Only around 4% of Irish primary school pupils learn a foreign language in school, compared to 100% of children in countries such as Austria and Italy.

The figures are contained in an EU study published today.

The report also highlights the fact that Ireland and Scotland are the only countries where learning a foreign language at school is not compulsory.

The study presents data on language learning from across the EU.

It finds that in general children are starting to learn foreign languages at an increasingly early age.

Some children in Belgium begin learning a foreign language when they are as young as three. In most countries pupils will have begun by the age of eight at the latest.

The study also found that across the EU more than 60% of lower secondary students were learning two or more foreign languages.

English is the language most commonly taught as a foreign language.