Lithuanian language short course in Irish schools will be piloted in September 2018

Post-Primary Language Initiative is planning to start short course in Lithuanian language at some Irish schools. Lithuanian newspaper “Lietuvis” (Lithuanian) is talking about this project with Ms. Karen Ruddock, Post-Primary Language Initiative National Coordinator.

Dear Ms. Karen Ruddock, would You Please briefly introduce the Post-Primary Language Initiative organization?

Post-Primary Languages Initiative (PPLI) was set up to diversify the range of foreign languages offered on the school curriculum in Ireland. PPLI is now a lead partner in the implementation of Languages Connect Ireland’s new foreign languages strategy. Part of this strategy includes support for the languages of immigrants, which are seen in the strategy as a huge cultural asset to Ireland that should be nurtured and supported.

How many foreign language courses are already taking place at Irish schools and are these courses popular among foreign students?

The most commonly taught language in Irish schools is French and a quarter of schools only teach French. More than half of all sits at the state examinations are French. The second most commonly taught language is German, which is half the provision of French, and in third place is Spanish. The other languages are available in a small number of schools.Theoretically the range of foreign languages on the curriculum is good,     including German, Italian, and Spanish in junior cycle, as well as French, with the addition of Arabic, Japanese and Russian in senior cycle but schools themselves decide which languages to offer based on their current allocation of teachers and their tradition as well as the availability of teachers who are qualified to teach particular languages.

Who gave the idea of starting Lithuanian language course in Irish schools?

The idea originally came from the Department of Education and Skills and was progressed by the Lithuanian embassy and PPLI.

Which schools will have this Lithuanian course and how were the schools selected?

During 2017 an audit of foreign languages provision and interest in schools was conducted. Some schools mentioned that they would be interested in providing Lithuanian language classes for their students of Lithuanian heritage so we sent a letter to these schools offering them the opportunity to pilot the course and asking them to fill out an application. The introduction of the new Framework for Junior Cycle was slow because of some opposition from teacher unions and some schools have been slow to embrace the changes so not many schools are teaching short courses yet. We hope that in time they will become a more regular feature of the school curriculum. In the meantime, there are a number of schools anxious to provide for their Lithuanian students in any way they can.

When will Lithuanian language short course start in Irish schools?

The course will be piloted in September 2018, the beginning of the next academic year. We will do this in a small number of schools, to test the course, train the teachers, see how it works in the context of different schools and see where we need to make adjustments.

How many hours will be spent on this course and how many times per week?

The course is a minimum of 100 hours to be provided over two years which would be about 1 ½ hours per week.

How does the selection of teachers take place in these courses: will you work only for those teachers who have special pedagogical education and diplomas that are recognised in Ireland?

PPLI already asked teachers to apply for the teaching hours. 43 applications were received. We will be looking at the location of these teachers and proximity to the schools that have applied as well as teaching qualifications and experience. Currently it is not possible to register as a Lithuanian teacher in Ireland because the criteria for this is that the subject is a curricular subject at Leaving Certificate but there are plans to make Lithuanian a curricular subject at Leaving Certificate and then it will become possible if someone has the appropriate qualifications. In the meantime, teachers can get registered for Further Education and we can then employ them.

We know that this will be part-time courses and what kind of salaries will teachers get?

Part-time teachers in Ireland get paid by the hour though if they are teaching more than 6 hours per week they can get a contract. A full contract is considered to be 22 hours per week. The rate per hour is €35.02 but if the teacher is a registered post-primary teacher the rate is €39.46 per hour.

Some Lithuanian parents think that their children, especially those who were born in Ireland, do not need to learn the native tongue of Lithuanian language – what do you think of this?

This is very sad. Lithuanian is part of their cultural and linguistic identity and the research shows that maintenance of a heritage language is essential to the success of these students in so many areas. The research also shows that maintaining a home language supports the development of the new language (English) rather than hindering it. As well as giving the students the opportunity to maintain links with Lithuania and perhaps use the language for future work opportunities, it is also a huge asset to Irish society as it seeks to become more multicultural.

Thank you for the detailed answers and for helping the country by teaching foreign children in their native tongue.

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