The difference is by adaptation of programme, the creation of a similarity of programme for that overlapping period which we had roughly equated from 12 to 14 in both primary and secondary systems. Of course, it is in pursuance of what I have stated, even with a specialised course, that the future livelihood is selected. It is still requisite that at this early stage of education there should be a sufficient range of subjects to prevent undue specialisation. So far as the plan of education is concerned, during the past year a complete programme of co-ordination, leading from the infant school to the end of the primary stage, has been established. With regard to the whole range of education which is included under primary and secondary, these matters are only as yet in an initial stage. Everyone who is acquainted with education will know that the putting of a programme into operation is itself only a commencement, and that it will take a number of years to develop and to arrive at the expected results.
Schools are institutions, and even teachers are institutions. That is to say, they are not even with respect to themselves absolutely autonomous, and they do not switch from one system into another automatically. It takes a certain amount of time to bring about a change, especially a change the effect of which and the aim of which are not always visible on the surface to those engaged locally in administering educational institutions or in doing their work. The primary programme itself has been so arranged, and here again we are only claiming that we are in an initial stage and, to some extent, in an experimental stage, although we have to avoid being purely experimental when we are dealing with human material, that the treatment of a number of the subjects is to have the closest possible connection with the actual life of this nation, the inhabitants of this country, and with the vital concerns of the people, I may say of the individual pupils or of the society in which they live. A pupil may, after the age of 16, choose that section of the programme which fits him for the desk of the clerk or which fits him for one of the professions, most of which, so far as the requirements of this country are concerned, are already over-stocked. He can choose the line of education that will lead him specially to those lines of livelihood, but so far as my Department is concerned, there will be no special incentive and no special inducement held out to him to do so. On the contrary, the aim will be and has been so to shape the programme and, if possible, so to direct the mind and purpose of those who are engaged in carrying out the programme on the spot that the tendency of the pupils will be towards the constructive economic life of the country. In the rural districts, especially including those smaller towns, the aim has been and will be to give a definite agricultural and rural bent both to primary and to secondary education.
The real gap which exists and which will exist notwithstanding any administrative changes in the programme system that have been made, or will likely for some time to be made, is an economic gap. When we reach a certain stage, the provision made by the State or, so far as I can see, likely to be made by the State for a number of years to come is insufficient and will be insufficient to place pupils in such a position that they will not have to draw on the resources of their own families for the continuation of their educational work. The reason for that is plain, namely that young people when they reach a certain age become capable of being self-supporting and become capable of entering into the economic life of the country and as things are, the rule is that when the capacity arises, the need arises, that is to say those who are capable of making their own livelihood when they reach the age of capacity, are expected to do it.
So that when we come to the secondary schools we find a system of fees universal. Something has been done and that is not a thing initiated by this Ministry, this Government or this regime to enable the children of those who could not provide secondary education out of their own resources to reach secondary education by the assistance of public funds. A great deal has in fact been done. It is not merely the scholarship system but the endowment system of both the secondary education and the university —largely but not all in that direction. The problem of bringing education primary, secondary or higher, whatever you may call it into close touch and relation with the life of the country so that it reacts on and benefits the life of the country is an extremely difficult one. When I say that such and such things are aimed at or that such and such things have been done, I do not want anyone to suppose that I look at the thing light-heartedly or suppose that the very great difficulties of achieving this have been made in any considerable degree surmounted.
It will be, for years to come, a matter of the most anxious care for those who have charge of education, and a matter, as I have said before, and I should like to repeat and emphasise it, in which those who have charge of education ought to look for, and are entitled to look for, the most active sympathy and support of the whole community. With regard to another branch of education which is modern in Ireland—that is to say, technical—that, as I have said, has only come within the scope of this Department so lately that one could hardly say it has fully come within its scope up to the present. That is to say, it has not been possible up to the present to make such re-arrangements and such harmonising arrangements as would naturally follow from that branch of education being brought into closer contact with other branches. But, even supposing all that could be done, I still feel and wish to confess it, that there would be a serious gap arising, from the reason I have stated, that a large proportion of the youth of the country for economic reasons, whatever the advantage under present circumstances, do not continue from one stage of education to another. In order to obviate the disadvantage, I might say the injustice, which that difficulty leaves owing to our plan of education, I feel it is necessary that there should be systematic provision of what is called continuation schools for those young persons who are to work for a livelihood, so that, while working for a livelihood, they would have still an opportunity of bettering themselves in an educational way. That means two things. It means provision of what does not exist at all in this country at the present, except in a kind of disguised way when it exists under the name of technical education. It is well known to those here who have been in touch with schemes of technical education throughout the country, that a very large part of the work carried on in the name of technical education was really continuation education, with this great difficulty, that it was not continuation—that is, that very often pupils who entered technical schools had been several years away from another school, and that, in a sense, in a technical school their primary education had to begin again.
Beyond that I do not think that there is any provision in this country for continuation education, and it will require two things. It will require a provision which will be a demand on the public Treasury, and consequently it will require the co-operation, voluntary or involuntary—I hope voluntary, but I am not a doctrinaire optimist—of those who will be in the position of employers. In other countries that has been achieved partly by law and partly, I think, from what I have read, by the cordial co-operation of the employers, not, perhaps, so much acting as philanthropists as through the motives of what has been described as enlightened self-interest. There is a gap, and it is certainly my aim to see it removed. I do not see up to the present the means of making any substantial advances in that direction. I hope, however, that it may be possible, before long, to bring before the consideration of this assembly some sort of proposal in the direction of at least making a big beginning in that important and necessary development. I have, again, in saying that, my eye on the now proverbial 75 per cent. It would be useless for me to suggest that in the present stage of our legislative programme I could hope to get further than the introduction of a measure for removing one of the drawbacks, that is to say, the drawback of bad attendance. I do not suppose anyone here would believe me if I were to suggest that such a measure could now before the recess be enacted.