McKee welcomes return of language ‘sampler’ lessons in primary schools

A MOTION calling on the Government to reinstate the ‘Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative’ has been passed by Meath County Council.

Cllr Stephen McKee, who tabled the motion said the initiative allowed primary school students to get a taste of French, German, Italian or Spanish in 5th and 6th class unfortunately ended in 2012 due to cuts at the time of the economic crisis.

“I am pleased that the Department of Education has confirmed that the teaching of foreign languages is to be re-introduced to primary schools in September and will be targeted at third to sixth-class pupils in more than 100 primary and special schools.

“As a teacher of Spanish and Italian at Eureka Secondary School Kells, I am fortunate to teach in a school where four modern foreign languages are taught. I’m keen however to see an improvement in the foreign language up-take across the county and country, to include other languages too such as Chinese and Russian starting at primary school level.”

He said that in light of Brexit, modern foreign languages will become even more important.

“Employers regularly cite the lack of language skills as a major problem in the Irish workforce. Having a greater knowledge of languages will be an opportunity for Ireland. In addition to that, it is not just about languages themselves, but understanding other cultures.

“The Languages Connect Strategy, which was the foreign languages strategy launched by the Government in December 2017, was very ambitious. It set out that it believed that Ireland should be among the top ten countries in Europe for the teaching and learning of modern European languages. It set out 100 actions, but over three years on, very little progress has been made on those actions.

“There is an enormous opportunity for Ireland here. We have a very good strategy in place, but unfortunately there has been very little action since the Language Connect strategy was put in place.

“I am pleased that my motion calling on the Government to act to ensure that all our children have the opportunity to learn foreign language skills and culture from an early age in Primary School was adopted.”