Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More now opting for children to be educated in Irish

Áine Kerr:

THERE is now an all-Irish primary school in every county in the Republic following the opening of a new gaelscoil in Leitrim this week, which brings the total number of such schools to 158.

Four all-Irish primary schools will open this week in Carrick-on-Shannon, Lucan, Finglas and Ballaghmore in Co Laois, boosting national attendance numbers to over 25,000 at primary level and over 6,000 at secondary school.

Added to this, a further four primary schools and five secondary schools are expected to open in the near future.

The number of gaelscoileanna in Ireland has risen dramatically in the last 30 years, from 11 schools in 1972 to 158 this year.

In 1990, some 13,163 children were attending gaelscoileanna compared to 25,039 in all-Irish primary schools in the last academic year. The reasons for the increasing draw and attractiveness of sending children to a gaelscoil are multi-fold according to Nora Ni Loinsigh of Gaelscoileanna.

"Some people went through 14 years at school learning Irish and found when they came out, they couldn't speak it.

"A lot of those parents now want their children to be able to speak Irish. . . other parents are looking for something different to the local national school, while other parents are interested in the Irish culture," said Ms Ni Loinsigh.

Compared to an all-Irish education in a gaelscoil, the average child is thought to spend 1,500 hours learning Irish.

Bridging the gap between the high enrolment at primary level and the low uptake at secondary level remains a challenge but attracting teachers to all-Irish speaking schools is becoming less difficult.

So much for the claim that the Irish language is dying out.

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