The European Union recommends for each citizen so one can communicate in two languages further to their mother tongue – and makes language learning for primary college children a concern. Children in England Scotland and Wales learn a foreign or indigenous language as a part of the curriculum. But Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK in which number one faculty scholars do now not must research some other language.
In Northern Ireland, pupils have to only analyze a language between the ages of 11 and 14 – that is the shortest obligatory section of language getting to know in Europe. Even inside this age variety, the Northern Ireland authorities do now not recommend time for language getting to know and there may be a large difference from faculty to high school.
Grammar faculties as an example are more likely to dedicate an extended amount of time to language studying, at the same time as non-selective schools have a tendency to set apart less than hours according to week. If primary colleges do provide languages, they do so voluntarily and regularly now not as part of magnificence time.
But my studies indicate that many youngsters in Northern Ireland would love to have the possibility to study another language from a younger age. I requested 2,698 ten and eleven year-vintage pupils in their very last 12 months of number one training about language studying and 62% of scholars puzzled stated they notion kids ought to ought to examine every other language in primary faculty. Of the 1,671 kids within the have a look at who thought languages need to be compulsory, almost 60% felt that language learning should start at the age of eight or nine.
The observe also showed that motivation for language getting to know is excessive amongst pupils – with 83% of respondents looking ahead to starting to study, or continuing to study, a language after number one school. This echoes previous studies into primary languages, that shows the majority of students are fantastic approximately getting to know languages.
Just beneath 1/2 of the youngsters surveyed said they currently study a language in primary school – with Spanish and Irish being the most famous.
This may be the legacy of the elective Early Years Primary Modern Languages Programme. This task has discontinued the aid of Northern Ireland’s Department of Education in 2015. One of the weaknesses of the program turned into that language presented were limited to Spanish, Irish and, for a time, Polish – so best provided a confined number of languages to students.
The survey additionally showed that French and German are presented by means of incredibly few primary colleges in Northern Ireland – 360 pupils study French and simply 37 children learn German. This is alarming, specifically given that those languages are declining sharply at GCSE and A-degree and were diagnosed by using the British Council as being within the top five languages required by way of the United Kingdom to stay competitive.
For the one’s children in Northern Ireland who do study a language in primary college, there may be amazing variety in who teaches them. Building on preceding studies into instructors of languages at number one schools, greater than half of the pupils in the survey stated being taught a language with the aid of an “outsider”. This can be an external corporation, a teacher from a secondary school, a 6th-form student, a teacher from a cultural institute or a native speaker.
Some students handiest study languages as an extracurricular pastime and with no agreed program or have a look at, those children who do analyze a language have a various and inconsistent revel in.
The studies also found that languages are more likely to be taught in Catholic maintained number one schools than in Protestant number one colleges. Education in Northern Ireland is still very divided alongside spiritual traces with 93% of youngsters attending both a Catholic college or a Controlled (de facto Protestant) school.
Brexit should mean languages
It is obvious that children in primary schools in Northern Ireland have become an awful deal on the subject of language gaining knowledge of. The non-statutory function of languages approaches that it isn’t always given importance at the curriculum in many faculties. It is not sufficient simply to speak English and if the adults of the next day are to compete on a worldwide degree, investment in language learning will need to be made.
Northern Ireland has now not had a government considering the fact that January 2017 and the pace of selection making has been sluggish to non-existent. It’s important that the views of kids from this survey are listened to and acted upon. As the best a part of the United Kingdom with a land border with the European Union, the effect of Brexit will be acutely felt in Northern Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland is well underway with a Languages Connect Strategy to reinvigorate language learning in primary faculties – and it’s clear something similar needs to appear in Northern Ireland to ensure youngsters there aren’t left behind.