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Radical new reforms of Leaving Cert Irish hit a roadblock

March 13, 2023

Original Article:

Plans for a radical overhaul of Leaving Cert Irish will be going back to the drawing board.

Proposals for a new model for teaching and learning the subject were met with considerable concern among teachers, students and Irish language organisations.

At the moment, there is no “shared vision or purpose” on a way forward, according to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

Splitting Irish into two strands was a key proposal. This involves one specification aimed at Gaeltacht and Irish-medium schools, known as L1, and another, L2, focusing on English-medium schools.

While this appears to be accepted as working at Junior Cycle – where it was implemented in 2017 – opinion is divided about introducing the same model at Senior Cycle.

There were questions about the rationale and aims of the L1/L2 split, including how well the new approach would meet the needs of all students, including non-native speakers in Gaeltacht areas.

The issue dominated a widespread consultation by the NCCA on its proposals for changes to the structure, content and assessment of Leaving Cert Irish.

Many teachers suggested the aims and objectives of the specifications could not be achieved in the timetable.

Other concerns include an emphasis on literature, at the expense of developing spoken-language skills, which has also emerged as an issue at Junior Cycle

Based on all the feedback it received, the NCCA is advising that more research and consultation, as well as planning for necessary teacher training, is needed. In the meantime, it recommends a pause to the work under way since 2018 on the development of the new specifications.

The NCCA report nods to the unique place of Irish on the curriculum and a need to ensure that a once-in-a-generation reform enhances love for and competence in a language seen to be in danger of erosion.

The report is being considered by Education Minister Norma Foley, who would be expected to take the advice of the NCCA. The consultation report on the draft L1 and L2 specifications for Leaving Cert Irish has not been published, but has been seen by the Irish Independent.

According to the NCCA: “One of the strongest themes to emerge from the consultation was that a shared vision and purpose in relation to Leaving Certificate Irish has not yet been achieved.

“Doubts remain about the model of provision about policy alignment and coherence and about enhanced professional learning and support.

“Questions about the model of curricular provision need to be considered in more detail from an education perspective, and also in the wider context of the future of the Irish language.”

On taking lessons from elsewhere, it states that “further research is needed exploring how other jurisdictions with a similar language profile to Ireland approach curricular provision for a native language which is also a second language”.

Previously it was anticipated that a new Leaving Cert model, which is intended to follow on from the Junior Cycle reforms and also align with changes at primary level, could be in place by the mid-2020s.


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