Languages in Primary Schools in Northern Ireland

Dr Sharon Jones (Stranmillis University College) –

The current deficit in skills in modern languages is economically detrimental (Foreman-Peck and Wang, 2013), not least to the growth of the export base (Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, 2014). Evidence suggests that learning a modern language should begin at primary school (Lenneberg, 1967; Jones and Coffey, 2006) as this increases self-esteem, enthusiasm, and positive attitudes to later learning (Hawkins, 1974, 1999; DfES, 2002; Jones and Coffey, 2013). As Northern Ireland’s primary schools become increasingly multicultural (Kernaghan, 2015), intercultural education facilitated by modern language learning is increasingly relevant (Richardson and Gallagher, 2011; Purdy and Ferguson, 2012; Jones, 2015), addressing racial prejudice early (Sharpe, 2001, p. 35). While primary school children in Scotland and England will learn at least one additional language, Northern Ireland has “the shortest period of compulsory foreign language learning in Europe” (British Council, 2015). This presentation draws on recent research into current practice and teacher and pupil views in primary schools across Northern Ireland (Jones et al, 2016), to conclude that foreign language learning should be made a statutory part of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, thus affording the opportunities of modern language learning to our young people, and its economic and cultural benefits to our region.

This seminar took place on 29 November 2017

Policy Briefing