Mícheál Ó Foighil (left) manages Coláiste Lurgan, the Irish language summer camp for teens, located just around the corner from our house. You may have heard of Lurgan because of their wildly successful music videos, some of which have been posted on The Wild Geese recently. Mícheál and company have really put our little village of Indreabhán on the the map!
In this interview with the Irish Times, Mícheál is very critical of the Irish educational system when it comes to teaching the Irish language:
"Why is it that, after 13 years of schooling, most people cannot speak the language confidently?"
He puts this down to an ineffective education system. “The Taoiseach does have empathy for the language, but he is misguided. Ninety-five per cent of the budget that is spent on the language is spent through the Department of Education, but there is not much to show for it. Huge opportunities are being lost. The system is banjaxed. Irish people are being denied something precious in their lives by an ineffective system, and that’s sad.“
For those are not aware, Irish parents have a choice; They can send their children to English speaking schools, where they will have one class on the Irish language, or to Gaelscoils, where all subjects aside from one English class are taught through Irish. I have done some volunteer work, tutoring school children in the city of Galway. In my experience, the children who attend English speaking schools have extremely low proficiency in the Irish language, and little desire to learn it. It must be said that the students I was tutoring are struggling in all their school subjects. Because of this, I may have a skewed perspective on the matter.
Whatever the case, Mícheál is correct that most adults in non-Gaeltacht Ireland speak very little Irish despite having 13 years of school instruction. Surely we can do better. What are the answers? The Wild Geese would love to hear from members with insights on the educational system or language learning.