The motion is "That the Dáil approves of the policy of the Minister for Education."
POLICY OF MINISTER FOR EDUCATION (RESUMED DEBATE).
I was very glad to listen to the statement made by the Minister for Education yesterday. During the last six months there has been a long and bitter controversy in the Press as to the Minister's policy with regard to education. The Minister evidently, in his policy, proposes to take the line taken in every civilised country in Europe. In France, I understand, the education of the youth of the country is based upon the traditions, culture, and language of France, and not upon those of Germany, Switzerland, China or any other country. The same remark applies to Germany, and our Minister for Education thinks that the education of the youth of Ireland should not overlook the traditions, history, or language of this ancient nation. Deputy O'Connell, in his very interesting speech, complained about the vagueness of the Minister's programme. The writers of the letters appearing in the Press and the writers of the leading articles did not complain of any vagueness in the Minister's programme. They seemed to think that it was well defined, and they seemed to know the course he was travelling, and most of them did not appear to like it. If they did not like it I am confident that people of Ireland do like it and approve of it, and I have no doubt that they hope that the Minister will not change from the line he has taken. The Minister went to Clare and made a statement in regard to the position of Irish in his programme. There was no vagueness about that statement. I was glad to hear Deputy O'Connell admit that it was a very definite statement.
Would the Deputy tell us to what statement of the Minister he is referring?
I am referring to the statement made in his speech at Ennis in regard to the main lines of his policy of education. If we go into the details with regard to that policy we will see what has been done in the country. We know that steps have been taken to instruct national teachers in Irish, and we know that complaint has gone up that the Irish language is being forced upon the people, but that complaint is also unfounded. With regard to bringing education along modern lines, there are some people who think that the more Irish our education is the less modern it is, and that for the Irish people to know their own language would be a handicap, but there would be no such handicap in the case of Danes, Japanese and other nationalities knowing their own language. The Minister also said that the National Schools programme would be drawn up with a view to bringing it into line with the schemes of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture, and also with those of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I am convinced that if the programme supports the schemes of those Ministers it will not be behind time. A considerable lot has been done for agriculture in the last twelve months, and I am sure that the Acts passed in this House will do a great deal more. The same may be said about the schemes of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. A great deal that has been said about the language has also been said about the schemes of this Department, namely, that they are ahead of the times and not suitable to the country. What I have said in regard to the language applies in large measure to those schemes. I listened with pleasure on several occasions to the demand made by Deputy O'Connell for a Compulsory School Attendance Act, and to the great case he made for it. With everything he said I was in full accord. Such an Act is sorely needed, but when the Minister promised to give that Act I cannot understand the comments of Deputy O'Connell. He is to get the Act he asked for, but yet he is not satisfied.
The Minister does not believe in the Act.
Well, if I asked a man for a motor car and if he gave it to me, though he believed it was not good for me, it would not matter a straw to me what he believed.
But suppose that man was the driver of the car and drove you wrong?
That might be a good point but for the fact that it is not the Minister for Education who will carry out the Compulsory School Attendance Act.
Is this a threat of resignation?
No. No danger.
The Act, I understand, will be carried out by the Minister for Justice, and it is not the Minister for Education who will see that the Garda Siochana will enforce it. I think the Deputy's póint is a most ridiculous one. He asked for a Compulsory Act and as he is going to get it he should be graciously satisfied. As regards the point made about accommodation in the schools, I sympathise with Deputy O'Connell in that. A great many schools are in a bad way, but I am sure that he is not one bit more anxious to see the accommodation of the schools increased than is the Minister for Education. Does not the question of finance enter into that matter to some extent? We cannot forget that for the last few years twenty-four million pounds has been spent on the Army, several millions on compensation, and that there was a great outcry about raising the rate. Are not all these considerations to be weighed, not that I would take one whit from the arguments used by Deputy O'Connell with regard to the accommodation in schools? I might again say, with regard to the Deputy's remarks about the Minister for Education not believing in compulsion and yet carrying it out, that there is many a Minister for Justice who does not believe in capital punishment but who nevertheless carries it out. Deputy O'Connell objects to a little philosophy, but all the philosophy is not on this side of the House, as we are often treated to a good deal of philosophy from the Labour Benches and we are very glad to get it.
That is the right kind of philosophy.
As regards secondary education, would I be at liberty to speak about that now?
Is secondary education within the Department of the Minister?
It is a question of fact.
With regard to secondary education, I must say that I am not at all satisfied with the manner in which secondary teachers have been treated. I listened to the Minister yesterday, and from the programme he outlined, and the very elaborate system he indicated in the transition from a national school to the university, I saw that the secondary education system is to play an important part there. If secondary is not inferior to primary education, surely it should not be treated in a worse fashion. Most of the secondary teachers have got a University training, and they are entitled to be put on at least as good a footing as the national teachers. That cannot be said at present, either with regard to their salaries or anything else. Last year, when the new increment scheme was introduced here, it was urged from many sides of the House that the position of the teachers under that scheme should not at least be worsened, but that has happened, in some cases at all events, owing to the arbitrary nature of the system of allocation. Some teachers are receiving this year £40 less than they received prior to the passing of this scheme. I think that it is unfair. The system of allocation is based on attendances, I understand, but if that is done in all cases it leads to a considerable amount of injustice. I think that the salaries of the secondary teachers should be improved, and that their position generally should be on a higher level. They have no security of tenure, and one can understand what effect that must have upon the teachers, who will not know whether they will be employed at the end of a term or not. No arrangements have been made with regard to pensions for the secondary teachers, though the Civic Guards and the national teachers receive pensions. I think the Minister for Education should be able to assure us that he will devote some further thought to the position of secondary teachers, and that they will be better treated henceforward.
I suppose the word "policy" in this resolution is capable of at least two interpretations, and I am afraid the Minister for Education has given it an interpretation very different from what I would wish to give it. He said at the very outset that he thought this resolution confined him to approaching this subject in a very general way, and prohibited him from dealing in any way with details. I certainly think he succeeded, and of course to a certain extent he was right in that aim, but I think we cannot form any estimate on the whole question without having regard to the different items which go to make up the essentials of that question. The Minister spoke, it seems to me, as if it was his object to give us an account in a very general way of what we might call his ideals in this connection, perhaps of his ultimate aims and hopes. I feel with Deputy O'Connell that I am not clear as to what some of his ultimate aims are. The Minister spoke, for example, about the relations between the State and the individual. He did not make it clear to my mind as to where the duty of the State ceases and the rights of the individual commence. I think a clear statement of the Minister's ultimate aims would undoubtedly be of great advantage, but at the present juncture I would prefer to take a very much more practical meaning out of the word "policy." I think it raises what is necessary now, and I think we have a right to expect at the present juncture a great deal more from the Minister with reference to the conditions than he has given us.
I think we have a right to expect that he would give us an account of what the present systems are, how they are working, of any changes that have been made within the past 12 months, for example in those systems, what defects he sees in the systems, how he proposes to meet those defects, what he has done, and what he proposes to do immediately in order actually to get into touch with present problems, what he regards the present problems to be in the matter, whether he sees, if he does see, that there are defects in our present system, and whether he sees the remedies that can be brought to bear on those defects.
I do not believe for a moment that the Minister will take up the position that the systems themselves are free from defects. I am quite sure he realises how much is necessary to be done in the matter. I do not think he will take up the position at present that the subject is not of pressing importance, and is possibly one of the most important that has to be faced in our reorganisation of the country. Of course to-day we are connected more immediately with the financial bearing of the subject of education than anything else. Deputy Sears has referred to financial difficulties. We realise those difficulties, but Deputy O'Connell and others in this House have frequently drawn attention to the fact that finance in this matter must not be a thing which would prevent us from undertaking changes in our educational system. It may have the effect of making the country far more productive than it was before, and of improving ultimately our economic and general condition as regards education. I think what I said on a previous occasion in this connection was probably misunderstood, but I give it as an example again. I said previously, and Deputy O'Connell, I think, drew attention to it again yesterday, that it seemed to me that there was the possibility of effecting very great economies in the way we spend our money on education. We spend a large sum, not too much by any means, but I think it more than likely that we do not get value for much of the money we spend, and if we could alter our system in many ways we should have a great deal more money to spend in improving matters which are at present exceedingly deficient. The Minister did not give us any indication yesterday as to the financial bearing of these Estimates we are now supposed to consider on the general problem of education. He did not show us in fact that he realises many of the conditions that education is labouring under at present. I would have expected that he would have given an account in his statement referring, for example, to the great difficulties we are labouring under in this State because of the number of small schools with which the country has been burdened in the past. Most of us know the miserable conditions under which those small schools carry out their work, and know how inevitable it is that education in such schools should be inefficient. Has the Minister attempted in any way to face that fact, to see if it is possible to get over the difficulties that arise from the way in which our population is scattered?
It surely is obvious that if it were possible to amalgamate many of those schools—I rather regret I used the word amalgamate, for I wanted to keep it for use in another sense altogether, as indeed Deputy O'Connell did yesterday—in a district, and have a large school doing the work of a number of small ones, that the conditions in that school would be happier and better, and the education given there better than it would be possible to give in a number of small schools. Is it not clear that economy could be effected in this way, both in regard to the number of teachers and the upkeep, which would enable one school to be maintained in a prosperous and good condition, a condition that would give a sound education? Has the Minister considered that problem, and whether it is possible by a system of transport by motors from one place to another to bring together the children in one large district in one school? I do not say it is possible, but I think the whole idea is one that is worthy of the most careful investigation. If such a thing could be done, very much greater economy and efficiency could be secured than at present. Even when the Minister came down to this question, as he did, of the condition of school buildings, he rather did it in a way to suggest that the initiative in this matter ought to come from the House. I do not think that is a right attitude at all. We look on our Minister as the person to bring proposals before us in this connection. We look to him to give us a lead, and we will criticise the lead he gives us, but it is on the Minister for Education the responsibility rests for starting measures of improvement in all these matters. We wanted yesterday an assurance from the Minister that he was facing difficulties of the kind I have mentioned, and that he was intending to face them in the immediate future.
I am not conscious of having made any such suggestion as to initiative.
If I have made any suggestion that is wrong I apologise to the Minister. I think the Minister said in that connection that he would be glad of suggestions and constructive criticism as to the question of school buildings and school upkeep. That is all I meant to imply in my remarks. If I spoke in another sense I apologise. The point I wished to make was that it must be the Minister who should lead. He has to prepare schemes, and we will, I hope, criticise them, and give all the help we can in such criticism; but it is to the Minister that we must look, and I expected in the statement he made yesterday that he would have shown he was so doing. I speak in this way with very great reluctance and difficulty. I fully admit the Minister's difficulty. The Minister has been engrossed in most important work, and it is not fair to expect that he could have given the time to these matters which he would like to give. He himself said yesterday, and I thank him for it, that he apologised for his unavoidable absence from the House on many occasions.
It is not with reference to the past that I am speaking. What I was anxious to draw from the Minister was a statement that he was putting himself in touch with such questions as I have referred to, so that we might expect in future that he would tackle those problems, that he would give us a lead as to how such difficulties might be overcome, that he would indicate what could be overcome, and what could be done in order to overcome the undoubted defects in our present system.
I rather side with the view that the Minister expressed yesterday, when he mentioned as to the question of programme that it was better to wait for a while. He has appointed a Conference; that Conference is engaged in going into the whole matter and it is expected the report of the Conference will be before us at no distant date. It seems to me we would be wasting time now in going over ground that will have to be gone over again, if we were to deal with programme questions minutely in this debate. I rather agree that it would be better to postpone discussion on such questions as what should, must or need not be in a programme. The question of compulsory Irish is to a very large extent involved and I would prefer, with the Minister, that our discussion on that subject should be postponed until the Report of the Conference is in our hands.
While I agree with him that matters of that kind might very well be postponed, I do not think it follows that there are a great many other things which we need postpone because of that Conference. Take again the question of money. Even if it is quite true that we are spending a very considerable sum on education in proportion to our revenue, does the Minister think that we are spending enough on education? That is one very important thing we want to know. If the Minister does not think that we are spending enough, if he thinks we ought to spend more, has he—and it is for him to do it—insisted on the Minister for Finance providing more money? If he believes more money is necessary, and if he is satisfied that he cannot in reason ask the Minister for Finance for more money, has he considered whether there are any other alternative channels through which he could get more money? Has he considered the very important question raised by Deputy O'Connell yesterday, the question of whether it is possible to put part of the expense for primary education on the local rates? That is a very big question, a question with many difficulties in it. Is the Minister going to consider the question of whether we have enough money for education, and then will he consider whether we could get more through the State or by other methods? I think the Minister will be driven to the conclusion that we must spend more money on education.
I agree with the Minister for Finance that we are devoting as large a sum as we can at present towards the provision of an educational system; but I do not think it follows that we have exhausted other opportunities and that we cannot fall back on local rates to provide an appreciable portion of the expense of which education is worthy in our country. I know there are many difficulties, but I think the advantages would be very great. Once we place on local rates the duty of making certain provision for primary schools and other schools in the various districts, the people there will begin to take a very much greater interest in education than they are taking at present.
We have often stressed the fundamental importance of our educational system. It has become more necessary than ever. We have embarked on—I hope with ultimate success—economic schemes which, if successful, will greatly improve conditions in the country. Does the Minister realise, do the Executive Council realise, how much the success of those schemes depends on the educational measures that should be taken before those schemes come into effect? Do they realise how much the success of the schemes depends upon the mental attitude of the people of the country some five years hence, when we hope these schemes will come into operation? I think it cannot be disputed that a very great deal of that success will depend on how the people of the country have been educated. When that time comes, many of the children in our schools now will be the people on whom the responsibility will fall.
Deputy O'Connell gave us valuable particulars yesterday in what I regard as an admirable speech. He was moderate; I wish to be moderate, too. All these questions are of really pressing importance. We cannot get away from thinking in this connection of the conditions under which many of our school children have to be educated or to be taught. Is it possible, in many of the schools which we know are being used in the country at present, that any real, good education can be given? We must think in this connection of the existing conditions, of the welfare of the children in the schools, whether they come to school properly fed or not, and the conditions of health under which they are working; we must think of their condition medically and dentally, whether any instruction is given them in physical culture, and other such matters. These things are all vitally important.
We want an assurance from the Minister that, as soon as he is free from his other pressing work, he will attack such questions as these and, if necessary, put proposals to us for dealing with them. I daresay the answer of the Minister will be that this can be done without legislation. I believe very much of it can be done by administrative action. I am not in the slightest degree throwing blame on officials in charge of administrative posts. The essence of the point I want to make is that the driving force in this matter must come from the Minister. It is on him the responsibility lies; it is for him to keep the Dáil and, through the Dáil, the whole country, alive as to the difficulties of this matter. It is for him to bring definite proposals, if necessary, before us or before any body that he thinks advisable, in order that solutions, if possible, may be found for those difficulties.
I would like to press very strongly the point made yesterday by Deputy O'Connell as to the help that could be given to the Minister through an advisory council. I would like to know whether he has any proposals in mind for the setting up of such a council and whether he thinks it would be an advantage, or could he get help otherwise. The Minister spoke yesterday of continuation schools. Clearly he is thinking about them. That is another matter about which we hope to have something more definite from him very soon. I think I have said enough as to the really strong point I want to make.
I do not think the Ministry of Education compares favourably at present with other Ministries. I admit the reason for that; I do not blame the Minister for that. If anybody, I blame the Executive Council. The matter was of such importance throughout that it could hardly afford to be left undealt with so long. The Minister could not be expected to look after those pressing matters whilst he was doing other things; but I think we have a perfect right to expect from him now the strongest assurance—if it is true, as we hope, that he will be relieved of the burden of the work that has fallen on him in connection with the Boundary Commission—that he will face such difficulties as I have attempted to sketch, with the hope of finding some satisfactory solutions for them.
The motion before the House is: "That the Dáil approves of the policy of the Minister for Education." I listened very attentively while the Minister was speaking yesterday, and I rather regret that he did not take the opportunity to amplify, and come to closer details with, his policy. In my opinion, he did not give as full a statement of his intentions as we would desire. Perhaps one would say that his statement yesterday savoured more or less of a pious platitude rather than a revelation of what his actual intentions are. He said that the conservation and building up of the particular type of civilisation suited to this country according to its traditions, and suited to the lines of development before us, must be the aim. That is all very well, but unfortunately the Minister did not come down to concrete details with the same degree of fullness that we would desire. I do not profess to speak from the professional standpoint on education. There are other authorities in the House who will, no doubt, deal as competently with the matter as did Deputy O'Connell. In that subject they are, perhaps, more conversant than I am. I am expressing the view of the layman, the man in the street.
I believe, in as much as we are a poor country, that we need an exceptionally high standard of education, not alone a superior standard of secondary and university education, but an exceptionally high degree of primary education. The Saorstát is poor with its resources undeveloped, in nearly all directions, and in addition we are deficient in several minerals. Therefore we need a higher quality of trained intelligence which education can alone supply to meet the deficiency of our situation. Therefore I hold rather tenaciously, but may be, according to my stupidity as the Minister for Posts would say, to those views. If there is anything that strikes the man in the street it is the unbridged gulf between primary and secondary education and the university. We have unfortunately now a rather low standard of primary education. I am not, perhaps, competent to speak of the position at the moment and its immediate inter-relation to the secondary system. But take, for instance, the position of agricultural instructors through the country and how far they can alleviate and better the standards of life by imparting the knowledge they have acquired in the university. The fact remains that they are in a difficult position. The boys that come to the winter classes conducted by men who have gone to the College of Science are incapable of understanding the simplest chemical formulae. They can teach them nothing of the soil or its constituents. They cannot show them the value of manure for instance for the reason that those boys are incapable of doing arithmetic. Therefore their time is spent in teaching them the rudiments of arithmetic which they should have learned in the primary schools. I know that is rather a harsh statement to make but I have actual experience of it. It was my lot once upon a time to go to those winter classes. I had the advantage of some little secondary education and it was painful to watch persons from the national schools trying to grasp and deal with what the instructor lectured on. They were completely bewildered, and it is questionable whether that education is worth the money with such poor material.
Another aspect is the question of agriculture. As far as one can learn a certain amount of information is imparted to boys and perhaps the teachers themselves in the first instance have not been trained to the work. The boys are not taught their proper function in society. Ireland is an agricultural country whose future is bound up, as far as one can foresee, with agriculture. I do not suggest we should teach agriculture in primary schools but it is essential that the boys should be taught what their function in society is and how to act and behave as citizens. Civics should enter largely into the curriculum of the primary school. I ask the Minister for Education to consider this.
The Minister for Education made some reference to the fact that he was opposed to the idea of compulsory attendance and perhaps compulsion in making a boy learn at school. It is true that modern principles resist compulsion, but I think another aspect should be taken into consideration. The boy's mind is not yet developed and it is hardly fair to apply to him the logic you apply to an adult. I believe in the need for compulsory education. I know that in towns and villages there are numbers of boys whose parents refuse to fulfil the obvious and primary duty of citizens— that is, to give a decent education according to their means to their children. This raises another social question. Those boys grow up in pain-question. These boys grow up in painful, sordid ignorance. Can we with manner? I suggest we cannot, because for the production and maintenance of social order and peace it is essential that those boys must get a good primary education. If the parents are wanting they must be compelled to send their children to school. I hope the Minister will reconsider his attitude on this question. Even when boys remain an odd day away from school it hampers the work of the teacher. The teacher is more or less obliged to retrace his work for the benefit of the fellow who is away and the others suffer in consequence. They are kept at a standstill. There is perhaps a gap in the course.
One thing that I should like specially to stress is, that I should like to see continuation schools in winter time, something progressing in order out of the primary system. I know in remote rural areas when the weather is bad it presents many difficult features, but it is something we have got to face. I believe continuation schools are excetedingly desirable, and they should be provided both in town and country. Young boys turn to vicious habits and habits of idleness for want of something to do. We cannot be over educated in this country, and unfortunately we are under educated.
I listened to the Minister for Education with pleasure, as he unfolded his policy with regard to the primary and the post primary systems of education. I must admit that at times he was very vague. However, he suggested that he hopes for criticisms on school accommodation and accommodation necessary to meet the increased attendance that will surely follow when the Compulsory Attendance Act comes into force. Deputy O'Connell, in his able criticism, alluded to three points that in particular interested me. The first was the supply of heating in the school. The second the inferior structure of many of the schools, and thirdly, the necessity of putting into force the provisions of the Act of 1919 by which school children will be inspected and treated. With regard to the first point, one is almost horrified to think of the possibility of children being put into the schoolhouse without a fire in the winter time. Deputy O'Connell suggested it was possible that that was taking place in various parts of the country.
I want to say that to ensure success in teaching healthy surroundings are an absolute necessity. What happens, in the case of children shut up in a school room without a fire, is that naturally the teacher closes the windows. There is no fire to cause ventilation in the room. The children are breathing over and over again the same air, and it is impossible that children should be taught under those circumstances. You cannot teach children who are cold and hungry, and it is a necessity that the Minister for Education should see to these things. It is nice for him to have a splendid policy of nationalisation and all the rest, but if he does not look after the health of the children there is not much use in talking about national schemes of education.
As a matter of fact, I want him in particular to take into consideration the necessity for the children indulging in some form of physical exercise. Even if the schools cannot be heated it is possible, with the use of physical exercises, if the windows be kept open, to warm the children. Then they can be taught. I alluded elsewhere to the character of many of the school buildings in which the children are being taught, and I suggested on that occasion that it was a great pity when the petrol tins were going around the country that they were not used to raze many of the National schools to the ground.
Deputies O'Connell and Thrift have both alluded to the point which the Minister avoided altogether. I think he should have dealt with the question of the attempt to amalgamate schools. It is extraordinary to find three or four schools in the same small neighbourhood under different sectarian control. The time has come when that should be done away with. The time has come when we must have large schools equipped and staffed with good teachers, although it should be necessary to go to expense to bring the children into those larger schools. With regard to the matter of medical inspection for school children, that is being held up owing to the fact that medical officers of health have not been appointed throughout the country. These people would be responsible for the carrying out of many of the provisions of this Act. I want to press on the Minister the necessity of getting this Act put into force as early as possible.
Deputy O'Connell gave us figures yesterday with regard to the inspection of the children of Great Britain and he pointed out many difficulties here. Again, I say to the Minister, that it is not anything to look forward to to have people able to speak Irish, and a great Gaelic nation, if half of our children are crippled or rendered unfit for their work because of carelessness or want of attention to their health in their earlier years. I was disappointed that the Minister said nothing about holding out hope to the secondary teachers, that fixity of tenure would come into operation in the near future, and furthermore, he said nothing about the question of pensions. Naturally the secondary teachers in the Free State feel a great grievance when they know that their brothers in Great Britain have been placed upon a contributory pension scheme and their neighbours in the northern counties are placed on a noncontributory pension scheme. I think it would encourage the men engaged in secondary teaching if something were done in regard to this matter. Like Deputy Professor Thrift, I think the great difficulty is with regard to money, but money has to be found with regard to other things and there is no reason why when pensions have been given—I think it is Deputy Gorey who said that soon everybody you meet will have a pension—to other people who deserve them less that the secondary teachers should not get them. I think it is time we should consider some scheme. I am asked by an official of the Schoolmasters' Association to say that they have passed a resolution stating that the teachers on retirement should carry with them as pensions the sums they had been accustomed to receive as salary increments. The increment the teacher who has succeeded to the highest point would receive would be £210 a year for a non-honour teacher. A man who has obtained honours could obtain £40 more. That is to say, that at the end of 18 years he would have an increment of £250 in the case of the honours man, and £210 in the case of the man who did not obtain honours. The Schoolmasters' Association would be satisfied with pensions based upon the amount of increment they receive, those pensions to become compulsory at 65 years, with a clause that they might optionally retire at 60.
I congratulate the Minister on his very able speech. He gave nothing away. Deputy Sears perhaps has given away a little more than the Minister. Deputy Sears, I rather think, pinned him down to the compulsory teaching of Irish. The Minister was very vague about it. Not only was he vague, but he said he did not like compulsion in any sense. So that we hardly know where we are with regard to the attitude of the Minister. It is splendid for any public man to have the gift of being able to convey in words what he does not perhaps mean at the particular moment. At all events, the Minister has left us under the conviction that we are not able to put our finger on any specific thing and say the Minister said so and so. He was even trying to get away from the point that Deputy Thrift was fixing upon, namely, that he had asked for criticism with regard to school accommodation.
The view that has just been expressed by Deputy Craig was, I think, in the minds of many when the Minister concluded his statement. It was so pre-eminently before my mind that I could not help being reminded of an incident at a meeting that I was at within the last fortnight. A talented Irishman, not unconnected with the Government of the country, was announced to speak at that meeting, and the subject for discussion was unemployment. In his well-known humorous style he said: "You know I dare not open my mouth on the subject; I cannot say a word." Then he went on to relate that his position reminded him of an incident that occurred in the British House of Commons during his Parliamentary career. He said the Minister called upon one of his legal advisers at short notice and said to him: "You speak next, speak for fifteen minutes, but do not say anything." I hope I am not exaggerating the feelings that pervaded the Dáil when the Minister had delivered himself of that statement of policy that we had been all looking forward to. The Government, wisely recognising the blanks in that statement, doubtless inspired the remarks of Deputy Sears this afternoon. When I asked that Deputy to come to close quarters and give us the statements of policy that he was referring to as having been given utterance to by the Minister for Education, he referred me in vague terms to statements made by the Minister in the County Clare. We should extend to the Minister the same privilege that we would like to be extended to ourselves, I do not think any of us like statements that are made in what we might call times of heated electioneering to be taken as statements of definite policy.
Are they not true?
I do not intend to pursue the suggestion made by Deputy Sears, to follow the Minister into that interesting county, and into some of the interesting discussions that took place there. As Deputy O'Connell stated last night, the Minister has been absent from the Dáil practically for the last 12 months. We all recognise that he was engaged on important business elsewhere, but we all join in regretting that the Government did not appoint some Deputy in his absence to discharge the many responsibilities of his Department. The suggestion was conveyed to the Government that such an appointment should be made, but it was not made. Therefore I say that in view of his long absence we were entitled to a more definite and detailed statement of policy from the Minister than we received.
Amongst the statements made by the Minister there was one which left us in considerable doubt. He said the duty of his Department was to serve and build up our nationality. In that statement he borrowed an expression from international law, but he did not tell us the connection in which he used it. What did he mean by nationality in that connection? Until the Minister explains exactly what he meant it would be useless for us to discuss the question further. I trust the Minister in his reply may, even when it is practically impossible for us to discuss it further, let us know exactly what he does mean. As Deputy O'Connell said yesterday, let him come down to earth, down to "brass tacks," and tell us exactly what he does mean.
Many Deputies like myself look upon education very much from the ordinary layman's point of view. What is that point of view? That education is the preparation for the battle of life. In giving expression to that view the layman does not, in any sense, attempt to under-estimate the cultural and other aspects of education and the advantages that arise from them. Looking at education from that point of view, let us see whether the present methods of education are the best preparation for the battle of life. It may be news to many Deputies—it will doubtless be news to many in the Saorstát—that in the infants' division in our national schools instruction is given entirely through the medium of Irish. The little tots that go to these schools are refused instruction in the language that they have been accustomed to hear and can only receive it through the medium of Irish. Let us see what are the effects of that on the progress of these little ones. The father and the mother take an interest in the education of their children, and when the little scholar returns from school they devote a certain amount of time to assisting that little one in what is known as home work. If the work of the infants' school is carried on through the medium of Irish and can only be understood by the little one in Irish, what is to become of that home assistance? The connection is absolutely cut off; the assistance cut off; the touch cut off.
Let us go a little further. In the educational system as carried on in infants' schools the little ones have to attain a certain standard, and after a certain length of time they pass into the ordinary National schools. What do we find there under the present policy? We find that the work is carried on in English. The little boy has been taught only in Irish, and travelling through the Saorstát to-day one will be told by many people in the primary schools that little folk come along from the infants' division who do not understand the alphabet. They have to start de novo after spending four years in the infants' division. Is that the best preparation for the battle of life that we can give them?
Let us pursue the matter. I do not want to take up the time of the Dáil unnecessarily by discussing this subject, though I wish that more time would be devoted to education than has been the case. In the primary schools, apart from the infants' division, the school hours are four and a-half. Out of that, half-an-hour is taken for lunch, and another half-hour for the teaching of Scripture. That leaves three and a-half hours for the teaching of educational subjects. Of that three and a-half hours, one hour is devoted to Irish, and two and a-half to the other important subjects. Can we expect those pupils to be able to progress in that time? The effect is that there has been a lowering of the whole standard of education in our primary schools. That has been going on for some time.
As an educationist said to me not very long ago: "The lowering of the standard of primary education has been most marked in the last twenty years." He also said that if the same system be continued for another twenty years we will become a nation of illiterates. That is strong language from a man who is in touch with education in this country.
What do some of us who are connected with the work of technical instruction find? It is common cause that 75 per cent. of the students going to the technical schools to join the technical classes are unable to pass the simple qualifying examination necessary to get into them. One hears that complaint all over the country. I have stated it here on many occasions in the past few years. What is the result? The work of our technical schools is at an exceedingly low ebb to-day, and a great deal of the work done in them is work that should have been done in the primary schools. Therefore I ask, is that the best preparation that we can give children to meet the battle of life? No. I am satisfied that a radical change is absolutely necessary in our educational system, and the sooner the Department makes up its mind on that the better for the country.
During discussions that have taken place in the Dáil the necessity has been pointed out on many occasions even in the past few months, for improving our agricultural system in connection with the marketing of eggs and butter. These things have engaged the attention of the Dáil and of the Department of Lands and Agriculture. That was very wise and necessary, but we have been told by farmers that a higher standard of education is wanted amongst those engaged in the industry if these operations are to be successfully carried out. A standard of education and an amount of technical instruction must be given that the people do not now possess. Such technical instruction must be based on a sound primary education.
The only further point I have to make is that it has been alleged over and over again that the difficulty of making progress in industrial development in this country is largely due to the low standard of education possessed by our workers. I regret to have to say that that statement is very largely true. I have stated here on more than one occasion that much of the unemployment this country suffers from is due to a low standard of education. I am also satisfied that much of the unrest and many of the strikes that we suffer from in the Saorstát are due to a low standard of education. In view of that statement, which the Minister and departments of State can verify, it is of the utmost importance that education should have immediate and urgent attention in the Dáil.
Some of us have read a very fascinating and exciting novel with a happy ending called "The King's Highway." Last night when the Minister explained that the aim of his Department, in part, was to create a clear highway from the very beginning, from primary education to the most advanced stage of university education, I thought he was going to unfold a really exciting, fascinating, and valuable story, "The Minister's Highway." But when the Minister had concluded, there were so many chapters missing, and the end was so doubtful that we do not know yet what the story is.
I do not say in any flippant or unkind way that the Minister was only giving us plans and that sometimes those plans were only partially drafted. He asked for criticism and help, and therefore I will confine myself to one or two points. In his general plan of education there is one part that demands attention and completion at once. It seems to me as the Executive are endeavouring to create and revive industry in this country that the work of the continuation schools—vocational schools—is of peculiar value. The Minister admits that that part of his programme is not completely developed and requires further investigation. I urge the Minister to expedite the investigation and formation of those plans, and not merely to issue the plans but to put them into effect at once. When the Shannon scheme is in operation, as we all hope it will shortly, and when it has materialised, we cannot take full advantage of the power at our disposal unless we have men trained to make use of electricity and to apply it to the various forms of industry that we hope to see springing up. That is a point to which I think the Minister's Department could very well devote special energy now. I will reserve other remarks on this subject until we come to particular items in the Vote.
One point that was touched upon by Deputy O'Connell has always appealed very strongly to me and that is in reference to school buildings. Something should be done and must be done at once if education is not to be a fiasco. It is impossible, as has been pointed out by many Deputies, to teach unless the surroundings are in harmony. I do not wish to place the responsibility for the bad buildings altogether on the Department of Education. I do not know that I would go as far as my colleague, Professor Thrift, in putting the responsibility for the equipment and building of schools, if I understood him rightly, on the local rates, but I think there is an opportunity for individual and voluntary effort in this direction.
A great deal has been done by voluntary effort in other countries, and I know at least of one case where a school in this country had been reconstructed and equipped by voluntary effort. I hope the Minister for Finance is not here; he might take advantage of this remark, but I think in this case parents and communities might do something. The problem has occurred in other countries as well as in ours. Even in America, the land in which we believe there is plenty of money, and money especially for education, in many States they are confronted with the same difficulty. The school buildings, especially in the rural districts, are unsuitable, and the equipment wanting or inadequate. I recently read a very interesting account of the work done by a single American lady in practically reorganising the school buildings of a whole district in Missouri. She was herself a teacher, and when she got an administrative appointment she asked for the worst district in that State. The main school building, when she got it, was simply a barn, with closed windows and with a broken stove to heat the whole building. It was insanitary; there was no water, and the building was left unlocked at night. The farming community refused to put a lock on it because they were afraid that the tramps, who made it their casual ward, would, if they found it locked, resort to their barns and set fire to them. With great difficulty she persuaded the farmers to have the doors repaired and locks provided. She went round the country and persuaded the parents that it was their duty to do a little more for the education of their children. She persuaded them to contribute labour and materials and to lend teams, and in twelve months she had a splendidly equipped school, weather-proof, healthy and comfortable. She went further. She was faced with this problem of amalgamation and she did it, but she saw that a motor car was provided, and it was the duty of the older boys in turn to drive out every morning and bring in children from outside a certain radius and inside six or eight miles.
We can learn many things from other countries, not least of all in these matters from America. But I do think that all the blame does not lie—the Minister will be relieved to hear—in this matter on his Department. I think parents and perhaps communities are a little at fault as regards the school buildings. I think that they could do more than they are doing. We need not always be crying to the Minister for Finance: "Give, give." I think it is perhaps outside the scope of the subject before us to touch upon secondary teachers now, but I do stress the remarks that other speakers have made, and I will return again on the Estimates to the question of secondary teachers, the necessity that the question of increments should be fully investigated, and that a pension system should be instituted this year in connection with the increment system.
A great many people in this country apparently think that the farmers do not take any interest in education. They believe that the farmer thinks that education is only a minor matter and that what they are interested in is the hard manual work which has to be done on the farms. I want to say that we in the Farmers' Party realise the importance of education. I was glad to hear an expression of realisation on the part of the Minister for Education of the importance of the agricultural industry in the economic fabric of the Saorstát. We believe that the future of agriculture, the future of industry, and, I might say, the future of our country, depends on the education which the children get. If I were asked to give off-hand a policy for agriculture, if I were asked to suggest in a few simple words what I think would roughly cover a policy in agriculture for the Government, I would say: "Reduce taxation, educate our children, or educate us, and leave us alone, leave us to work out our own salvation."
In connection with this matter of education, I must join with Deputy Good and others in saying that the Minister for Education said a great deal but told us very little. I think he would rather like to hear us do the talking and that then we would probably have a more definite pronouncement on an educational policy from him. We spend a great deal of money on education. I think, roughly speaking, we spend on education, primary, secondary, technical and university, something over £4,000,000 a year. I do not say that we spend too much. Perhaps we do not, but we certainly are not getting value for the amount we spend. High expenditure on education does not necessarily mean good education, and if we are to have it, I think it is up to us, it is up to the Dáil and the Government, to see that we get value for our money. I maintain that we are not getting value for our money, particularly in the primary schools. Whose fault that is it is very difficult to say. Some people say that the teachers are at fault. Some people say that the imposition of compulsory Irish is at fault. Others say that a certain spirit has crept into the youth, which has taken away the desire for education from them, and that that is at fault. Whatever the fault is, I believe that the fault is there; that primary education in this country has deteriorated and that if it continues to deteriorate at the present rate we must emerge in a short time almost as a nation of illiterates.
We are told in connection with agriculture almost exactly what Deputy Good says, that when boys join winter agricultural classes the agricultural instructors have to spend their time in bringing them up to the standard where they will be able to understand the instruction given them. They have to start to re-educate these boys. That should not be the case. If those boys had received a sound primary education, and if they had retained even a reasonable proportion of it, they should, at least, be able to take advantage of the comparatively simple instruction that is given by agricultural instructors. The same thing applies to technical schools. I had the same information from the principal of an important technical school. He said that a great deal of his time and of the time of his teachers is taken in bringing pupils up to the standard where they will be able to take advantage of the education that is placed at their disposal. The remedy for this state of affairs is difficult to find, though perhaps Deputy O'Connell believes that it lies in compulsory attendance.
One of the remedies.
Perhaps that is a remedy, but I rather think that it lies in a different direction. It lies in changing the outlook of the people towards education, in making them realise that education must be the foundation of all culture and of all progress, and that neither agriculture nor industry can prosper unless we start on a solid basic foundation of sound education. With regard to the actual details of the curriculum of the schools I can only speak roughly, because I regret that the Minister for Education is not as good a publicity agent as the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, and we do not know what is happening in the school unless we are more closely associated with them than I am.
Where does the Deputy live?
Not in a schoolhouse.
I do know from my experience of schools, and from the knowledge which I have of the programme that is followed, that the science of agriculture is not receiving the attention in rural schools which it ought to receive.
I am not one of those who think that agriculture can be taught as a technical subject in the schools. I think that was tried. In fact, it was tried in my own time in the National schools. I know we had to learn Baldwin, and I know I derived very little advantage from Baldwin, and I doubt if any of the other pupils did. We learned a lot of facts by rote, but those facts conveyed no information whatever. You can, I think, in another way, give the children a real interest in agriculture, and I trust the Minister has given attention to that point of view. My idea is that our text-books should be written in such a way that the problems of rural life, in short, rural science and the matters connected with the outdoor life of the country, will be given a prominence which they do not get in our present text books. I believe that by a graduated system of text books leading up from simple lessons which deal with, incidentally, subjects connected with rural and agricultural life, the children may be taught to take an interest in agriculture. They can be taught to recognise that agriculture is not, as it is supposed to be at present, the Cinderella of all occupations, but that it can be an honourable occupation, that it can be an occupation in which the intelligence and the brains of the brightest and most intellectual people can be engaged, and that it can be made an occupation which the children may be proud to be connected with.
I regret to say that at present the outlook is not that. The outlook at present is that agriculture is a job for the least intelligent of the family, and that other members of the family should be brought up to go in for scholarships, to go into the Civil Service, to go into the Civic Guards—in fact, do anything that will take them away from the drudgery and the toil of agriculture. We hear a great deal about the advance made in Denmark in scientific agriculture, and we believe that the basis of that advancement has been education. A great deal of the credit for the agricultural advancement of Denmark has been given to the high schools which have been opened to the country. I do not know that this matter of people's high schools is a matter that would come under the auspices of the Minister for Agriculture directly, but directly or indirectly I know he can give it a great fillip, and he can promote the idea to a much greater extent than it has been promoted. I think it would be a very fine idea if these high schools could be used in some way to fill the gap which exists from the time when pupils leave the ordinary National schools, until they are fit to take advantage of the scientific agricultural education which is placed at their disposal. It would bring the children closer together. It would bring our people closer together, and it would help to eliminate these selfish and very often spiteful feelings which are prevalent in the country and which prevent the advancement of our people in scientific agriculture, and from cooperating. I believe that the future of agriculture will and must lie largely in co-operation, and we have not got the proper co-operative spirit in this country. I do not believe that we will have a proper co-operative spirit until the people are educated and placed in the position of taking advantage of the co-operative idea.
I just want to say a word or two in connection with the teaching of the Irish language in the National schools. I think the outlook on the Irish language must depend on our point of view, on what the object or the ultimate aim of our nationality is. If the aim of the nation is to go in for intensive isolated nationalism, we must have Irish and we must have compulsory Irish. That is the aim apparently which the majority of the people have, rightly or wrongly, and such being the case, I take it that we must accept the idea that we cannot have intensive nationalism unless we have a national language.
But there must be something wrong with the methods by which an attempt is being made to inculcate the language, because it is my feeling, and the opinion which I get going through my constituency, that there is a grave revulsion of feeling amongst the people against the compulsion that is brought to the teaching of Irish. I believe if one were to take the surface views which one gets in going through the people as their real feelings on the matter, that one would be inclined to say that compulsory Irish is contrary to the feelings of the people on this matter of education. I know enough about public life to realise that we have actions and reactions and to know that at the present time we are suffering from a reaction. Therefore, anyone who would take the surface views expressed by the people might be easily led astray and might soon find that he was not really voicing the inner heartfelt feelings of the people. I think that a great deal of discontent with regard to the Irish language teaching is due to the methods employed. I think that the Ministry, and those interested in the advancement of the Irish language, are attempting to go too fast. It is my belief that it will take a much longer time than is generally anticipated to get the Irish language accepted and used as a living language in the country. We had teachers of all kinds, young and old, hurried into special holiday classes. We had these teachers going back with a very poor smattering of Irish very often and attempting to teach Irish in the schools and still worse, attempting to teach other subjects through the medium of a language which they did not properly know themselves. I think an attempt to teach a language by anyone who is not a complete master of it must end in failure.
May I ask the Deputy if he can give any information on that point? I am one who is somewhat ignorant on this question, but the statement the Deputy has made is a very serious one. I would like to know if it is a fact, and if he can substantiate it, that teachers are required to teach subjects in Irish even though they themselves do not know Irish efficiently.
That is it—efficiency. The whole thing hangs on this question of efficiency. Who is to be the judge whether they are efficient or not?
But the Deputy said that they were going back with a smattering of Irish and were required to teach other subjects to the children through Irish. That is a very serious charge to make, and I would like to have some definite information on the point.
I did not say "smattering," but I said that a subject should not be taught through the medium of Irish unless the teacher was a complete master of the language.
Does that hold good of English?
I suppose the Deputy cannot expect that all teachers would be such complete masters of the English language as he is. Doubtless when the Minister for Education comes to reply he will give us all the information that is necessary because this is a matter which is exercising the minds of the people, and it is time that we had a clear pronouncement of policy as to what the Minister intends and as to what is to be the future as regards the teaching of Irish in the schools of the country.
I want to say a word now with regard to the question of school buildings. I have spoken of this before, and I might say that I am probably in as good a position as any member in the Dáil to speak on this matter, for the reason that time and time again I find myself in school buildings. I think there is hardly a school building in my county that I have not been in. I believe that the majority of school buildings in existence are quite unfit for the use to which they are put. I will acknowledge that we have some excellent and some well-designed schools with all the necessary accommodation, but the majority of the schools are not so. They are badly built, badly equipped, very often badly lighted and ventilated and too often with poor sanitary accommodation. The Minister for Local Government may talk about introducing a system of medical inspection in the schools. My opinion is that he would be wasting the money of the nation and of the people if he were to start a system of medical inspection before the schools are put right. You may detect disease and illness in the children, but you cannot put these matters right unless you have the children educated in healthy, well-ventilated and well-aired schools. The mere detection of disease and disabilities in the children will not cure them. Medical inspection will produce no useful results unless an effort is made to begin at the beginning. If you are to make a real beginning you must start in the homes of the people and try to improve their standard of living as well as their housing accommodation and general economic condition. It would be impossible, of course, to do all that in a hurry. But something, I suggest, should be done to the school buildings.
In view of the fact that we are spending in this State four millions a year on education, something, I think, should be set aside either by effecting economies or by getting some assistance from the Ministry of Finance, for the purpose of improving the condition of our school buildings. With regard to the amalgamation of schools, statements were made on that last year and it seems to me that the developments in the primary school system must be along the lines then indicated. My opinion coincides with what has been suggested by Deputy Alton, namely, that some system for carrying the children to school should be instituted. I think serious consideration should be given to the idea of having big central, well-equipped schools to which the children could be taken by means of motor transport.
I want to say one final word upon this matter, and that is in connection with what is known as the university extension system in education. I would like to hear a pronouncement upon that matter from the Minister. I do not pretend to know very much about it, but I know a little about it from experience, and I know a great deal of good is done in other countries by means of university extension lectures. But I am informed the difficulty in this country is that the people are unfit to receive the advantages of university extension lectures, and unfit to imbibe the lessons that may be given them by means of these lecturers going through the country. I suggest to the Minister that he should give this matter his consideration, and I hope when he comes to make his final statement, upon the motion before the Dáil, he will say a little about it.
Last night it was the task of the Minister for Education to present for our attention, to use a mythological expression, Pandora's education box of surprises. He did not open the box very widely, but he opened it sufficiently to let us have a peep in to see there was something there. No doubt, he had the idea of not committing himself too much and getting a general expression from the House of what their idea of educational requirements should be and what were most pressing, I have no doubt before the end of the debate he will be largely satisfied upon that point. With everything he did say I think I am in agreement. He touched largely upon the advantage of agriculture being taught in the primary schools. I think there is nothing more important, considering that agriculture is our principal employment in this country, than that from the very beginning the children should have the ground work of scientific agriculture taught them in a proper way.
There is no doubt that primary education has not been as highly cultivated in this country as it ought to be, and that we are behind, in some respects, other countries, and there is no reason why we should be so. We have got the talent, we have got the teachers available, and they can give the highest education that is necessary. But if that is to be so, the attendance at the schools must be very much increased from what it has been. The Minister is fulfilling a known desire of the country that compulsory attendance should be the order of the day, and in due course, no doubt, he will present a Bill to that effect for our consideration. There is no question but that attendance at the schools has been far beneath what it should be. I think it was Deputy O'Connell who said yesterday that the average school attendance for the whole of the Saorstát was only about 52, which is shockingly low. But when you come to consider the cause of all this, perhaps it is not so surprising. Children have long distances to go, and they are kept at home for one excuse or another, and a good many of them, I am afraid, do not always find their way to school when they leave home, which is natural, perhaps, to children when they get the opportunity. I think this is one of the things that should be seen to in the coming Education Bill which is to be presented to us.
The Minister for Education, and a great many speakers, alluded to the very bad buildings used as schools throughout the country in very many cases. I can certainly say, from my own observation, that that is perfectly true. About two years ago I had a long motor tour round the whole country, and, amongst other things, I took a good look, during it, at most of the schools in the villages and the towns through which I passed, and I must say that, with few exceptions, the buildings were a perfect disgrace to any country. Now and then you would come across an extremely fine school in some of the towns, while in towns equally large again, disgraceful conditions apparently seemed to prevail. One thing I noticed was that the playgrounds round these schools seemed to be very inadequate and very miserable. I have no doubt that many of the conditions, sanitation and otherwise, connected with these schools are shockingly bad, and that many of the epidemics prevalent throughout the country among children are taken and contracted in these schools. I hope money will be available from some source to rectify this state of affairs, for it is certainly impossible for children to learn or show much improvement when they are in very uncomfortable and unhealthy surroundings. Also, if children are not properly fed there is no doubt that it is impossible physically for them to take in the instruction the teachers are ready to impart to them. This is a matter that I think is most urgent. Children come to school perhaps cold, wet and hungry, and in such circumstances to get them to pay attention to their lessons and to take in teaching is, I consider, a physical impossibility.
It seems there is great doubt as to whose duty it is to provide fire and light and to attend to the cleanliness of those schools. I do not know whose duty it is, but I believe it is the manager's. I do not know whether the manager has to pay for these matters out of his own pocket. If he has, it must be an extreme hardship upon him and must tax the purse of a great many. I am sure there are a great many cases in which the managers are not able to do it with, I am sure, disastrous results.
Deputy O'Connell and a good many others talked about amalgamation of schools. As regards towns, I am in most hearty agreement with that. I am sure in some of the towns the schools could be placed together in one building instead of having them spread about, and then they would have the advantage of the best teachers and the best surroundings, and consequently the knowledge they would acquire would be very much greater than otherwise. Many things could be taught by the amalgamation of schools that are not now undertaken. But in the country districts unless, as has been suggested, there should be a motor service, and whether that is possible and whether the expenses would not be too great is a matter I do not know——
I would like to explain to the Deputy that what I had be fore my mind was the cases of schools actually in the one buildings—boys schools and girls schools in one building but with separate staffs and separate enrolments——
I think it was Deputy Alton who suggested that in country districts there should be motors to take children to school. At present it would be impossible to amalgamate. We hope, of course, for great things in the future, but at present I do not think it would be possible to do that. In addition to that, in country districts children have in many cases to walk a long way, and it is a common excuse for non-attendance that the distance to school is too great. They are not, I think, expected to go to school if there is not a school within a radius of three miles. You could not, of course, expect children of six or seven years of age to walk double that distance to a central school, no matter how good, unless some mode of conveyance was provided. The Minister could, perhaps, tell us later whether such a thing is possible. If it were, it would make all the difference and the school would be all the better and more efficient. On a good primary education, of course, depends the whole life of the individual.
The lack of opportunities of education has been felt by a great many people who, having left school, desire to take up some technical subject as they generally find that they cannot take in the subjects that are being taught at these technical schools. They are consequently shy of displaying their ignorance and, being grown up, they do not like having to begin at the beginning. That is a great drawback to them. I noticed that in Kildare where the classes were small, those who attended were enthusiastic. I am quite sure that the reason was that a great many people did not like to admit their ignorance and did not care to begin under the eyes of younger people to learn things which they should have learned years before. If the scheme of the Minister is carried out in regard to a passing out examination from the primary schools I think it will have a very good effect. I think he said that the examination would take place at the age of fourteen, but I conclude that if a boy has acquired knowledge at the age of twelve, which other boys take up to the age of fourteen to acquire, he would be able to pass out before that age and go on to a higher grade. I do not know whether that is the case, but if it is, such a boy would be able to get on more quickly, make more use of his intelligence, and make it pay better.
I am a great believer in physical instruction in school. I have seen it carried out with great effect in county schools in England where it is having a great improvement on the physique of the children. I think that a healthy mind and a healthy body go together. Deputy O'Connell says that everybody has his own fads about this and that subject being taught in primary schools. Everybody thinks that his own subject is the best. In a multitude of counsellors there is safety. I think that a certain type of music might very well form a considerable part of the curriculum, as it has a most elevating effect. In the big towns children can make use of their knowledge of music by joining choirs and so-forth. It would pay them in that way besides having an elevating tendency on the mind. I think that money spent on that subject is well spent. As I said before, I believe in there being decent playgrounds attached to, or near, every school. I think that is a necessity and I hope that these places will in some way be provided. I feel sorry to see children in wretched yards around schools huddled together doing nothing. I always thought that around villages and towns there ought to be grounds in which children could play and, in fact, be really children.
The last subject upon which I would wish to touch is our national language. I am one of those who take the greatest interest in the study of Irish. I think it is the duty of everybody to understand the language of his country, and I have always regretted that I did not begin years and years ago to study Irish when I was younger. About five or six years ago, however, I took it up, and since them I have carried it on and my interest in it has increased year by year. I wish I had more practice in speaking it than I have. At the same time, taking the interest I do in it and admiring it in every way for its beauty of sound, its history and everything connected with it. I doubt if compelling people to learn it is a good way of spreading the language. It is a very difficult thing to compel an Irishman to do anything. A good many people have tried to do that with us, and it has not been a success. It is well to try and understand ourselves and our own nature. Are we fond of being compelled to do a thing? If we are forced to do a thing, is not that sufficient to make us hate it? I, and people who think like me, believe that the way to spread the Irish language is to induce people by every possible means to study it, to speak it, and to spread it in every possible way, but my belief is, though I am open to conviction, that it is a mistake to thrust anything down anybody's throat unnecessarily. I hope that I shall live to see the day when everybody will make an attempt, at any rate, to speak the language, but I do not believe that that will be done by compulsion. I may be quite wrong, and I am willing to be set right, but that, at any rate, is my belief—that it is not the way to make the language popular by trying to force it, so to speak, down the throat of the country.
Is the Deputy speaking about the education of children in Irish or about the education of adults in Irish?
I am speaking of education from the bottom. I think that it should be left to the parents to decide whether their children should learn Irish in the schools or not. Every inducement should be given to them to learn it, but I do not believe in forcing them to do so, as I do not think anything is to be gained by such forcing.
Does the Deputy argue that that rule should apply to all subjects in the primary schools?
You do not force children to study a religion that their parents do not believe in. There are certain exceptions like that. In most schools it is left to the boys to take up a certain line of study, it may be classical or it may be mathematical, but they are not compelled to learn both. It should be left to the parents to decide all these matters. On the whole, I think the Minister has outlined a good programme, and I believe that the day is brightening for education in this country. People are taking a more intelligent interest in the subject, and it will not be long before we hold our place as we did once before of being an example to the world in our love of education, and of benefiting by the results that naturally flow from the increased opportunities of gaining knowledge.
I have not much to say in connection with this subject, and I do not intend to deal with the educational aspect of it at all, because I do not feel myself sufficiently competent to discuss the subject and to ventilate my opinions on it. I am, therefore, going to confine myself to the conditions regarding schools in the country areas. Young children who go to these schools and spend their time there in learning lessons ought, at least, to be provided with suitable buildings. There is no doubt that at present all over the country schools are not fit for the children who are kept in close confinement in them. It has also been pointed out, and I believe it is true, that in many schools no fire is provided, and that is a matter that certainly ought to be remedied, and fires provided in the winter time. It is a hardship on the children to expect them to study in the schools under the prevailing conditions. Very recently I had an interview with the Most Rev. Dr. Gaughran, Bishop of Meath, in connection with an application he made for sites to build schools on some lands about to be distributed. With Mr. Kettle, a representative of the Irish Land Commission in Westmeath, I went to interview his lordship, and he asked me during that interview if I had ever noticed the places where schools throughout the country were built— that they were always in the worst places that could be selected, in low-lying lands, and he said even in quarries. I said I had not noticed that, and he then said that he was very proud that he lived to see the day when an Irish Land Commissioner and an Irish member of Parliament should go to wait on him, and ask him to select himself the sites on which he wanted to build schools. I would appeal to the Minister with regard to schools that are in a state of dilapidation, and in the provision of new schools, that something ought to be done to improve the conditions. Funds, from whatever source, should be provided for this. Certainly provision should be made for fires and for proper ventilation.
It is not easy at this stage of the debate to add anything further. This debate gives us an opportunity of expressing our views on the standard of education, and it gives the Minister for Education an opportunity of knowing what the people or their representatives think. We will have to wait and see whether the debate will have any effect on the Minister in getting him to formulate a policy and in pushing it forward. I think some of the Deputies have stated that the standard of education to-day is low. I think it is true to say that the standard is low, not alone amongst the school-going children of to-day, who have been studying the impossible Irish language for the last three or four years, but also amongst the people generally who left school 20, 30 or 40 years ago, when knowledge was imparted to them through the English language. Whether the standard is to be raised or not, I do not think anybody in this House can declare that it can be much lower than it is at present. This is a serious matter for the country. It is a serious matter for the elected representatives of the people, and for the Minister and his staff. If this country is to make progress in the future, it is the duty of those concerned to see that the intelligence of the country is awakened, that it is turned in the proper direction, and that it is given its proper bent.
I am inclined to support the plea that Deputy O'Connell made last year when he stated that the Minister for Education should be outside the Executive Council, should be responsible to the Dáil, and that the policy of the Ministry of Education should be one that would stand no matter what party was in power. Many people to-day are inclined to say that the changes that have been made in the school programme within the last few years have been to the disadvantage of education. I think we all agree that changes in educational policy must have a serious effect. Those changes must not be brought about unless there are good, grave and sound reasons, and all changes should be for the better. If a certain policy is to be pursued, we must give it a chance to see whether good can come of it. I am strongly inclined to think it is unwise that the policy of education in this country should stand any chance of being changed because the Government of the day is changed or because the Minister in charge, being a member of the Executive Council, should be turned down. That is a question that the Executive Council should consider. There must be continuity in our policy of education if there is to be progress and if any good is to come to us from education.
I do think the majority of our people have not a proper appreciation of the value of education. While it may be unpleasant for some of us to think that many of our agricultural community place little value on education, I think there is a reason for that. If there is not sympathy to-day for education amongst our farmers, and if there has not been symuathy for it in the past, the reason, to my mind, was because the people working on the soil of Ireland saw very little advantage in the system of education, the manner in which subjects were taught, and the type of subject that was included in the national school programme. I think it is true to say that whatever education many of our farmers and their wives have they got it after they left school. I fear that the training their minds got in the schools went a very short distance indeed to fit them for the occupations they had to take up in after-life. I hope that policy is going to be changed.
If there is to be sympathy for education, if there is to be appreciation of the value of education in this country in the future, you must make the people understand that education will be of great use to them and their children. You must make them realise that our schools can train the minds of the young people and that when they go out to their work in the fields around the home the training they got will serve them and be of great value. It is of little service to the boys and girls going to an Irish school to read of the tea plant in Ceylon, or to read about what people do in the Arctic regions. If you take those boys or girls to the fields in front of their father's door, they will not be able to tell you the names of even the trees that grow around there. They know very little of their immediate surroundings. There has been no connection between what has been taught in the schools and between what the boys and girls see around them in their homes. Accordingly, the parents see very little use in sending their children to school.
The programme in the National school will have to be changed if the people forming the agricultural community are to be brought into line and are to have sympathy for education, so giving it the place it is entitled to. It must be altered if we are to have progress. I feel that in this very important matter we must all be impartial. There should be no such thing as party feeling in such a matter as this. I feel that the Minister for Education should be in an absolutely independent position irrespective of all parties. As soon as the Minister for Education gives the country a policy that will be acceptable at least to the majority of the people, a policy that is going to have continuity regardless of what party is in power, I believe we will then be travelling along the road when education will be valued at its worth. When that is achieved I expect to see that the teachers will be put in the position that there will not be any necessity for them to ally themselves with any particular party.
I honestly confess that I think it is not in the interests of education in Ireland that our teachers should be allied to any political party. There may be those who would disagree with me, but I prefer to see education so valued that there would be no such necessity for that condition of affairs, and I believe it would be much better that it did not exist. This is a matter for very serious consideration. Political prejudices in this country die slowly, and there are people in Ireland to-day who think that because the teachers are allied to the Labour Party the education of the children may be injured. Those views may be the views of the few; Deputy O'Connell may suggest that they are extreme views, perhaps, but I myself believe that the teachers should be absolutely independent of any political party in the State. They should be a thing apart from any political party, and it would be wise, even in the interests of the teachers themselves, that that should be brought about. I am conscious of the fact that the programme in National schools is under consideration at present. I know valuable suggestions have been made here by Deputies, and I am not going to add anything to what has been said.
I may say a word, however, partly in reply to Deputy Good, who is not present, on the question of the teaching of Irish. Deputy Good says that the work of our educationists is to fit children for the battle of life. We would be in agreement with that. He says, though, that the teaching of it will prevent them being taught subjects more beneficial and necessary. If Deputy Good went to England, Belgium, France, or Germany, or any of the smaller countries, I do not think he would stand up there and say that the children of those nations should not be taught the language of their country. I do not think he would say to them that their language would be against their commercial progress. If he made such a statement it would not be true. After all, what commercial progress has there been in this country through the centuries when English was the language of the country? Will a change make it any worse? Is it possible? The position of the farmers is very often misunderstood in the matter of the teaching of Irish. We want to make it perfectly clear that we are not opposed to the teaching of Irish and the restoration of Irish as our national language.
Deputy Good and the people of the country accepted a Constitution where Irish was given the same place as English. There is no suggestion from anybody that children should not be compelled to learn English in our National schools. Very often the opposition from some people in this country to the teaching of the Irish language is not because it may not be of commercial value. That may be suggested. The reason is because the Irish language is the symbol of Irish nationality. I know that is not true of all those that suggest that Irish is being given too much time in our National schools. I am perfectly certain that the argument of Deputy Wolfe is not based on those grounds but we want to make clear that the farmers of this country, no matter what people may say, do not stand against the teaching of Irish in our schools. I am certain the farmers of Ireland will never declare against it. But the farmers have what I hope is a sensible point of view in this, and as Deputy Heffernan made the remark that there is an impression abroad that subjects are being taught through the medium of Irish in schools where teachers have not the same facility for dealing with the subject in Irish as they would in English, the Minister for Education must make himself clear on this point.
I hope the policy of the Minister is not to teach history or geography or any other subject through a language that the children do not well understand or that the teacher cannot teach the children through. If Irish is given an hour in our schools and a certain time is down for the teaching of history or geography those subjects should be taught during the time given to them on the programme. Any sensible individual will understand that if a teacher has not a very good grasp of the Irish language—it must be almost natural to him or at least he must have studied it for years—he cannot successfully impart to the children a knowledge of geography through the Irish language in a way that will be satisfactory. Now a great deal of misunderstanding and, I believe, misrepresentation, circles around this point and the policy of the Minister I believe is very often misconstrued, misunderstood and misrepresented and I suggest to the Minister to let us know exactly what his policy is on. that. Complaints are being made about the teaching of Irish and that the education of the children is suffering because of it. It is not altogether because of the fact that the children are being taught Irish that complaints were made. We know in very many cases that to parents of children being sent to our National schools, the price of books they have to obtain have almost doubled since the teaching of Irish came in. In a house with three, four or five children going to school it is 10/- a year, at least, or more, extra for the books the children have to obtain. That weighed with our people in the countryside, particularly with the children of the comparatively poor either in town, city or country, and that is, perhaps, the cause of complaint. It is necessary to consider this matter and I think the Ministry will have to see if some other system than the present cannot be arranged.
There is another matter connected with the summer classes for teachers. We must all agree that the summer classes for teachers during the months in which they have been carried on for the last two or three years were given at a time that best suited children in rural districts to go to school, particularly in the month of July. Small children could much more easily and more effectually attend school in July than September. If those courses were arranged at a time when it would be more satisfactory from the parents' point of view and when it would be easier to send their children than in the months of December and January, some of the complaints would not have been made. That is a matter of administration. What the Minister's policy is to be, if these classes have to be continued, I do not know. If they are not continued, the Minister will be faced with the question—has everything been done to enable the teachers to acquire a knowledge of the language.
These are some of the small points that are responsible for the complaints against the teaching of Irish in our schools. Those who have had experience of education both here and in other countries point out to us that a knowledge of more than one language is a training for the mind of a child that later enables that child much more easily to acquire a third or fourth language if necessary. If the teaching of Irish in the schools is carried out sensibly, the people will be quite satisfied to see the Irish language restored, and they are anxious to see it restored.
Deputy Wolfe suggests that there should be no such thing as forcing Irish down the throats of the people. That statement, I think, goes too far. While there are complaints, I do not think there is any intention on the part of the Department of Education to force Irish at such a pace as will make it unsatisfactory to teachers, children and parents. The Irish language can be restored to its proper place without that. If Deputy Wolfe means that English is to be a compulsory subject in the National schools, and if he accepts that the Irish language is given the same place in the Constitution as the English language, where does he stand in the matter of teaching the Irish language? How much hypocrisy is there about this question? The people accepted the Constitution and everything in it unquestioningly.
They have not.
Exactly, they have not. I suggest that the right thing to do is to amend the Constitution if we are not satisfied with it. In the absence of that, I suggest that the Constitution ought to be carried out honestly by the people who declared their allegiance to it.
Badh mhaith liom cúpla focal a rádh ar an gceist seo, gidh nach bhfuil morán a bhí le rádh agam nach bhfuil ráidhte cheana ag duine eicínt. Caithfidh mé a rádh go bhfuilim ar aon inntin leis an Aire in gach rud adubhairt sé ar an scéim oideachais atá ceapaithe ag an Aireacht agus leis an gcaoi in a gcuirtear an scéim sin i bhfeidhm. Dubhairt Michéal O hIfearnáin go raibh na múinteoirí scoile a' dul chuig na cúrsannaibh Gaedhilge le linn an t-samhraidh ag foghluim na teangan agus ag múineadh nó ag iarraidh a bheith ag múineadh Cláir oibre na scoile as Gaedhilge 'na dhiaidh sin, agus nach raibh san obair sin acht caitheamh, ama mar nach raibh na múinteoirí in ann an obair a dhéanamh. Dubhairt sé san am chéadna go raibh aithne agus eolas aige ar gach scoil in a Chonndae fhéin, agus mar gheall ar sin gur thuig sé an cheist, agus go raibh 'fhios aige gur mar sin a bhí an scéal. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an oiread eolais sin ar an teangain aige is go bhféadfadh sé a rádh go bhfuil na múinteoirí scoile a faghail airgid ar son oibre nach féidir leobhta a dhéanamh. Fágfad an scéal mar sin.
Dúbhras go bhfuilim ar aon inntin leis an Aire san scéim oideachais, acht ba chóir dhom a rádh nach n-aontuighim leis in aon rud amháin. Dubhairt sé mar chreid sé go mba cheart iachall a chur ar tuismightheoiribh a geuid páisdí do chur ar scoil gach la. Creidim-se go mba cheart. Tá fhios agam go bhfuil a lán daoine ar fud na tíre nach geuireann suim ar bith in oideachas agus ní ceart leigint doibh a bpáisdí a bheith gan aon tsaghas oideachais. Ní cuirtear na páisdí, seo ar scoil agus muna mbeidh iachall ortha bheith ar scoil bheidh na páisdí seo gan oideachas, gan múineadh. Sé mo thuairim go mba cheart iachall a bheith ar an páisdibh dul ar scoil in gach áit ar fud na tíre.
San am chéadna tá fhios agam gur deacair an iachall sin a chur ortha agus chomh mí-folláin agus neamh-fheileamhnach is atá cuid de na scoileanna ar fud na tíre. Tá cuid aca go h-an-dona ar fad agus tá sé in am ag an Aireacht, rud éigin a dhéanamh chun iad a fheabhsu gan morán moille.
The Minister said he would welcome criticism in regard to the provision of school buildings. I have received a letter to-day, the statements in which I can vouch for. It is in reference to a school, a photograph of which appeared in the papers not very long ago. There are several schools of a similar kind throughout the country, and some action must be taken by the Department of Education to deal with such conditions. The reason I say that some action must be taken in this case is that a free site and the money for the building were provided years ago, and still no school has been built. Some points in connection with this school are: (1) A free site has been available for the school since 1916; (2) a grant was made by the National Board in 1920 of £1,099; (3) there is plenty of material for the building in the immediate vicinity; (4) the active cooperation of all the parents is guaranteed; (5) the old school has been condemned as unsuitable by inspectors for the last forty years, and there are no out-offices, no playground and the accommodation is insufficient. Some action should be taken to get rid of such an insanitary school. The money and the site have been provided and the people have agreed to assist. If the fault lies with the manager or any other person, the Minister for Education should take such powers as he considers necessary to see that the children attending such a school are not in danger of losing their health. If any move is made towards compulsory attendance that question will arise.
Deputy Wolfe said that parents should decide whether or not their children should learn Irish. I do not think that is a very sound proposition. When I was going to school I wonder what my parents would say if they were asked to decide whether I should learn all about the length of the Yangtze-Kiang and Hoang-ho, or the fauna and flora of Madagascar. Suppose some parents decide for Irish, reading, writing and arithmetic, and others will have none of these subjects but want the pupils taught farming, I do not suppose you will be able to get a single teacher able to teach the programme as laid down by the parents.
I should like to express my opinion that the Dáil, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Finance, and people as a whole, must face the fact that we have got to spend a pretty big sum for the provision of adequate school buildings in different parts of the country. We have before us an estimate of approximately three-and-a-half millions for primary education. A visit to some of the school buildings, say, in some parts of Donegal, in which some of that money is going to be spent would make us stop to think whether we are not voting money for primary education purely as a matter of convention, because somebody else did it last year or the year before and it is done in other countries. To distribute that money throughout the country to be spent in conditions under which primary education cannot be properly given means throwing a large part of the money away.
I have a picture before me of a two-teacher school in the northern part of Donegal, in an Irish-speaking district. The school is not two-thirds of the size of the carpet on the floor here. The equipment of the school, as far as the walls are concerned, consists of a picture of a White Star liner at one end and an Anchor liner at the other end. There are three maps in the school. One is provided by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is a big map of Canada. The second map is also a map of Canada provided by the Minister for Emigration or some other Minister like that in Canada. A third map, the smallest one in the school, is a map of Britain and Ireland. I would like to know whether the Minister for Education thinks that in as miserable a school as there is in the country—and there are many miserable ones—with that kind of equipment before the children's eyes it is worth while spending Irish money in giving primary education. There are many schools like that. If Deputy Wolfe has found his heart going down five degrees below zero by looking at the outside of primary schools many of us can tell him that if he looked at the inside it would go down 55 degrees.
I have seen the inside of some of them but not all.
Did your heart not go down 55 degrees below zero? We have to spend money to provide proper school buildings and in spite of the fairy grandmother from Missouri that Deputy Alton told us about I think we should face the work of building these schools ourselves.
I would not like Deputy Mulcahy to misunderstand me. I am as anxious as he is for proper school buildings, but as the Department seems to be sometimes asleep, I think we might do something ourselves.
I did not misunderstand Deputy Alton, but other people may say that we can easily hold back from doing a lot of things by feeling that the people in Donegal should pay for Donegal schools and the people in Galway for Galway schools. I believe that that must be essential expenditure and cannot be left to different parts of the country. It has been suggested that we should consider the question of allowing expenditure on education to fall locally. We are a State of three-and-a-half million people, and if it could be done I think it would be advisable to centralise the whole cost of education. If there are people throughout the country who would spend money freely on education there are many trimmings that might be provided locally. The cost of the essentials of education, the institution of primary, secondary and higher, as well as university education I feel, when thoroughly considered should be practically centralised. If you adopt a system of secondary education by which some portion of the expenditure will be local it will mean that in places like Dublin, where such institutions are bigger and better organised you will have to spend less money on the institutions and you will get better education. In poorer districts they will not be able to set up institutions or give anything like the type of education that could be got in more populous districts. As a national policy, I think the same type of education so far as primary and post primary education is concerned, ought to be available in the country districts as in the urban districts.
Suggestions were put forward that the Department might make some attempt to answer. It has been suggested that there is a difficulty in knowing who should provide fires or build and equip schools. It would simplify the question ultimately of deciding who should be responsible for the upkeep of the schools and for their equipment if we had a statement showing some of the principal difficulties that exist to-day, and that now prevent us from determining in some cases who should provide fires and proper equipment. A statement of the difficulties would help very materially towards a solution. The same thing applies to the amalgamation of small schools. If there are good reasons for amalgamating small schools, and in my opinion there are, a statement of the difficulties and of the objections to amalgamation would go very far towards helping to solve these difficulties.
As to compulsory education, there are schools in the country which, from the point of view of isolation and condition, make one wonder it was not necessary to bring in a compulsory Bill so as to provide some machinery for dragging the unfortunate pupils into them.
took the chair.
On the matter of primary education and secondary education I think ordinary people have to be satisfied that the Minister has tackled these two branches of education in as systematic a way as was possible. We have introduced into our secondary schools running over a period of about a year or so, as good a system of secondary education on paper as you will find anywhere. After the 18 years of the period to which apparently Deputy Good referred, during which a lowering of the whole standard of primary education went on, a new programme of education was introduced into primary schools. This ran for a couple of years, and the Committee is now examining, in the light of the experience of two years, what improvements can be made. For a person in the position of the Minister for Education, who has to tackle these things, I do not know that he could have done better. The question of technical education is another matter entirely. I understand that the Department itself has been going into the question of technical education, and I think it would be of use to us, if the Minister would make a statement as to how far he has got in examining the position of technical education. We are proposing to spend for technical education about £1 for every £17 we are proposing to spend on primary education. The policy of the Department in the past, if in any part of the country people wanted any kind of technical education, has been: "Let them agree to want it and we will help them." There is no suggestion in any part that they ought to organise technical education and to think it out along any lines, however untechnical. There is no question of how the machinery of the Department is working and as to what results they are getting. If one is asked what is the result of the work classes in any certain area for a number of years, they have no information about it.
In regard to the question of University education, the estimates of the expenditure for the three colleges of the National University have been circulated, but it is not possible to find out from them except in the case of one, University College, Galway, what proportion of the expenditure on University education comes from public funds, and what is paid by the students. It is possible to say in the case of Galway College. For the year 1922-23, 8.2 per cent. of the expenditure is represented by contributions from students. The rest apparently comes from public funds of one kind or another. For the year 1923-24 the percentage of contributions by students of the total expenditure was 11 per cent.
It brings home forcibly to us that the public is paying for practically the entire University education. We do not know anything about Trinity College. We then come up against the question—is the Minister for Education satisfied that the work that is being done in the Universities is worth the money that is being paid for it? We hear many complaints about the low standard required of the students entering university colleges, and the poor standard of the capacity of the students in the first and second years of their university courses. If the greater proportion of the money for university education is provided from the public purse, we do want to know whether the material entering our university colleges is fit to profit by the instruction given there, and whether the University Colleges are not doing what some people complain the technical schools are doing, doing work which should be done in the technical schools, as the technical schools are doing work that should be done in primary schools, while they are supposed to be doing other work. I think if the Minister could state what he knows of the standard of entrants to universities and the standard of work in the earlier years in the universities, it would be useful. In the matter of the material that is entering technical schools I do not think Deputy Good is right, and I do not think he is on quite sure ground in blaming primary schools because of the material that enters these technical schools. There has been up to very recently no continuous route put before those students of primary schools. They pass a certain standard in the primary schools, and then, after five or six years of doing nothing, a pupil turns into a technical school. He sits down to an entrance examination, and presents a fairly blank paper. At this particular stage in the development of the educational system it is not fair to blame the primary schools for the stuff that is turned into our technical schools.
There is another matter that would be of importance if it could be done, and that is that there should be a linking up between our educational machinery and the machinery of, say, employment, so that masters and the authorities of any particular school could do something to help students that they knew were going to leave school during a particular year to get employment. This is a pretty involved matter, but if the minds of our employers and the minds of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and of the Ministry of Education, were directed to it, I believe something could be done and that it would materially help the usefulness of the type of education that would be given in our schools. The teachers would feel that they knew more where they stood in releasing boys from school at the end of their term, and perhaps the morale of our teaching staffs would be very much better. There is another matter, the question of statistics. We have no idea of how much money, generally, is spent on secondary education or what percentage of our people get anything like secondary education or an education after leaving the primary school—how we compare with other countries. We do want some kind of a Statistics Department in connection with the Ministry of Education that would enable us to size up our position in education and keep abreast of the times, because we do not keep abreast of what is being done educationally. If we do not see the proportion of our population that passes through the various educational institutions compared with the populations of other countries, we are going to be behind both socially and industrially. I do not know if the Ministry of Education has been doing anything to develop a statistics branch, but if we were to develop a branch in that particular line, it would help us to understand what we may expect from the future.
I anticipated that I might disagree with Deputy Mulcahy. I find myself, on the other hand, in complete agreement with almost every word he said. The only point on which I would dissociate myself from him is that I have not enough knowledge of University standards to know whether they are as low as he suggested. But with that exception I think I agree with him. The only qualification I would make is with regard to his very useful suggestion that the schools should be linked up with the employers. You can do that with secondary schools; I do not think you can do it with primary schools, because a boy or girl of thirteen or fourteen years of age has not developed character sufficient to ensure that the schoolmaster will be able to say that he or she is suited for any particular form of employment. In England that is done. I was speaking to a secondary teacher there who told me of a boy leaving school at the age of eighteen for whom he had been able to secure a very good position in Lever Brothers.
There is just this point, that in the case here the children are apparently leaving the primary schools at what is not the right age.
I was going to refer to that. I will take up that matter again. But in the case of a boy of thirteen leaving a primary school it is very often hard for the schoolmaster to know what he is suited for, and, of course, it is much easier for a schoolmaster in a big school in a populous area to be in touch with employers than for a schoolmaster in a small school. The whole thing would bear further development. But while I am wholly in agreement with Deputy Mulcahy, I am not so wholly in agreement either with Deputy Baxter or Deputy Alton. Deputy Alton told us that we could learn from America. Educationally I think that America is a bad country to learn from, at any rate with regard to primary schools. I have met numerous Americans who were extremely dissatisfied with the condition of primary, and, to a certain extent, secondary education in the United States. I dare say they had not visited some schools. Generally speaking, there are too many women employed in the teaching profession in America, co-education has been carried too far and the tendency is to force the mind too much into a sealed cabinet. These are criticisms that I have heard of in the United States, and I am disposed to think, to a certain extent, that they are true, from a study of the Press of the United States. A very good index of the culture of a country is the character of its newspapers. So that instead of saying, with Deputy Alton, "Learn from America." I think I would say to the Minister. "Learn from Scotland."
I am also in disagreement with Deputy Baxter, both because I think some of his illustrations unfortunate and because I think he approached this question in a spirit of too great controversy. He quoted various foreign countries as examples of learning the language of your country. He quoted France and Germany, in which he was perfectly justified. He also quoted Belgium, but he did not tell us what is the national language of Belgium. Belgium has a problem precisely like our own. The national language of a considerable portion of Belgium is Flemish. Then again there is Dutch, but there are a great many Belgians who say that French, which is used all over the country, is the most useful language commercially and culturally. There is this very acute language problem existing in Belgium. Deputy Baxter has lumped Belgium in with France and Germany. We have got to study this Belgian question. I believe —I am open to correction—that it has got so far that they have some Flemish-speaking Universities and some French-speaking Universities, and this problem of bi-lingualism is a very serious and difficult problem that cannot be dealt with in a slap-dash spirit. Deputy Baxter, among other controversial matters, dealt with the Constitution. The makers of the Constitution were, I think, wiser than Deputy Baxter when they made that Article distinctly ambiguous. If I were asked for my interpretation I should say that that Article of the Constitution means that Irish is the language of Ireland, as Welsh is the language of Wales, but that English is spoken in Ireland, as it is spoken in Wales, and that it will be used where it is necessary. I do not think that that is a disloyal interpretation, and I think that there again we may learn from the Welsh schools and the practice that they have. It is true that the Irish language has more leeway to make up than the Welsh language. That is my view of the position, and I do not think it is one that is inconsistent with, at any rate, one interpretation of the Constitution.
As regards the general character of the debate, the Minister will, I think, realise that there is a very great interest in education in the Dáil, that it is not mainly a technical interest, but that every party has tried to make useful contributions to the debate. He will also realise with less satisfaction, that there is more or less general agreement that there is a good deal wrong with the present educational system in this country. As regards the actual terms of the motion I find it impossible to vote for it—"That the Dáil approves of the policy of the Minister for Education"—because though I was not here yesterday I read the report of the Minister's speech in the Press, and I have read his articles in a weekly paper with great interest, but I am still completely ignorant of what the policy may be. It is asking the Dáil to sign a blank cheque. There are no two men in the Dáil, with the exception perhaps of Deputy Johnson, who would be more likely to induce me to sign a blank cheque than the President and the Minister for Education, but being habitually cautious I cannot undertake to do it in this case. I do not propose to divide against it, but I am not going to endorse a policy which I do not know. I am in the position of the historic blind man who was sent into a dark cellar to look for a black cat that was not there. There is no policy. There is a series of aspirations and suggestions which will, I hope, in time develop into a policy. I do not want to be offensive to the Minister, but that is how I view it. I do not know if the Minister has studied English poetry of the seventeenth century, but if I might paraphrase Marvell I would say:—
"If there were worlds enough and time,
This slowness, Eoin, were no crime,
But at my back I ever hear
The General Election hurrying near."
Honestly, I wish I could feel certain of the policy of the Minister who, I believe, is the best person in the whole Dáil to frame a programme, and which, if he would only get down to grips with it, would have it in being before the next General Election. And who can say what may happen then? But so far as I can grasp the suggestions of a policy I cannot find myself in complete agreement with them. What is the object of education? That, after all, is at the back of our discussion. A very few teachers and a certain number of parents consider that it is to enable the child to pass examinations. That object the Minister for Education will repudiate, as I repudiate it. That is not the object and the end of education. I think if I were asked to define what the ideal of education was I should say: "To enable the person who is educated to form a right judgment in all things." That is an ideal which is never realised. We all have our prejudices; we all have our blind spots, but that is my ideal of education. The Minister's ideal, if I do not misquote him, is that education should build up a national civilisation. Well, I see certain difficulties in the fulfilment of that ideal. I am not suggesting that it is anything but a worthy ideal, or a fine ideal, but to my mind civilisation, or, as I should prefer to call it, culture, cannot be national because it is universal.
I would ask Deputies to throw their minds back to the Florence of the Middle Ages. There was a fine civilisation in that Florence—a civilisation intensely individual—producing masterpieces in art and fine work in literature. But that civilisation was not national. It was based on the teachings of the Greek refugees who had fled from Constantinople when it was captured by the Turks. And yet it was individual. It has made Florence a place to which even now visitors come from the United States and from all over the world to see. But that civilisation was derived, as I believe all civilisation and culture must be derived. I am not going to suggest that the old Irish culture was free from other influences. I believe we must have the influence of Greece and Rome on our civilisation if we are to build up culture, and I am afraid that Irish has not been sufficiently subjected to these influences. The old Irish writers were undoubtedly very strongly under these influences, particularly under the influence of Greece. They were influenced by Homer, and by the big poets, and to a certain extent by the Greek philosophers, but there is a gap of more than two centuries, so far as prose is concerned.
Irish poetry continued, though I do not know if the Minister is going to suggest that Merriman's "Midnight Court" is a suitable subject for study in schools. So far as prose is concerned, prose, in the Irish language, practically ceased when the Four Masters and Keating completed their work at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Since then until our own time there has been practically no historical, philosophical or literary work produced in Irish prose. Irish literature escaped the influence of Bacon, Grotius, Pascal and Swift, for though the latter wrote in Ireland he did not know Irish, and that gap is almost impossible to fill. That is not the fault of the Irish language itself. The Irish language was persecuted, and could not come under those influences, and it was owing to the conditions of the language that it had not been able to create its normal development. I am not saying this in any spirit hostile to the Irish language. As a matter of fact, the first effort at the revival of the Irish language came from the class to which I belong. In the middle of the last century it was the landed gentry and the peers that subscribed to sanction for its revival. An ancestor of my own paid O'Donovan and O'Curry to transcribe extracts in the Ordnance Survey relating to the ancient history of Ireland. They subscribed also to O'Donovan's monumental edition of the Four Masters, and they preserved written prose and Irish manuscripts, and I have some of them now in my possession, and I only wish that Deputy Baxter would come down and read them to me. I am not speaking in the spirit of hostility to the language, but trying to show that the development of education through the Irish language, and solely through the Irish language, cannot create the culture that I should wish to see existing in this country.
The Minister, in some of his articles, has held up to us the example of Denmark. Culturally, I am of opinion that Denmark is a backward country. It has produced efficient farmers; it has not produced in the last 70 or 80 years, since Hans Andersen ceased to write, any great thinker. If the object of education is only to produce the best butter-makers, and the best pig-feeders we should be wise to follow Denmark. If, on the other hand, the object of education is to form right judgment I think we would be wiser to seek a wider culture and a fuller education than can be obtained from any one language. English would not be valuable if it had never been influenced by anything but English writers. A man might be cultured or an educated man if he had never read Plato, but if he only read books by people who never read Plato his education would lose something. For the rest I am of opinion it is too soon to pass judgment upon the question of the compulsory teaching of Irish in schools. You cannot pluck up an educational system by the roots to see how it is growing. We must wait until the children who have been studying Irish pass out of the school and we must see how they compare with the children educated under the former system. That is the only fair test. With some of the criticism as the methods made by Deputy Baxter I am in agreement. I do not think the whole experiment has been carried through on the wisest possible lines. I am not an educational expert. I feel a little abashed at speaking to-night at all. I did not intend to do so, but I do say that we should approach this question of education, upon which the whole future of the country depends, in a non-controversial spirit, not saying that the Irish language is simply Irish nationality on the one hand or on the other, that the Irish language is commercially useless. That is not the spirit in which to approach the question. We must approach it in the spirit of doing the best we can for the children. We have a very serious problem in the rural districts where we have small schools, highly paid teachers, short time-tables, and children attending irregularly. It is very difficult to enable these children to get the best out of education, as I am sure we wish them to get the best. The only way to achieve the best is to approach the question in the spirit of philosophy and not in the spirit of the faction fight.
The Minister for Education, in his statement of policy, very much reminded me of the man who, for a living, did nothing in particular and did it very well. The Minister said nothing in particular and he said it very well. However, some of his chief officials, I think, have usurped his place, and they have given us a very clear statement of the intentions of the Ministry as regards the policy of education in this country. There are a few matters that I would like to touch on. One is the condition of school buildings. Undoubtedly their condition is very bad. The sanitary arrangements are of a very primitive, filthy and disgusting character in most schools. I do not know a place less calculated to arouse ambition in a boy than the average Irish school. The whole system of the schools as regards buildings and comfort for the pupils requires immediate attention. We know that some of the children of poor parents come long distances to these schools in very inclement weather. They get wet and they are soaking the wet in their clothes all day long. Again, we know it is not an uncommon thing for the children of the poor to go to school in the morning on a breakfast taken at 8 o'clock and to fast all day long until they go back in the evening at 4 o'clock. In my experience as a dispensary doctor I knew that was a fairly common occurrence. I think, if the children of these parents are not able to supply them with a lunch, that the State should do it. There is no use in thinking that a child will be at his best or that he will have any inclination to learn from books if he is hungry.
Another thing we must admit is this, that many children, owing to the poverty of their parents, are sent to school clad in very filthy clothes. Children, too, are sent to school when convalescing from infectious and contagious diseases. Their clothes are not sterilised before they return to school. There is no apparatus for disinfecting them. The result is that healthy children are exposed to the danger of contracting the diseases which these other children have suffered from. Some of them may have suffered from diseases such as scarlatina and measles. Some of the sequelæ or the after consequences of scarlatina and measles are very serious. They might mean the loss of eyesight or bad kidneys, while they also predispose to tuberculosis. That leads up to the question of medical inspection.
The medical inspection of school children has been advocated by the medical profession for 30 years. I must say it is not the fault of the British regime that medical inspection of school children has not been enforced in this country. As regards anything in the nature of preventive medicine, and particularly of medical inspection of school children, there was no feeling of anxiety in the country for it. The Irish public man, the public representative who had an unsavoury character for squandering money, made it the occasion to retrieve his reputation, and he stood out on this very matter for economy and generally succeeded. He succeeded at the expense of the lives of the poor children of the country. The fact that so many children in this country grow up in a debilitated state is mainly due to the neglect of medical inspection of school children.
Now, on the general question of education I think agricultural education is too much neglected in the schools. Agriculture is the main industry of the country. Agriculture in theory and in practice furnishes a very big field for education. You could have introduced under that head biology or any other ology, and it is a thing that children could be well grounded in. Their observation could be cultivated to an extent that would stand them well in after life. If I were the Minister for Education I would have a very practical scheme in the agricultural way. I would have, as was suggested one time, certain farms near every school at which instruction would be given to the children. I would pick out one of them in which farming was done in an up-to-date manner. Near the school I would have an Irish cow in the condition she is usually seen in in the winter— manure clad—and I would have opposed to that another cow in the condition in which cows are kept in Denmark. I would ask the children to observe the condition of the two cows.
I would give the children simple lectures and would point out to them what it would mean to the health of the children of this country if the cows here were kept in the clean condition that they are to be seen in in Denmark. I would point out to them, too, the evil of milking cows in a dirty fashion. I am afraid that this is not exactly the culture that my friend Deputy Cooper was referring to a moment ago. For my part I would have health before culture, and I would use the schools as a means of promoting a knowledge of health.
Now we come to the all-burning question of compulsory Irish. Somehow Deputies have been rather shy in dealing with it. I know that there are faddists and enthusiasts throughout Ireland, and if you do not cross their "t's" and dot their "i's" and approve of everything else they propose, you run the risk of being called a West Briton. To my mind, arguments on that line are as objectionable as the man who holds a discourse with you behind a gun when he wants to get your money. There is about the same mentality at the back of both of them, and one is certainly as objectionable as the other. I see no objection to compulsory Irish. I do not believe that the people of the country object to Irish, but I do know that they object to the methods employed in teaching Irish. I know that as a practical people they object to Irish being made the medium of teaching arithmetic, geography, history, and all the other subjects. Doing that means that you are teaching Irish from morning till evening during the school hours. Certain inspectors have said that children taught mathematics through the medium of Irish have been a great success. Well, I have heard other Inspectors say the opposite—that they have not. To my mind, I think it is an intellectual impossibility for any child to do these subjects in a language, the rudiments of which he does not know. I think it is as well for all of us to face that fact. Of course I know that in saying that I will be up against the enthusiasts and the extremists, who tell us that Irish is the language of Paradise. They will tell you that to enter Paradise, like getting certain preferments in this country, you must have a good knowledge of Irish. That may be all very well, but I do not think we are ready to accept it. There are many other points that I would like to touch on, but as they have been already dealt with in a manner better than I could do, I do not propose to detain the House any longer. I hope that every Deputy in the House will avail of this opportunity to express his views on this all-important subject.
The Minister has been condemned by several Deputies for not having made clear the policy of his Department and for adopting what may be called the laissez faire policy in education in regard to the children of the country. I am not sure that the Minister is entitled to the blame that has been attributed to him in that matter. He has taken into account the general attitude of the Ministry as a whole to the rising generation as well as to the present generation, and he has adapted his educational policy to the policy of the Ministry in respect of the livelihood of the people. I think on that account at least the Minister must be commended for a certain amount of consistency. He sees quite well that it is little use educating the children, of the poor at any rate, if it is the business of the Ministry as a whole to leave the child of the workingman when he grows up to be in the position of being merely the recipient of the lowest possible standard of life that the competitive market will allow him to obtain. Deputy Thrift, for instance, asked the question: “How much of the success of the schemes for industrial scientific development depends upon the education of the people affected.” Well, I think it will be recognised by Deputy Thrift that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, for instance, has a scheme in mind which will mean the utilisation of scientific methods and of scientific equipment to the fullest extent. The utilisation of machinery and of scientific equipment of one kind and another will, of course, limit the area of employment for skilled people. All that will be required will be unskilled labour to attend and to act as accessories and adjuncts to scientific equipment. Now we have seen that the view of the Ministry of Education as well as the rest of the other Ministries, the view of the Executive Council, and the view of the House by a majority, is that the competitive standard fixed by the lowest class in the population, by the lowest condition to which any accidental circumstances in the economic field leads, is to fix the standard of life for the average workman. So it is useless, the Minister argues to himself, to advocate the higher class of education for the working people of the country if they are compelled on the other hand to this degraded standard fixed by the competitive market for human labour. As the Minister quite rightly says, in effect, it is no use having a large number of people highly educated, or even educated at all beyond the paltry hope of 32/- a week, unless we are going to provide them with a certain reasonable standard of life, or allow them to live up to a certain reasonable standard of comfort.
The economic policy of the Ministry is such as to prevent that eventuating. Therefore, there is consistency in the policy of the Ministry of Education in limiting the field of education, and rather adopting the laissez faire attitude in regard to this matter. So that I think on these lines the Ministry is at least to be commended for a consistency of view, but I think that the rest of us are not satisfied to allow the education of the country to be treated on the assumption that we are always going to have a Minister in charge who will look at the working classes and the life of the people through the spectacles with which the present Minister regards them. We will assume that in time there will be a view of life in this country which will rather aim at advancing to the highest standard the life of the people and will say that if there is to be scientific material development that that shall run concurrently with the improvement in the standard of life, and not the contrary, which is the present view of the Ministry. On the assumption that there will be at some future time Ministers who will adopt a more enlightened view, I will say that, because of the absence of a policy from the Ministry, it is not worth the support of the House, and that we ought not to approve, in the language of the motion, “of the policy of the Minister for Education,” inasmuch as, so far as he has outlined it, it is practically confined to the enthusiastic backing of compulsory Irish. On that point, perhaps, it would be as well to say a word.
So far as I have been able to understand the mind of the public, there is a general satisfaction that Irish is being taught in the schools as one of the many compulsory subjects. There is a very grave doubt as to whether the method of intensive teaching is going to give satisfactory results, and there is rather a fear that there will be a reaction which will destroy the object of the Ministry. There is, in the cities certainly, a good deal of doubt as to the facts, whether it is true, as has been stated, that Irish is being used as a vehicle for teaching other subjects by teachers not qualified to speak the language fluently to children who are not able to receive the teaching. That is a matter on which I am entirely unable to come to any conclusion, because it is a matter of fact, and I have no evidence. I heard statements, rather loosely thrown about in much the same way, for instance, as Deputy Heffernan threw a statement about, that people came from school with a smattering of Irish and then proceeded to teach mathematics, geography or other subjects to children who had not sufficient knowledge to be able to take from the smattering what the teacher meant. I would like if the Minister would clear up that question before this matter is disposed of, that is, as to what is the attitude of the Department in regard to the teaching of Irish, what qualifications are the teachers to have before they are expected, or even allowed, to teach classes through Irish, and what qualifications are the children supposed to have before they are expected to receive that teaching in Irish? I cannot imagine that it is true that the Ministry of Education has adopted a policy such as has been charged against them, and it would be well, I think, if we could be placed in possession of definite evidence, whether from the critics who can bring forward definite cases, that teachers without full knowledge and without fluency in Irish are expected to teach any subject in Irish to children who cannot understand, or whether that is contrary to the instructions of the Ministry of Education.
There have been a good many things said here in this discussion which seem to throw doubt upon the efficacy of the primary school system. We, on these benches, have no desire to defend the primary school system as we have known it, beyond what it is duly entitled to. We wish to put the blame mainly upon the bad accommodation, the bad equipment, the inadequate attendance, and, shall I say also, to some degree, on the shortcomings of the training system. I think, however, that rather overstress has been laid on the defects of the primary system, and I am wondering whether there is any satisfaction with the education system as a whole—whether primary, secondary, or university. I suppose it is because that whole sphere of life has come to me somewhat late, that I am not able to grasp the significance of it, but within the last eight or ten years I have been able to meet quite a considerable number of people who had a university training, and even a larger number who had a secondary education; and, frankly, I wonder whether it can be said that the product of the university is, on the average, any better equipped mentally, except in special subjects—perhaps one or two subjects which do not appertain to the ordinary life of the ordinary citizen—than the product of the primary schools; and in regard to secondary schools, I think that that can be emphasised. I might, I think, venture to say that if you take one thousand men indiscriminately, and take the products of the secondary and primary schools, one can pretty well affirm that the secondary school system has not given value in mental equipment proportionate to the number of years that have been given to education.
I do not want it to be thought for a moment that I am decrying—very much the contrary—the continuance of the period of definite education, but I am very doubtful whether anything more can be said either on the side of the university or secondary system than can be said in favour of the primary system. If I were to ask what is required, in addition to the many other requirements, it would be some kind of impartial investigation into the whole system of education, primary, technical, secondary and university, and let us see if we can find out where the defect lies. I am quite certain it is not in the raw material, but there is a defect, and no one yet, I think, certainly not in this House, has satisfied me that the causes of those defects have yet been revealed. Two or three statements have been made in regard to the failure of the Minister to explain the policy of the Department in respect to the health services associated with the schools. the provision of sanitary schools, and the equipment of the schools. I would ask the Minister to give us some outline of what is his policy—I do not mean to say what are his hopes, what are his aspirations, or what are his ideals, but what is the Department's policy in this year 1925, and the coming year, in respect of the health services of the children attending the schools. Has he appointed a director of health services in connection with the schools? Will he tell us what are the links between his Department and the sanitary or health authorities in the cities and counties—for instance, Dublin City or the townships adjacent? Will the Minister tell us whether there is any formal and direct liaison between the Ministry of Education and the health officer of the City of Dublin, and similarly in regard to the health officers of all the other counties and cities? It has been part of the law of the land for some time that there should be medical inspection, and that the children attending the schools who were undernourished and ill-fed might have provision made for school meals. That might well come within the joint supervision of the health department and of the Ministry of Education. I wonder does the Minister for Education lay stress upon the necessity of looking after the health of the children who are attending the schools?
Although this may come within the sphere of the school programme which Deputy Thrift thinks should not be discussed pending the report of the Committee, I think on the contrary it would be well if it were indicated here at least what are the general lines upon which the school programme should be based, and I will ask the Minister what place in the school programme does he think the study of civics for instance should take. One of the complaints that is very widespread is that the people are not well-informed on matters affecting the Government of their urban district, or county, or city or nation. One of the reasons is that in no part of the educational system has this subject any stress laid upon it. There is supposed to be some teaching in civics in the training colleges, but I am informed that it is practically a farce, that really no stress is laid upon the subject at all, and that it would be a very difficult thing to find even a teacher newly come out of a training college who could pass any reasonable examination, say, in the Constitution of Saorstát Eireann, or of the government of the city of Dublin. I agree that it might be very difficult to find anybody outside the City Hall, or many even inside the City Hall, who could give any judgment regarding, or pass an examination upon the present methods of government of the city of Dublin.
Deputy Bryan Cooper raised a question following upon something that slipped from Deputy Thrift as to the unwisdom, as he thought, of looking to America for any guidance upon educational matters. Of course that is like many another thing said about America, and I am not going to pose as an authority upon America. I understand that there are as many school systems as there are States in America. I am going to ask the House to bear with me for a few minutes while I say a word or two by way of constructive suggestion on some of the lessons that might be learned from at least one city in America. I am not going to suggest that the city of New York, and the city of Dublin, or the Saorstát as a whole are exactly comparable, but I think if Deputy Bryan Cooper had the opportunity I was privileged to have of going through some of the schools in the city of New York he would agree that there is something to be learned from America, if only from the State of New York, in the sphere of education. I think the greatest and best lesson he would learn is that the Department of Education from the highest official to the latest monitor appears somehow to have been infused with the desire for improving the education of the children of the city, and there is in fact a passion for education there which is having an effect upon the child life and the minds of the children of that city.
We have heard something of the intensive teaching of Irish and the spirit which is behind the present policy of the Department in respect to Irish. There may be faults in that matter, but I, at least, am going to say it is a creditable thing to find the Ministry of Education having enthusiasm in any subject. If there is too much intensification, as it may be found, in respect to compulsory Irish, the fact that an enthusiasm has been created in the Department is one achievement, and that enthusiasm may be diverted to other subjects. We may even find before long that an enthusiasm will be created for the health and nourishment of the children's bodies, as well as the improvement of their minds.
We have heard of the necessity for improving the attendance at schools. I found that there are public elementary schools in the City of New York where 2,000 to 3,000 pupils are enrolled, which have a percentage attendance over the month of January, of all the months in the year, as high as 98.72. Four schools are mentioned with percentages of attendance for the month of January as follows:—98.72, 98.60, 97.47, and 95.55. Going right down through the various schools and taking them together, the average attendance, if I remember aright, is over 90, considerably over 90; I think it is about 95. Even more remarkable is the fact that in a certain school that we had the privilege of visiting we found class-room after class-room with the badge of honour, "100 per cent. attendance," on that particular afternoon. While attendance is compulsory, there was an obvious eagerness on the part of the children to attend school; an apparent delight in being at the school, induced, I suggest, partially by the surroundings, partially by the enthusiasm of the teachers, partially by the general desire that has been generated to acquire some knowledge and equipment for the battle of life.
The problems in the particular school I have in mind, where 2,500 children were in normal attendance, included dealing with the children of parents of seven or eight nationalities, whose language in many cases was not English; yet all the tuition was in English. I am saying a few things on this matter, because I think it is due to the people connected with the New York Education Department. They were very kind and gracious in the amount of attention they gave us and the privileges they granted us.
We examined as thoroughly as we wished, with their assistance, the system of education in the city. It is on that account I am asking the Dáil to bear with me in those words of commendation—more than commendation, envy—of their system. I spoke of the necessity for the teaching of civics, within which term I include very many subjects appertaining to the community life of the citizen. To illustrate one line which I think we might in this city and country follow as an example—there is a book here dealing with New York, a text-book in civic government. This book deals with all the aspects of city life, and has been produced by the children in the schools, corrected by the experts and published as a reliable guide to the City of New York in all its public aspects. It touches on government, how food is provided, how the water-supply is protected, what provision there is for the protection of life and property, the health of the people, how communication and transportation are provided, lighting and heating, the system of government, the making of laws, policing and education. That is an example of the kind of thing that might well be followed to induce an interest in the work of the schools.
The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, if he were here, would be interested in another production, a book which contains a series of addresses communicated through the radio in connection with the educational system of the city, prepared in many cases by the children of the schools, interspersed with musical programmes provided by the children in the schools, choral singing, band performances, lectures and short addresses upon the whole system of education in all its aspects, thus imparting to the public news in an interesting fashion and knowledge in regard to the educational system through the medium of broadcasting. That again is another instance of how the children are encouraged to take an interest in the work of the city and how the people are encouraged to take an interest in the education of the children of the city. Deputy Good will be interested in one fact, which to me was very surprising, in regard to the continuation schools. From our experience the interest and the desire for education has been so generated that instead of a small percentage of graduates, as they are called after passing through the primary schools, continuing their school-life, seventy and eighty per cent. of the children who have been granted leaving certificates continue their education in the secondary or high schools or technical schools right up to 18 years of age. I would point out that a condition of the granting of leaving certificates for children who passed through the primary schools is that they must attend the continuation school up to 16 years of age, or if they have not received a certificate of having graduated, then they must attend a continuation school up to 17 years of age.
I am glad to say that quite a number of the proposals in the Labour Party's education programme which the Minister was good enough to commend for consideration are in operation in the school system in New York and it has not been difficult to induce the children to attend these schools when they are properly equipped and when there has been a spirit or a desire for knowledge and education created.
Perhaps Deputy Good would be interested also, in an experiment which has been going on for a number of years, and which I understand was quite successful, whereby the students of technical schools attend one week at school and work one week for an employer for pay. Two boys or two girls would be linked in that way and the co-operative system, as it is called, is utilised. One will attend school while his fellow is in the office, the shop or the warehouse; the same lessons as are taught to number one will be repeated to number two in the following week and a system of linking of that kind enables the boy or the girl out of their earnings to carry on without the loss that at present is entailed in this country. I cannot say what kind of result that is bringing, but so far as I could learn it has been fairly satisfactory and will be very well worth the Minister's while inquiring into it.
Coming back to the question of the treatment of children in matters of health we learn that the desire to educate and the desire for education have so far progressed that hundreds of children who are home-bound, as it is called, who are kept at home by sickness or ill-health or invalidity, are provided with a teacher three times a week, one hour or one hour and a quarter. Hospitals for children are not neglected. Where a child is able to receive any lesson, classes are formed and children are taught by the school system. So that in convalescent homes and wherever there are children gathered together there a teacher is provided. It may be that Deputy Bryan Cooper's informants had some grounds for saying that the education system of America was not satisfactory. Undoubtedly it is claimed on behalf of the city and the State of New York that they are in advance educationally of any other State in the Union. It may be that there are defects from the point of view of the purpose of education in that city. It may be that the aim is too much materialised, that even in the schools their measurement of everything by its worth in dollars may be exhibited. I had no evidence of that. But the letter, spirit and purpose of the education is good and is infectious, and if we could create in this country, whether in the community or in the staff of the Ministry, the same spirit in regard to education as we found in the city of New York then we would be on the highway to a great change in the mentality and outlook of the people.
Again I would direct the Minister's attention to the health service in that city. We saw, as a matter of fact, the day we were present, the school nurse, and we learned that there was a daily visit of the school nurse and that every teacher is required to indicate to the school nurse if there is any point of doubt as to the health of any child. Superficial examination by the nurse will take place. A watch will be kept and a doctor called at a very early date. Preventive action by the teacher, the nurse, and the doctor is brought into operation, and before sickness is allowed to develop there are opportunities for checking it. That is a very great educational factor. The parents of the children are taught through the children the importance of watching the children in the early stages of sickness. I would ask the Minister not to allow this matter of the medical inspection and the general health question in the primary schools to pass by any longer. I am quite sure he is convinced intellectually of the necessity but he may make the excuse that the provision of further officers will be a matter of expense. I hope that the rule which makes it impossible for you, Ceann Comhairle, to address the Dáil will not prevent the possibility that outside the hours of the Dáil's session it will be allowable for you to supplement what I have said in this public fashion in regard to the educational system and the organisation of education in the city of New York. I feel that the lessons that were placed before us might well be of the greatest possible value to the country through the Dáil's knowledge of those lessons. The whole system as we understand it in Ireland is one that will require the greatest possible care and encouragement, and it is undoubtedly a matter which requires the generation of enthusiasm in respect to it. I do not know of any better way of initiating that enthusiasm than by imparting to the members of the Oireachtas some of the impressions that we were able to derive from our visit to the schools of New York.
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.