Why was the medium of education in Wales traditionally English rather than Welsh?

The reason is not because Wales was oppressed. Teaching through English was seen as a way of helping the Welsh to learn English.

This is according to Simon Brooks, who will argue in his lecture “Golwg Newydd ar y Llyfrau Gleision, ddoe a heddiw” at Bangor University on Thursday 20 November, that this idea still holds sway today, but paradoxically only in Welsh-speaking communities. Dr Simon Brooks will deliver the Sir Hugh Owen Memorial Lecture at 18.30on Thursday 20 November at Bangor University’s Main Arts Lecture Theatre. The Lecture is open to all.

Simon Brooks said:

“I want to answer a tricky question. Why is Welsh-medium secondary education widely available in English-speaking parts of Wales, but only bilingual education in most Welsh-speaking areas?

“I have called this the West Merioneth question, after the West Lothian question of supposedly intractable problems.

“The reasons are cultural rather than educational and have their roots in Victorian Wales.

“There is a tendency still in Welsh-speaking areas to worry about proficiency in English.

“However, there is little evidence that a wholly Welsh-medium education system would prevent attainment in English.

 “We need to explore other ways of supporting performance in English, such as additional help to English as a subject area.”

Dr Simon Brooks is an expert in modern history and literature. His research interests include the 19th century, education through the medium of minority languages, political thoughts and linguistic planning; themes he will turn to in the Sir Hugh Owen Memorial Lecture this year. A proliferous author, his new book, 'Pam na fu Cymru', will be published next year. He is also completing a study on ethnic minorities in the Welsh language culture, 'Hanes Cymry'.

A former editor of the journal, 'Barn', and former lecturer at Cardiff University, he now holds an Honorary Research Fellowship at Swansea University.


Publication date: 20 November 2014