Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education Averil Power has expressed her dismay at the latest comments from the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn displaying a complete lack of understanding about the impact of his cuts to modern language learning.
At a major conference on Ireland’s competitiveness in Croke Park today, Minister Quinn attempted to defend his decision to abolish the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative (MLPSI) by saying that he has bought several German cars in his lifetime but never needed to speak German to do so.
According to Senator Averil Power, “It is disgraceful that the Minister would make such a trite quip about such an important issue to Ireland’s economic future. He dismissed concerns from the floor about the lack of foreign language competency among Irish students essentially indicating that the ability to speak English is enough, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“It is clear that Minister Quinn has not thought this through and has no concept of the importance of language skills to the employability of our young people. Even if you apply the logic that he used today, the reason he has can buy his German cars without speaking German is because the companies he is buying from can speak English. These German companies are getting the benefit of staff with diverse language skills. Therefore, we can increase sales of Irish exports by increasing the language skills of our workforce to reach consumers in our export markets.
“Many of the major multinational companies based in Ireland are forced to hire staff from abroad because Irish people don’t have the foreign language skills they need to deal with a linguistically-diverse global customer base. Meanwhile, Irish people are being forced to emigrate to find work. The fact that the Minister for Education doesn’t see this as a problem is truly extraordinary.
“The harsh reality is that the Minister’s decision to end foreign language learning in Irish primary schools will deprive our students of valuable job opportunities. He needs to listen to the concerns of the business community and expand foreign language learning rather than scrapping it.”