Are Ukrainian pupils entitled to exemptions from learning Irish? – The Irish Times

We welcomed Ukrainian children in our primary school. Some of their mothers – although very grateful to have a place at school – fear that their children will face a daunting challenge in perfecting their English and Irish. Are exemptions available for the Irish given their unusual situation?

Over the summer, I had the privilege of helping Ukrainian families navigate our education system. This is a question that has been raised. There is not a hint of disrespect for our mother tongue. Rather, their concern is practical about the challenge for their children to learn two new languages ​​simultaneously.

Regulations relating to the study of Irish in schools are governed by circulars issued by the Department of Education. The most recent circular was published at the end of August 2022 and applies to the current school year and to English-language schools.

Irish remains compulsory at school, but pupils have the right to opt out in ‘exceptional circumstances’ if they have learning difficulties, special needs or have lived abroad for a period of time. long period.

At primary level, moving from abroad is generally not a basis for obtaining an exemption unless the child is 12 or older or has completed their equivalent of primary education elsewhere. It’s easier in post-primary, since anyone 12 or older who has lived out of state for an extended period can apply.

culture and history

Why is this the case? As the circular indicates, Irish is the first official language in Ireland and for cultural and historical reasons linked to Irish identity, the study of the Irish language is a key aspect of the learning experience in Irish schools. For these reasons, Irish is a core subject in the curriculum.

However, the circular gives schools leeway in terms of developing language teaching according to the needs of each student and supports a “differentiated learning experience” for students in an inclusive school environment.

It states that the Primary Language Curriculum provides a framework for teachers to identify a pupil’s stage of language development and to “plan interventions which support the development of Irish and English language skills and competence in a integrated, emphasizing the transferability of language skills across languages”.

The circular also explicitly allows for circumstances such as our current population of Ukrainian families: “A student who does not understand English when enrolled must receive an intensive course in English as an Additional Language (EAL) in preparation for his full commitment. with the study program at a level commensurate with their abilities.

So, although mandatory, it is clear that the school and the individual teacher have the discretion to respect our priority of teaching the Irish language and to recognize the unique circumstances of our Ukrainian guests.

Hopefully young Ukrainian children will gain a proper understanding and appreciation of our official language.

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