A student of mine who is struggling with the curriculum and who previously attended a gaelscoil, informed me that her mother cannot help her with her Irish homework, since she does not have a word of Irish. This amazed me. How can a parent send a child to an Irish-medium school for EIGHT years and (i) not make it a personal ambition to acquire enough Irish to help the child with homework, study, etc. (ii) not be expected by the school itself to make some sort of reasonable attempt to get a basic grasp of the language, since their child is using it daily and is gaining an education through that language.
I think it should be obligatory, if not encouraged, for parents who send their children to gaelscoileanna to learn the language, otherwise it suggests that they are not taking their child’s education seriously. It is as though they wish for the trappings of the Irish language (perhaps as a talking point for their friends, etc.) but are not willing to assist the language in its development and survival. They expect an Irish language education for the child, but couldn’t be bothered doing anything more for Gaeilge. I certainly think eight years was long enough for this mother to learn a few basics even, as her daughter progressed through the bunscoil. She could have learnt the language as her daughter did, studying the books brought home on a daily basis. Sadly, this seems to bring me back to the age-old “reasons” why the Irish seem to refuse to learn the Irish language (as well as the obligatory ‘chip-on-the-shoulder’). At the end of the day, when you get back to basics, the excuses revolve around (i) laziness and (ii) a fear of seeming inferior to Gaeilgeoirí / those who actually make an effort, however little Irish they have, to take pride in it and use it.