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A Gaelscoil (Irish pronunciation: ; plural: Gaelscoileanna) is an Irish-medium school (particularly primary school) in Ireland: the term refers especially to Irish-medium schools outside the Irish-speaking regions.[1]

Sign at Irish-medium primary school in Newry, Northern Ireland.
Dublin City and County has over forty Irish language medium schools.

Students in the Gaelscoileanna acquire the Irish language through language immersion, though they study the standard curriculum. Gaelscoileanna, unlike English-medium schools, have the reputation of producing competent Irish speakers.[2] English-medium schools, in contrast, produce relatively few fluent Irish speakers, despite the Irish language being an obligatory subject in the Republic of Ireland in both primary and secondary school. This has been attributed in part to the lack of Irish-language immersion programs.[3] The present government has promised reforms in curriculum and teaching training for Irish in English-medium schools.[4]


  • Overview 1
  • Social status and function 2
  • Statistics 3
    • By province 3.1
      • Leinster 3.1.1
      • Ulster 3.1.2
      • Munster 3.1.3
      • Connacht 3.1.4
  • Post-primary education through Irish 4
  • Straitéis 20 Bliain – 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Their success is due to effective (though limited) community support and an efficient administrative infrastructure. They are distinguished by being the product, not of state policy, but of a genuine community movement.

Gaelscoileanna have undergone a striking expansion over the last few decades, though there are now concerns that recent rules limiting the founding of new schools may affect Irish-medium education, especially when the demand is greater than the supply.[5]

In 1972 there were only 11 such schools at primary level and five at secondary level in the Republic. In the 2012-2013 school year there were 177 gaelscoileanna at primary level, attended by 35,710 students, and 40 gaelcholáistí at secondary level, attended by 9,663 students in non-Gaeltacht areas across Ireland.[6] 36 of these primary schools operated in Northern Ireland, while 1 of the postprimary schools and 4 of the postprimary units operated in Northern Ireland.[6] Additionally, some 4,000 children attend Irish-medium preschools. There is now at least one gaelscoil in each of the 32 counties of Ireland and several in some larger towns and cities.

Social status and function

Gaelscoileanna have acquired a reputation for providing excellent academic results at a moderate cost. They have been described as a system of "positive social selection,” giving better than average access to tertiary education and the social and employment opportunities which follow. An analysis of "feeder" schools which send students on to tertiary level institutions shows that 22% of Irish-medium schools send all their students on to tertiary level, compared to 7% of English-medium schools.[7]

Supporters argue that the bilingualism resulting from early acquisition of another language is of general intellectual benefit and helps children to learn still other languages. Irish-language advocates of the immersion approach sometimes refer to studies showing that bilingual children have advantages over monoglot children in other subjects.[8]


Republic of Ireland Northern Ireland
Gaelscoil (primary) students 32,538 1,172
Gaelscoil (primary) schools 144 36
Total primary students 508,406 321,830
Total primary schools 3,165 1,320
Percentage Gaelscoil students 6.4% 0.4%
Percentage Gaelscoil schools 4.5% 2.7%

By province


16,900 primary students attending 67 gaelscoileanna.[10]


4,696 primary students attending 46 gaelscoileanna.[10]


10,049 primary students attending 45 gaelscoileanna.[10]


4,265 primary students attending 19 gaelscoileanna.[10]

Post-primary education through Irish

Main Article: Gaelcholáiste

At present around 10,000 students in the 32 counties are receiving secondary education through Irish outside Gaeltacht areas. They include around 9,000 students in the 26 counties.[10] Two new second-level gaelscoileanna opened in Ireland in 2014: Coláiste Ghlór na Mara in Balbriggan and Gaelcholáiste an Phiarsaigh in Rathfarnham (both in County Dublin). Gaelcholáiste Dhoire opened in Dungiven in 2015 and Gaelcholáiste Charraig Uí Leighin and Coláiste Loch Gile are expected to open in Carrigaline and in Sligo in 2016 or 2017. There are also campaigns running for several new Gaelcholáistí in other areas.

Straitéis 20 Bliain – 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language

The function and future of the Gaelscoileanna in the Republic of Ireland will be affected by the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010–2030, published in November 2009. This emphasises the importance of offering all children in primary schools in Ireland the opportunity to experience partial immersion in the formative years of primary education. It calls for primary teachers to have additional immersion classes to improve their competence in the language. This would involve teaching some subjects such as Mathematics and Science in Irish.[11] Such a policy, if implemented effectively, would mean that the gaelscoileanna were no longer the only means of promoting bilingualism in schoolchildren.

See also


  1. ^ "The Irish Language and The Irish People" (PDF). Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "Retrieved 27 June 2011". 22 February 1999. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ "Retrieved on 19 April 2011". Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  5. ^ 'Níl go leor spásanna sna Gaelscoileanna,'Colm Ó Broin, 24 June 2011, Gaelscéal: Retrieved 27 June 2001
  6. ^ a b Irish-Medium Education Outside The Gaeltacht 2012-2013
  7. ^ "Language and Occupational Status: Linguistic Elitism in the Irish Labour Market". The Economic and Social Review, Vol. 40, No. 4, Winter, 2009. p. 446. 
  8. ^ Bialystok and Hakuta (1994). In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition. New York:  
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c d e
  11. ^ [4] 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-1230

External links

  • Gaelscoil na mBeann, Cill Chaoil
  • (Irish) list of Gaelscoileanna in Ireland (Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland)
  • (Irish) Gaelscoil na Camóige
  • Gaelscoileanna
  • Naíonraí stats
  • Stats on Gaeltacht schools 2004
  • Gaeltacht Comprehensive Language Study 2007
  • Gaelscoil stats 2010–2011
  • – Republic of Ireland Census 2006 - daily speakers outside education system
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