Just over 100 delegates attended Ireland’s first conference supporting multilingual learners and literacy at UCD last weekend. The conference was jointly organised by UCD and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Dublin, and aimed to highlight the need for change in the language learning areas of the Irish education system.
UCD is the first academic institution in the country to provide this level of support for migrant education and integration. With the conference, UCD hoped to show leadership in the field, as well as showcasing its ongoing investment in education.
The delegates were made up of representatives from all the Polish schools in Ireland, along with Muslim schools, the Bosnian school, the Latvian school and the principals of Irish schools which teaching non-curricular languages such as Polish. This was in addition to representatives from the Department of Education and Skills.
A representative from UCD’s School of Languages and Literatures commented that the “Government needs to invest more in supporting and encouraging language learning from a young age. Census 2011 demonstrates that a significant percentage of the Irish population is multilingual: almost 10% of the population said they spoke a language at home other than English or Irish. From an economic viewpoint, not to mention societal and educational, there is a demonstrable need to maintain and increase this multilingualism in Ireland.”
The conference’s main talking point was the proposed reform to the Junior Certificate curriculum, as well as the introduction of numerous new languages at this level. Professor Bairbre Redmond from UCD opened the conference, and the line up of speakers included Professor Sarah Smyth (TCD), Karen Ruddock (Post-Primary Languages Initiative), Professor Hans Luschützky (University of Vienna, Austria) and Dr Agnieszka Rabiej (Jagiellonian University, Poland).
This conference comes at a time when, according to the School of Languages and Literature, the Department of Education and Skills in Ireland is aiming to develop and increase literacy levels, and in particular, to improve the multilingual skills of students in Ireland.