COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - ESTIMATES FOR PUBLIC SERVICES—INTERMEDIATE EDUCATION.

Question again proposed : "That a sum not exceeding £62,750 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st March, 1924, for expenditure in respect of Intermediate education, including the payment of teachers' salaries grants."
(£70,000 voted on account.)

On the last day on which this Vote was under consideration, I moved that it be referred back, but in consequence of a statement made by the Minister for Education, I withdrew that motion. That statement was satisfactory, so far as it went, inasmuch as it contained a definite promise that further provision would be made to meet the claims of the secondary teachers. I would like, however, if the Minister would give us more detailed information with regard to the promise which he made. I would like, especially, a statement as to the particular form which this increased grant will take—whether it will be simply an increased interim grant, whether it will be made by means of grant, such as has been the case for the past few years, or whether he, in fact, proposes—as I sincerely hope he does—to provide a definite scale of salaries for these teachers. I am sure it will relieve the minds of those most interested if he is able to give the Dáil an outline of his intentions in that particular direction. During the course of the discussion the last day, some remarks were made as to the value which the country is getting for the money which it spends on education. It has become fashionable of late to say that the country is not getting value for the amount of money being spent on education. It is extremely difficult for even those who are most intimately connected with the administration of education to express an opinion on this question. Education is not like other services, in which the results are immediately apparent. It may take years— and it does, as a matter of fact, take years—before the full effect of a particular system of education is shown. It is not when the boy is leaving school that the results of his education are apparent. That should be quite obvious to anybody who gives the matter a little thought. If people are not satisfied with the condition of education in the country at the moment, I would like that they would remember that they are getting now the results of the policy that was carried out ten or fifteen years ago in educational matters, when the provision made for education was very much less indeed than what is made now. The Minister for Education himself, on a former occasion, made it quite clear that it is not this year or next year, but in six, or seven, or ten years hence we will be in a position to say whether or not the country is getting value for the money now being spent on education.

Deputy Gorey, in his statements with regard to the position of the particular teachers referred to in this Estimate, suggested the policy of what somebody called "Robbing Peter to pay Paul." Deputy Gorey would not be so free, I suppose, in applying that same policy if Peter happened to be a farmer and Paul happened to be a labourer. He would not propose that those who had a small share of land should be provided for by taking a share from those who had a larger amount. I do not want to deal with many of the points raised by Deputy Gorey in that debate, because, like a good deal of what the Deputy says when he deals with matters of this kind, I think they were more or less irrelevant to the particular question at issue. I do, however, deprecate the statements made and the distinctions which were attempted to be drawn between one particular type of education and another. I have protested on many occasions—I think those who spoke from the other side of the Chamber, and the Minister for Education especially, generally agreed with my statements in that direction— that it was wrong to make distinctions as between what was called primary and what was called secondary education. It is quite impossible to make any such distinction and it follows that it is equally impossible to make any distinction or to draw any comparison as between the work done by a particular class of teacher and the work done by another particular class of teacher. The work done in the primary schools is not, as one Deputy stated, less onerous or less important than work done in the secondary schools. As far as the question of importance is concerned, if a comparison were to be made, it might be pointed out that, inasmuch as the great majority of our children never go to any other school than the primary school, and never have any other education provided for them, it is of the highest importance that their education in that department should be of the highest quality possible. But I deprecate any such distinctions. I do hope that this is the last time that we will have two distinct votes—one for primary and one for secondary education. I hope that when the Minister comes before the Dáil again to ask for an Estimate of this nature, that he will ask for an Education Vote which will include all the various types of departments and schools for which provision should be made—not alone so-called primary and so-called secondary schools, but also technical schools, industrial schools, and schools for defective children, and all the various types of schools that are thought to be essential to the carrying on of the work of education in the country.

There is one thought I would like to give expression to, and it follows upon the statement of the Minister for Education himself. He pointed to the fact that private bequests to education had not been the fashion of recent years, or perhaps of recent generations, and he urged that it might well be considered by those who are thinking of departing this life that in their wills they should take note of the needs of education and make provision accordingly. It would be a pleasant speculation, no doubt, to enquire into the causes of that change in the habits and thoughts of the rich. But I suppose one may say with truth, whatever the causes may be, that for a generation or so past people have come to think of the provision of education as being a communal responsibility, and that because of the very necessity for a general diffusion of education for the whole population that the responsibility ought to be a common and not an individual one. When bequests for education were general, the proportion of the population that had anything like an education, or that were considered to be fit for an education, was comparatively small; and I think it is one of the items that may count to the credit of modern society that there has been a recognition of the need for a minimum of education for every citizen. I suppose in the heyday of the mediaeval period it was not very common for every peasant to have a literary education, and I think some advantage is gained by the fact that the public have come to consider that a general diffusion of education is desirable and necessary, and as a consequence the trend of thought has been towards making the nation generally responsible for providing the means for education, and not relying upon private bequests. It occurred to me when the Minister was speaking that in the absence of that practice of making private bequests for education in the wills of the wealthy a device has been invented which he might take advantage of. I suppose it is the practice of the Minister for Finance to take credit for Death Duties and to collect those duties. I suggest to him that he might enter into a compact with the Minister for Finance and, even at the cost of increasing those Death Duties, he might arrange for ear-marking such a proportion as he thinks the rich ought to provide for educational purposes. He might earmark that proportion of Death Duties for educational purposes. Then his public object would be achieved, even though the private benefactor may not obtain the pleasure that writing a will bequeathing certain sums for education might provide him with. The end would be obtained perhaps, though the means might be different. I commend that suggestion to the Minister, and hope that he will succeed in persuading the Minister for Finance to act in that direction.

With regard to the point raised by Deputy O'Connell, it is not my intention to propose at this particular stage a definite scale of remuneration for secondary teachers. What I did hold out was an improvement of the grant or grants in aid of the remuneration of the secondary teacher. The other question of setting up a definite scale for the remuneration will have to await some more fully considered measure than the bringing forward of this addition to the amount already proposed in the Estimate.

Would it be in order to ask the Minister if his proposal is retrospective as from any period? Does it mean an improvement of the amount given by way of interim grant set forth in this Estimate?

I hope that the definite announcement of this, as it deals really with a money grant, will be made in due form by the Minister for Finance. With regard to the other point raised, I am glad to see that Deputy Johnson does not misunderstand me, as I have been misunderstood, through the indistinctness of my voice, by persons in other quarters, as having suggested that the improvement of the position of secondary teachers should be cast on private benevolence. I never suggested anything of the kind. I think, however, the Deputy's rather historical sketch on that subject is not quite accurate. If you go back to the Middle Ages to which he referred, I think you will find that very few of the great and the wealthy, who represented the rich of the present day, were able to write their names. They were not educated at all, and they did not think of education; and the foundations, the endowments made by benevolence in those times went mainly to the education of the poor. Nearly all the celebrated names of educated men which have come down from the Middle Ages to this enlightened and industrial age in which we live ourselves, are men without family history, men whose history began with themselves, the children, for the most part, of poor men.

Will the Minister inform us, as the matter is very interesting, whether the education given to these persons was very widely diffused? Was it general, or was it selected youths that were taken?

I think it was not so widely diffused. The idea of universal education did not exist at that time. At all events it was not carried out. It was more or less a matter of accident of locality, and so on, what particular number or section of the public these benefits reached. No doubt we have come to a time when it is accepted among all countries and among all peoples that education up to a certain stage, or an uncertain stage, should be made universal; and when we accept an idea like that it is necessary for us to avoid confusion and to suppose that education has ceased to be an individual duty because it is placed on a communal basis. That, at all events, is an idea to which I find myself radically and incontrovertibly opposed. I hope to see, in the future that we have to look forward to, the responsibilities of the individual in education very much more recognised than they have been in the recent past. One thing more I add. I take this opportunity of adding that I hope to see the activity of the State, and especially the controlling activity of the State, in these matters at all times kept to the necessary minimum. I do not know that there is anything that I have to add. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, the actual proposal in due order to provide for the increase, in whatever form it will take, must come before you in due course from the proper quarter.

I hope the Minister will look into the regulations governing the distribution of these grants. I have reason to believe that they are regarded by some teachers as unsatisfactory. They largely depend on conditions over which the teacher himself has no control.

I shall be glad to receive any representations from teachers or from any quarter that would have the effect of improving the regulations for the distribution of this money.

Motion put and agreed to.