Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dul ar scoil

We have been in Ireland for 6 1/2 years now, and a lot of the culture shock has worn off. I've gotten used to the currency, the driving on the other side of the road, the bits of Irish language scattered here and there. I've gotten used to different attitudes towards drinking, healthcare, and hospitality. I've even gotten used to the bells that ring at 12 and 6 pm every day urging us to stop and think of Mary.

So I'm feeling less like a 'non-national' now (although I still am one, I guess) and more like just part of the community. I can navigate Irish life all right, and can (and have) give advice to others who have just moved here.

But then, things change, new challenge: school.

It's hard enough to send your child to school the first time. At least if we were in the US I could picture what it would be like, would have fuzzy feelings towards school buses and red playground balls and kindergarten. But I've never experienced Irish primary school before, so I'm learning along with my daughter. Some things are the same -- lining up, toilet breaks, school milk and sticker charts. Some things are different. Here's what I've learned, so far:

  • There are no state-run schools (although the government gives them some money), all schools are run by churches. Most are Catholic. Alannah goes to a Methodist school, partly because it's small and close by, but also to avoid the overboard First Holy Communion that happens at 7 years old (so she isn't surrounded by kids getting a white dress and a big party and lots of money while she gets nothing).
  • You have to sign up for schools, you don't automatically get assigned a local one. Most people put their child's name down when he/she is just a baby.
  • There are no hot meals in Irish schools (except some pricey private schools). Everyone takes a packed lunch and eats at their desk.
  • The subjects are pretty typical, reading and 'maths' (I don't know why there's an s on it) science, etc. Also Irish, which is non-comprehensible to me and I don't think I will ever be able to help her with it.
  • The first year is called Junior Infants, or JI, or sometimes low babies. Next is Senior Infants, followed by 1st class, 2nd class, etc. to 6th class. Then they move on to secondary school, which is 1st year, etc. At 3rd year (15 years old, usually) they take a national test called the Junior certificate. 4th year is Transition year, with lots of field trips, service projects, job internships, trying out different subjects, and the like. At 6th year (18) they take the national Leaving Certificate test.
  • Children generally start school at 4, but can wait until they are five or even six. This is largely up to the parent's decision. Some schools have a cut-off date earlier in summer, but ours was just 'four by the first day of school'. Alannah has an August birthday, so we kept her out until she was five. I think about half of her class (of only 12 kids!) are already five, and some were spring, not summer birthdays.
  • For the first TWO years they finish at 1 pm. Then for the next 6 years they finish at 2 pm. (School starts at 8:30) What am I supposed to do with them the rest of the afternoon...

So that's what I've learned so far. Oh, and they are already asking us for money left right and center. Books and uniform and milk subscription and swimming and 'voluntary contribution' (which isn't really voluntary).

It's the start of the fourth week tomorrow, and still every day when I drop her off (oh, there are no school buses. Most of us walk, a few scooter/cycle, and a handful drive) I want to stay and peer in through the window. I'm not worried about her. I just want to know what's going on!


About This Blog

About This Blog

  © Blogger template 'Sunshine' by 2008

Back to TOP