the this post is about.

I am very concerned about the truth, actully, unhindered by a green-tinted, myopic, neo-Gaelicist Dev-inspired vision of Irishness.

Muireann Ni Mhorain, head of Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta, herself admitted in an Irish Times interview (Dec 18th, 2008) that the bonus points were worth from "3% to 10%" to students. The breakdown is as follows:

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.

The "bonus for having to compensate for having every up-to-date book in English only" does not wash. These extra marks can be the difference between a higher or a lower grade, or entry into university. The students sitting the exams are English speakers anyway, so "compensation" is not an issue. And a 5% bonus for sitting your German exam "as Gaeilge"???? Don't make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

As an American of both Jewish and Irish descent, I'm repeatedly amazed that so many Irish don't see the obvious value in their language. The harder it is for outsiders to learn, the better. Irish is excellent in that respect.

Jews get it. It's obvious to them and they're doing fairly well in the world. The ability to switch to a language that outsiders don't know gives you power over them, not to mention strong group cohesion, which is another source of power.

All schools in Ireland should be exclusively in Irish right from the first day, with English taught only as a foreign language.

The Gombeen Man said...

Ah, as a tool to exclude "outsiders". I long thought that the motive of many Gaelic enthusiasts.

English is our language, and has been for hundreds of years - however cultural nationalists, with their roots in late 19th century revivalism, might like to kid themselves.

Also, your "idea" of compulsory teaching through Gaelic was tried in the past (at primary) and was - unsurprisingly - an unmitigated disaster.

Your outlook seems more North Korea than north America.