Languages and the ability to adapt practices based upon a customer’s or business’ cultural background are set to become increasingly desirable skills as diversification of exports to other markets may be required to combat negative effects from Brexit, according to the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report, 2018.
There is significant evidence that Ireland is lagging behind many of our European neighbours in terms of foreign language capability, which is detrimental at an individual and societal level. In 2017, the IMD (Institute for Management Development) World Talent Ranking placed Ireland at number 44 in terms of language skills, a few places above the UK at number 48.
Late in 2017, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton launched Languages Connect - Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026. This Strategy has been developed in the context of the Department’s Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 which aims to enable learners communicate effectively and improve their standards of competence in languages and so fulfil the ambition to make Ireland’s education system the best in Europe within the next decade.
The vision of the Strategy is that Ireland’s education system will promote a society where the ability to learn and use at least one foreign language is taken for granted because of its inherent value for individuals, society and the economy.
At this pivotal time for Ireland in terms of Brexit, the Government is taking action to ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, Ireland will be one of only two English speaking countries in the Union. It is crucial to ensure Ireland is prepared for a changed European dynamic.
A campaign is being launched on 12 September to raise awareness of the benefits and opportunities that learning foreign languages brings to students personally, professionally, societally and culturally. This campaign will include a series of videos of language champions speaking of their own positive experiences of learning languages and the beneficial impact this has had on their careers and experiences. Videos of industry experts highlighting the importance to Ireland and to business of having multilingual staff will also be hosted on the new website, www.languagesconnect.ie , to be launched on 12 September. Languages Connect will be visiting schools and will be present at some key events throughout the year, including the Higher Options fair at the RDS Dublin 12, 13 and 14 September.
As part of raising awareness of the value of learning foreign languages and of the value of spending time abroad, schools are being offered the opportunity to apply for funding as part of a new Funding for School Exchanges Scheme. Ten 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, or for other needs that the school identifies as contributing towards language learning on the exchange.
Skills developed through taking part in language exchanges which include adaptability, problem-solving, networking and communication skills as well as actual language skills, are necessary in order for students to develop and thrive in the future as well as to find employment. With the prospect of Brexit in March 2019, and with the launch of Languages Connect in December 2017, the central role of languages in education has been brought more to the fore, and an increase in the number and quality of school exchanges will play a significant role in delivering the competencies that our children will need.
An event for transition year students called #thinklanguages will take place in Dublin Castle on 20 November, with talks and practical workshops to help transition year students engage with learning foreign languages and see what a future with languages can entail.
Richard Bruton TD, Minister of Education and Skills will launch www.languagesconnect.ie to provide more information on the benefits of learning foreign languages on 12 September.
For more information on Languages Connect - Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026, please visit: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Curriculum-and-Syllabus/Foreign-Languages-Strategy/Foreign-Languages-Strategy.html