Until now, at least some Gaelscoileanna (primay schools that teach through the medium of Irish) have adopted a “total immersion” approach. Students are not taught any English for the first two years of school.
They argue that this lies in with international best practice for teaching a language.
Mary Hanafin, the Minister for Education, has now said that all children must be taught 30 minutes of English a day from the second half of their first year of school onwards.
RTÉ have reported figures on the number of native Irish-speaking children attending Irish language preschools. At these naíonraí, many of the activities are through the medium of the Irish language. This is a great age for children to learn the language.
While no native speaker attended a naíonra in Mayo in 2006, 25% of the children in Galway were native speakers. This includes the Conamara Gaeltacht and the Oileáin Árann.
No Galway child attending naíonraí east of Galway city had “any” understanding of the language. But it is positive that parents of English-speaking kids want to send them to naíonraí to be exposed to the language.