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Irish is considered among the hardest and least interesting subjects in school

More and more students are getting exemptions.

NEW RESEARCH HAS found that Irish in post-primary education is considered to be among the hardest and least interesting of subjects, with more and more students getting exemptions.

The studies were carried out by researchers at the ESRI and revealed that almost 32,000 students are exempt from the Irish language in secondary school.

Irish is compulsory for Leaving Cert students except in exceptional circumstances.

The research shows that nearly two-thirds of exemptions are because of learning disabilities and a sharp rise in the number of students exempt for that reason in recent years.

In 2004, about 7,000 students were exempt from the subject for that reason, increasing to almost 19,500 by 2014.

This group included both students with emotional and behavioural difficulties as well as learning disabilities.

Students who don’t have English when they enrol are only required to study one language, most exempt themselves from Irish to learn English.

These numbers also increased in the decade after 2004 but not by as dramatic a degree, from just over 5,000 to about 9,400.

In fact, the number of foreign students who have gained an exemption from Irish in recent times has fallen in recent times, a trend researchers say matches migration patterns.


The authors of the research also analysed whether the exemption system was fair. It examined claims that some students who are excempt from Irish because of learning difficulties are taking other languages.

The report found that there was “some support” to these claims but that,

the numbers doing so are very small and little is known about the profile of these students.


A separate study carried out by the same authors also looked at the attitude of 13-year-old students towards Irish as a subject compared to English and Maths.

The research found that the students widely considerd Irish to be the most difficult and least interesting of the three.

PastedImage-34714 ESRI ESRI

The study notes that it is difficult to separate these two results because a student who isn’t interested in a subject is less likely to work at it and may it find it more difficult.

Interestingly though, the research found that, among students who attended a gaelscoil at primary level, there is “no significant boost” in their interest in Irish as a subject at post-primary level.

“Interest in Irish at the age of 13 is found to be related to earlier interest in the subject as well as to attitudes to school more generally,” the report states.

Those who ‘never’ liked school at the age of 9 are 1.8 times more likely to find Irish ‘not interesting’ four years later.

Poll: Should new housing estates be earmarked for Irish speakers? >

Read: Irish speakers are angry that Enda Kenny doesn’t think the Gaeltacht is in crisis >

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