Fine Gael TD and spokesman on European Affairs, Neale Richmond, has called on the Ministers for Education and Higher Education to address the worrying decline in students undertaking the study of a foreign language at third level.
Deputy Richmond said: “With the UK having now left the EU and the Irish economy becoming ever more open to the world, we need to urgently stem the decline in foreign language abilities amongst Irish people.
“Figures released to me by the Higher Education Authority have shown that the numbers undertaking the study of a foreign language at any stage of third level has declined over the five past years.
“In the 2014/15 academic year 6,102 students undertook a third level course with a language component, that dropped to 5,960 in 2015/16, rising slightly to 5,980 in 2017/18, before dropping to 5,910 and then most drastically dropping to just 5,672 in 2018/19.
“While the figures for the 2019/20 academic year will not be ready for another few weeks, it is clear that there is a consistent decline that needs to be addressed.”
Deputy Richmond continued: “A dedicated strategy needs to be adopted by both the Ministers for Education and Higher Education to encourage more students to undertake a foreign language at third level.
“Engaging with state agencies like the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia amongst others would also allow for focus to be given to languages which will become increasingly important for Ireland from a strategic point of view.
“On a European level, we consistently hear that the language requirements are a huge reason for the decline in Irish people applying for and taking up roles in the EU institutions.
“As the world gets smaller and Ireland opens itself up further, the decline in foreign language learning must be addressed.”