In a recent report by the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment), doubts were raised over the necessity of Irish in the Leaving Certificate curriculum. Opinions from parents, pupils, and teachers were highlighted in the review. It was found that students “think that Irish should be an optional subject, whilst some highlighted the importance of retaining at least some exposure to the language.” Despite English being the main language used in Ireland, Irish has and always will be the nation’s mother tongue, hence why it is critical to ensure the language remains alive.
Irish is a key element in our culture and identity. Language and culture are interconnected with one another, so why would we want to prevent future generations from supporting their Gaelic origins? It seems only yesterday everyone was taking pride in being Irish due to the 1916 Rising centenary celebrations; a time of being proud of who you are and your country. But how can we as a nation be truly proud of our country if we’re willing to bury our native language and let it be forgotten?
The biggest argument for dropping Irish as a mandatory subject is due to a lack of interest in it, but it largely boils down to the way the subject is taught. Instead of making Irish optional and seeing a dramatic decrease in participation levels, why not give the syllabus a make-over? What is needed is to divide the current curriculum into two separate subjects; one compulsory subject focusing on language, such as grammar and oral work, and another optional subject concentrating on poetry and prose. This way, students can still enjoy speaking and understanding our mother tongue without necessarily being forced to learn answers to poems and prose which they may have little interest in. Reciting essays from the top of your head and not understanding them is a major issue with the way Irish is taught. Many students, and even teachers care more about getting a good grade with a good answer instead of actually teaching students enough vocabulary to be able to create their own answers. If we can learn to address and resolve this issue, Irish may go onto be one of the most popular subjects in the Leaving Cert.
As Padraig Pearse once said, ‘tír gan teanga, tír gan anam,’ and we should not shield a part of our country’s soul from future generations. Gaeilge is as part of Irish culture as is GAA, Irish Dancing or Guinness. We can’t let it be forgotten.
Photo credit: Leaving Cert.com