“So I Can Speak Two Speaks”: Identifying the Conditions Necessary for Primary Modern Foreign Languages to be Introduced in the Republic of Ireland

Duignan, Brendan (2021) “So I Can Speak Two Speaks”: Identifying the Conditions Necessary for Primary Modern Foreign Languages to be Introduced in the Republic of Ireland. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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“So I Can Speak Two Speaks”: Identifying the Conditions Necessary for Primary Modern Foreign Languages to be Introduced in the Republic of Ireland
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Abstract

While many benefits have been broadly claimed regarding the learning of modern foreign languages (MFL), including cognitive, employability, intercultural awareness and broader academic achievement, (O’Brien, 2017; Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004; Bialystok & Hakuta, 1994), the Republic of Ireland is the sole European jurisdiction where a MFL is neither compulsory nor a non-statutory option at any level within the education system (Eurydice, 2017). Despite the apparent successful of attempts to alter this through the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative, established in 1998, (MLPSI, 2012; Harris and Conway, 2002) its abolition in 2012 left something of a ‘linguistic vacuum’ in its wake, with no official direction on modern foreign languages at primary level in any form.

Given that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has recently advocated the potential inclusion of a MFL at primary level in its Draft Curriculum Framework, (NCCA, 2019) this timely study endeavoured to answer several secondary research questions and one primary research question: What are the perceived ideal conditions that would be necessary for a modern foreign language (MFL) to be introduced at primary level in the Republic of Ireland?

The qualitative research approach in this study is grounded in a largely interpretivist paradigm, drawing on foundations of social constructionism and involved two qualitative instruments: qualitative surveys and focus groups. Participants were key stakeholders in education, including primary teachers, primary principals, pupils from 6th class (12-yearolds) and 3rd year students (15-year-olds). All participants completed a qualitative survey, while focus groups were held with primary teachers and primary principals. Analysis of the data indicated that while there was general positivity conveyed by participants in relation to the potential introduction of a primary modern foreign language, concerns emerged, such as curriculum overload, staffing and the development of staff-capacity, resourcing and the place of the Irish language. It was also clear from the data that a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not be suitable given the broad profile of schools across the primary system in Ireland. Overall, the triangulated, analysed data made some very noteworthy claims, and the findings indicate a broad range of key elements that, if implemented effectively, could provide policymakers with the potential conditions for introducing a modern foreign language at primary level.

Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:46247
Deposited On:27 Aug 2021 14:20

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