Government prioritizes teaching of foreign languages in context of Brexit
Targeted measures for improving fluency, immersion and the number of languages taught
The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D. today (Wednesday the 22nd of August) announced a 25% increase in the number of Foreign Language Assistants, bringing the total number available to schools from this September, to 140. These additional Foreign Language Assistants are being provided to schools to enhance and support the teaching and learning of Spanish, German, French and Italian in the classroom.
The government have committed to doubling the number of Foreign Languages Assistants available to schools by 2026 under their Foreign Languages Strategy, launched last year by Minister Bruton. Today’s announcement marks significant progress towards achieving that goal.
In the context of Brexit and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries, Minister Bruton 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. The government are committed to ensuring Ireland is prepared for a changed European dynamic.
The role of the Foreign Language Assistant is to support foreign language teachers in promoting a communicative approach to the teaching of the language. The scheme is reciprocal, also allowing Irish students or qualified teachers to act as English language Assistants to spend time teaching in other countries.
The fluency and authenticity of the Assistants as native speakers should enable them to:
- help students to understand the spoken language;
- encourage students to speak the foreign language (suggested activities: pair-work, role-play, games, competitions etc.) and to improve their pronunciation;
- encourage and assist students in reading authentic and fictional written texts appropriate to their level;
- give students a better understanding of the way of life and customs of the foreign country.
The Foreign Languages Strategy commits to encouraging more schools to take part in the scheme and to seek to expand the range of languages to which the scheme will apply. Minister Bruton strongly encouraged schools who are not currently participating in the scheme to consider applying for an Assistant in the future.
Announcing the additional assistants, Minister Bruton said “If we want to have the best education and training service in Europe by 2026, we must make the teaching and learning of foreign languages a key priority. Brexit and the increasing importance of non-English speaking countries globally, mean that English-speaking countries such as our own, will need to put a new found importance on foreign languages in order to excel in the modern world.”