The BBC can do Irish but RTÉ can't

In response to some comments yesterday I thought this business report from the BBC on the preference-through-necessity in Irish medium schools for technology-based education tools, including etexts and ebooks, might be of some interest:

“Technology and education have a long, complicated and sometimes exaggerated relationship.

Digital technology is associated with the classroom of the future. And if you throw iPads into the mix, you’re even more likely to hear the language of an over-optimistic tomorrow.

So you might not expect to find tablet computers being deployed to defend a language first written down 1,700 years ago when “writing on a tablet” would have meant carving on a stone.

But in an innovative blend of ancient and modern, online technology is being used to keep alive teaching in the Irish language.

And Apple, the Californian technology giant, is using this schools project in the west of Ireland as a signpost for a much more ambitious, global application of iPads in education.

The problem that it’s trying to solve is how to provide a full range of textbooks and teaching materials for a small, specialist, under-served area of education.

The number of schools in Ireland teaching through the Irish language has grown sharply in recent years, after near extinction in the early 1970s. But in total there are still fewer than 250 primary and secondary schools.

“It doesn’t make sense for publishers to put money into translating text books from English,” says Sean O’Gradaigh, lecturer in the school of education at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

It means there is demand from Irish language schools, but not enough resources to breathe life into the teaching.

Mr O’Gradaigh’s response has been to use tablet computers – in this case iPads – to produce digital textbooks that can be downloaded and shared by Irish language schools.

Irish language schools are big users of technology, says Mr O’Gradaigh. In about three-quarters of secondary schools, all the teaching staff will have their own iPad. In one in five schools, every pupil will have their own.

Mr O’Gradaigh says this reflects two sides of Irish language schools. They use iPads to get access to the digital resources. But also, because Irish language schools tend to appeal to middle-class families, the schools and their families can afford the expense.

The big picture here is that schools and academics have become the authors and publishers of their own specialist textbooks. And because it is online and digital, it can be replicated and shared immediately.”



  1. One comment! Why the need to translate from English? Why not from French, German, Chinese? Or, horror of horrors, why not write an original textbook in Irish?

      1. Jānis, I believe Eoin was suggesting that source materials for translations should be extended beyond the Anglophone world and should embrace suitable texts from other languages. Which is a good idea. You never know, even some Latvian novels or poetry could be translated into Irish and feature on the syllabus. Secondly he was rightly suggesting that original Irish materials should be used if sufficiently good. Given the high concentration of Irish-speakers in our local IT industry, for instance, it would not be that hard to find would-be authors of Irish language books on computing for primary and secondary pupils.

          1. You seem very interested in articles regarding the Irish language and also a little over sceptical about Irish people using their own language in any sort of practical way. To develop our own culture we must learn through our own culture otherwise we would be adopting somebody else’s culture and abandoning our own. That is my thinking on the matter. What is your native language and how does it compare to our own efforts to keep our culture alive?

  2. interesting.

    One thing stuck out though; ” But also, because Irish language schools tend to appeal to middle-class families, the schools and their families can afford the expense.”

    is this true?

    It sounds like the kind of jibe we get in Wales towards Welsh-medium schools by some working class heros in the Labour party.

    (of course, if they were not ‘middle class’ and ‘underperforming’ – I think many Labour types here don’t like the fact that WM schools are by and larger a success – then the Labour types would attack them for being detrimental to the children).

    Just asking.

    1. Macsen, the same slanders hurled at Welsh and Scottish Gaelic language education in Wales and Scotland are now used against Irish language education in Ireland and by much the same type of Anglophone supremacist. Such schools are classist, elitist, discriminatory, privileged, etc. Here the added poisonous ingredient has been the accusation that parents who send their children to Irish medium schools are racists for doing so (I know. Incredible, isn’t it?).

      In previous decades Irish language schools were dismissed as educational ghettos. Schooling for rural peasants (stupid country bumpkins too stupid to speak English). Then with the emergence of Irish medium schools in urban working-class areas they were dismissed as schools for the poor, the deprived, the unemployable, the atavistic working-classes, etc. When suburban middle-class parents started sending their children to these schools (situated mostly in working-class areas) they were suddenly transformed into beacons of elitism and privilege by Angloban critics.

      The discrimination remains the same, it’s just a new twist for each decade or century.

      This is another component of a type of “blood libel” against all the speakers of the surviving Celtic languages. Substitute Jewish for Irish, Welsh or Scottish and there would be uproar and outrage. Instead it is the popular Anglophone media who spread and reinvigorate the poison in all our nations.

      I call it legacy racism with good reason.

      1. Irish schools get the best results for their students.
        And AFAIK there are something like 3x times the number of pupils wanting to go than the number of places.
        This is where the Irish language needs to do to thrive..just get more places for those that want to go.
        If they can keep up the same high standard.
        You know all this, yourself.
        But I find it bizarre that there is such haters against high performing schools1!!!!!
        Isn’t that what people want???
        Good quality schools.
        It makes you shake your head sometimes.

  3. To use ASF’s favorite slogan, “Tá an réabhlóid ag teacht.” This how the language made its gains in Pearse’s time. It is a viable vehicle to ensure its survival. Blogs like this which re-vitalize interest and enhance the desire to investigate our heritage along with a rising dedication and commitment by educators is getting things moving. Our own history will stoke the interest into commitment and the persistent support of preserving it. Insistence on rights and a solid, continued effort in publicising its importance for the future of the country in terms of national and personal identity will provide another solid base for the réabhlóid. Technology and social networking are key to continue the momentum. Let’s keep it going.

    Tá Gráinne Mhaol ag teacht thar sáile, Óglaigh armtha léi mar gharda, Gaeil iad féin is ní Gaill (Frank) ná Spáinnigh, Is cuirfidh siad ruaig ar Ghallaibh. (P.Pearse, Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile)

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