Gaelic medium education in Ireland and Scotland

On another thread some concerns were raised about Gaelscoileanna in Northern Ireland along with a slightly erroneous comparison with the south. Some people may be under the impression that Gaelic-medium education is unique to Northern Ireland. This is not the case, across the island there are 298 Gaelscoileanna at primary level and 72 schools at post-primary level educating 50,000 pupils (from wikipedia). While this epochtimes article suggests lower figures being educated through Irish in the south, they still show a trebling of student numbers since the mid-1970s. The teaching of Irish also makes up a significant portion of the standard curriculum, and attitudes towards Irish language education in general seem to be very positive. It is something we are going to investigate for our own offspring in the near future – our main concern being our own poor standard of Irish! In Scotland, according to wikipedia, the number of pupils who are in Gaelic medium education at primary school level has risen from 24 in 2 schools in 1985, to over 2,000 in 62 schools in 2006-2007. To my mind, it’s unfortunate that Gaelic gets politicised in the north the way that it does, and I find it hard to understand why some people would deny others the choice of educating their children through Irish. After all, the state must provide an education to it’s citizens, and the cost of doing so in English or Irish will be identical. I’d love to see the southern live and let live attitude, toward language choice, migrate it’s way northward. A work colleague sent his daughter to a German language school, and it’s just down the road from a French language one. Given that most of us who studied languages in the standard academic manner did not emerge as fluent speakers surely this alternative is a much superior approach to language learning?

David McWilliams covered the topic of the revival of interest in Gaelic in the Republic back in 2005, some quotes below the fold.

This time of year reminds me of the trauma of first love. The last weekend in August signalled the final days of Irish college, with tears, hugs and promises to write. I have vivid memories of packed trains pulling out of stations full of bawling, hysterical teenagers shrieking as if they were about to be fed to the Khmer Rouge.

For hundreds of thousand of Irish teenagers, Irish college was the first time away from home, time on their own, in all that hormonal splendour. It was, and still is, a central plank of the language revival movement, and, for the most part, is a pretty successful and hugely enjoyable way to learn Irish.

Our attachment to Irish, however cosmetic, is still strong. Despite the fact that English is our lingua franca, 80 per cent of us, when surveyed, respond that the Irish language is central to Irishness.


The connection between economic success and English in recent years has also led to something rather counter-intuitive for the fortunes of Irish. Gael-Linn, Gaelscoileanna and language courses have never been in such demand. Irish people are now exploring Irish as never before.

When I was a teenager, for many of us suburban kids, Irish was associated with economic backwardness. When you are poor you don’t have time to concern yourself with culture, but now that the economy has benefited enormously from English, we are re-examining the Irish language, and the prospects for the Irish haven’t looked this good for over 100 years.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the main cultural beneficiary of English economic hegemony was a revival in Irish?

No bio, some books worth reading – The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves – Matt Ridley .

Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance -Nouriel Roubini, Stephen Mihm