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Frequently Asked Questions:

Can a school join the Modern Languages Initiative at any time?
How does a school apply to join?
What support is available for schools wishing to join the MLPSI?
What level of language does the teacher need to be able to teach the programme?
Is is still possible to access funding for a visiting teacher to come to our school to teach the language?
What resources should the school invest in for modern languages?
If we are part of the MLPSI, can we still apply for a Language Assistant?
What other opportunities does being part of the MLPSI offer?
What information can we give parents about the MLPSI?
What impact will the Literacy & Numeracy Strategy have on modern language teaching?

Can a school join the Modern Languages Initiative at any time? - Yes. Applications can be submitted at any time but it is recommended that teaching begins in September when possible. Induction training events for teachers joining the programme are organised in September and January annually.

How does a school apply to join? - Application forms can be downloaded from the MLPSI website. They must be completed in full, including details of the modern language teacher(s) and signed by both the Principal and the Chair of the Board of Management.

What support is available for schools wishing to join the MLPSI? - There is a comprehensive support system in place for schools who wish to offer a European language as part of their curriculum.

Each school is supported by a designated Regional Advisor who will visit the school, model and observe classes and advise the Principal, modern language teachers and hosting class teachers on all aspects of the programme. Support is provided in relation to planning, a whole school approach, building staff capacity, cross-curricular intergation and resources, among others. The Regional Advisor can also facilitate a whole staff presentation, which affords staffs an opportunity to reflect on and plan for their future participation in the programme.

Teachers are invited to two language-specific training events per year which are organised on a regional basis. The MLPSI also organises regional seminars for Principals, as well as national events.

There is also on-line support - we have a dedicated website which is reguarly updated with new resources, links, additional training opportunites and language related news. We also send our schools regular e-zines - both of a general nature and language-specific to help ensure that schools are kept abreast of all updates.

What level of language does the teacher need to be able to teach the programme? - While there is no formal level of proficiency stipulated for a teacher to be involved in the programme, it is expected that teachers would have the necessary fluency, motivation and enthusiasm to deliver the modern languages curriculum as drafted by the NCCA. This curriculum and the accompanying teacher guidelines can be downloaded by clicking here.

Is is still possible to access funding for a visiting teacher to come to our school to teach the language? - For the last number of years, DES policy has been to only include new schools in the programme who have staff capacity to teach the modern language. School staffs are supported in terms of training and resources as well as  school-based and on-line support.

What resources should the school invest in for modern languages? - Your Regional Advisor will be able to advise you as to which resources would be most suitable for your school and recommended resources lists can be downloaded in each of the language sections of this website. In addition to commercial resources, you will have access to a considerable bank of resources which have been created by the MLPSI team which are distributed on training days, on school visits and are available on-line. The Regional Advisor will also work with you to highlight how resources already in your school for other curricular areas can also be used effectively in the modern language class.

If we are part of the MLPSI, can we still apply for a Language Assistant? - Absolutely! Many MLPSI host a language assistant from another European country and we would encourage schools to ask for an assistant who is from the country/one of the countries where your modern language is spoken. The assistants can help with the modern language teaching in the senior classes but can also introduce it to the younger classes and lasting links can be established between the school and the assistant once they go back home.

What other opportunities does being part of the MLPSI offer? - Since the inception of the project we have been very fortunate to collaborate with many partner agencies in education. As part of this, we will ensure that information on additional training opportunities open to MLPSI teachers are communicated in a timely manner to all our teachers and schools. These include workshops and conferences organised by the Cultural Institutes and the Colleges of Education, training courses abroad accessed through Léargas and the various activities organised by the ECML.

We organise the placement of teacher trainees from other universities and colleges of education in Spain, Germany and France in MLPSI schools.

We organise both language specific and general competitions open to all MLPSI schools including an "Early Experience in German" and the Colegio Español del Año competitions.

We offer opportunities to teachers to avail of language courses in order to help them improve their own level of proficiency in their language. Currently the MLPSI is co-sponsoring a ten week Italian Language Course with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Dublin and on-line Spanish language courses with the Consejería de Educación in the Spanish Embassy.

What information can we give parents about the MLPSI? - Please click here to download an Information Leaflet for parents which can be distributed at induction and other school events. Click here for Irish version .

What impact will the Literacy & Numeracy Strategy have on modern language teaching? - The Minister launched the revised strategy in relation to improving Literacy and Numeracy on July 8th 2011. Please click here to download it from the DES's website. Under this new policy, it is recommended that primary school pupils spend 90 minutes per day on literacy. The study of a modern language will compliment this strategy and we hope to continue our collaboration with the DES in the future in relation to a national languages in education policy.

As is noted in the Strategy, “Placing a strong focus in schools on the development and monitoring of students’ literacy and numeracy skills is not incompatible with a broad and balanced curriculum, nor should it lead to a narrowly focussed curriculum. On the contrary, ensuring that each child masters the skills of literacy and numeracy in a wide range of contexts is essential if they are to be enabled to access learning in a whole range of areas. At the same time, learning in all areas of the curriculum can greatly enrich students’ opportunities to acquire and apply their literacy and numeracy skills”. The Strategy indicates that guidance will issue from the NCCA on a revised time allocation for subjects in the PSC by 2016. The Strategy also notes that the NCCA will issue guidelines on how best literacy and numeracy skills may be taught effectively in the context of subjects other than English, Irish and Mathematics by 2016. This approach very much reflects the methodologies and approaches advocated by the MLPSI.

Furthermore the strategy notes that “the issues and concerns that we consider to be important or relevant change over time and it is natural for the curriculum to evolve to reflect changing circumstances”. As Ireland is currently the only country in Europe where modern foreign language learning is neither a core nor compulsory element of its primary school curriculum, we hope to continue our work with the Department of Education and Skills in the development of a coherent national languages in education policy.

As Principals and teachers involved in the MLPSI have testified, including those teaching in DEIS designated schools, learning a third language has enhanced language learning throughout the school and indeed it often results in an increased appreciation of Irish, in particular, and a realization that it is a “language” which can be used to communicate. Modern language learning allows for very effective cross-curricular work and the integration of language into all areas of the curriculum, including mathematics. The formal independent evaluation of the MLPSI has also shown that Principals, teachers and parents all advocate the extension of the programme and note the positive effects it has had on their pupils and children linguistically, academically, socially and in terms of assisting preparation for second level.

To place this discussion in a broader European context, it is of note that the Language Policy Division in the Council of Europe is now placing greater emphasis on languages of schooling and their role in the teaching of subjects so as to establish a balance more in keeping with the idea of plurilingual and intercultural education. The overarching theme for the Council of Europe’s Language Policy Division’s current programme of work is “Languages in/for Education” and similarly the European Commission’s new European Languages and Education policy, “Languages 2010 and beyond” reflects the critical need to improve foreign language learning as it is deemed a core skill to be nurtured and developed from an early age. A recent Intergovernmental Policy Forum on “The right of learners to quality and equity in education – the role of language and intercultural skills”, held in Geneva, focussed on the role played by languages, in particular the language(s) of schooling, in pupils’ success or failure at school. It brought together those responsible for the overall language policy of education systems, not only those in charge of foreign languages or of the national language taught as a subject in itself, but also those responsible for other subjects, as languages are the vehicle of all teaching and learning. One of the main themes of the Forum was the language dimension in the learning/teaching of all subjects and so it is heartening that the Irish system is also now reflecting on such critical issues. These language and education policy developments reflect the aspirations of the Lisbon Strategy which detailed a commitment to improving foreign language learning as one of its specific objectives, with a special emphasis placed on early language learning.

The reasons for this policy focus have been widely researched and documented. Bringing young children into contact with foreign languages can result in faster language learning, improved mother tongue skills, and better performance in other areas. This strategy was further endorsed by EU Education Ministers when they formally supported the teaching and learning of at least two foreign languages from a very early age through the Barcelona Agreement (2002). As well as laying the foundations for later learning, early language learning influences attitudes towards other languages and cultures, reason enough for various EU Commission initiatives to promote it and support further research.

In their response to the Draft Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, IBEC recommended that "All students should have a strong early foundation in the core subjects of mathematics, science, and literacy in two modern languages". It also notes that "the Department’s Draft Plan also fails to explore the relationship between literacy in the school’s first language and other modern languages".