USI calls for restoration of €1m Gaeltact grant

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is calling on the Government to restore the €1 million grant for student teachers’ to attend three weeks of mandatory Gaeltacht courses.

While the Gaeltacht placement is necessary for improvement of fluency and fluidity of the language, the cost can discourage students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds from undertaking a teaching course, according to the USI.

“Students sitting their leaving cert who might be interested in teaching may find that it simply isn’t an option because of these extra costs,” Maria Schaeler, USI VP for Irish Language said.

“Irish courses in the Gaeltacht are essential for student teachers and the benefits and positive aspects of the courses are being overshadowed by their cost to the students.”

In some universities, the mandatory placement has increased to two trips to the Gaeltacht that are each two weeks long, rather than one trip that is three weeks long. This will also affect the cost on students.

The USI’s pre-budget submission for 2017 illustrated that, since the 2012/2013 academic year, student teachers have had to self-fund fees for three weeks of mandatory placement in the Gaeltacht at a price of €637 per annum.

With an estimation of 1,350 participants, the overall cost of the grant approaches the region of €860,000 per year.

The Common European Framework for Languages (CEFL) provided a guide which put strong emphasis on the oral aspect of language learning in order to increase fluency, proficiency and accuracy in the language.

“Fluency is best achieved through submergence which is best refined by spending time in the Gaeltacht,” USI President Annie Hoey said.

“Student teachers are already crippled under the cost of college and they shouldn’t face further costs to improve their Irish which will improve the quality of their teaching, and, in turn, the quality of students’ learning.”

Shauna Bowers

Image credit: USI

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