What is it?
Gaelic medium education is one of the main ways of achieving or maintaining fluency in Gaelic. This is especially true of children from a non-Gaelic speaking background. Gaelic medium education is open to everyone, those who speak Gaelic and those who do not.
Pupils who are not Gaelic speakers to start with, indeed who come from non-Gaelic speaking homes and communities, can be brought to fluency in the language through what is referred to as immersion. In early learning and in the initial years of primary school pupils are taught only in Gaelic, while they are doing the usual things that children do in the early years of their education – this is called ‘total immersion’. Their teachers utilise all available opportunities to develop pupils' Gaelic skills - through songs, stories, games and especially through structured play. This is followed by ímmersion’which means Gaelic is still the language of the class and used for most lessons but pupils are taught to read and write in English as well.
Gaelic medium education reinforces the language of children who are already fluent Gaelic speakers and also enables them to become fully literate in the language.
Gaelic medium education delivery is governed by the following documents:
The Statutory Guidance on Gaelic Education published by Bòrd na Gàidhlig in 2017.
This Guidance is principally for education authorities and builds on the practice and delivery that has been developed by education authorities over the last three decades. Based on that experience, this Guidance aims to explain the different elements that constitute Gaelic education in Scotland and to establish a consistent approach and a clear expectation of what Gaelic medium education (GME) is and how it should be delivered.
This Guidance is also for parents. It provides further detail on how to proceed with the submission of a request to an education authority to assess the need for GMPE, and an explanation of how the process works. It also provides parents with an explanation of what they can expect if they submit a request to assess the need for GMPE.
Advice on Gaelic Education published by Education Scotland in 2015.
This Advice provides important information on the national context, and describes best practice to support practitioners and local authorities in evaluating and planning for improvement in Gaelic Education.
How effective is Gaelic-medium education?
A report published in 1999 on behalf of the Scottish Executive Education Department stated the following:
"...pupils receiving Gaelic-medium primary education, whether or not Gaelic was the language of their home, were not being disadvantaged in comparison with children educated through English. In many though not all instances they out-performed English-medium pupils and in addition gained the advantage of having become proficient in two languages ".
Prof. Richard Johnstone
More recent research conducted in 2010 by Edinburgh University on behalf of Bòrd na Gàidhlig found that;
“Pupils in Gaelic-medium education, who are not exposed to English in the classroom until at least Primary 3, catch up with and overtake English-medium pupils in their command of English. By Secondary 2, whereas only one half of English-medium pupils had reached the expected level E in English reading and writing, three quarters of Gaelic-medium pupils had done so.”
“....Gaelic-medium pupils’ attainment in other areas of the curriculum does not seem to be affected by their learning subjects through the medium of Gaelic (typically their second language).”
Gaelic-medium Education in Scotland:
Choice and Attainment in Primary and Early Secondary School (external link in PDF format)
The best evidence we have for the success of GME is its rapid growth in response to parental demand. Parents want it because they see that it works. This year (2012-13), over 3000 pupils are receiving GME, 989 at pre-school level, 2500 at primary level and 1,104 at secondary level.
Because the education of a child is so important to parents, we understand that many parents will have questions about the system of Gaelic medium education. In order to answer frequently asked questions and reassure parents that GME is a viable option for all, Comann nam Pàrant and Bòrd na Gàidhlig have produced an information booklet for parents; copies of Fios is Freagairt are available here in PDF format.