The Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has said the Government’s decision to abolish the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI) was a ‘disgrace’. Deputy Martin raised the matter on Topical Issues in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday, describing the cuts as ‘extremely regressive, short-sighted and truly appalling’.

 

Questioning Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, Deputy Martin said, “After 13 years of operation in which 550 primary schools and thousands of young children around the country have benefitted, this hugely positive initiative will shortly come to an end.

 

“The benefits of this scheme have always far outweighed the cost of it. In times of financial difficulty, initiatives such as MLPSI which are providing exceptional value for money should be kept in place, not dismantled.  Does the Minister not realise that foreign multinationals such as Google and Paypal are crying out for young Irish graduates with strong foreign language skills?

 

“This week in UK, the Education Secretary is to announce that it should be compulsory to learn a foreign language from the age of seven as part of a new draft national primary curriculum. The British Government has recognised the importance of developing language skills from a young age.  However our Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn wants to go the absolute opposite direction and dismantle all progress we have made to date.

 

“This initiative has helped bring about greater diversity in the language capacity of students and all experts recognise that it is much easier for students to develop another language skill at a young age.  It has helped foster positive attitudes towards language learning and the response among teachers has been extremely positive.

 

Since announcing this cut in Budget 2012, the Minister has failed to provide any rationale for this regressive decision.  Following an FOI request to the department of Education seeking the details of the research or impact analysis carried out prior to taking this decision, the Department wasn’t able to provide me with any material. It simply said that this budgetary decision was based on an outdated 2008 NCCA Report called the “Modern Language in the Primary School Curriculum Feasibility and Futures November 2008”. In fact, this report did not recommend ending the MLPSI and the NCCA in fact supports the MLPSI and believes it should be continued.

 

“Only two weeks ago, the NCCA published three new research reports to support the development of a new language curriculum at primary level. It is clear from the NCCA’s research that there is no justification for abolishing this hugely important and cost effective initiative.

 

“It is time that the Minister recognises that he is wrong on this matter and reverses this decision immediately.”