Language strategy destined to fail unless teacher supply problems are addressed – Byrne

Published on: 19 April 2017

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD says the system for training teachers in Ireland is in need of urgent reform.

Deputy Byrne says the current system is antiquated as it is unplanned and uncoordinated which has given rise to a shortage of teachers for certain key subjects, particularly for foreign languages.

“Minister Bruton took to the airwaves earlier today to outline his intention to launch a new strategy to encourage more students to study a foreign language. The Minister is well intentioned but he is putting the cart before the horse as the plan does not take into account the acute shortage of foreign language teachers,” explained Deputy Byrne.

“Currently the system for training teachers is unplanned, uncoordinated and takes little regard of the requirement of schools and trainee teachers themselves. This is leading to significant problems in the education system as there is an over-supply of teachers for some subjects while there aren’t enough teachers to fill vacancies in other fields, particularly for modern language classes. Minister Bruton simply will not be able to achieve an increase in the number of students studying foreign languages without addressing the supply shortage of modern language teachers.

“The State needs to play a greater role in identifying subjects where there is a lack of teachers. Minister Bruton needs to put in place a system to make sure the right teachers are in place to deliver his language strategy. It’s shocking that there currently is no central system of monitoring schools teaching requirements. The Department of Education also needs to be more proactive in its engagements with the modern language departments at third level institutions so that it can track the number of people studying certain subjects.

“The over-supply of teachers in certain areas is leading to casualisation of work for younger teachers. They are forced to rely on short term contracts and are often unable to secure full-time work. Meanwhile there are numerous subject fields where there is a shortage of teachers. Many younger teachers point out that they would have focused on these areas if they had been made aware of the sound career prospects associated with these subjects.

“The Government clearly needs to put in place a new mechanism to monitor the supply and demand of teachers. Failure to do so will destine his foreign languages plan to failure before it is even launched.”

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