Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Compulsory Irish - a parent writes

Interesting article in the Irish Times on the subject of compulsory Gaeilge in our schools (a subject covered elsewhere on the blog).   It comes from a feature on the Education Today pages called  TBH -  To Be Honest, a slot that aims to "give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously". 

As a practical demonstration of the nonsense of compulsory Gaeilge  -  with its roots in late 19th / early 20th century Gaelic revivalism  -  which has been a failed policy for 89 years or so, it is hard to beat.   

'Wasted hours' on learning Irish

A parent writes : I can’t believe that children are still being forced to learn Irish in school. I spent thousands of wasted hours in primary and secondary school learning this language and now I can’t speak a word of it. If only, if only, that time had been spent learning maths, science, a modern language or even spent running around the yard I think it would have better served me in later life.

I often look back with dismay at all the time I spent banging my head against this difficult and useless subject that any reasonable education system would relegate to a minority elective for those with the specific interest and motivation to learn it.

Now I have children of my own. One of them, in particular, is having real literacy problems. We are slowly and painstakingly bringing him up to speed with the rest of the class in his basic reading and writing skills. We’re getting there, but as his classmates are moving ahead to read independently, he is still struggling to get through the most basic readers aimed at younger children.

Now he’s coming home with Irish homework. He’s grappling with whole new families of sounds and spellings, just as he was starting to get a grip on his mother tongue. For him, learning to spell and pronounce Irish words is like unlearning all the rules we’ve been working so hard to get into his head. I can see the poor child looking at me with utter confusion as I turn everything we’ve learned about letter sounds and spelling upside down.

And for what? To learn a language he will never use. Even if he wanted to use it, he won’t have the competence because Irish taught in the classroom is a complete waste of time. This is a child who desperately needs as much time as possible spent on basic literacy and numeracy. Instead, he is now spending his time on a confusing, pointless and empty exercise largely designed to keep Gaelgoirs in jobs.

When he comes home in the evening with his frankly impossible Irish homework I help him as much as I can. In fact, I’m well able to help him because believe it or not I was actually good at school Irish. I did honours for the Leaving Cert and got a B.

But there’s a big difference between learning for the Leaving Cert exam and actually being able to use a subject in the real world. Despite my honours Irish, I cannot even walk into a Connemara pub and order a bowl of soup.

What hope has my son, who is already two classes behind in basic English, in getting grips with, never mind making use of, this minority language?

Good luck to people who want to keep the language alive. Let them take their kids to classes after school or send them to Gaelscoils. Let the rest of us learn for the real world, please.

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Anonymous said...

There is nothing new in this argument so I can't see it influencing anything.

Anonymous said...

Its so frustrating I feel this womans pain i am pulling my hair out .What a total waste of time , all sense and humanity thrown out the window for a gaelgoiri elite principle.I have worked in primary schools and seen this carry on first hand . Reminds me of when i stopped in spiddal supermacs and proudly managed to order a burgurah , sprite ogus skalohgee prahtea osss gaylgah from the irish menu, the lads behind the counter were from the philipines and didnt have a clue what i was talking about

Newbie said...

Thsi is another example of Irsih bullshite, that in the coming years we will see it for the waste and stupidy that it was, of course we have to wait and wait till some Politco will eventually have the balls to day so.
One the ways to get your nipper out of doing" Oirish" (as they say in the Dublin Gael Scoils of south Dublint) get the doctor to certify they have Dyslexia. Some of the clever folks have done this. The downside is that you have to lie to declare your kids have a learning disability. Why for fecks sske when we have people who come out of school without been able to read or write in English we go on with this shit.
Have a decko at this:
"According to the National Audit Literacy Agency (NALA), over 500,000 adults in Ireland have literacy difficulties and the health implications of this, for both patients and health providers, cannot be underestimated". taken from IrishHealth.Com

Ella said...

Hi GM, this is an excellent article and sums up the frustration that many people experience. Irish was one of my favourite subjects at school. But there were no great results for it in the leaving cert, try sitting in a class where a handful of people actually want to be there. So everybody loses out. The whole Irish language "thing" is an industry for the elite. Be it jobs in TG4, RTE, European Commission (as it's now a recognised official language). Most of us who go through the Irish education system "learn" Irish from the age of 4 until 17-18. Yet when we leave school after having studied another foreign language (Irish is a foreign language to most Irish people, myself included) like FR or DE we know more of them after only 4-5 years tuition. When will the nonsense end?

Newbie is correct by asserting "of course we have to wait and wait till some Politco will eventually have the balls to day so."

I don't have a problem with Irish being offered as a subject in school, but it should be optional.

Irish music is alive and well and people choose to play the bodhran or whatever and enjoy it. No sign of that diddly eidy stuff dying out and that's not compuslory. The language should be the same.

Dakota said...

GM it's too easy to state the obvious and say that no one in authority in this rotten little bog, has a spine. But of course they don't. The problem is akin to that seen in Greece etc. The country is saturated with corruption, albeit of a suble nature. That's it.

Gaelic is now language of choice if you want your child to get on in certain sections, here, otherwise it is nothing more than a hinderance for most kids getting a normal education. Preparing them for the real world (Oh and that's NOT Ireland, by the way).

Very simply, apart from any lack of discernible will no one wants to know here. Hence, what happens is, the system remains the same, it self perpetuates. Little johnny has to learn something his great great grandfather wouldn't speak if it was to save his life.

If the Irish wanted to speak the language they would have kept it alive in the home. They didn't, that's why it died.

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Anon 11:21. No, there's nothing new. 89 years of failed educational policy should be enough.

@ Anon. 11.32. Agreed. How long more can they cling onto this?

@ Newbie. One of the finest examples of prize Irish bullshite.

@ Ella. Yeah... I did OK in German - optional subject mind you.

@ Dakota. That's the nub... this silly policy doesn't recognise the "real world". It's just an uncomfortable inconvenience.