Languages Connect – Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017–2026



Marianne Doyle

Posted: 5 July, 2018

languagesconnect

Our first blog entry under this month’s theme of ‘Languages’ is by Marianne Doyle. She is Communications and Marketing Manager at Post-Primary Languages Initiative, an agency of the Department of Education and Skills. Their role is to provide expertise and support for foreign languages education and to promote multilingualism.

Language is one of the means by which we think, express our thoughts, communicate and connect with others. Knowledge of foreign languages is essential for Ireland’s cultural, social and economic welfare. There is significant evidence that Ireland is lagging behind many of our European neighbours in terms of foreign language capability, which is unfortunate and disadvantageous at an individual and societal level. In 2017, the IMD (Institute for Management Development) World Talent Ranking placed Ireland at number 44 in terms of language skills, a few places above the UK at number 48.

Late in 2017, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton launched Languages Connect – Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017–2026. This Strategy has been developed in the context of the Department’s Action Plan for Education 2016–2019, which aims to enable learners communicate effectively and improve their standards of competence in languages, and so fulfil the ambition to make Ireland’s education system the best in Europe within the next decade.

The vision of the Strategy is that Ireland’s education system will promote a society where the ability to learn and use at least one foreign language is taken for granted because of its inherent value for individuals, society and the economy.

At this pivotal time for Ireland in terms of Brexit, the Government is taking action to ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, Ireland will be one of only two English speaking countries in the Union. This Strategy is crucial to ensuring Ireland is prepared for a changed European dynamic.

The Languages Connect strategy will undertake to:

  • Increase the number of post-primary schools offering two or more foreign languages by 25%
  • Increase the number of students sitting two languages at Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate by 25%
  • Increase the number of students in higher education studying a foreign language, in any capacity, as part of their course, by 20%
  • Increase the number of participants in Erasmus+ by 50%
  • Double the number of teachers participating in teacher mobility programmes
  • Double the number of foreign language assistants in schools
  • Improve learners’ attitude to foreign language learning
  • Improve the quality of foreign language teaching at all levels

A number of initiatives for increasing second-level provision in foreign languages are included in the implementation plan of the Strategy, including the introduction of Mandarin Chinese as a Leaving Certificate subject, the introduction of curricular specifications for heritage speakers for Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese and the development of a range of short courses in languages for Junior Cycle. Also, an emphasis on industry engagement is considered key. There is a plan to progress the pilot programme for co-operation with foreign-owned companies, or indigenous companies with a foreign presence, to enable students in Further Education and Training and Higher Education to do work placements in the parent country of target foreign languages.

One of the key elements of the Strategy is to raise awareness of the importance and pleasure of learning, teaching and researching foreign languages. So if you are engaged in the area of modern foreign languages (MFL), and would be interested in highlighting your work, sharing your success stories or research in this area, please contact me. As the Communications Manager with responsibility for the awareness-raising campaign, I’d love to hear from you.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.