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Ireland targets Europe’s top 10 for language learning post-Brexit

In preparation for a changed European dynamic post-Brexit, the Irish government has launched a campaign that prioritises foreign languages and student exchanges to help Ireland secure a spot among the top 10 in Europe for language teaching and learning.

Increased international cooperation is a key objective under Ireland's Action Plan for Education. Photo: Unsplash

10 Irish schools will be awarded €15,000 each to contribute towards student exchange costs

Launched by the minister for Education, Richard Bruton, the campaign is supported by a website that will act as a “one-stop shop” for schools, parents and students interested in language learning.

“We have set the ambition…as part of our overall goal to have the best education system in Europe”

Through the campaign, post-primary language teachers will be able to apply for funding to upskill in a foreign language in a bid to diversify the uptake of languages learned in Irish schools.

The government is also developing postgraduate courses aimed at training existing language teachers to teach in another language that they are not qualified in.

Dedicated funding to support schools in organising language exchanges with schools in other countries will also be made available.

Bruton said the government is pursuing a number of measures targeted at improving proficiency and diversity in foreign languages and increased access to immersion experiences.

“We have set the ambition to put Ireland in the top 10 countries in Europe for the teaching and learning of foreign languages, as part of our overall goal to have the best education system in Europe,” he said.

“I am also delighted to make funding available to support schools in organising student exchanges. We all know that immersion is the best way to learn any language.”

He said that 10 Irish schools will be awarded €15,000 each to contribute towards exchange costs such as flights, to offer scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to participate in exchange programs.

The skills developed through taking part in language exchanges which include adaptability, problem-solving, networking and communication skills as well as actual language skills, are critical for students to develop and thrive in the future as well as to find employment, Bruton added.

As part of the government’s plan to increase diversity, Ireland is looking to attract more HE international students.

During a recent trade mission to Indonesia and Malaysia, Bruton pointed to Ireland’s rapid growth in the education sector in recent years and highlighted that international students pursuing tertiary education there could also opt to remain upon graduating to work for one or two years, depending on the level of education achieved.

“One of the things we offer is the opportunity for students who study in Ireland to stay back and perhaps get work experience with many multinational and Irish companies that are leaders in their field,” he said.

“We all know that immersion is the best way to learn any language”

He explained that increased international cooperation is a key objective under Ireland’s Action Plan for Education, which aims to make education and training services in the country the best in Europe within a decade.

In the context of Brexit, Bruton said he is taking action to ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Once the UK leaves the EU, Ireland will be one of only two English speaking countries in the region.

However, both the British and Irish governments are working to protect existing arrangements between the two countries in the areas of higher education.

Earlier this week, the Irish minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’ Connor met with UK Universities minister Sam Gyimah to discuss current developments in higher education between the countries.

On Brexit, both ministers reiterated their commitment to maintaining reciprocal rights to access education at all levels for Irish and British citizens in each other’s countries and agreed to work together to ensure that this access will be maintained after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“We as a government have a desire to maintain the existing level of research collaboration between higher education institutions in Ireland and the UK, as well as noting its importance to the maintenance of the excellent international reputation and standing currently enjoyed by institutions in both jurisdictions,” Mitchell O’ Connor said.

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