Primary school children could be taught Ukrainian under an initiative aimed at boosting pupils’ exposure to different languages.
Minister for Education Norma Foley said funding would be made available to run language modules aimed at more than 40,000 pupils in third to sixth grade across at least 500 primary schools.
The “Say Yes to Languages” scheme was first piloted last year. Languages selected included French, Spanish, Irish sign-language, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Arabic, Tamil and Portuguese.
The scheme may be used to support the integration of newly arrived Ukrainian pupils in schools by using it as an opportunity to acknowledge Ukrainian as one of the languages of the classroom or by choosing to teach Ukrainian for the duration of a module.
For the 2022/23 edition of the scheme, the duration of the modules will be increased from six to eight weeks. The grant to participating schools will also be increased to € 400 per class, up to a maximum of € 1,600.
Ms Foley has invited primary schools to apply to participate and would like to see even more schools participating this year.
“Being able to speak a foreign language, and learning about other cultures, is an enormous advantage to our children and young people,” she said. “This program gives them a unique opportunity to be exposed to foreign language learning at a young age.”
She said the modules were an important aspect of “our foreign-language strategy”, which aimed to increase the number of students studying foreign languages at all levels.
“We want to equip our students with the skills that they will need to live in our globalized world, and foreign languages provide our students not only with a skill but with broader access to and appreciation of a wide range of culture.”
The modules can be delivered by either the class teacher in the school or by an individual identified by the school as a suitable tutor, such as a member of the community who is fluent in the chosen language.
Training for teachers or tutors will be provided by Post-Primary Languages Ireland (PPLI).
Participation is not guaranteed to all applying schools and the Department of Education will establish a panel to evaluate applications based on criteria such as the diversity of languages applied for and staff capacity to deliver the module.
The department will seek to ensure that there is a geographical spread of schools involved and a range of school contexts when finalizing the successful applicants.
Schools selected to participate in the program will be notified by June 30th, 2022.