Claim for Gaelic's pre-eminence has no rational basis

10th December 2010 at 00:00

The conclusion drawn in your report, "Gaelic-medium pupils have the edge in English" (November 19), that bilingualism is beneficial for children's learning is borne out by many studies worldwide.

However, the assumption that Gaelic therefore provides some special educational benefit, justifying the considerable financial investment in the language, is not valid.

Until French-medium teaching - or any other major European language - is offered as an option in Scottish primaries, and the benefits and take-up measured, Gaelic has no rational claim to any academic pre-eminence.

In my experience, where we have, in addition to some Gaelic-medium pupils entering secondary, one or two who are bilingual in French, and several who are monolingual, it is true that most bilingual pupils, whatever the language, perform well academically, but their performance is matched by some monolingual entrants.

It would be interesting to see if French-medium or German-medium primary teaching produced similar benefits; parental knowledge of these languages could be a little rusty, but a parent might feel more confident even with limited knowledge than with no knowledge at all, as is the case for the majority of Scottish parents in relation to Gaelic.

As a secondary maths teacher, with a working knowledge of French and German but no Gaelic, I would be interested in participating in any such experiment.

H Wilson, Torr an Eas, Glenfinnan, Lochaber.

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