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How did Irish schoolchildren become the best readers in Europe? Not such a long time ago, there was real anxiety Irish students were falling behind others. In 2009, Ireland had slipped sharply down international OECD rankings for literacy and maths. Alarm bells rang as politicians and business leaders fretted about the potential damage to the strong international reputation of the Irish education system. But latest literacy results show impressive results: Irish ten year olds are now the best at reading in Europe and among the top-performers in the world (Russia, Singapore,…)

So how did this all happen?

The introduction of a 10-year national literacy and numeracy strategy in 2011 is one. The blueprint set ambitious targets, accompanied by the kind of detailed actions needed to boost performance. It included dedicated time in the school day to focus on literacy and numeracy (about half an hour a day at primary level). Millions of euro was spent on boosting professional training for existing teachers in targeting literary and numeracy improvements, while changes were also introduced to teacher-training programmes for new entrants. More regular standardised assessments were also introduced for children, with results communicated to parents to help give them a greater sense of involvement in their children’s education.

In addition to curriculum reform, a much broader range of texts were introduced – such as graphic novels, for example – to help boost engagement among young boys who were underperforming compared to girls. Another sweeping change was the scaling up of schools’ capacity to assess their own performance. During this week you’ll get an insight of what the Irish education system is like. Linked to this, lecturers and workshops take place on various topics such as the ‘Literacy Policy in Primary Education in Ireland: The Road To Success’, ‘Techniques and strategies for teaching reading, including developing oral language, phonics, shared reading, spelling, support for children with special educational needs and children from disadvantaged backgrounds’ and ‘Developing a love for reading across the Primary School’. Of course you’ll get to visit two (primary) schools as well that week.

Important to know is that you’ll stay with host families. Host families are carefully selected and offer a friendly welcome and opportunities to chat and learn more about life in Ireland today. Participants often find that the experience of staying with a host family is one of the most memorable aspects of the course. Accomodation is in single rooms (unless you request to share). Breakfast, packed lunch and evening meal are provided by the host family.

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