Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative

Author(s): Tanya Flanagan
Institution/Organisation: Kildare Education Centre / Department of Education and Science (IE)


1.1 Scope of the Initiative

The Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI) is a national project organised by the Department of Education and Science in Ireland. It aims to support the teaching and learning of modern languages in primary schools in Ireland. Presently pupils in the final two years of primary school are being offered the opportunity to learn a modern language as part of the Initiative. It is a voluntary programme as modern languages are, as yet, not a mandatory subject in the Irish primary curriculum. There are currently over 500 schools participating in the MLPSI.

1.2  Range of languages studied

Schools participating in the MLPSI choose one of the following target languages – Italian, Spanish, German or French. Choice is largely predicated by the availability of suitably qualified staff to teach the language, the possibility to continue this language at post-primary level and the language choice of the wider school community, including parents.

1.3 Learning outcomes

On completion of two years of modern language learning, it is hoped that pupils will have attained, in terms of partial competencies or in its totality, level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. As the modern language curriculum also includes the strands of Cultural Awareness and Language Awareness, an enhanced appreciation of other cultures and other languages is also expected.

1.4 Practical realisation

  • Schools participating in the MLPSI are requested to teach their chosen modern language to all pupils in 5th and 6th class for between 60 and 90 minutes per week.
  • A range of teaching methodologies are encouraged including the use of the communicative approach, the use of the target language, a cross-curricular approach, fun and activity based learning, the use of authentic materials, the use of ICT, collaborative learning and the promotion of Autonomous Learning. The approaches and methodologies advocated by the MLPSI have proved very successful in motivating both teachers and pupils alike to engage in language learning to a greater extent and have also had a positive effect on the teaching of Irish.
  • Teachers are invited to two language specific training days per year and also receive an induction day when they first commence teaching in the programme. They are also encouraged to avail of other training opportunities offered by our partner agencies including workshops and language courses, both on-line and in the target countries. The continued professional development aspect of the MLPSI has been highly praised by teachers and evaluators alike and is seen as a motivating factor in encouraging more school-based teachers to engage with the project.
  • Schools also receive in-school support by the regional project leader assigned to that region.
  • A regional network of primary language teachers has been established to facilitate peer support and a sharing of best practice.
  • The MLPSI model of the European Language Portfolio (My ELP) has been accredited by the Council of Europe and is in use of many of our schools. Teachers were offered training on the implementation of the ELP and additional training is being planned for.


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