“Apart from the fact that fluency in our national language is a vibrant expression of our national identity, and preserves the direct descendant of one of the most ancient languages in Europe, dual language immersion provides a unique and powerful opportunity to strengthen children’s highest cognitive brain potentials through deliberate literacy development in two languages and authentic exposure to rich linguistic experiences.”
The Union of Students in Ireland stressed the importance of bilingualism in children’s education and how parents should consider sending her children to gaelscoils or bilingual schools because bilingual children are better at problem-solving, and have greater cultural awareness.
According to the Department of Education, 26.8% of primary school children attended a Gaelscoil in 2014/2015 in comparion to 27.5% in 2013/2014.
“The mental gymnastics needed to constantly manage two or more linguistic systems increases cognitive flexibility and makes learning easier,” said Dr. Dora Alexopoulou from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics in the University of Cambridge.
Speaking about the fall in numbers, USI President Kevin Donoghue emphasised the benefits of speaking more than one language.
While he noted that the decrease in the numbers attending gaelscoileanna wasn’t dramatic, he stated that the, “USI is encouraging parents across Ireland to consider sending their children to a gaelscoil or a bilingual school.”
“Research shows that development of literacy in two languages has numerous positive effects for students including increased understanding of maths concepts and problem-solving; resistance to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and a greater cultural awareness,” he added.
Spokesperson for Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spáinn, said that all children should have the opportunity to be educated bilingually as, “there are linguistic, educational, social, cultural and personal development benefits for children.”
“Gaelscoileanna offer this form of education and we believe that there should be more Gaelscoileanna established to satisfy parent demand for this form of education as there is plenty of evidence that supply is in no way meeting the demand,” he concluded.