Cllr Áine Smith (FF).

Cllr wants rethink on Junior Cert Irish oral exams

A local councillor wants the Department of Education to rethink its decision to do away with an oral exam for the Junior Cert Irish exam and replace it with a new classroom based assessment.

Fianna Fáil’s Áine Smith questiond why there is no speaking assessment for the Junior Cert considering that the oral exam counts for 40% in the Leaving Cert, thereby resulting in a disconnect between the two.

The previous oral examination in the Junior Cert was optional and taken by approximately 40% of students. This was generally assessed by their teachers, but the Department says the new approach gives a greater opportunity for all students to develop and enhance their oral language proficiency skills over the three years of the testing cycle.

Cllr Smith made her comments following the receipt of a letter from the Department of Education responding to her earlier demands that more is done at local and national level to promote the use of the Irish language.

Back in June she tabled a motion following the release of Census 2022 results, which found Cavan has one of the lowest rates of daily Irish speakers in the country, with just 479 people saying they spoke in their native tongue daily; while 1,415 spoke Irish weekly.

It is Cllr Smith’s belief that the Irish language is accorded “special status” in Ireland and is “protected” by various pieces of legislation, in particular Article 8 of the Constitution.

The letter from the Department back to the council stated that the department is currently developing a new policy on Irish-medium education outside of Gaeltacht areas. The aim of this new policy is to provide a framework for the delivery of Irish-medium education of a high standard across all sectors outside of Gaeltacht areas.

‘The Government recognises the importance of a strong education system in supporting access for all students to Irish language and culture and its significant role in the revitalisation and maintenance of Irish in Gaeltacht communities and beyond. Department officials and agencies will continue to review and reform the learning and teaching of Irish and increase access to Irish-medium education through the school patronage process as appropriate,” read the letter.

“Can we bring it back?” Cllr Smith asked of the oral exam for the Junior Cert, expressing the opinion that to replace it with an in-class assessment with “no value” was counterproductive.