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Irish language preschools: training policies and practice Máire Mhic Mhathúna, Ph.D. Dublin Institute of Technology.

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Presentation on theme: "Irish language preschools: training policies and practice Máire Mhic Mhathúna, Ph.D. Dublin Institute of Technology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Irish language preschools: training policies and practice Máire Mhic Mhathúna, Ph.D. Dublin Institute of Technology

2 2 Overview of paper Ecological theories of language Relate aspects of theory to Irish language preschools or naíonraí in the linguistic and educational spheres Analyse training policies and practices in two naíonra agencies, Comhar Naíonaí na Gaeltachta (CNNG) and Forbairt Naíonraí Teo (FNT) Discussion and conclusions

3 3 Language ecology Van Lier (2000:246): language learning being more than processing input Van Lier (2002:141): importance of contextulaity of language Kramsch (2002:3): dynamic interaction between language users and linguistic environment or context Socialisation into a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991, Kramsch 2002: xii) Affordances: property of environment that is perceived as being useful.

4 4 Kramsch Kramsch (2002:16) stresses the relationality of hierarchically organisational levels from the emotional and motivational make-up of the individual learner to the social/professional community of professional users to the larger institutional framework endowed with institutional memory, power and authority. Includes language planning and language education policy (Candlin and Sarangi (2002:xiii)

5 5 Cummins and CALP Cummins (1986): BICS and CALP Basic interpersonal communicative skills CALP: decontextualised and cognitively demanding in regard to learning a second language and to learning through a second language Takes a long time to develop BICS necessary to talk to young children in appropriate ways in Irish and CALP necessary to study naíonra childcare through Irish

6 6 Current study Aim: to investigate training policies and practices in naíonraí from an ecological perspective Ethical issues Interviewed two people who were familiar with naíonra training policies and practices, from Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta (CNNG) and Forbairt Naíonraí Teo (FNT) Semi-structured interview: topics sent in advance Transcripts given to participants for verification of their views Triangulation: FNT Annual report, publications and websites (Codó 2008:163)

7 7 Gaeltacht Linguistic Environment 82 naíonra sessions in Gaeltacht areas, mainly in the West of Ireland Comhar employs 130 practitioners, 95% are native speakers of Irish. Very high standard of Irish and basic training is a condition of employment 1,000 children 70% of Gaeltacht people speak Irish on a daily basis (CSO 2006) Family use of Irish declining (Ó Giollagáin and Mac Donnacha 2007) 25% of naíonra children with very good – native speaker competencies in Irish 75% with beginner to basic understanding of Irish Dealing with variety of language backgrounds

8 8 Country-wide Linguistic Environment 218 naíonra sessions (2006) 340 practitioners who work on private/independent basis 3,500 children 2% of children with very good Irish 98% of children are beginners FNTs practitioners' level of Irish mirrors that of general population and varies from native speaker to learners at various levels of competency 10% of population speak Irish daily.

9 9 Education Environment Preschool education voluntary, 1 year, 2.5 hours a day State pays salaries of Gaeltacht practitioners through Comhar Naíonraí agency FNT practitioners in private sector Training in early childhood education sector: National certificate at Level 5: one year post school at further education level Level 6: 2 year programme at FE level Degree level in 7 Institutes of Technology and in one university

10 10 Early Childhood Education Sector Sector under-regulated but recent developments re quality standards, curriculum and revised regulations April 2009 Budget announcement: One years free pre-schooling on universal basis from 2010, subject to certain conditions

11 11 Naíonra Training Level 5: both agencies built on existing national certificate programme by translating 6 early education modules and by adding language specific modules: Using Irish with young children Sociolinguistics and young children Gaeltacht: Enriching Childrens Irish Level 6: existing modules plus additional module on Language Planning Little demand for Level 6 courses in Gaeltacht areas, some in other areas Training on part-time basis, 2-4 modules per year in evenings

12 12 Policy Policy in both agencies: all practitioners should have Level 5 training, including 2 language modules Possible to specify this as condition of employment in Gaeltacht naíonraí because staff are employed by agency Lack of other early education courses in many Gaeltacht areas: lack of affordance

13 13 Language Issues FNT: offer support and encouragement for training through Irish in rest of country Additional factor of ability to learn through Irish, Cummins CALP Led to development of language course for practitioners, Céimeanna Beaga. Option of doing some modules through English elsewhere but must do 2 Irish language modules Respect, acknowledgement of positive attitude, interest, motivation but recognition of gap in language skills in some cases Attitude, interest and experience also important in Gaeltacht situation, e.g. bringing up family through Irish.

14 14 Short Courses Both agencies offer short courses in First Aid, Child Protection, working with children with additional needs Both agencies have staff who have undertaken training in child protection and can offer courses in own agencies and to other groups Both experienced difficulty in finding suitably qualified people to deliver First Aid. Both offer one-week introductory course in several locations around country.

15 15 Development Officers CNNG has 4 development officers who provide a range of short in-service courses on topics requested by Gaeltacht practitioners Practitioners are required to attend. Development officers trained in quality standards and will offer courses to practitioners Also attend other management and early childhood education courses FNT had 8 regional advisors and an education officer Agency currently being restructured, but have advertised a post for an education officer.

16 16 Training Resources Both agencies developed Irish language resources for training and as classroom resources FNT: 2 Handbooks, quality handbook, 4 CDs for use with children (new and traditional songs and rhymes), 2 sets of posters Also use relevant English language books Research studies by Tina Hickey Website:

17 17 Gaeltacht Resources Curriculum handbook, tape of traditional childrens songs, use FNT publications and use Irish version of quality handbook, Síolta. Also use relevant English language books Future plans: continue to provide training, to include upcoming developments and to support practitioners Currently evaluating Borradh language planning programme Website:

18 18 Discussion: Context State support for Gaeltacht naíonraí Affordance of long tradition of State support for Irish language in Gaeltacht regions National and regional language Societal and institutional memory Layers of state support filter down to Gaeltacht naíonraí State support for FNT organisation, but not for practitioners Implication: CNNG can set down conditions of employment while FNT can only offer support

19 19 Practitioners Level of Irish Both contexts mirror the state of Irish in their respective regions Gaeltacht: strong community language, community of practice, everyday communicative language Country-wide: networks of practice, range of levels of competency Implications for learning through Irish and for providing early years education through Irish. Need for both academic Irish and for communicative competence with young children. Gaeltacht practitioners can manage both domains Some practitioners country-wide can do so

20 20 Professionalisation Stark differences between practitioners pay and conditions in both linguistic contexts Gaeltacht: professional context: specified levels of Irish language competency, pre-service and in-service training, in return for pay and conditions of employment Country-wide: dependent on good will, private enterprise and market rate for pre-schooling, variable levels of competency in Irish language and in training Both contexts exhibit high levels of social capital: Very positive attitude toward Irish language Strong spirit of volunteerism Interest in promoting Irish as community language Part-time nature of training and time needed to complete programmes mitigate against further training, significant aspect of professional development.

21 21 Future Trend of professionalisation likely to continue Implications of universal childcare for one year and attached conditions for quality and curriculum Lack of interest in further training worrying in this context Training for other early childhood practitioners is moving to degree level and will eventually lead to degree-led profession Creative means for encouraging and providing higher levels of training in both linguistic contexts re language and early childhood education.

22 22 References Codó, E. (2008). Interviews and Questionnaires. In Li Wei and Moyer, M. The Blackwell Guide to Research Methods in Bilingualism and Multilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell, pp Kramsch, C. (2002). Introduction, How can we tell the dancer from the dance? In C. Kramsch, Language Acquisition and Language Socialisation: ecological perspectives. London: Continuum.pp Ó Giollagáin, C. agus Mac Donnacha, S. (2007). Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíoch ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig an tSoláthair.

23 23 References Van Lier, L. (2000). From input to affordance: social interactive learning from an ecological perspective. In J. Lantoff, Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: OUP.pp Van Lier, L. (2002). An ecologcial-semiotic perspective on language and linguistics. In C. Kramsch, Language Acquisition and Language Socialisation: ecological perspectives. London: Continuum. pp

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