Lithuanian and Korean will be taught from this week as part of a drive to diversify the number of languages on the curriculum in Irish schools.
Lithuanian will be a short course for junior cycle in schools in Dublin and Monaghan where there is the highest concentration of the country’s natives in Ireland.
According to the last census in 2016, 36,683 Lithuanians live in Ireland. However, the Lithuanian embassy estimates the real figure is twice that if the number of children of immigrants are taken into account.
The course is for a minimum of 100 hours over two years. Some 43 applicants were received from teachers of the language.
The introduction of Lithuanian into Irish school is part of the foreign languages strategy which identifies the need to support immigrant communities to maintain their own languages.
It was introduced last year as part of a 10-year strategy to prepare Ireland for Brexit through a series of steps such as potential bonus Central Applications Office (CAO) points for studying foreign languages.
The Korean language, the 17th most spoken language in the world, is being introduced as a module for transition year. Trade between South Korea and Ireland reached €1.8 billion in 2015.
The language will be introduced into four schools in Dublin.
French accounts for more than half of all language sits in the Leaving Certificate, followed by German (13 per cent), Spanish (11 per cent) and Italian (1 per cent).
Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the teaching and learning of foreign languages is a priority in the post-Brexit world.
Surveys have repeatedly shown that the number of Irish children able to speak a second language is well below the EU norm. Only about 20 per cent of Irish adults know one foreign language, compared with the European average of 35 per cent.
Mr Bruton added: “Not only do we need to increase the number of languages taught, but we need to deepen the level of fluency and competency in these languages among our students.
“In the context of Brexit and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries, I want to take action to ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”
From this September, the first students will begin studying the Leaving Certificate computer science and physical education courses.
Both subjects are being introduced to an initial group of schools, before both are rolled out nationally in 2020 to all schools who wish to teach them.
Politics and society, which has gone through this initial phase, with its first set of students sitting the Leaving Certificate exam this year, is now available to all schools who wish to teach the subject.