Language proficiency is crucial for the future

6th October 2015 - Deirdre Clune MEP

During the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation meeting this week, the EGFSN ( The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs) highlighted how Ireland is lagging behind in educating our young people in the area of foreign languages. In response to this Senator Deirdre Clune has called for a debate on the topic in the Seanad.

“I want to support the development of a ‘Foreign Language Education Policy’ across all levels of education – primary, secondary and third level.

“This includes the need for aligning the assessment of foreign language proficiency to the ‘Common European Framework of Reference’ which covers 6 levels from basic to proficient.

“Being fluent in a language is extremely beneficial both while within education and when searching for employment.

“There is a need to boost the numbers of students who choose to take a language in for third level studies. The graduates of courses which include a language element, for example Business and Spanish are at a distinct advantage when entering the job market.

“It is crucial that the learning of languages is introduced at a young age when a child’s mind can absorb the information more easily than later on in their education.

“The way languages are taught in schools should focus on practical methods – for instance, it is my view that spoken and written assessment in language should be weighted equally as both are crucial if a student is to become proficient.

“Erasmus placements are an invaluable tool to nurture a student’s interest and standard of a language while in college. This gives the student the opportunity to immerse his or herself in the language and culture of their area of study. A term of studying abroad in a non-English speaking country is an invaluable addition to a young person’s CV.

“The study of European languages is of critical importance but other languages need to also be considered. The introduction of Mandarin as an option at second level must be tabled in the future. It would be foolish to ignore the growing need in the business world to communicate with the Asian markets.

“The Department of Education should recognise the opportunities that Erasmus placements provide and set a yearly target for students to complete the programme. I intend to seek answers from the Minister for Education on whether the teaching of languages, including Mandarin is on the table for reform in the future.

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