How will learning everything through Irish affect my child’s English language development?
Many parents are initially fearful that Irish-medium Education may have a negative impact on their child’s English language development. Research has shown however that immersion education may actually enhance English language development. A recent review of the research on immersion programs from 1972 to 2001 concludes that “the effect of learning a second language on first-language skills has been positive in all studies done” (Bournot-Trites and Tellowitz 2002).
Can I send my child to an Irish-medium school even though I don’t speak any Irish?
The majority of parents who decide to send their children to Irish-medium schools don’t speak Irish. It is important to remember however, that all parents, regardless of whether or not they speak Irish, need to make a commitment to support their child’s learning through Irish and encourage the use of Irish outside the classroom. Often parents decide to learn the language once their child has been enrolled at an Irish-medium school.
Will I be able to help with homework?
Irish-medium schools recognise the importance of engaging parents in all aspects of their child’s learning, including homework. Teachers are aware that many of the parents may not speak Irish and can provide additional homework support when necessary. After school homework clubs are also common in Irish-medium schools.
Will my child have any difficulty understanding the teachers?
In the early years immersion teachers realise that their students will not understand everything they say. They use body language, visuals, exaggerated facial expressions, and expressive intonation to communicate their meaning. At pre-school level and during the early years of primary school, it is common for students to speak English with their peers and when responding to their teacher. As the years progress, students naturally begin to use more Irish. To draw students into using the language, teachers often use songs, useful phrases, chants, and rhymes and carefully structure the day with familiar routines.
How qualified are the staff in Irish-medium schools?
The qualifications required to work in Irish-medium schools are the same as those required in other schools. At pre-school level, leaders must be qualified to at least NVQ level III and must be vetted to work with children. Teachers in Irish-medium primary and post-primary schools must possess the same qualifications as their counterparts in other schools. Teaching staff at all levels are also required to have a sufficiently high level of written and spoken Irish.
Does this type of education occur anywhere else?
It is estimated that between 60 and 75 percent of the world’s population is bilingual, and bilingual education is a common educational approach used throughout the world in countries such as Canada, Australia, Finland, Hungary, New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, and Scotland.
Baker, C. and Hornberger, N.H., eds., 2001. An Introductory Reader to the Writings of Jim Cummins. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Bialystok, E., Luk, G. and Kwan, E., 2005. Bilingualism, Biliteracy and Learning to Read: Interactions among Languages and Writing Systems. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9 (1).
Bournot-Trites, M. and Tellowitz, U., 2002. Report of Current Research on the Effects of Second Language Learning on First Language Literacy Skills. Halifax, NS: Atlantic Provinces
Cenoz, J. and Valencia, J.f., 1994. Additive Trilingualism: Evidence from the Basque Country. Applied Psycholinguistics 15, 195-207.
Cloud, N., Genesee, F. and Hamayan, E., 2000. Dual language instruction: A handbook for enriched education. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Gallagher, A.M. and Hanna, E., 2002. Outcomes for pupils who received an Irish-Medium education. Research Report Series No 26. Bangor: Department of Education.
Genesse, F., 1987. Learning through two languages: Studies of immersion and bilingual education.Rowley, MA: Newbury.
Met, M. ed., 1998. Critical issues in early second language learning. New York: Scott Foresman—Addison Wesley.