Value of Gaelic

24th December 2010 at 00:00
Letters: Questioning the costs of teaching Gaelic

I would take issue with H Wilson's claim that investment in Gaelic is not justifiable, and would question what she claims to be "considerable" (December 10).

Highland Council, for example, has recently said that there are no additional costs in providing Gaelic-medium education. Logically, if parents choose Gaelic education for their child, the council is not incurring the costs of educating that child in English, which it is duty- bound to do, and the extra costs are therefore nil.

In cases where Gaelic units are established with small numbers, there may be additional costs initially since a teacher is in front of a small class. But the same could be argued of small, rural schools where a small number of pupils are taught in English. Once class numbers are equal in Gaelic and English - which they are in most cases where Gaelic education has been established for a number of years - can anyone reasonably make the argument that a Gaelic teacher in front of a class of 25 pupils is more expensive than an English teacher in front of 25 pupils?

The Scheme of Specific Grants for Gaelic Education enables the Scottish Government to help councils with additional costs in cases like the one described, but that is an investment of pound;5.5 million out of an education spend of pound;4.8 billion, and it buys a lot.

Nobody has anything against children being taught other European languages (of which Gaelic is one, by the way). But the point is that a Gaelic education offers all the benefits of bilingualism, helps increase numbers of Gaelic speakers AND helps Gaelic-medium pupils learn other European languages more easily. In fact, a lot of children in Gaelic education also learn either French or German in primary school.

Gaelic is an official language of Scotland unlike the other European languages named, none of which is in danger in its native country. The status Gaelic has in Scotland, the considerable demand from parents for Gaelic education and the need to put special measures in place to ensure Gaelic has a future more than justifies the financial investment in the language.

Art MacCarmaigArthur Cormack, cathraichechair, Bord na Gaidhlig, Inverness.

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