If I was Minister for Education, I’d get rid of Irish textbooks entirely at primary level and concentrate on turning out a generation of 12-year-olds who could hold a basic conversation in Irish. I’d have teachers switch between Irish and English in the classroom from day one, and do all the ‘fun’ subjects, like art, games, story time, through the simplest Irish.
We didn’t learn English from books, we learned it by listening and wanting to communicate, so how come that obvious precedent had eluded the Dept of Education forever? At second level I’d continue making it a spoken language first, centre classes on discussing topics that actually interest the kids, so they’ll want to participate — have you got your Taylor Swift tickets? Did you watch that 16-year-old dart player? What do you think of the new Marvel movie — but only if they can do so in Irish.
At State exam level, I’d incentivise it with extra points, but remove the compulsory element. Smart kids are running rings around it already, so leave it to those who have a genuine affinity — but make sure no child leaves school unable to hold a conversation in Irish. Anything less, after 13 years of compulsory tuition, is a failure of instruction in any language.