Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School, First School and First Student Globally to Offer and Complete the Gaelic School-Supported, Self-Taught Literature Course as Part of the International Baccalaureate Programme

Congratulations to Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School and 2020 graduate, Emma Smith, on their recently recognized international accomplishments!

Dr. J.H. Gillis has been recognized internationally as the first in the world to offer a Gaelic school-supported self-taught literature course as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program and Smith is the first student in the world to complete the course.

Darrell LeBlanc, Director of Programs and Student Services for the Strait Regional Centre for Education (SRCE) explains that following a two-year process and a great deal of preparation by a number of school staff and education partners, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) approved the Gaelic Literature self-taught, school-supported course as an additional option to fulfill the language requirement of the IB Program in June of 2018. 

“This recognition is a testament to the significant efforts of school staff including Lindsay MacInnis, IB Coordinator, and Mairi Parr, Gaelic Teacher, who worked diligently to make this course a reality to fulfil the language requirement in the Programme; as well as support provided by staff at the Office of Gaelic Affairs, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and officials with the IBO,” said Mr. LeBlanc.  “I would also like to congratulate, Emma Smith, who was the very first student to enrol in the course, for her outstanding efforts in studying and ambitiously learning to read, write and speak Gaelic at an academic level.”

“One of the many of benefits of now being able to offer this course is that it has made the Programme much more inclusive for students,” said Lindsay MacInnis, IB Coordinator.

"The Gaelic culture has always had a strong impact on my life as I come from a family of highland dancers and pipe band members. In grade 5, I was given the opportunity to take Gaelic instead of French and the rest is history! I fell in love with the language and the history of the Gaels and took every opportunity I could to learn more about it. I'm proud of my Gaelic heritage and want to keep the culture and language alive,” said Emma Smith.

Congratulations to all involved on this very impressive and deserving recognition!


It is a requirement of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme that students study at least one language. The main emphasis of the modern language courses is on the acquisition and use of language in a range of contexts and for different purposes while, at the same time, promoting an understanding of another culture through the study of its language.  At Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School, IB French language studies is offered at multiple levels and as a scheduled course.  In addition, the school-supported self-taught option is offered to students who did not come through the Nova Scotia curriculum or have moved to Nova Scotia.  In the past, the school has successfully supported a wide variety of students’ mother tongues such as Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, German, and Hindi.  These additional courses are offered as an IB self-taught school-supported literature course.

In order to have the Gaelic Literature course recognized as a self-taught school-supported literature course to be considered for approval by the IBO and fulfill the Programme requirements, the school was required to develop a prescribed reading list of nine literary works, a timeline for the student to study the course that included 150 hours of course time, provide tutoring and schedule time for the student to study.  Since this was a new course in development, Ms. MacInnis consulted with several Gaelic experts including Sabhal Mor Ostaig at the Nova Scotia Gaelic College, Beth Ann MacEachern from Halifax Regional Centre for Education, and Mairi Parr to create the prescribed reading list for the course.  The IB Gaelic course reading list was organized around several concepts including culture, communication, transformation, perspective, creativity, representation and identity.  

In addition, the following requirements had to be fulfilled:

  • a minimum of two works studied linked to each of the areas of exploration of the course
  • coverage of at least three of the four literary forms (poetry, drama, fiction, non-fiction)
  • coverage of at least three literary periods
  • a minimum of four works originally written in Gaelic being studied, by authors on the prescribed reading list
  • a minimum of three works translated into Gaelic, originally written in a different language than Gaelic, by recognized authors on the prescribed reading list
  • works from a minimum of three places as defined by the prescribed reading list, covering at least two different continents.