Increasing numbers of Irish pupils want to be exempted from learning Irish
Research carried out by think tank the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) says 32,000 pupils are now exempt from learning Irish which is compulsory for all Leaving Cert students except in exceptional circumstances.
Nearly two-thirds of exemptions are because of learning disabilities, and emotional and behavioural difficulties. In 2004, about 7,000 students but a decade later the number was 19,500.
Students for whom English is a second language when they enrol are only required to study one language and most exempt themselves from Irish to learn English. In the same decade their numbers jumped from over 5,000 to about 9,400.
A separate study carried out by the same authors also looked at the attitude of 13-year-old students towards Irish as a subject compared to English and Maths.
The research found that the students widely considered Irish to be the most difficult and least interesting of the three. The study noted that it is difficult to separate these two results because a student who isn’t interested in a subject is less likely to work at it and may it find it more difficult.
Among students who attended a gaelscoil at primary level there was “no significant boost” in their interest in Irish as a subject at post-primary level.
“Interest in Irish at the age of 13 is found to be related to earlier interest in the subject as well as to attitudes to school more generally,” they said, adding that those who ‘never’ liked school at the age of 9 are almost twice as likely (1.8 times) to find Irish ‘not interesting’ four years later.