Latest: Ireland ‘losing out’ with lack of foreign language skills, says Taoiseach

Update 8.17pm: The Government says it could take another ten years for Ireland’s education system to be the best in Europe.

The latest action plan on education was launched earlier today.

It includes proposals around STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and additional supports for those in disadvantaged areas.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the plan also aims to increase the numbers learning foreign languages.

“Ireland is an increasingly diverse country and yet most people in Ireland still can only master one language, which is the English language. I think that’s a real shame,” said Mr Varadkar.

“It’s so different when you go to other countries, whether it’s Germany or the Netherlands or most of Northern Europe, where people can very commonly speak two or three languages.

“I think we’re losing out in that regard.”

Original story (5.38pm): Varadkar hopes Brexit leads to more students learning a foreign language

The Taoiseach says one of his biggest regrets is not studying abroad.

The Government has today launched its latest action plan on education, which encourages students to learn a foreign language.

Leo Varadkar says Brexit may also be a good thing when it comes to people studying overseas.

“British universities will probably not be part of Erasmus anymore, meaning that more Irish students, rather than studying in Manchester or Edinburgh or London in English-speaking universities, will hopefully take the opportunity to study in continental Europe, thereby increasing their language competence,” he said.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has welcomed the Action Plan for Education 2018 but is disappointed by the lack of focus on education costs.

“It is good to see that the Minister reiterated his Department’s commitment to giving every child an equal opportunity in life.

“But unless there is a strong focus on addressing education costs at all levels, children and young people from low-income families will continue to be locked out of our education system.

"The plan launched this morning will do little to prevent the significant stress and strain parents experience at back to school time. Nor will it break down the financial barriers to further and higher education experienced by students from non-traditional and disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice & Policy.

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