Gaelic in primary education: a study of the development of Gaelic bilingual education in urban contexts

Fraser, Anne (1989) Gaelic in primary education: a study of the development of Gaelic bilingual education in urban contexts. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In August 1985 two small-scale Gaelic Units were opened by Strathclyde and Highland Regional Councils, situated within urban primary schools in Glasgow and Inverness respectively. Their purpose was to develop the use of Gaelic as a medium of education for children to the majority of whom it is not the mother tongue - creating a new, protected and prestigious domain for the language in contexts where its speakers are nowadays scattered and its use almost entirely confined to isolated intra-familial exchange. Evidence suggests that the establishment of these Units has already had political, cultural and educational repercussions far in excess of their direct effect on the lives of the individual city-dwelling families involved. ii. This thesis describes developments in Scottish Gaelic primary-school education during the period 1985-1989, places them in their historical, socio-linguistic and educational contexts, and attempts to extrapolate from the findings some pointers of practical utility for future development. Though due attention is paid to comparative evidence from other countries the central thesis is firmly rooted within Scottish experience, for the following reasons: (a) there has been a general dearth of recorded data relating specifically to Scottish Gaelic education, a situation which must be urgently addressed in support of present initiatives and to facilitate future development; and (b) circumstances have given the researcher access to unusually detailed local evidence, both longitudinal and latitudinal, prior to and during the period under discussion, as will be seen below (iii). iii. Throughout the 1980's the researcher has been personally involved in the promotion of Gaelic in education - observing (and hopefully assisting) is progress from within as activist, teacher and, latterly, education officer. Such pragmatic experience has inevitably amplified the response to available published data, given direction and purpose to the research methods employed, and inspired further lines of enquiry since formally embarking on the research. iv. The researcher trained and gained experience as a secondary school teacher in the 1960's, then, in preparation to embarking upon this study, attended a full-time Primary Conversion Course at Jordanhill College of Education, Glasgow. This provided invaluable theoretic and practical experience of modern methodology and classroom organisation, as did serving a teaching apprenticeship (1985-86) within Sir John Maxwell Primary, Glasgow, host school to the newly opened Gaelic Unit. Throughout 1986-88 (the first two years of the present part-time research) a close relationship was maintained with the Gaelic Unit, including regular service as supply teacher. Working closely with the children during this period allowed observation - informal but in depth (perhaps, one might argue, in greater depth than formal assessment procedures would have allowed) - of children's general progress since the inception of the Unit. It should nevertheless be noted that it is not within the remit of this thesis to assess the educational and/or linguistic success of this or any other Gaelic Unit, except in the most general terms: the close relationship with Sir John Maxwell Gaelic Unit might render objectivity difficult, if not impossible, for the foreseeable future. v. At national level the researcher has gained first-hand experience of almost a decade of Gaelic initiatives as active Patron of Comhairle nan Sgoiltean Araich (the Gaelic Play-group Association) and, since 1988, in the full-time employ of Comunn na G`aidhlig (the official Gaelic language promotion agency) as Education Officer with a national remit covering all aspects of Gaelic education. The relationship with Sir John Maxwell Gaelic Unit has continued, though in less depth, and to it has been added access to similar Gaelic Units throughout Scotland, attendance at national primary Gaelic INSET courses, constant dialogue with parents, teachers, educationists and officials throughout Scotland and beyond, participation in planning-meetings concerned with inter-authority resource production, linguistic and educational philosophy and funding, and in meetings with parents, activists and officials to review present measures and extend their remit. vi. Awareness of the international dimension was heightened and given focus by attendance (1986-87) of Glasgow University's Multicultural Education course and through the ongoing input provided by seminars and conferences on various aspects of education, language and culture - a process which has continued throughout the duration of the research period. vii. Though much of the above experience cannot be used as an explicit source of specified data, its cumulative influence cannot be dismissed as wholly impressionistic or subjective for the purposes of this thesis: it is implicit within case-studies, personal observation and analysis, etc., amplified by published comparative and historical sources where appropriate. Further original evidence has been established using the following methods:vii.i questionnaires: two separately designed and administered questionnaires were circulated and analysed as follows: vii.i.i to Gaelic speakers and learners aged 16+ throughout Scotland, to establish their awareness of recent Gaelic initiatives and their attitudes towards them, and vii.i.ii to the families of all children currently attending Gaelic Primary Units in Scotland, to establish the extent of linguistic usage and exposure in the child's present extra-mural environment.vii.ii interviews: in-depth personal interviews were conducted to establish detailed follow-up to data emerging from questionnaires; findings are both (a) incorporated into the text and (b) separately presented as case studies, both for descriptive and for comparative purposes. Although such data does not pretend to be scientifically controlled it contains much that is of interest, especially taken in conjunction with questionnaire results. Two different types of case-study are presented: vii.ii.i school studies: using classroom observation, in conjunction with the comments of parents and practitioners involved in Gaelic-medium education, to define and illustrate key aspects of representative urban Gaelic Primary Units, contrasting these with observations made in rural situations and in Wales and Northern Ireland andviii.ii family studies: using longitudinal observation, in conjunction with interviews with parents, to describe and illustrate educational affect in terms of the consumer.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Grant, Prof. Nigel
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Miss Fiona Riggans
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-667
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:20

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