Over two thirds of third-level students feel Irish should be a compulsory school subject according to a survey conducted by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The USI Report on the Teaching of Irish 2021 found that 67 per cent said the language should be fully compulsory, however only a 5 per cent of students said there was an emphasis placed on teaching Irish as a language to be spoken beyond the classroom.
The report aims to assess the effectiveness of Irish-language education in creating proficient Irish speakers, according to The Irish Times, surveying students who have recently left second-level education.
Highlighting the need to alter how Irish is taught in schools, the USI's leas-uachtarán don Ghaeilge, Clíodhna Ní Dhufaigh said the opinions of students are particularly important at Leaving Certificate level.
"We believe there is a clear appetite from students to learn Irish and to be able to speak the language, and it seems many understand that making it optional is not the solution to improving how it’s taught," she said.
Only 7 per cent of students feel the current syllabus adequately aids students to learn Irish. 61 per cent believe some aspects of the course is helpful, while one third said the curriculum did not help with learning the language whatsoever.
Four fifths of students in Irish-medium schools outside Gaeltacht areas said there was an emphasis on teaching Irish as a living language outside of school, while only 5 per cent of students from English-medium schools said the same.
Ms Ní Dhufaigh said this difference was "quite stark but also not surprising".
Overall, 21 per cent of the students surveyed said they were fluent in Irish having finished secondary school. That figure dropped to 8 per cent among students who attended an English-medium school, with the same percentage of students saying they had no fluency in the language.
Despite this, Ms Ní Dhufaigh said the Internet is having an impact on young people's ability to connect with the language beyond the classroom.
"With social media and more resources available to young people outside of the classroom, it seems young people are beginning to see the benefit of learning Irish when engaging with it outside of school, despite evidence that while in school very little emphasis is placed on this aspect of the language.
"While some students who participated may have a positive view of Irish as a living language from their own experience in college or in the coláistí samhraidh (Irish colleges) in school, it’s clear participants also recognise the issues with how Irish is currently being taught and acknowledge the need to reform it if we are to keep the language alive," said Ms Ní Dhufaigh.