A NEW report has found that the abolition of the honours Irish requirement will not entice more men to become primary school teachers.
Politicians, such as former education minister Mary Hanafin, have suggested that dropping the honours Irish rule would help tackle the gender imbalance in national schools.
In fact, the opposite would happen, according to a report in ‘Oideas’, the journal of the Department of Education and Science.
The report’s author, Oilibhear O Braonain, rejects as “spurious” the commonly held notion that the abolition of the Grade C requirement on higher-level Irish is needed to encourage more men into teaching.
The view has been put forward by several politicians and by INTO General Secretary John Carr. But in his lengthy paper, Mr O Braonain argues that this short-term, short-sighted solution would irrevocably compromise the standard of Irish among primary teachers, with grave consequences for the language’s future.
The issue of low male participation in primary education is a global one, and does not affect Ireland alone.
An international study four years ago showed that the percentage of males in primary teaching ranged from 1pc in Russia to 22pc in Iceland, with Ireland at 17pc.
Between 1999 and 2007, more than 4,000 males who took higher-level Irish papers scored a Grade C or better, but only a minority applied for primary teaching. Last year, more than 83pc of them had expressed no desire to enter the primary teaching profession.
“The Gaeilge requirement was not the problem. The problem lay in the lack of motivation amongst male students to become primary teachers in the first place,” Mr O Braonain argues.
Male students who get high points tend to go towards the more high status and ultimately more lucrative university courses, he says.
Common sense suggests that the removal of the requirement would lead to a “deluge” of female applicants with high points who would otherwise have been excluded from consideration by the language requirement.
This is because they are outperforming boys in the Leaving Certificate and, in general, appear more motivated to become teachers than males. On average, 85pc of all applicants to the CAO for primary teaching are female.
Mr O Braonain, a primary school teacher from Templemore, Co Tipperary, who is in the Ecole Europeenne in Luxembourg, says the role of Irish at primary school level is vital to securing its effective future.
He also points out that the number of male teachers at primary level in Ireland has remained largely the same, but the actual percentage has dipped because more women came into the profession.