Ireland’s membership of the European Union has played an integral role in building Ireland’s reputation as a location for world class research and as a centre of excellence in higher education. Ireland is deeply committed to its membership of the EU. Our place at its heart will ensure that Irish higher education institutions continue to access valuable EU funding. This will allow Ireland to remain at the forefront of research and innovation.
Ireland is perfectly positioned between the U.S. and Europe. It is the ideal place for young Chinese students to launch global careers. It is the destination of choice for many of the world’s leading firms. One thousand international companies – including Google, eBay, Intel and Facebook – have chosen Ireland as the hub of their European network.
We are deepening education links between Ireland and China all the time. China is the principal Trans-National Education (TNE) partner country for Ireland. Irish education institutes now have over 70 joint programmes and three joint colleges in place with Chinese institutions. There are also many Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) in place between Chinese and Irish institutions. These are articulation agreements and joint agreements on the alignment of course content.
I was delighted to be present last December when the Irish Qualifications Authority-QQI-and the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Centre (CDGDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
This agreement will see the two organisations work together over the next three years to improve the quality of higher education in Ireland and China. It will focus particularly in the area of cross-border education and will include the development of graduate education, qualification recognition and credit transfer. It will also allow the two agencies to draw on specialists from each other’s systems to strengthen the international dimension of their respective review processes.
Languages Connect is the title of Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026. The Strategy aims to increase and diversify the number of foreign languages taught and learned by students in Ireland.Our ambition is that Ireland can become a truly multilingual society where the ability to learn and use two and more languages is taken for granted and fostered.
A recent poll conducted by Red C found that Irish adults view French, Spanish, German and Chinese as the most important languages after English and Irish. Irish children have the advantage of bilingualism through the learning of Irish and English at primary level.
The new Primary Languages Curriculum is an integrated model. That means children are taught to transfer certain language skills and concepts from their first to their second language. This gives our students the basic language learning skills which helps them to learn a third, and sometimes a fourth language at post-primary level.
There are currently seven curricular languages available at Leaving Certificate level and we aim to increase this to 11 in September 2020. One of the new curricular languages will be Mandarin Chinese.
Our National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is currently working on the development of the specification under the direction and guidance of a Subject Development Group which includes Chinese language experts. My Department has established an Implementation Group to ensure issues such as teacher training and supply are addressed for a smooth implementation.
Internationalisation is a key part of Ireland’s overall education strategy. More and more international students are choosing Ireland as a location for quality, higher level education. Last year we had about 38,000 international students studying in Ireland’s higher education institutions, of which over 3,500 were from China.
Our expanding economy and strong post-study work opportunities are particularly appreciated by international students. We currently offer sixty Government of Ireland Scholarships and we hope that we can make further enhancements when we review the scheme. This will allow more students from China to have the opportunity to study in Ireland.
Ireland’s third level graduate permission scheme allows graduates from China the right to work in Ireland for a period of one year following graduation at level eight, bachelors’ degree. They can work here for a period of two years following graduation at level nine or above, that is Masters or PhD level.
An academic mobility scheme to fund mobility opportunities for HEI staff to promote academic development has also been introduced. It will allow academics and staff to deepen their collaborations with higher education institutions in partner countries such as China. The second year of this programme is now being prepared.
I am delighted to say that five of the successful projects for this year’s programme involve partnerships with China.