Celtic Languages in Education in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Formal state examinations are useful indicators of the Celtic languages’ health within the education system and their potential for attracting students to University. This paper will discuss examination entries, language policies and educational practice in Scotland, Wales and especially Northern Ireland. The Scottish Qualifications Authority, CCEA in Northern Ireland and WJEC in Wales offer two streams of examinations: Gaelic/Irish/Welsh for second language learners (equivalent to the modern foreign languages syllabus) and Gàidhlig/Gaeilge/Cymraeg (equivalent to the English syllabus) for native speakers or immersion pupils. Wales has the strongest tradition and profile in both sectors - second language and immersion. Gaelic education in Scotland focuses on immersion, with less attention given to English-Medium Education (EME). Irish in Northern Ireland has until recently depended upon learners in English Medium Education. Pupil numbers for state examinations in Irish in Northern Ireland have traditionally been fairly healthy, although there has been a decline in recent years. Irish Medium Education (IME) on the other hand has progressed in the nursery, primary and post-primary sectors, particularly since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 which placed a statutory requirement on government to promote the sector. The importance of the cultural element and newcomers are also discussed.