The Irish culture is strongly reflected in the curriculum and subject matter at St. Andrew’s. In Irish schools, learning Irish is required by law from age 5 through secondary school. This law was enacted after the Irish gained independence from England, as use of the Irish language was concentrated in the west and there was a push to revive the language. Although the Irish still predominantly speak English, Irish translations are included on all street signs and schools work to preserve the language and make sure that its use endures. This pride in the Irish language is evident in Irish schools, as at the end of secondary school, students must complete an Irish exam to ensure that they have developed a strong grasp of the language. Therefore, about 40 minutes are allotted to learning and conversing in Irish everyday in Ms. Cowman’s classroom.
The material covered at St. Andrew’s, specifically during History and Geography, also emphasizes the Irish culture and environment. In History, fourth graders learn about St. Patrick, Irish myths and legends, and how Ireland has changed throughout the course of history. In Geography, students learn about the landscape of Ireland, its counties and rivers in particular, as well as about the local people and landmarks.
Dublin itself is a very international city, and this is also reflected in the curriculum at St. Andrew’s. Students have the opportunity to participate in the European Language Programme, which allows students to learn French, German, Greek, or Spanish from native speakers. Students can participate in this program before or after school, and a block of the day is reserved on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Languages. EAL (English as another Language) is also offered for students whose first language is not English. During the chunk of time Irish students are learning Irish each day, American students go to another classroom for American Studies. This class is taught by an American teacher and the focus is on American symbols, holidays, monuments, movements, and important figures. St. Andrew’s takes great pride in promoting tolerance and appreciation of other cultures and providing opportunities for students from different countries to engage in their own cultures while studying in Ireland. I hope to effectively incorporate students’ backgrounds and first languages into my future classroom in a similar manner!