17 March 2006

Schools struggle to find Irish language textbooks

Irish Examiner

By Niall Murray
17 March 2006

ALL-IRISH schools have difficulty getting textbooks in the language despite huge Government spending on unread translations of official reports, Senator Joe O’Toole claimed yesterday.
In a letter to Education Minister Mary Hanafin seeking immediate progress on the sidelined €1.9 million all-Irish education centre planned for the Co Cork Gaeltacht, he said schools are struggling to teach subjects through Irish without Irish language texts.

“This is a problem not just for the all-Irish schools but also for the many schools that would like to teach certain aspects of the curriculum through Irish, but who can’t access appropriate textbooks, apparatus and information technology to support such initiatives,” Mr O’Toole said.

The former Irish National Teachers’ Organisation general secretary said hundreds of thousands of euro are being spent each year on translations of State reports, while there was a total dearth of Irish language textbooks.

“The decision makers would appear to believe it more important to have glossy company reports ‘as Gaeilge’ that a couple of dozen people, at a push, might read than to provide appropriate Irish language texts that potentially half a million pupils might use.”

Around 350 schools where the curriculum is taught exclusively through Irish have almost 50,000 students. Mr O’Toole urged Ms Hanafin to give her approval for the education centre in Ballyvourney, first announced in 1999.

Despite getting planning permission and tenders being invited in 2004, the project has been stalled. The centre’s aim is to provide training for teachers in all-Irish schools and to improve Irish teaching standards among staff in other schools.

Meanwhile, free Irish language software is being sent to all 4,000 primary and second-level schools in a deal between which will see Irish versions of Microsoft’s Windows and Office products on disk arriving in classes in the coming weeks.

Microsoft and Foras na Gaeilge developed the language interface pack into last year, after translating more than 600,000 terms.

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