Progress was reported during the discussion on Vote 48:—

That a sum not exceeding £2,290,679 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, to defray the expenses of the Department of National Education, including grants in aid of the Teachers' Pension Fund.

Towards the close of the discussion, before progress was reported, I had to express regret that certain lines of information which were demanded from me had not been made in the statement which I had made, the reason being that I understood that demand was for an explanation of the general lines of the educational policy of the Government rather than the detailed measures by which that policy was to be carried into effect. I wish now to supplement the statement which I made then by entering clearly into a statement of the educational measures which the Ministry has had in operation, and intends to develop. With regard to the general policy, I said that my point of view is governed by certain main principles, and one of these was that in education as administered by the State there should be, as far as is possible, equality of opportunity for all those who are the subjects of education. The second governing principle is that public education should have in view the general national interest and good of the nation in general, and that that view should not be interrupted by the principle of the private and particular interest of individuals.

I think a certain amount of criticism was also directed to the fact that this Department had not sought to proceed through legislation. It is quite true that if a public Department uses its legitimate powers to carry out and develop a policy through administration rather than through legislation, it becomes all the more necessary why that policy should be fully explained and fully understood by the public representatives. When legislative measures come forward, although they deal with prospective things only, and not with the past and present, the elected representatives of the public have a full opportunity of discussing them, but when things are dealt with by administration within a department a great deal may be done without that opportunity of discussion arising.

It is my desire, at all events, that the fullest information with regard to the administrative action of the Ministry of Education should be before the Dáil, and before the public. It is not possible to keep Deputies in touch with all that has taken place, but, so far as can be contrived, it will certainly be my purpose, and I am sure the purpose of anyone else in my position, to afford the fullest information in response to any demand, and also to afford the clearest general statement which will lead to Deputies having that fuller information. I think the expression "obscurantist" escaped from one of the Deputies during the debate, and there was also a suggestion that the educational policy of the Government had not been operative. Well, so far as I can be accused of being obscurantist, I suppose it is because I do not take as many opportunities of talking as possible. At any time when I have been approached with regard to information, or when information has been asked of me, I do not think I can be accused of having withheld anything material, anything that would give the information required. For years past the public has been accustomed to the great word "co-ordination." So far as that word expresses something useful, to my mind it ought to carry out that idea, that principle which I have put forward, namely, that there should be for all the children of the citizens of the State equality of opportunity to make use of all the education provided or endowed by the State. In order that that might be so, the first necessity is to get rid of impassable barriers, or to bridge over gaps that may happen to exist in the system of public education.

To that end, if you look back a number of years, we find that education in Ireland was divided into very, very distinct and separate compartments, and it was only when this system of government under which we are now moving came into being that the real ground for the unification of the separate compartments of education was supplied. From the first, from the time when the Provisional Government came into existence, it has been the design to move in that direction. It has been more than a design; there has been a steady movement in that direction, and not only a steady movement but, I think, the foundations of a unified system of education in the country have already been securely laid, and the actual work of unification has proceeded a considerable distance indeed in being carried into effect. There are two things to be done. The administration of education itself had to be unified, and, secondly, the work of education in the country had to be brought into the form of a continuous system. With regard to administrative unification, that was carried out when this Ministry was established. All the different compartments of education, so far as they were under State administration, were brought closely together. The Ministries Bill enabled a further advance to be made in that direction, but, as Deputies are aware, that Bill has been in existence only a short time, and certain very important branches of national education have only come under the administration of this Ministry, one may say within the past few weeks.

The aim then of this unified Department of Education is in order to provide equal opportunity so far as it can be provided to ensure that in the system of education there shall nowhere be a gap that would prevent a capable boy or girl from proceeding to the fullest use that he or she is capable of making of public education. There were gaps, as is known. There was a gap between what was called primary, and what was called secondary education. As I said before, I deny all validity whatsoever to these titles of primary and secondary, but the gap was there, and it was for the child of the average citizen a very formidable gap, and again between the second of these arbitrary divisions of secondary education and higher education, there was also a considerable gap, and besides the gap in the plan, the system, there was a financial gap. It is only primary education in Ireland which is free in the sense of being open to the children of all citizens without payment. Secondary education is not yet free in that sense, and higher education is not free, although something has been done to enable those whom their own resources or the resources of their parents would not enable to proceed from primary or elementary to the ultimate stages of education of which they are capable.

During the past year the educational gap, as apart from the economic, between what was called the primary and the secondary system has been completely removed. The plan of those two formerly separate compartments of education have been rearranged in such a way that a pupil can go right through from the commencement of the primary to the completion of the secondary programme without encountering a barrier, without a break, without anything like a violent transition at any stage. Taking the leaving age, as it is called, for public or primary schools at 14, we have in operation what one might describe as a spliced system, a partly overlapping system, and the programmes for the pupils between the ages of 12 and 14 are now arranged on such similar lines in both systems that the two may be described as undivided parts of one and the same plan of education. A pupil can enter the secondary system at the age of 12, or he can remain on in the primary system until the age of 13 or 14, but at any of these ages he can pass over into the secondary system without, as I said, encountering a barrier or a chasm, or having to pass through any violent transition whatsoever.

That is irrespective of the standard the pupil has reached.

That could not be.

As I understand, a boy cannot leave the primary school until he is 14, except he has reached the 6th standard.


There is nothing to prevent him.

There is nothing to prevent a boy leaving the primary school at any age, or at any standard, to pass into a higher grade of education. The result I have described has been largely attained by freeing both systems up to the age of sixteen from excessive specialisation—from the plan of imparting a mere smattering of a variety of subjects—by founding education up to that age on the main subjects in which an Irish boy or an Irish girl ought to be educated, namely, Irish, English, mathematics, history, geography, and simple but sound instruction in science, including what may be called rural science. In the secondary schools, even before this age is reached, other subjects such as classics and modern languages may be added. Here also it is felt that there should be no specialising in any of these until the pupil has reached the age of sixteen and obtained that basis of general knowledge which is the proper foundation for specialised education. After the age of sixteen the pupil is allowed to branch off from that general foundation and to select, or have selected for him, by those who are competent, other subjects, cultural or educational, or that have a direct bearing on the future calling of the individual pupil.

While I have said before that I believe in giving what one might describe as a material turn, at all events, a connection between education and realities, and while I believe thoroughly and deeply in the wisdom of that, I hope it will not be supposed by anyone who is listening that I regard purely cultural subjects as matters of no utility. On the contrary, I hold that purely cultural lines of education are not only good, but that they are the birthright of the children of every citizen in this State, no matter what their calling may be. At this stage, then, after sixteen, the plan of education in existence gives a wide range in choice, and the pupil intended for an industrial, a commercial, agricultural or professional career can have a programme specially adapted for this purpose.

Before he leaves that point, can the Minister explain exactly how the transition from the elementary to the secondary stage has become different during the past twelve months from what it was before?

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.

Is the Minister suggesting that it will be introduced and get a First Reading so that we can study it during the recess?

After some experience, the utmost I can say in that connection is that it is my earnest hope it may be.

An aspiration.

Is the Minister aware that it has been stated in the Press that the Dáil has slaughtered this Bill? The Dáil has never had a chance of even looking at it.

I have seen that word "slaughtered," but it does not follow because the Bill is introduced and that it has not passed through all its Stages in the present session that it is slaughtered. One matter more with regard to this co-ordination. It does seem to me most important that in any plan of co-ordination there should not be overlapping of the system of supervision. To bring that into more concrete form I shall tell the Dáil exactly what has been done during the past year. In the past year three general inspectors have been appointed by the Ministry to carry out the co-ordination of the primary and the secondary system, co-operating in the work with the chief inspectors of the primary branch and the ordinary inspectorate of the intermediate branch so that we have abolished the idea and the fact of the separate system of inspectorate in these branches. One of the chief functions of these inspectors is to ensure that the work of both branches—we have still to call them branches, though they are really not branches, as one is a continuation of the other—is co-ordinated not only in the curricula but also in the methods and the spirit in the schools. Also— it is a detail but an important one— the educational side of the Civil Service Commission is closely co-ordinated with the work of these branches, and for this latter purpose the three general inspectors act as advisory examiners to the Civil Service Commission for all its examinations. These examinations are based entirely on the various stages of the primary and secondary education systems, so that, on its educational side, the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Education are practically one.

The same close co-ordination—I use this word because it is so popular—is being effected between the Education Department and other educational bodies. For example, the department has arranged for a conference of the various university authorities and the education committees of the county councils to arrange that the leaving certificate examination of the Ministry's programme should be made the basis of awarding county council scholarships to the universities. Similar conferences are being called with other bodies so that there may be the closest co-ordination in all education work, not only between these bodies that I mentioned but between these and all other bodies that are dealing with primary or secondary education or agricultural or technical education.

With regard to the agricultural side of the work, for instance, an agricultural general inspector will be appointed whose business it will be to keep the school textbooks and curricula of the branches of the Educational Department in closest touch with this basic industry, and thereby secure or do something towards securing, that in the future education will not be so detached from the lives of the main part of the people of Ireland as it has been in the past. If there be any further information, any detail that I can give regarding the policy of the Department, I shall be glad to give it. I feel that these things are only in an initial stage. Beyond that, one of the necessities is to familiarise the public mind with what is aimed at and to get the sympathy of the public for it, and the sympathy and the co-operation of those who are engaged in educational work for it, because the general tendency is that when a change is brought in it has an irritating effect and people do not like to change.

I have met and I have spoken to the heads of educational institutions, and I have spoken of giving them greater freedom, more room for initiative in the future. I assure you, in more than one case they have made it plain to me that they do not want it. It really reminded me of the man who was brought out of the Bastile into the light of day and who asked to be brought back again. He was accustomed to a certain line of life and he did not want to change it. It reminds one also of the tale of the old farm horse who, when he was let out of the stable walked straight to the place where the machinery for the revolving churn was placed. He was in the habit of walking round and round in a ring and he did not want to change; he would rather go there than anywhere else. We have that to overcome, and I appeal to Deputies to assist in overcoming and to look, on behalf of this Department—which is not personal to me or personal to the Government; it is part of the machinery of the Government of the country—for the greatest measure of co-operation with what they consider to be beneficial, even if that means bringing in changes that are at the time irritating. While they do that, it will be only pleasing to me to have criticism, to give further information, or to meet with any evidence—the more the better—that Deputies are keenly and deeply interested in the work of this Dpartment.

Is it proposed now to take the Estimates vote by vote, or are we to have a general discussion?

I should be glad to hear that it was proposed to take them sub-head by sub-head. What is Deputy O'Connell's intention?

To discuss sub-head A.—Administration.


Is it the Minister's intention to improve the position of the Irish Christian Brothers in the scheme of primary education?

Would not that come on the salary of the Minister, sub-head A.?

It would. Would it require legislation? That is the important point.

I would like to know at what particular stage in the discussion I ought to answer questions. I do not want to be bobbing up and down answering questions.

Before you take up individual sub-heads I would like to know if general discussion is now closured. I intended to say a few words on the general subject, and I would like to know if I have leave to do it, either now or at a later stage.

It must be now, if at all.

I would like also to make a few remarks on the general question.

I intended to discuss the general question, but under sub-head A.

Let us be realists, like the Minister for Education. I feel that we must get on somewhere. For example, Deputies, or the Minister, might go into questions which would come perhaps more properly under, say, the Vote for Intermediate Education. And the question of agriculture, on which, I presume, Deputy Heffernan intends to speak, might come in under the Votes for Science and Art. These Votes are to be postponed because the transfer to the Minister under the Ministers and Secretaries Act is not completed.

I wanted to deal with other subjects besides the agricultural side.


I would appeal to the Minister to give the Irish Christian Brothers' Order the benefit of the scheme, because no body of teachers work so hard for the welfare of their pupils, and no body of teachers receives so small a reward in the way of money. I state, without fear of contradiction, even from Deputy O'Connell, that it is mainly due to the teaching of this Order that we are able to meet in this Assembly. Therefore, we ought not to be unmindful of them, and we should include them in this scheme.

Before this debate changes from the general to the particular I would like to say that there are one or two points that I would like to bring under the attention of the Minister. There is one matter that comes under my notice frequently in my business in life, and that is the condition of the national schools. I think it would be quite useless for us to attempt to build up a system of education unless we get the foundation of that system established on a correct and healthy basis, and from my observation—and I have a good deal of opportunity for observing—I have come to the conclusion that the majority of national schools in rural districts are quite unfit for the use to which they are put. I believe that until some measures are taken to improve the conditions of national schools, to scrap the bad ones and rebuild them, and improve the old ones, we never can build up a proper system of education. Not only does this question affect the education of the children, but I am quite convinced that it must affect their health. These schools are too small; they are very often insanitary; they have no playgrounds attached to them; they are very often badly lit; badly heated in the winter time, and I would like to call the attention of the Minister very strongly to the necessity for improving them. About the general conditions of primary education I would say that the opinion which I have formed, and I think it is a general opinion, is that the education of the youth of this country is not so efficient as it was in the past. What the causes of that are it is difficult to say.

I am not inclined to blame the teachers, because from my knowledge of them they are doing their best in the circumstances in which they are placed, and I think the fault must be other than theirs. I think the teachers are probably as good, as painstaking, and as interested in their work as they ever were. Of course, allowance has to be made for the last five or six years, because we all know that the youth of the country have been busy carrying despatches, rifles and ammunition, and were prepared to pay very little attention to their education. But I am rather inclined to agree that the abolition of the examinations had something to do with that. It is my opinion that unless you have some form of examination you will not have efficiency or well taught pupils. We all know that in this life we must have some kind of spur, we must have something to urge us on to achievement, and unless we have that spur we do not achieve what has been put before us. I believe that a system of examination combined with inspection is the best. I believe that there is a certain kind of examination now, but it is not what it was in the past. In the old days of results fees, a system which has been so much condemned, the results of primary education were better than they are now in these ordinary subjects which it is necessary that the pupils should obtain a knowledge through the primary schools. I refer to the three R's., reading, writing and arithmetic.

Another matter that I would like to refer to is the question of the teaching of Irish in the schools. I believe that it is quite wrong to make it compulsory, if it is compulsory, that other subjects should be taught through the medium of Irish. I think that it is ridiculous to think of teachers, who have themselves only started to learn Irish within the past two or three years, attempting to teach other subjects through the medium of Irish, and if it is compulsory, even if it is urged on teachers, that urge should be withdrawn, and it should be recognised, as Deputy O'Connell has stated, that we cannot teach children Irish in two years, or we cannot have this country an Irish-speaking country in two or three years. If we do it in twenty, twenty-five, or thirty years we will be lucky, and I think our outlook should be far ahead, and that we should not make any attempt to force the teaching of other subjects through Irish, except to see that Irish becomes a general subject in a short time, because the effect of this system will, in my opinion, be that the other subjects will be neglected, and goodness knows there is no room for neglect in the other subjects. In proof of the fact that primary education is bad, I have it on the words of agricultural instructors who teach winter classes that they cannot teach them effectually because of the poor education of the boys who come to them; that is, before these boys are ready to absorb the scientific agricultural training which it is desired to give them, the instructors have to teach, or re-teach, them what they should have learned in the primary schools.

The same thing, I believe, applies even more to technical schools, and for that reason there is an urgent necessity to concentrate on the primary schools. The secondary schools to a certain extent will look after themselves and so will the universities. The primary schools will not, and I think it should be the aim to educate rather the vast majority of the people than a small minority. I would also call the Minister's attention to the recommendations of the Agricultural Commission. It is in my experience of the national schools that among all the books used in them there is not one which deals directly or indirectly with the problems of farming or agricultural conditions. There used to be an agricultural text book, but that has been abolished. I do not say that that text book was good, but I think it was better than nothing. I would suggest to the Minister that he should consider the systems that are in vogue in other agricultural countries, consider the advisability of having arithmetic and other books with problems dealing with agricultural matter. In my experience of national school arithmetic text books they dealt with things like bales of cloth, tuns of wine, and things of that kind, which I have never had reason to deal with since I left school, and they never dealt with a system of agricultural accounts, and I might say that agricultural accounts, weights and measures are probably the most complicated of any that have to be learned, in this or any other country. I think that is a matter to be impressed on the Minister, and I think he realises almost fully that it is advisable that the teaching of the children should be turned in an agricultural direction, and their thoughts should be turned towards work on the farm, and that they should be got to realise that farming is an honourable occupation, and can be made an interesting occupation, and that it is not the last occupation that God made, so to speak. And that direction should be followed by other means. I would suggest that it might be served considerably by attaching gardens or ground spaces of some kind to the primary schools, so that the teachers would have the advantage of giving an object lesson in what they are teaching in the schools. Another matter brought to my attention is the College of Science.

Surely the Deputy is not going to bring in the College of Science on a vote for primary education.

Is it not covered as this is a Vote for Education?

No, this is a Vote for Public Education.

Does not the Collece of Science come under that?

No. Public Education is what is called primary education. The College of Science will come in under another Vote.

I will speak on it on the next Vote.

Secondary Education is the next Vote—49.

Very well, I will leave it over until then. There is a feeling in the country that education is not improving, and that the youth of the country now is more ignorant than ever it was, and that the ordinary simple subjects which children want and which are taught to the great majority of children going to the primary schools, and who do not go further, are not as well taught as they used to be. For that reason I urge upon the Minister the need for concentration in the schools upon these simpler subjects, and that they should be taught so that the children would know them in all their details, and that they should be well ground in the essential primary subjects that are of importance to them, that is, reading, writing and arithmetic. We know of the intention that exists of making the Irish language the language of the country, and we know that that will take a certain amount of the time from the other subjects, but as that is the object and the aim of patriotic Irishmen, we raise no objection to it, but we do raise an objection to using Irish as the medium for teaching other subjects.

I want to ask the Minister for an explanation on two points. I raised a question before with regard to a matter the Minister mentioned about the children leaving the primary school at 12. In case there should be any ambiguity about what was in the Minister's mind, was it that the pupil can only leave the primary school at 12 for the purpose of attending a secondary school? As I understand at present as the law stands, a pupil cannot leave a primary school—I know he does, but he should not—until he reaches the age of 14 unless he has reached the sixth school standard.


That is not the law.

If it is not the law, perhaps I may be told what is. As it is understood by many, we have a compulsory system by which boys and girls will be bound to attend the primary school up to 14 years of age.

The Deputy is totally misinformed about that. There is no foundation for that supposition.

Is there not a compulsory system of education up to the age of fourteen before a pupil can leave?

There is no compulsory system at all.

The second point is where the Minister was talking about specialisation after the age of sixteen. He has not told us, and it is not in his Bill, that he proposes to raise the school age up to sixteen, and these are the points I would like to have an answer on.

There are two or three remarks in direct reference to the Minister's speech that I could quite easily work in now or under the subheads, if you, sir, prefer I should take that line. Perhaps I had better get them off my chest now. With most of the generalities that the Minister gave utterance to I think most of us would be in complete agreement. There were two remarks at least that I would like to refer to. One was that the present personnel was a difficulty inasmuch as it was there. I think perhaps that might be misunderstood, and perhaps I misunderstood it. I do not think that in spite of the fact that we have a large staff in operation as primary or national school teachers would be any difficulty to a change in the system itself. It is not the fault of the personnel that there are faults in the present system, and the present personnel could be equally or perhaps better used under any system the Minister might introduce. The difficulty is not that they are there, but the difficulty is that they are not properly directed. That is my first point. The second was the connection in which the Minister said that he welcomed a general discussion inasmuch as it would have an effect, he hoped, on public opinion, and he thought any such discussion was good inasmuch as it would lead public opinion to welcome reform. He puts that forward as if to indicate he was rather taking up the position that he was rather to follow public opinion. I consider it is the duty of the Minister for Education to lead public opinion and to be a leader in this matter; if he likes, with as much advice as he can get from experts. I think that reforms that are to come must come from him and he must set the initiative in this matter, and that it cannot come from individual members. I think the Minister got much more closely to the root of the matter, but I do not think he has got there quite. There are various difficulties, and what he seems to be mainly talking about to-day was the passing from what we must for convenience sake call primary to secondary education, a passing from primary education to secondary education of the better boys who have had the advantages, if they can be so called, of primary education. In that matter I do not think the difficulty has been really a question of programme. No doubt it is a good thing to assimilate the programme and to make one programme lead up to the other. I do not think that has been a real difficulty. For a long time I was connected with the society which has been the means of enabling boys educated in the national schools to pass on and to be educated at the expense of the society in secondary schools. Many of these boys afterwards did exceedingly well for themselves in the University and in public careers. They took advantage of the national school system as it was, and they picked their boys by the way which the boys had taken advantage of this national school system, and they could do the same thing even if the system was somewhat modified and brought into relation with secondary education. That is not getting at the root of the difficulty.

He was nearer to it when he was talking about the economic difficulty, and that is a difficulty. But the passing of good boys from primary to secondary education is only a part of the whole question. The real question, and the one of greatest importance probably to us at present, is that the general standard that is required in the senior national schools is on the low side, and the Minister, I think, if at all, scarcely referred to that. Probably he was referring to it when he talked about the need for a School Attendance Act. No doubt the bad attendance of children at the schools, and the little interest that parents, as a rule, take in the education of their children, are two of the fundamental difficulties that have to be met with, but they will not be met with unless strong measures are taken by those in authority. That is one reason why I, for one, greatly regret that other things have pressed out, in this session, the School Attendance Bill. It was one of the things that is probably most urgently wanted at the present time, if not the most urgent. There is one other thing about which the Minister spoke to which I would like to refer to for a moment, his remarks in connection with the bent towards special lines in future life to give to the child in the school. I gathered from his remarks that he seemed to be in favour of giving that bent even at the very earliest stage, but I hope he has not definitely made up his mind on that point. It is very doubtful whether any real advantage will be gained by giving that kind of bent to a young child, and it is very doubtful if it ought to be begun before the age of twelve or fourteen. Probably it could be begun with advantage between the age of twelve, fourteen, or sixteen, and perhaps that is what the Minister had in his mind. But I do not think that authorities are at all agreed as to the advisability of making early education have any reference at all to what the student is going to do when he grows up. Specialisation the Minister did refer to, and perhaps he meant by that to say that he did not think at all of this sort of specialisation even for a child before the age of twelve or fourteen was reached. Certainly I am in agreement with him if he means that too early specialisation is bad. I have always thought it is. The question simply is what is the best age at which it can be taught. I am afraid the difficulty is largely this, that it is not the same age for all pupils.

I am anxious to raise now just one point to which I referred on Thursday, because I feel it is a very important one, and I do not want to have it pressed out of the consideration of educational matters here. The point I want to refer to is that of physical training in the schools. I fully appreciate the Minister's position in this matter, but I feel that he is perhaps not doing justice to the situation when he suggested, as I think he did on Thursday, that he does not wish to give any hope of doing anything in the matter. I am urged to press him further in the matter by what I have seen myself going on in the different schools in the country recently—what, for instance, I saw in the secondary school at Castleknock, and what I saw recently in the National School at the Curragh. At a time when we have our own police forces and our own army machine, I think that a little consultation with the Police or the Army authorities, and a little consideration of the position in their training schools on the part of the Minister could provide for systematic physical training in the schools, and that he could now make a very good beginning. A beginning has already been made in a few places, and with the assistance and guidance of our own physical instructors in our own Police and our own Army forces a systematic beginning could now be made to deal with gymnastics and physical education in our primary schools. The matter goes very deeply to the roots of our educational system. The self-interest that the Minister speaks of on the part of our industrial people should, I think, be centred in the physical training of our young people with resultant reactions on the health of the people.

Deputy Sir James Craig, as I said on Thursday last, had already been speaking to me about the matter, and he will probably be able to add something to what I have said. Even since I spoke on Thursday last I find evidence of other people interesting themselves in this matter. I should just like to read a sentence from a circular that was circulated since Thursday last by some people in North Dublin who are interested in work of this kind. The passage reads: "The children of the worker and the young girl and the young man in the factory have no chance of becoming virile. There is not one properly equipped gymnasium in Dublin and there are but few expert teachers. We have now secured some expert teachers and we appeal to the public for subscriptions to enable us to establish a gymnasium so that all the children of the workers will have an opportunity of becoming healthy virile citizens." There is a general appreciation throughout the country of the necessity for this, and I would ask that the Minister would promise that he would inquire into the matter with a view to making a beginning at any rate.

The Minister, in the course of his remarks this afternoon, made some observations which are likely to lead to misconception if left where they are at the moment. He spoke of the gap which divided the primary, or the so-called primary education, from what we must call, for want of a better name, secondary education, and he drew a distinction between the educational gap and the economic gap. He went on to say that during the past year all the difficulties had been removed so far as one of these gaps was concerned, and that it was now arranged so far as the educational side of it was concerned that a boy or a girl could go right through without the inconvenience of that particular gap. I am afraid it is necessary to stress the distinction which the Minister made, that this only applied to the educational side. As I say, if it were not stressed, the Minister's remarks might be open to misconception. What has been done is merely a matter of arranging the programmes, and that does not accomplish very much. The economic gap is there, but I think that if close examination of the whole subject were gone into by the Minister he would find that the difficulty in bridging that gap is not quite so great as would appear to be the case at first view. The thing to be aimed at is to give a sound education to boys and girls until they reach the age of at least sixteen years. That is the object to be attained. Some people speak as if it were absolutely necessary in order to do this that at some stage of their education, up to sixteen years, there ought to be a division at, say, the age of twelve or fourteen, and that at either one or other of these ages the children should pass from one school to another. That is the popular conception of things, that the child should leave what is called the national school, or what is sometimes spoken of incorrectly as the primary school, and go to an intermediate school or college. Everyone who has examined the subject knows that the difficulties in connection with secondary education, so-called, arise from historical reasons. The secondary schools or colleges that exist at the present time are largely private institutions. They were there in 1878, before any provision was made from public funds for their endowment in any way, and they were largely provided to fill a special need of the time. They educated people who were able to pay for their education. When we speak of intermediate or secondary education to-day we have unconsciously these schools or colleges in our mind. I hold that it is only a matter of organisation to procure for the vast majority of children in the country a good sound education up to the age of sixteen without waiting to solve the problem which these private institutions present to us.

There are hundreds, I should say thousands, of National Schools in the country which are in a position, or which ought to be in a position to provide this education and, as I say, it is only a matter of organisation to have that done. The education in many of our schools, here in the city, and in the country, is such that some children do remain on until they are 14, 15 or 16 years of age; the education which these have got in their third or fourth year in school—I mean from the age of 12, 13 or 14 to 16—is in all respects in the nature of secondary education. There is no reason why, with proper organisation of classes, senior classes could not be organised in most of our National Schools which would give a sound education in these subjects which the Minister mentioned as being the basis of all education—Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography and Science. I made a suggestion, I think during the debate on the Estimates last year that in very many of our National Schools these "higher tops" as they are sometimes spoken of, these senior divisions, should be organised. They cannot be organised, as I quite realise, in all National Schools. They certainly can be organised in the central schools —in what I might call the town schools in centres which are within short distances, three, four, five or six miles of the children throughout the country. I do not believe in this system that we have being trying to bolster up during the past few years, or trying to bring in as a kind of stop-gap arrangement— that is the scholarship system. I do not think you will reach many of the children by that system. What we want is, as the Minister says, equality of opportunity, not an attempt to pick out from a class of 12 boys one or two who are going to get a scholarship provided for them while his colleagues or their colleagues are left behind. That is not meeting the situation and is not giving equality of opportunity to all of them in the sense that it ought to be given. I believe that there is a great advantage in adopting the system that I want to create; there are many people—and this applies especially to small farmers—who may have boys or girls reaching the age of 13 or 14 years and who, while not in a position to pay the fees for their further education, even the supplementary fees that would be demanded even if they got a scholarship in these secondary schools, are able to afford to let the child go to school for four or five hours a day. They can do that much. They are quite willing to make that sacrifice for what the child would be worth to them in earning capacity for four or five hours a day. They are not able to pay the fees; if the boy remains at home he may be of considerable service to his parents during the remaining portion of the day. To organise these classes in the National Schools is a matter for the Education Ministry, a question merely of reorganisation. The teachers are there and there is no question of their ability and qualifications to teach these subjects up to the standard required for boys of 16 years of age. That, to my mind, is the way this economic gap that the Minister speaks of, and rightly speaks of, will have to be met and dealt with. Because even if you were in a position to give scholarships to a vastly greater number of children than you can afford to do at the present time, there is no room for them in the colleges or secondary schools as they exist at present. It is only necessary, therefore, to make proper use of the facilities which are available at the present time. This is, in essence, what the Minister has in mind, I take it when he speaks of continued education. That is continued education in the proper sense of the word. It is for the Minister to say whether he is prepared in the new Bill that he is to introduce to insist that children will come to school until they are 16 years of age. It all depends on that, and even when that has been done to so organise the system which he has at hand that proper and suitable education will be found for them up to the age of 16 years. There is no need to allow problems which are no doubt difficult and intricate in their own way to interfere with that work.

There is one matter arising out of what Deputy Heffernan said that I would like to emphasise, and that is the danger of specialising at too early an age. The countries that have been most successful in specialised or technical education, or industrial or agricultural work did not go in for early specialisation. In this connection I would like to point to one country, which we are often told to take example from—Denmark. There they have put as the foremost plank in their educational system the teaching of a knowledge of the history, traditions and folklore of their country, combined with a system of physical training which has been referred to by Deputy Mulcahy. It is a very remarkable thing that the country which has been so successful in the agricultural industry does not take up specialisation in agricultural pursuits in the earlier stage of school life.

If Deputy Heffernan will read a little deeply into the reports of the Commission on Agriculture he will find arguments against specialisation.

Might I say that I did not urge that. I did not mean to have that understood. I only meant that an agricultural bias should be given to the teaching in the school.

Of course the difficulty always is to know what a "bias" is. Deputy Heffernan referred to the question of weights and measures. I do not know whether this is a matter for the Education Ministry or for the Government as a whole. But I do strongly urge that the question of doing away with our present weights and measures has a direct bearing on education. The Minister said to learn our present weights and measures is an education in itself. Certainly it occupies two valuable years of child-life to learn all these nice distinctions in weights and measures. That could be easily avoided by adopting the sensible system such as every progressive country in the world has adopted—the decimal or metric system. With regard to compulsory attendance, if you can call it such, I might explain the position to Deputy Good. In the first place, the law is not mandatory on any local authority. Where it is mandatory, the leaving age is 14 years, but it does not compel the child to go to any school provided he can show he is receiving suitable education in some other way. It is not a fact that he must go to a primary school. The child need not go to a primary school, and, as a matter of fact, some children never go to a primary school at all. With regard to what Deputy Mulcahy stated, I had no notion of contradicting him. I do think that the system which the Christian Brothers founded and have carried out in this country for a considerable number of years is one that might usefully be, I will not say copied, but which we might learn many lessons from. It is the kind of system I would like to see adopted in all the schools in the country, progressive and combined primary and secondary education, all in the one school, without this idea of transferring from one school to another. But I do think that the claim that it is due entirely or largely to the work that has been done in these schools that we are sitting here now is rather an exaggerated claim.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hear the discussion which took place up to the present and, therefore, I was very slow to take part in the debate. Deputy Mulcahy has, however, touched upon a question upon which, perhaps, I may say a few words. Deputy Mulcahy has pointed out that there is no provision made in the estimate for the teaching of hygiene or physical drill in the schools. I think that would come up under a different heading later on. As soon as the new Bill dealing with Local Government is passed—and we hope it will pass in the Autumn—then, we will have medical inspection and treatment of school children throughout the entire country. I hope the Bill will also contain a provision for compulsory teaching of hygiene and of physical drill of some description. It is almost impossible to have physical exercises taught in many of the schools as they exist at the present time. My experience of National Schools at the moment is not very great, but any experience I have leads me to think that a great many of these structures should be burned to the ground. It is a great pity that during the conflagration that went on in the country the National Schools were not attacked and burned to the ground. That would be, in my opinion, a very economic and useful act to have done, compared with some of the uneconomic performances which went on through the country. We want, therefore, schools in which children can be given some of those exercises and, as I have said elsewhere, the least we should expect the teacher in the primary schools to do is to give what is known as "breathing exercises." These breathing exercises are of tremendous importance because of the part of the lung which is ventilated during their operation. I had occasion a short time ago to measure the chests of three athletes and long-distance runners and it was extraordinary to find that the difference between the full expansion when expiring and when inspiring was not less than 5½ inches. If any of us here were measured it is probable that very few of us would go as far as 2½ inches. In the case of children whose chests have not been fully developed and who have not gone through any of these exercises, it very often happens that the difference between inspiration and expiration is not more than 1½ inches. I do not like to talk "shop" but I do claim that this subject is as important in the primary schools as the instruction they receive in another direction. I claim that when hygiene is taught, as it can be in a moderate way, in the schools, these children will carry it into their homes and see what the effects of fresh air and cleanliness are. I think, too, that one of the most serious dangers connected with the primary schools, as far as my recollection of them goes, is want of sanitation. It was something dreadful to think of the unhygienie conditions under which children were expected to exist. The teachers cannot teach hygiene and physical drill unless they themselves have been taught, but Deputy Mulcahy has put into my mind an idea which I cannot see any reason for failing to adopt—that members of the Gárda Síochána who themselves have obtained certificates in physical drill should give some little time in the schools to drilling the pupils. As some of the Deputies know, I have urged very strongly, from time to time, that it is impossible to teach hungry children and that it is very important that children in the primary schools should obtain a meal. I reiterate that, without going fully into the matter. In my opinion, it is very necessary indeed that children should have some food provided for them during the middle of the day. It is not only the parents of the poor children who are unable to provide those meals. The parents of other children would very gladly pay for a meal if it were available during school hours. There is nothing worse at the present moment, as Deputy Thrift says, than the want of compulsion in attendance at school. I am one of those people who occasionally play a game of golf and I see crowds of children from 10 years to 12 years of age gathered round looking for somebody to employ them as caddies, when they should be attending school. There is not any doubt that for the amount of money spent on education we are not getting sufficient value.

Reference has been made by several Deputies to the question of specialisation. In the medical profession we recognise that it is the very worst system that can be adopted, to allow any young man going for the medical profession to get it into his head that he is going to specialise early in any direction. We want him first to lay a sound and sure foundation of medical knowledge in all directions. When he has done that, it is time enough for him to specialise. As far as children are concerned, I would be very slow to think of their specialising at 12 years of age. I would like to see them much older—14 to 16 years of age—before any idea of specialisation would come into their minds.

One has seen in one's own time how boys at school when they are brought into contact with boys preparing for banks or business would suddenly change their minds when, perhaps, they were preparing for agriculture, and would turn around and prepare themselves for other things. Reference has been made to the subject of education in Denmark. I want to say that the object of the system adopted in Denmark, namely, continuous High Schools, was to impart to the pupils a certain amount of intellectual culture without putting them out of conceit with agricultural work. I think that was the point Deputy Heffernan made. We should have an educational system that would give our young people a certain amount of culture, and at the same time not put them out of conceit with ordinary work, particularly work of an agricultural nature.

I understand the question of the Christian Brothers has been raised by Deputy Cahill, and I heard it touched upon by Deputy O'Connell. I think that that certainly is a matter which the Minister should give some attention to when replying, that is, whether the Christian Brothers can be brought under this Vote, and if not, could a supplementary estimate be brought in at a later stage. I heard Deputy O'Connell make his remarks. He said he did not think all that Deputy Cahill had claimed for the Christian Brothers was properly claimable. But in any case we know, and anyone who knows anything about the Christian Brothers, knows, that they worked for primary education on voluntary subscriptions for practically the whole period. These voluntary subscriptions went down during the course of the war while everything else went up, and certainly I think it would be advisable if something could be done to see that the Christian Brothers would get some advantages under this vote, and if not that a supplementary estimate would be brought in at some future date.

Deputy Nicholls it seems to me has raised an important principle, one on which I am not very clear, and especially in regard to this subject of education. It is as to whether in a matter of grants from State funds to educational institutions—and we are dealing now with primary or elementary education—are rightly given, and should be given to schools which are not within the system, that is to say, not within the inspection system and generally outside the control of the Minister. It might well be argued, and I think argued with a good deal of force, that the only test that should be applied is as to whether education in the results justifies the expenditure of public money. If that is accepted as a principle it will have to be applied to any private institution, any group of persons who consider themselves qualified to call together a number of children and put them through any educational course—the fact that they can bring children forward and put them through an examination, and if they pass that examination successfully, that that will warrant the payment of public funds to the persons who brought them to that state of instruction. I think the matter is important, and if it is to be considered in special relation to one group of schools the consequences in regard to other groups, or individual schools will have to be taken into account. The modern tendency, I think, in matters of education and in other matters also is that if there is to be any grant out of public funds for any institution that there should be some kind of public supervision and public control. I think that before that principle is departed from a very good case would be required to be made. I raise that because I think it was applicable to more than the matters that have been raised by Deputies Cahill and Nicholls. There is one other matter to which I would like to draw the attention of the Minister. He spoke about the co-ordination of the various stages in education, and the bringing together and the supervision of the plans in regard to primary, secondary, technical, and university education.

Following upon what Deputy Sir James Craig said, I wish to draw attention to the absolute necessity of a similar, or perhaps a greater co-ordination, between the education authority and the public health authority. I am not quite sure that the references in the earlier discussion on public health showed that there was an appreciation of the importance of public health as part of the educational system, because the exercises that Deputy Sir James Craig has spoken of, and the general atmosphere that might be created through health exercises, while primarily intended for the physical health of the child might be even more important as part of the general mental development, and, therefore, it should not be left over for the public health department as a medical side pure and simple. It ought to be considered rather in relation to education. When we are thinking of a Public Health Bill we ought to think of it as part of the educational system with which the public health authorities would be associated, and that it should, in fact, be part of the health department of the educational authorities. I draw attention to this, for I feel strongly that the physical training that has been spoken of, and which might even include, and does include, in enlightened communities such exercises as swimming and athletics as part of the educational scheme, where child health is not detached from, and is, therefore, not in a separate department from the Education Ministry.

Before the Minister replies, may I raise a point with regard to your ruling as to the College of Science Vote 44, page 156. The money we are asked to vote for the College of Science is for the purchase of apparatus, chemicals, etc., maintenance of machinery, examinations, scholarships and prizes. Of course, if Deputy Heffernan wishes to raise the question of the purchase of apparatus, the maintenance of machinery and the conduct of examinations, he can raise that under Vote 44, but if it is a question of policy, and the effect of policy, such as I wish to raise, does it not come under the Minister's salary? Is not the Minister responsible for policy, and therefore would we not be in order in raising it under A in this Estimate?

The College of Science is provided for under Vote 44. It is provided for, and when we come to consider Vote 44, we can ask the Minister for Education, if he is the Minister that can answer for that Vote, what he means to do with it. That seems to me to be the place to do so. If the matter could be raised here, it could be raised also on Vote 44, which would seem to be a needless procedure.

The trouble is: the Minister has promised to make a statement on the Estimates dealing with the College of Science. Vote 44 is accounted for by the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture.

It is simply an anomaly arising from the fact that the Ministries and Secretaries Bill was not in operation when these estimates were prepared. It will be found that when he answers for Vote 44 the Minister for Education will be concerned. He will answer and the opportunity will arise.

The Minister of Lands and Agriculture is also concerned for the Botanic Gardens under that Vote.

Major Cooper has got the weak spot in this Vote. As you, A Chinn Chomhairle, stated, the difficulty is that the estimate was prepared before the Ministries and Secretaries Bill came into operation. That Bill has come into operation since and as a matter of fact the Ministry of Education has been dealing with this particular service for some time.

The opportunity will arise and we had better keep to public education if possible. We have wandered into legislation on many things in connection with this debate and I think the Minister for Education might conclude now definitely.

With regard to the questions raised by Deputy Cahill and other Deputies about the Christian Brothers, I could not say that proposals were before me. The matter has been brought before me—adumbrated is, I suppose, the word. Beyond that stage it has not advanced. I have no doubt Deputy Johnson is right in saying that any schools which expects to share in the public endowment must come under the ordinary regulations, with regard to supervision and so on. We have departed from a system of paying for education on results, and certainly it is not my intention to go back to it. Deputy Heffernan made a strong claim for the improvement of school buildings. Everyone admits that a very, very large proportion of the school buildings in the country require improvement. I think it was Deputy Sir J. Craig who spoke about these buildings being unsuitable for physical training. Many of them are unsuitable for a great many other things besides physical training. Physical existence is about as much as is possible in some of them. The only physical exercise I imagine that could be carried on in some of the schools would be the proverbial whipping of a cat. The provision which the Dáil make for improvements to schools will be found under the Vote for Public Works, page 40. Possibly when I refer Deputies to that particular Vote and page it will relieve me of the necessity of saying much more on the subject.

More especially as it has been passed.

A number of points were raised with regard to the interpretation of things I said, and Deputies were kind enough to suggest that they might be construed in a better sense than I succeeded in expressing them. On the debate on these matters, so far as I have been able to gather its purport, I never meant to suggest that anything like a particular direction towards future occupation should be given at an early age. I thought I had aimed at giving the contrary impression. It was probably the phrase that we find in the report of the Agricultural Commission that was quoted about rural bias. I do not aim at giving a rural bias. I aim at removing an anti-rural bias, and I think that is quite sufficient. I also aim at removing a definite bias towards certain overstocked occupations which are not part of the very necessary business of increasing and improving the material resources of the country. When I said, in reply to Deputy Mulcahy's suggestion about physical training, that I was not able to say anything definite, I said so because I have a distinct objection to putting before the Dáil the notion that I have anything in mind when I have nothing definite in my mind. When I am able to give definite assurances on this matter of physical training I will be very happy to give them. The most I can say at present is that I am quite conscious of what is needed; at all events, that there is a great need, and that, personally, I believe everything we can do, ought to be done to supply it. I do not know, at the moment, how it should be done. However, I think I can say, and it is all I can say, that the matter of physical training will not be lost sight of. Deputy Heffernan contrasted the schools of our time with the schools of former times, and said that the latter schools—and he gave a very definite opinion—were more successful in their teaching. If that is apart from, so far as education is concerned, the incidental phases we have been going through for a few years, I would like to know what the foundation of it is.

Might I explain the use of the term, "former times"? I referred to a time within my own knowledge—I would say about twenty years ago.

Well, I may say that I do not believe in it. The test that I knew to be applied to the successful teaching in the schools in former times was precisely the test I have said—that is to say, the production of good clerks, good civil servants, and good quill-drivers, and I defy any Deputy to produce an atom of evidence to show that the schools of former times did anything to produce better farmers, better workers, and better industrialists. In my opinion they failed to do so, and the very fact that such success as they had was concurrent with the continuous decay in the economic condition of the country is quite sufficient to show what that success was. As regards the point of senior classes being continued in the schools, it is quite evident that that could only be done with our present resources in a limited number of schools, and while it could be, and is, a benefit at the moment to a certain number of the community, the number of the community which can be benefitted by it is very small. So far as I can understand, in countries where it has been tried systematically and generally some years ago, the success of the effort to put a top on primary education in primary schools themselves has been very doubtful. I think that has covered the principal points of criticism that were brought forward.

As regards subhead B, which deals with inspection, I would like to say a word or two. The inspectors are the direct link between the Department and those mainly engaged in the work of education, the teachers in the schools. It is very important, therefore, that absolute care should be taken to see that the inspectors, who are officers of the Ministry, should interpret the wishes of the administration and the Ministry. I spoke on last Thursday, and I do not intend to go into it again, of the faults that exist in our present system of inspection. For these, of course, the Ministry itself must be responsible. It is no fault of the inspectors. As a matter of fact, the very fact of the existence of these things, which I complain of, goes a long way to divorce the inspectors from what ought to be their real work, namely, co-operation of teachers and managers in the general work of education.

There is one thing, however, to which sufficient attention cannot be directed. It is the question of what I might call the test of efficiency. It is an exceedingly difficult thing to get anything in the nature of a uniform test to apply to the work of different schools and different teachers. Anyone who has experience of schools or of teachers knows that the work is carried out under entirely varying circumstances—circumstances of the school itself, the attendance, and the staffing.

On a point of order, is there a House?

We are in Committee.

I wish to call to your notice the important attention that is being paid to this question of primary education. I hope that Deputy O'Connell will understand that I had no desire to interrupt him.

Deputy O'Connell is in order.

I was drawing attention to the great difficulty which exists in properly applying a test of efficiency to the schools under the varying conditions and to the temptation that exists, a temptation which is almost more than an ordinary human individual, such as an inspector, has to withstand, that is, of setting up for himself an absolute standard of proficiency and judging all schools that come within his ken by that standard. I will give a concrete example of what I wish to stress. The Minister and Deputies know that at present great attention is being paid to the teaching of Irish in the schools. Some teachers are native speakers of Irish and find no difficulty whatever in dealing with the teaching of the Irish language. Other teachers have taken up the duty within the last two or three years. We may find side by side in the same district, or even in the same school, two teachers teaching the subject and bringing their pupils to a certain standard so far as they can. There is no doubt that the man who has the advantage of knowing Irish from birth will be in a better position to teach it and will have his class in a better state of efficiency than the man who might have worked very much harder during the year but, owing to certain circumstances and disabilities, might not be able to bring the children to the same state of efficiency. There is no doubt that both, if they have worked hard and diligently, are deserving of the same reward, but in our system and because of this temptation, there is naturally a different standard of efficiency. One may get a mark of "excellent" or "very good" and the other a mark of "fair." In one case there is a financial increment, but not in the case of the other. The man who worked hard and laboured under disability has a grievance, and the accumulation of that kind of thing gives rise to complaints about the inspection system. It is in the nature of things. My object is not so much to blame the inspectors, because I quite see that it is a difficult thing to get away from, but to call the attention of the Ministry to it and to urge them to impress, and to continue to impress, on their officials and inspectors that the circumstances of schools differ and that the circumstances of the teachers differ, and, further, that the greatest care should be observed in the present system whereby financial rewards and increments depend on the inspector's reports, given in this detailed way. There is another matter I would like to mention, and I mention it because I wish to emphasise that no matter what views the Ministry may have as to how things should be done, unless they take an opportunity of making it absolutely clear to those in charge of the carrying out of the work of administration their attitude and their policy are likely to be misunderstood.

I mentioned the last day and I think the Minister agreed that the proper conception of the duties of an Inspector should be co-operation with the teacher, that he should in a way, act as a kind of Director of Education for his particular district, and be responsible for the efficiency of education there. The teachers, through their organisation have urged on many occasions that that should be the case, and have especially called attention to the advisability of holding frequent conferences with inspectors. They made representations to that effect to the Department and the Department so far as I can judge, favourably considered the suggestion, namely that inspectors from time to time should meet the teachers in conference, have a heart-to-heart talk with them and discuss difficulties that they came up against from time to time in their work. Now a few instances have been brought to my notice where the teachers of a particular area approached the inspectors and asked them to attend conferences but they did not get very much satisfaction. In one instance a divisional inspector said he would attend the conference, but he made it a condition that no questions should be asked of him during the conference. That does not seem to me to be an especially valuable kind of conference. It seems to me that a discussion of the difficulties met with, and the answers given by an inspector would be the most valuable part of a conference. In another case an inspector was asked to attend a conference but he made it a condition to attend only a small committee of it. There was another case where the teacher wrote to the divisional inspector, and asked himself and the district inspector of the area to attend the conference. They stated the objects, that they wanted to consider the question of devising a special programme for their own county, and also wanted to have a more definite idea of what they were expected to teach in the schools. I think that is a legitimate suggestion. I will read the letter the inspector sent.

"Referring to your letter of the 24th inst., I cannot see that any useful object could be achieved by my attending a conference of the Teachers for the purpose stated therein; for (1) as regards `the schools in the county having a uniform programme,' the National Programme is the programme for every school, unless an alternative programme has been submitted to the Department and approved; and (2) with reference to `the Teachers having a more definite idea of what they are expected to teach,' any Teacher who studies the National Programme courses together with the Circulars that have been issued relative thereto, will acquire all the information which I possess on this point.

"You might refer to the attendance of the District Inspectors at a conference. I cannot answer for them; it is a matter for each Inspector's own consideration."

That may be a perfectly correct attitude, technically speaking, but I think it is not the way a body of teachers should be met by the divisional inspector for their area when they ask him to meet them in conference and discuss with them, difficulties they naturally and obviously will find in carrying out their daily work. I draw attention to this, not for the purpose of pilloring any inspectors but because I think it advisable that the Ministry should see that the policy which we know that they have, should be carried out in the spirit as well as in the letter by the officers appointed by them. An instance has been brought to my mind too—I mention this in view of what the Minister said on Thursday last— where a certain inspector in the South of Ireland is insisting that to children who have only begun to learn Irish for the last two or three years, that arithmetic should be taught entirely through the medium of Irish. I do not believe that is the policy of the Ministry, but the fact is that one of their officers is insisting that that should be done, and I think it is a matter to which attention of the Ministry should be called. That is not in an Irish-speaking district. I intended to raise the question of the general inspectors but I think that the Minister has given the main points.

There is just one point in connection with what he stated with regard to co-ordination. These I take it are the coordinating links. Still one thinks it strange that if an inspector happens to be in a town where there is an intermediate school, it is not usual that the National School inspector will visit the intermediate school or vica versa. I think if there were a little more of that co-ordination in matters of inspection and visiting schools between inspectors, it might be more useful all round.

I may say at once that I quite agree with Deputy O'Connell in his criticism of the inspectoral system. I am glad, however, to find that he made no charges against the officers who carry out the system. It was against the system, not the officers, and he gave some concrete cases where this was shown to be to the prejudice of education generally. I happen to have had an experience in the last month that bears out the remarks made by Deputy O'Connell. I have heard that the inspectors looked upon the teachers more as inferiors and subordinates than as co-workers in the great system of educating the people. That is a complaint I often hear. About a month ago I was speaking to an English gentleman, himself connected with education, and who had been a teacher for forty years. He said to me that the inspector looked upon the teacher not as his inferior but as his co-worker, and that he discussed with the teacher in an amicable way, hints and suggestions coming from the teacher in the interests of education to which they both were bound.

Deputy O'Connell referred to conferences and he said that it was the duty of the inspectors to attend these conferences, even to calling them together, and to put forward suggestions for the benefit of the teachers attending. I gather from Deputy O'Connell's remarks that it was his suggestion to the Ministry that the matter should be looked into. I join in that appeal to the Minister. I think if all persons engaged in the primary education of the country are not working in a harmonious spirit it is the children that suffer and not the system. There is one other remark I would like to make. While the teachers, their assistants and the Minister and his proposal are discussed both in this House and the Press, the most important section are being overlooked, and that is the children. The general well-being of the children in this country has not been referred to in connection with primary education. I might mention that the same gentleman with whom I was speaking in England told me that the custom there—and I knew it before myself—and in Scotland was that they had two sessions in the school during the day—the first from 9 o'clock to 12 and the second from 2 to 4.30, with the consequence that the children were always fresh to acquire any knowledge imparted and that their health did not suffer as it manifestly suffers in this country from over-long hours. I hope the Minister will take that into consideration in any proposal he intends to make or as it is more properly an administrative affair that he will take action even before the Bill comes.

I move that progress be reported.