NUI Maynooth passed a proposal at Academic Council on 5th December 2016 to remove the third language requirement for courses in Business, Law and Economics. This decision is likely to be followed by similar moves in other NUI Business faculties. It puts Maynooth in an outlier position within the NUI on this issue, as Law and Commerce faculties elsewhere and most Social Sciences courses have a third language requirement for entry.
This development does not affect the Irish language requirement. But it will have negative consequences on the uptake of foreign languages in secondary school as pupils will note that they are not necessary to study certain subjects, including popular courses such as Law and Business. There is evidence that since Maynooth's decision, some guidance teachers have already informed pupils and parents of the removal of the language requirement for these course. Perceptions of the value of learning languages will suffer if this trend continues.
The NUI Maynooth initiative flies in the face of IBEC's recommendation that more emphasis be placed on quality language teaching in the Irish educational system. It particularly begs the question as to how graduates in business will be able to deal with companies outside the English-speaking world. Moreover, students of the affected faculties will also be at a disadvantage as regards participation in international study programmes such as Erasmus, as their choice of destinations will be narrower. The move also comes at a time when diversity is under attack in various countries, in an unfavourable political context.
The danger now is that NUI Maynooth's decision will have a twofold effect: departments in these subjects in other NUI institutions may follow suit in order to compete for students (this may be the ultimate motivation behind the Maynooth move). This in turn will lead to a weakening of the position of languages in secondary schools as the matriculation requirement motivation for study of foreign languages is gradually removed, course by course.
June, 25th, 2017