Will Deputies be at liberty, after the Minister has spoken, to raise questions relating to different Departments of Education?
IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE 45 (OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION).
I understood that the Deputies who spoke yesterday, Deputies Fahy and O'Connell, said all they had to say on the Education Votes generally and that the Minister was now to conclude generally.
That was the understanding.
I did not know that the understanding was such. I wanted to say a word on the question of technical education.
The question must be put, and if the Deputy desires to intervene he cannot be prevented.
I think one of the difficulties we have in discussing estimates is that all the attack, if I might put it that way, is made first, and then the Minister speaks and closes the discussion. Very often in the material given in the Minister's reply matter for a really valuable discussion arises. Under the existing procedure we are limited apparently to a sort of cross-fire of short questions at the end. I suggest that the Minister who is responsible for the Department should answer the whole of the criticisms in general, and then would come the time at which fruitful discussion might take place. In Committee, I understand, Deputies are entitled to speak more than once. I suggest that what has been customarily regarded as the closing speech of the Minister should not in future be regarded in any sense as a closing speech, but merely as a preliminary contribution to the debate. In other words, I am asking that at the end of the Minister's statement we should have very much more latitude to discuss matters than we now have. It might tend to shorten the preliminary discussion. We could put, in the form of very short speeches, questions which we want answered, and then deal with the satisfactory nature or otherwise of the answers which we have received.
In this particular instance a great many speeches have been made on education, and all the Chair has to go upon is the opinions expressed to it by Deputies who seem to be particularly interested in this Vote on behalf of their own Parties. Yesterday they appeared to be satisfied that the Minister should conclude. Of course there is no Standing Order by which the debate would be closed when the Minister has concluded; it is really a matter of an understanding. If, as the Deputy suggests, a discussion were first allowed on Estimates, then the Minister were to reply and the discussion were then resumed, that would be a rather lengthy process. However, the Minister for Education is concluding now on Vote 45 and after that we will see what happens.
I am now concluding, not opening the discussion. The suggestion is that my concluding speech is in future to be regarded as my opening speech.
The custom in the past has been to discuss policy generally on estimates, and details subsequently. That has been the custom with regard to several estimates and I understood that procedure was being followed in connection with this Estimate. On that understanding I refrained from intervening in the discussion until such time as we came to deal with technical education.
I think there will be general agreement that Deputy Good can speak on Vote 48— Technical Education.
I have no intention of cutting out Deputy Good, least of all on technical education. I suggest that, if a number of long speeches having been made, the discussion is only to begin when the Minister sums up, we are in for a week's debate on each Estimate. There is not on my part the slightest desire to stand between Deputy Good and any statement he desires to make on technical education. I think we were discussing last night the allegation that education is not as satisfactory as it was thirty years ago. If it is any comfort, it is well to remember that it never was. Certainly any person who has reached middle age knows that it never was as satisfactory as it was thirty years previously —at any period. I am not claiming that any one of our particular branches of education is perfectly satisfactory—far from it. There is a great deal of advance still to be made. I think it is the business of everybody interested in education—teachers and others—to make every effort not to stay where we are, or to hold what we have, but to advance. I do not suggest that in any particular branch the system of education which we have in this country is as satisfactory as that in other countries.
What I do deprecate, however, is the all-too-easy statement, based so far as I know on the most slender evidence, that any particular branch of education—the statement, for instance, made by Deputy J.J. Byrne about primary education and that by Deputy O'Connell about post-primary education—in this country, primary education, for instance, is altogether behind the times and compares badly with education across the Channel. If anyone has studied the problems which they have to face across the Channel he would be convinced that that is not so. They are not satisfied—at least they were not up to recently—that there is a satisfactory education given over there in the primary schools after the age of eleven and a half or twelve years. So much were they dissatisfied on that point that they are now making an attempt, the success of which we cannot judge, to remodel their whole system. In so far as that particular problem is concerned, we are in a somewhat better position, because in our primary system we have subjects such as a particular kind of mathematics, and also a second language which differentiates it from that on the other side of the water. They complain that after the age of twelve there is nothing for a pupil to do up to the age of fourteen except repetition work, whereas I do not think that that holds in the case of our programme.
I admit that there may have been a decline in the actual results turned out from the primary schools following the abolition of the results system. I am not saying that because I believe that the results system should not have been abolished or because I think it should be restored. I ask you to look at the situation and remember in dealing with education you more often have in mind the results of a quarter of a century following the abolition of the results system than you have in mind more recent results. I am not advocating the restoration of the results system, but you had a sudden plunge from complete regimentation to an entirely different system. With that sudden change it was conceivable that there might be a falling-off during those years, but again that is a matter that is hard to judge. It would be no justification for the suggestion sometimes made to restore the results system. There may have been criticism at the time to the effect that the change was imposed too hurriedly and that it should be gradually brought about, but the idea of returning to the system now has generally been abandoned, because it is condemned by practically most of the countries of which are in advance on educational matters. For that return I see no justification, even in the remarks I have made.
When I spoke against the danger of exaggeration, I did so not because I could give an affirmative answer to Deputy J.J. Byrne that I was completely satisfied—that would be absurd —but really to act as a corrective and not by any means to act as an inducement for anyone interested in education to rest on his oars. The reason I felt it necessary to deal with it was because I also felt, no matter how exaggerated the language of Deputy Byrne was, that he was voicing an opinion which had been voiced here before and which we hear expressed in different parts of the country. A great deal remains to be done. There is a very important trust undoubtedly imposed by the nation on the teachers and, taking them as a whole, I feel perfectly convinced that they will be able to justify that trust. Remember that it is in doing their utmost for the nation that that very justification exists.
Now, let me examine the criticism that we are not getting value for the money spent on primary education. What is the suggestion? We are spending four and a half millions, roughly speaking, on education as a whole, apart from the universities. Is the suggestion that four and a half millions could be better spent in other spheres than in education? As I pointed out already, nobody can suggest that four and a half millions is an exorbitant amount to ask for education. Perhaps the suggestion is that it should be better distributed between the different branches of education than that we should, for instance, give three and a half million to primary education, seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds to secondary education, one hundred and fifty thousand pounds to technical education, one hundred and twenty thousand pounds to reformatories and industrial schools, and so on. As against that—if that was in the Deputy's mind—I would recall to his attention his own quotation from a very celebrated writer on pedagogy in which the extreme importance of primary education is pointed out. There would not, I think, be justification for criticism along that particular line.
A suggestion has been made—I do not think it was made by Deputy Fahy though he was reported in the newspapers in that way—that we are not getting value for the money we are spending on primary education. Remember that the great bulk of that money goes in one particular form of expenditure and, in fairness to the people criticised, it is well to bear in mind that for many years that particular body and those who are doing this particular type of work had to be content with miserable salaries, and that the bulk of the present body of teachers was recruited under these circumstances. People come to me sometimes and say, "Compare the teachers' salaries now,"—the allegation sometimes being that they are the best paid people in the country, an allegation with which I do not agree—"with what they were pre-war or thirty years ago. We see no sudden change in education."
I think that is a criticism that everybody has heard. I ask the House to examine it for a moment. Is there any justification for it. Is it reasonable to think that if you introduce a proper scale of salaries you will have a change in the whole teaching profession in a couple of years. If it is to work in the direction of getting better material, it can only do so gradually, and I think it is doing so gradually. Remember when I speak about getting better material, I realise that under the old unsatisfactory conditions the bulk of the teachers of this country were doing their work under very depressing circumstances very often. They were doing it splendidly on the whole, but I must say, with the different preparations we are making to take up the future teacher at a lower age, to begin his training at a lower age, I do look forward to a better trained type of teacher and a more efficient type in the future. That is to be expected, because more trouble, time, and money are now being spent on them. I think that we are taking steps through our preparatory colleges, through the pupil teacherships that are now in existence, and I hope also through certain reforms or certain advances that we are making in the type of instruction to be given in the training colleges to have a remarkably good body of primary teachers. As I say, I find it has been extremely difficult to attach a precise value to comparisons between the educational system in this country and the educational systems in other countries. I have myself looked into several of these systems and I questioned very closely the educational authorities, in one country especially, and I found that they have to face and are trying to solve the very same difficulties in many respects that we have to solve here.
I would now like to deal with the various demands that are made on me, and, through me, on the Government and on the Minister for Finance, to undertake new obligations and new expenditure. We are already involved in increased expenditure on educational matters owing to the operation of the Compulsory Attendance Act. We have had to allow more for that in our Estimates for the present year, and we find that as a result of the operation of the Act our Estimates in that respect have been below the mark. Our estimate in that respect has been exceeded. Surely, therefore, we may look upon it as certain—remember, this is a thing that will accumulate for five or six or seven years; this Compulsory Attendance Act will be felt in the case of children from the age of six to fourteen—that the numbers attending schools will increase, and that this type of expense must also increase. That is one type of expenditure for which money must be found in the future. Then the Government is also committed to premiums for a certain type of teachers—teachers in the Gaeltacht. That will in itself amount to a considerable sum.
Then, there are pensions asked for about eight or nine different classes. It may be said that for each one there is only a small amount involved, but if you take the demands that are being made in this House, and occasionally outside the House too, I should say that a million a year would not cover them. I doubt very much if it would. It is exceedingly difficult to form an exact estimate. We have been asked for pensions for lay teachers in convent schools. Deputy O'Connell suggested yesterday that that surely does not await the result of the actuarial investigation. So far as that is concerned, I may say that the actuarial investigation is practically complete, and I may say that the general result of that investigation is that the fund is certainly in a very serious condition, that it is not solvent—very far from solvent. In that situation, without further examination to suggest that partly out of that fund a pension may be paid to a further class of people, without any investigations as to how that fund is to meet these charges, is a very serious proposition. The Deputy suggests that I was not serious in saying that there was a connection between the two. I think he is not altogether serious in saying that there is no connection, as he seemed to suggest yesterday. I suggest that he is also doing what is quite frequent, namely, that when he is putting forward a proposition which he gravely doubts will be accepted, he makes an assumption and says: "Surely this will not be contradicted." If pensions are to be paid to these particular bodies, and if these are to be charged on a particular fund, I suggest that it is a matter of grave concern whether that fund is already solvent and able to meet the charges that are already on it. The secondary teachers will be dealt with, but that involves additional expenditure even from the point of view of the State.
Pensions have also been asked for industrial school teachers. A number of statements have been made to the effect that I said—I think this was circulated to all Deputies—this particular type of teacher was excluded from the Bill that is now passing through. I do not see how that statement could be made. I am not promising that a scheme of pensions for them will be drawn up, but there is no foundation for the suggestion—I cannot remember having made it. I do not say that I did not, because I have a strong objection to reading my own speeches—or no truth in the suggestion that they are deliberately excluded from that particular Bill. They are not, but I would ask people to consider the position of these schools, especially industrial schools, because they are more numerous than reformatories. We have only one reformatory now. If you look at the Children's Act, under which these industrial schools operate, I think it will be quite clear that the primary burden of these schools is put on the local authority. It is also true that in these industrial schools you have practically as many pupils as there are in the whole of the industrial schools of England. I do not mean in proportion; the actual numbers are almost the same. It is also true that the great bulk of the pupils in these industrial schools are there, whatever the form of charge may be, because their parents for one reason or another want them there, or because they would not be able to support them.
In fact, a great deal of that charge is essentially a poor rate charge when you come to think of it. It is a charge that ought normally to be borne by the local body. We give a certain contribution to the industrial schools, and I will say this for it, that it is sufficient, and more than sufficient, to meet the educational charges which reasonably might also be borne by the local authorities. We have increased what we give, so that actually we are giving more for each person from the age of six onwards. We give more in every case than the local authority, and there are a few local authorities who have refused altogether to subscribe. Therefore, the thing is not quite as simple as Deputies think. It is primarily not, I suggest, a question for the central authority, this proper financing of the industrial schools, but for the local authorities who have been relieved in this way of a burden that would otherwise fall upon them.
It will be possible under the new Bill to deal with the question of national teachers who become inspectors; at least, it will be possible under that to draw up a scheme. Certain rules can be made about those who become inspectors. As to the teachers in training colleges, I hope when we get in touch with the training collegs, which are essentially private institutions, that the training colleges may be induced to do something in that respect as regards pensions. There have also been suggestions made by Deputies— suggestions I have heard outside the House—that the pensions for technical teachers under the Local Government Act should be partially or wholly transferred from the local to the central body. Most people are modest enough to start off with the suggestion that the transfer should be partial. That in itself would raise the whole question of the incidence, that I will have to refer to again, of the charge for education. I have referred to it repeatedly, but I think it is necessary to emphasise it on every occasion, because it is apparently easily dropped from view. I know no country—certainly it is not amongst the most advanced countries in Europe that you will find a country in which there is anything like the same proportion of the educational burden borne by the central authority as is borne in this country. We bear practically the whole burden, with a very slight exception which I will return to afterwards, of primary education. I ask Deputies to find any other country in Europe where anything like it occurs; not merely across the channel. Take Denmark, France or Germany. Take the biggest State in Germany, Prussia—there are different systems in different States—but there practically the whole charge of education is a local charge. The State interferes and very successfully, but not in the way of contributing very much to the upkeep and maintenance of education. Here is the one charge in educational matters which the local councils are asked to bear, that is technical education. Even in that matter of technical education the State bears altogether an undue proportion of the charge. The advances in recent years in the expenditure on technical education have come out of the Exchequer not from the local bodies, and the suggestion is made that because the State bears so much of that charge, therefore it should bear practically two-thirds of the pensions. If the question is raised that pensions for that particular class should be borne by the State, it inevitably raises the question that must be raised anyway, namely, the comparative charges to be borne by the central authority and the local authorities for continuation and technical education. Undoubtedly also the State may have to face, as a result of the Technical Commission's Report, as a result of the necessity rather of dealing with the present position of continuation and technical education, a demand for money in that respect. How far it will be able to meet it in the next couple of years is another matter, but the problem must be faced.
It is an educational charge that the country will have to face as soon as it is able to face it, and to the extent that it is able to face it. However, I will return to that matter of continuation education later.
We have been asked not merely to give pensions to teachers in industrial schools, but also asked for increased grants for the running of the schools themselves. It has been rightly pointed out that were it not that a number of religious orders were running these institutions they would cost very much more. But again, because money is required for running certain institutions, why is it immediately assumed that it is the State that is to foot the Bill? Why is there never a suggestion that the local authorities ought to face their obligations in that respect? Is not the reason, as I already indicated on a previous occasion, that when you demand money from a local authority, and the local authority has to meet it, and not merely get it from the Government, there is a very keen sense of the connection, even on the part of people demanding the money, between the expense on the one hand and the necessity of finding the money on the other. I suggest that the experience of most Deputies will bear me out that there is not the same realisation when it comes to demanding money from the central authority.
Is the difference not one merely of form? Is it not the same people who pay in both cases?
An excellent reason, perhaps, for changing the whole system of government—local government especially. That is involved in it. A demand has also been made—I have received deputations on the matter—that we should give a capitation grant for preparatory branches of secondary schools. Secondary school heads have come along and said to me: "You give us a capitation grant for people between certain ages but these are only a portion of the people we teach; we would be much better off if we got, and we think we deserve that we should get, a capitation grant also for those up to the age of twelve." Demands were also made during the debate for an extended system of scholarships. The matter was raised by Deputy Mullins and by Deputy Fahy and then there was last night's speech by Deputy O'Connell. Deputy O'Connell referred to a statement, I think, of my predecessor, on that particular matter. I wonder was it made before the Local Government Act came into operation. It is quite possible. The answer is quite correct so far as scholarships from secondary schools to universities are concerned. These cannot be enjoyed in the training colleges, they can only be enjoyed in the universities or a recognised university college. But there is another type of scholarship— a much more numerous one—I think there are anything up to 800 scholarships under the other system. These are the provisions of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act. 1923: County Councils are empowered by Section 17 (1) of that Act, as continued, to provide from the rates scholarships or bursaries for students in an approved school; and sub-section (2) of the same section states that an approved school shall be a school for the giving of secondary education or the giving of training in agriculture, forestry, trade, commerce, domestic economy teaching, or any other subject of a vocational character as may be approved by order of the Minister for Education. Not only are these scholarships not confined by the Act or by my Department to secondary schools but certain councils have proposed and exercise the right to give these scholarships to technical schools. There are at least two councils that do that. Whether more do it or not, rests with the councils and there certainly will be no obstacle put in their way as far as I am concerned.
But is it not a fact that under the regulations made by the Department certain ages are fixed up to which they are available, and that boys or girls going to a training college at the ages of seventeen or eighteen years are no longer eligible for them?
I shall look into that. I am sorry the Deputy did not raise it in the course of his speech. Under the Act itself there is no difficulty. It was suggested not only about training colleges but also about technical schools that these scholarships should be made available. If the county councils want to make them available for technical schools, they can do so. If there is difficulty about the regulations, I am prepared to look into the matter.
These scholarships are practically confined to pupils from the primary schools.
By the regulations?
No, not by the regulations but by the Act. I think it is the pupils of primary schools by the Act.
That would not cover the students we have in mind.
We are providing, as far as secondary education is concerned, for the teaching profession, and allowing them to go afterwards for training. And, remember, so far as training is concerned, the great bulk of the expenditure is borne by the State. But I shall refer to that subsequently. Now we are asked also to provide better facilities for training. I shall deal with that subsequently. We are asked, especially, to provide— and this is where a considerable amount of money might or might not be involved—the full university course for teachers. However, I shall postpone that until I am dealing with the question of training. We are asked to speed up the building programme and suggestions were made that the voluntary system should go. I promised to deal with that; it is such an important subject, striking at the root as I believe of the whole system of education, that I shall have to deal with it separately.
There are various other demands— equipment, school books for all, or school books for the poor. As to what precisely would be the difference in cost between providing school books for all and only for a certain portion, it is extremely difficult to estimate. I am told that in some schools here in the city, where there is a committee or body giving meals, over 75 per cent. of the children get meals. Whether you can say these are all necessitous cases or not, I do not know, but I can easily see that if you introduce the custom of giving books by the State or providing meals by the State, it will be exceedingly difficult to draw the line. So far as meals are concerned in the country, I say it would be practically impossible to draw the line. A provision therefore for meals at school would practically mean a demand that meals should be found for all. The cost of that would be half a million. Playing fields were also demanded. That also would be extremely costly, however desirable. I doubt, even if the State were able to afford them, it would be desirable that the State should do all these things. But that is a different question. Two Deputies spoke on the question of school meals. They were careful to suggest that they did not contend that the State should meet that obligation. Deputy Thrift made it clear that he had doubts even whether a public authority was the proper body to deal with the question of meals for school children. I think I am not misinterpreting him there.
Deputy Tierney also raised a question, even if the State could afford it, whether it should not be a local charge. If it is to be by a public authority, it would seem from its nature to be properly a local charge. It is precisely in line with the other matter I dealt with, namely industrial schools, in so far as being primarily a question for those who look after the poor rate if urged on necessitous grounds.
All these reforms may be desirable but I doubt whether it is a proper conception of education or of the State to urge that the State should even aim at satisfying all these demands. I am dealing with all these matters just to convince Deputies, by the mere enumeration of the demands, of the magnitude of the task that they are asking the Ministry and the Government to undertake. There are a great many implications in the demand that the State ought to undertake these matters. I wonder whether Deputies are conscious of some of the implications involved in that particular demand. Some are quite conscious of it but whether all are conscious of it is another matter. As to many of these demands, there is this to be said about them. They may be excellent and splendid from the point of view of human feeling, from the point of view of the care of the poor and so on, but I suggest that some of them are hardly strictly educational. If I were given a million of money per year, and asked to make the best educational use of it, I doubt if the particular items of expenditure mentioned in this list would be the ones that would first need to be attacked. If you are merely looking at it from a purely educational and technical point of view, merely with a view of getting good results educationally, I doubt that money would be best expended even if available upon the lines as suggested. However, what I am really anxious about is that Deputies should realise the magnitude and extent of the demands they are making in both cases.
I have had again and again here appeals made that we should cut our coat according to our cloth. An excellent demand, good advice, but it should be followed from all quarters of the House as well as given to those who occupy these benches. Either one thing or another. If these demands are to be made it means further taxation or economies. There is a continual demand made here, as every Deputy knows, for increased expenditure, and I suggest the few places where it was suggested considerable economies could be made are already mortgaged, over mortgaged and triply mortgaged. I doubt if they can stand any further charges for education, nor are there any economies possible on the Education Vote itself. Personally, I must say that I cannot see where economies can reasonably, and in the long run with good effect, be made to meet these new charges that we are now asked to meet. Perhaps those who believe in the value of an educational council might suggest that I could refer that to them, tell them there are four and a half millions and ask them what is the best way of spending it. I doubt if it would be very much help to me and certainly it would not relieve me or my successor of any responsibility for spending every penny of the money.
Deputy Fahy made a suggestion yesterday as to how certain economies could be effected. I think it was in connection with the suggestion that he happened to be not quite correctly reported in the English translation of his speech in to-day's papers. If he said anything at all he suggested that there were a certain number of years in the school in which we were not getting value for the money spent. Am I correct?
I said judging by an answer given by the Minister to me some time ago with reference to the number of children under six years attending schools that the annual cost would be proportionately £300,000. I said at a modest estimate perhaps it would be £200,000 taking that in definite children's schools or kindergarten schools good work was done. One hundred and fifty thousand pounds of that would be money for which we are not getting a return and if the age limit were fixed so that children under six years were not on the roll there may be a gradual saving of £150,000 which could be put into school buildings.
That is what I understood the Deputy had said. That is the reason why I definitely excluded him from the general attack on the primary system and the explanation now given is what I understood he said yesterday when he was making his speech in Irish. I would ask the Deputy to seriously consider the matter. I can understand that proposal, strange to say, coming more readily from other Deputies in the House rather than from Deputy Fahy.
Not precisely for the same reason as Deputy O'Connell says "Hear, hear." There may be different approaches to that particular question. I know Deputy O'Connell will say precisely the view I am giving out is what is in his mind, but there may be another objection which Deputy O'Connell may have. Is the suggestion roughly this: We should prohibit—because that is what it comes to—children attending national schools under the age of six?
Except where there are definite infant schools of a kindergarten kind.
The Deputy will not save money in that particular way if we are to set up infant schools.
I said where there are existing infant schools.
Therefore, practically it comes to this, that in most cases we will have really to exclude them from attendance. This is what I said to the Deputy, and I will say in a moment why I specially singled him out, not merely because he made the remark, but I am more surprised that it came from him than from some of the other Deputies. If that proposition came to me from some of the speakers in yesterday's debate in Private Members' time I should not be surprised, but we hold, rightly or wrongly, that the best time—I will not say for learning—for absorbing a language is between the years of four and eight. If we are serious with that particular part of our programme I do not know a harder blow we could give to the language than that suggested by Deputy Fahy. I think if he thinks it over from that particular point of view he will not persist with the proposal that we can at least save there so as to put it into buildings. These are the best years—I do not say for teaching a child, because that is a different thing; teaching is, perhaps, too definite a word—but they are the best years to get children to school to absorb one, two or three languages, which can be done quite easily during these formative years from four to eight.
The third big question that was raised, and it is I think in a way the most serious of the lot, was the statement that the voluntary system as we know it in this country has broken down, and I presume the charge is that it has permanently broken down. That ought to be the meaning of many demands made here. It certainly was the meaning of Deputy O'Connell's speech yesterday. He made use of my figures and drew conclusions from them which I do not think were altogether quite justified. I pointed out there were 350 new schools. In the speech Deputy Fahy made he misunderstood me in this respect. The new schools are not new in the ordinary sense of new schools. They are very often old schools which have been replaced. He misunderstood me in that respect. I thought Deputy O'Connell implied as a result of my figures that one-third of the schools were unfit. I do not think he said that but the unwary might gather that out of his speech. In that number there were included 900 schools, that is more than half that, nine hundred schools that required merely minor alterations. To suggest that because they required minor alterations that therefore they are condemned as schools, is I suggest to the Deputy in another way imitating his antagonist, Deputy Byrne, in another matter.
If the Minister will read the Report he will see that one-third of the schools in Ireland require to be replaced.
I want to get it quite clear. There is no suggestion that one-third of the schools are unfit or anything like it. About 300 would require to be replaced, others to be enlarged. That is a different matter again. Remember lumping that together and making an assumption of one-third out of that would be quite misleading. I am quite sure that the Deputy did not mean to mislead anybody. One thing I specially regretted in his speech and that was his "scoff" at the Board of Works. He suggested that I was not dealing with this serious problem in a serious way. I suggest that to scoff at the Board of Works is not a very serious manner of dealing with this particular problem. He suggests practically that the Board of Works should take over the whole thing.
There has been no avoidable delay, certainly no undue delay so far as that Department is concerned. Anybody connected with buildings, even connected with the building, for instance, of Civic Guard barracks, will know the extreme difficulty of hastening matters where buildings are concerned. The question of sites has to be considered. In Donegal, at the present moment, we find it extremely difficult to get a site with a clear title for a school. There are all sorts of other delays that frequently occur. The Deputy may be aware of them. There is the question of the rights of existing teachers.
Not in the case of replacing existing schools.
In the case of putting up a school to convenience people, and in the case of enlargement. Again and again I have had objections to enlarged schools because it would interfere with a school in the neighbourhood. All these things have at least to be considered, and they will cause delay. As to the actual amount of money spent—I am speaking now of the grants sanctioned by my Department in the whole five or six years. Grants have been sanctioned to the amount of £500,000. Here are the figures of the grants sanctioned by my Department:—
and the present year £100,000. That is a half-million since we came in. It is not altogether as the Deputy seemed to suggest yesterday that we are trifling with the subject. We may desire to advance more quickly. I admit there are schools in a bad state of sanitation, but exaggeration has also taken place. I am not saying that there was exaggeration in the extracts read by the Deputy. For instance, in one case the principal reason why the doctor condemned a school in the Clare area was because of the height of the wall between the boys' and the girls' closets. He objected on the grounds of decency. I am not at all denying that there are certain cases that are bad, but whenever we hear of these we immediately get into touch with the manager and the right steps are taken. Very often it is not the arrangements that are bad. In the few cases mentioned by Deputy Fahy the arrangements were bad, but where things are bad we bring them to the notice of the manager, and they are remedied very often. In most of the cases referred to remedies have already been effected, but a number of these cases are for the Public Health Authorities and they should be brought to their notice.
However, all that is leading up to a much more fundamental question. I would ask not merely the House but the country to consider seriously whether they want to embark on an entirely new policy as regards education in this country. Deputy O'Connell may say that he is asking nothing of the kind. I am afraid he is. It is there we differ. We have heard of what is known as the voluntary system. It is a system that has drawbacks, but it has worked remarkably well. It is a system, as I pointed out, in my real opening, not my concluding opening speech, that has enabled us to avoid some of what, I think, the futile, sterile, and from the educational point of view, devastating conflicts that have occurred in other countries. We are asked to believe that that system has broken down. The system is, as the Deputy explained yesterday, that the State is willing to contribute a certain amount to the building of the school and a certain amount also to the heating and cleaning of schools. In fact, as many people interested in this particular system of education in this country confessed to me, the State makes a very generous offer. It is a thing that has been found exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, in most other countries. It is an effort to solve what are often rightly or wrongly described as the conflicting claims of the Church and the State in education. As a result of that system, we have avoided a great deal of controversy. I feel, speaking for myself, that it would be a disaster not merely from a higher point of view than mere secular education, but a disaster even from the purely secular point of view, if we lightly made up our minds to abandon that system or knock down the outworks of what some people might consider the centre of that position.
Would the Minister explain——
I am dealing with the question as a whole.
I want to ask you if you mean what you call the voluntary system is identical with what is called the managerial system?
I am not at all inclined to slur over that question. I have already hinted the lines I intended to follow, so far as my own personal belief is concerned, and it is a belief that is shared by many of the highest authorities in the Church in this country. I speak of the Catholic Church, because they are the big bulk of the country, and they are the people principally interested in this question. It is that interest that is particularly affected. I think they share certain fears that I have. From the parenthesis that I interjected the Deputy will understand the line I am taking. I said that if that system is attacked, even on the outworks, I fear that what some people consider the centre of that system may not be so easily maintained, or that there will be difficulty in time of crisis in maintaining it. I do not believe either that the system has permanently broken down, and I certainly do not believe, after mature consideration such as I have been able to give, that the central position will remain unscathed if the outworks are taken. A few years ago, I might have been more ready to suggest that the outworks were not important. The more I consider the matter, however, the more I am convinced that what I say now is the truth. Even if there is a certain number of managers that find it difficult, even if there are a few managers that are unwilling to make the necessary effort—some managers find it difficult to find the necessary capital or money—a few possibly are unwilling and unable to make the necessary effort, I still hold that the country should require a great deal more evidence than is available at present before it abandons the system that is now in operation. I am quite aware that a number of managers themselves would like to be relieved of this burden. I am not denying it. Deputy O'Connell, I think, quoted a resolution from the Managers' Association. If he looked at their later resolutions in that respect he would find that he would not be quite safe in suggesting that the Managers' Association are still of the same mind. At a meeting held in the summer of this year in Dublin of the Managers' Association of Leinster, one of the resolutions they adopted was: "That we request the meeting (that is, the general meeting of managers) of the Central Council to rescind the resolution passed by them last year in favour of the principle that the Government should assume responsibility for all the expenses connected with the building, repairs and maintenance of National Schools."
Would the Minister say if they did rescind it?
They adopted a different resolution altogether from the one read out by the Deputy.
Did they rescind that resolution?
I am telling the Deputy that they adopted a different resolution, in which they did not suggest that the burden should be borne altogether by the State, and not only that, but I would remind the Deputy of this, that when we are dealing with this matter, involving such a vital issue and one that is fraught with such consequences to the country, I would like, even from that point of view, a more authoritative statement even than that which could come from the managers. I think if there is a suggestion of that kind it should come from even a greater authority than the managers. My own view is this—and it is a view, I know, shared by a good many people who have this matter at heart—that if certain rights are enjoyed by any class, that is because there are certain obligations. The Church claims—and, as I have always said, what I claim for my own Church I am quite willing to admit to other Churches—that it has the duty and the right to educate. I put it, even to those who at present find it difficult to make the necessary effort to supply the local contributions, that it will be very difficult for them—if the only thing that remains to them is the appointment of the teacher—if a crisis comes, to retain that particular right. I hope the crisis will not come, but the two things are much more closely connected—human nature being what it is—than is sometimes suggested. I do not say that the consequences would follow immediately or directly, but certainly I do fear that these consequences would follow. In other places I see great efforts made by the clergy to deal with this question, and I think the clergy of this country will also be willing, if they think there is danger ahead, to make the effort. I think the working compromise come to here as to the control of education might be in danger of being successfully attacked in the future if what some people call the trappings, the unpleasant duty of providing schools and looking after the minutes, is lightly given up. I think if there is a change in that matter as is indicated in this resolution, it is because that particular line of thought has also suggested itself to other people.
Deputy Maguire, I think, suggested that the State should not demand one-third in necessitous areas. Of course it does not. Our practice is within certain limits to remit a portion, or even all of the one-third. That is the exception, and the suggestion that seemed to be made by Deputy O'Connell yesterday was that because we do so in exceptional cases therefore we could scrap the whole system, that it would endanger no principle. That is a conclusion I am unable to follow or accept. There are rights and duties of different people, rights of the parents, duties of parents, not merely as tax-payers but apart from that. I remember that a question was asked in connection with the committal to an industrial school by a district justice, and it seemed to be implied that that was interference with the rights of parents. That is a matter we will have an opportunity of discussing soon again in connection with the Bill now before this House from the Seanad. I give that as an illustration to show that there are a number of people convinced that parents have rights and duties that should not be lightly interfered with by the State, but a great deal of the demands made here are a light treatment of the obligations and duties of parents and other people. The problem is by no means a simple one. Apart from the financial considerations which must be taken into account the question of revenue must be taken into account as well. Let me again insist on, what I have on more than one occasion insisted, the incidence of the charge for education. Here is a small parish, or portion of a parish, asked to subscribe its special contribution, only a very small portion of the whole charge, for that particular school. All the rest, the provision of the teachers, the provision of most of the charge for the building is found by the State as a whole, and the only extra effort required from those who will enjoy the school is this one-third, for the building of the school and a contribution for maintenance, lighting and heating. I was asked about the report of the Technical Commission, but perhaps I should wait until Deputy Good has spoken before making any remark about that. I think that might develop, and I would then be in a position to deal with the matter in my concluding reply.
I have no objection.
A number of other questions have been raised. I have dealt with the question of scholarships. Deputy Thrift asked a question about the working of the Compulsory Education Act in the cities. It is hard to get material to answer that question fully. I can give figures for the City of Dublin, and, as I am on that, I will deal with the more general question raised yesterday by Deputy O'Connell. So far as the action of the District Justices is concerned, I do not know whether the complaints raised by the Deputy are well founded or not, and he will realise that neither I have nor has the Minister for Justice, or Executive Council, the slightest authority to interfere; that it would be absolutely unconstitutional and wrong to interfere in the slightest with the administration of justice. It may be said that there was a bit of slackness there, but it would be absolutely out of the question for us to interfere. I think the Deputy will see that, and I think he saw it yesterday. I have no figures at my command to check the statement made by the Deputy as to the alleged falling off in attendance. Our figures, so far as we have them to date, are for a period before the six months referred to by the Deputy. The charges in our Department, however, are going up so far as primary education is concerned. It is extremely hard to check the figures. I had a similar complaint so far as the City of Dublin is concerned, and I think it was these complaints that induced Deputy Thrift to ask this question. I can give him the actual figures so far as Dublin is concerned. The House will easily understand that it would be impossible for me to obtain similar figures so far as the country as a whole is concerned. The average percentage attendance to the average number on the rolls of pupils from the ages of six to fourteen for the year ended 14th June, 1928, was:— Dublin City, 90.8 per cent.; Blackrock Urban, 84.2 per cent.; Dun Laoghaire,, 84.9 per cent.; Pembroke, 87.9 per cent.; Rathmines and Rathgar, 86.5 per cent., with an average for the whole of the Dublin area of 90 per cent. That does not suggest that the complaints, at least in the exaggerated form they were made, were justified, I am not in a position to give the percentages before this Act was passed, because those figures related, not to children between the ages of six and fourteen, but to all school-going children that were on the rolls, children of from three and four up to fifteen. But the 1926 average in the City of Dublin was 84, and in 1927 85.4. In the County Dublin area that I have mentioned, the figures were 81.1 and 82.4. I do not want the Deputy to attach any remarkable importance to that comparison. I have carefully limited it because, as I say, these last figures not only deal with what I might call the compulsory pupils but all pupils between three and fourteen.
A number of questions were raised separately, and I think I have dealt with most of them in dealing with the general questions that have been raised. I tried to bring them in as illustrations of what I was saying. Deputy Fahy, in his opening speech, stated that it was not right that teachers unable to teach Irish should be asked to teach it. I fully agree that it is not right, and so far as the Department is concerned they do nothing to encourage it. But remember again, if there are complaints in that respect the Minister cannot deal with them unless he hears them, and definite complaints ought to be made if officials of the Department go beyond their instructions in that particular matter. But unless things are brought before us, it is not possible for us to deal with them. It was suggested that I should take up propaganda for Irish manufactures, in fact I have been very strongly urged to circulate to teachers a certain pamphlet dealing with that matter. I am quite willing to send teachers a circular asking them to refer to and deal with this matter in certain lessons where they can easily do so.
A point about the teaching of local history was raised by Deputy O'Reilly, by Deputy Buckley, in reference to Maynooth, by Deputy Mullins, and others. It is quite true that there are no text-books on the subject, but I suggest that it would not be a bad thing if the teachers busied themselves on the matter. I quite admit that it is not in their prescribed duties, but certainly it would be excellent earnest of the interest they take in their work if they were able to do work of that type. I think they are the people who should specially deal with that particular aspect of the matter. I hope that Deputy O'Connell will be able to persuade the teachers to take it up in large numbers. A certain number of local histories are being prepared, and some have been published, and in the training colleges at present we do train the teachers on those lines and insist on them dealing with these matters. They are encouraged to write essays on local objects of historical and antiquarian interest and local history, the object being that when they go out to the schools they will continue that practice. We are quite willing and ready to encourage that.
Deputy O'Connell complained that we have spent a long time drawing up the Report on Training. We got the officials that we thought most suitable, and they have drawn up the Report. It is complained that they have taken a long time to do so. I ask the House to remember that these officials, some of them especially in their ordinary work, were, I know well, over-worked —I know that from my personal experience—and they were asked to take on this duty in addition to their ordinary work. I quite admit, for instance, that six months ought to be enough to prepare the rules, as Deputy O'Connell said. So it would be if the officials had nothing else to do. But continuously problem after problem is coming up, and in the very nature of affairs there cannot be any continuing work on anything of that kind. If we tried to adopt such a thing, if we tried to speed up the building, it would mean a large increase in our officials.
Might I suggest that the issue of the rules would save you all these problems your officials are dealing with? They arise because there are no rules, very often.
That is not my experience.
Many of them do.
Some of them arise because there are rules.
Because people do not know what the rules are, because only the Department knows what the rules are.
On the question of training, Deputy Fahy asked if I believed that in twenty years the existing training colleges would be Gaelicised. I do not think it will require anything like twenty years. I read the report on that matter, and the report, which is by people who are well able to judge, says that considerable progress has been made in our colleges. Some of them were splendid, some not as good as others, but very satisfactory progress has been made in all the colleges. On the question of training as a whole, we hope, as a result of the efforts we are making to ensure that those entering a training college will have a good foundation of secondary education, that it will be inevitable that we should change the existing curriculum in the training colleges, making it more professional. The other question raised by Deputy O'Connell is not quite so easy of solution. I hope, in a short time, to be in a position to put proposals in connection with university education before the bodies concerned—the teachers and the universities. There may be others. But remember what I have already had to call attention to— the extreme necessity at the present time of being very careful about any new expenditure. And remember this too: Deputy O'Connell spoke of the teaching profession. Let me remind him that I know of no other profession in which, from the age of fourteen, in the case of many of its members, up to the time they get their profession, so much is done by the State in the way of assistance. I am not saying that it ought not to be done. So much do we think that that ought to be so that it is only quite recently that we undertook new obligations in that respect. Apart altogether from the question of providing a good faculty of Irish teachers, I think we have done good work in seeing that the future teacher will have a good foundation of secondary education when he goes to the training college. It is a question for grave consideration how, without increasing existing expenses for training, and whether a scheme can be evolved to provide what some people, namely, the teachers, wish for, a university course.
There were a few very minor questions raised. I think I have dealt with practically all the important questions so far as my Vote is concerned. I have tried to give what I consider a dispassionate and fair view of the situation as it appears to me. I cannot pretend —in fact there would be no use in this Dáil existing if I could pretend—that I have done everything, or perhaps much, to satisfy a lot of Deputies. I know if there is a demand involving the expenditure of money it will receive almost unanimous approval from the House.
There were one or two questions put to him which the Minister did not answer. I recognise, of course, that he could not get them all, but there was one that I asked and I consider it of some importance. It deals with the position of Irish in secondary schools.
That question was put yesterday, and so far as that is concerned we are following out the requirements and suggestions of the programme of the First Dáil. We are making Irish compulsory so far as the Intermediate Certificate examinations are concerned. The Deputy may want me to go faster, but I would remind him that it is extremely difficult, even for the colleges that want them, to find Irish teachers. Even where they are willing to do it, it is extremely difficult to find teachers of any kind, and especially Irish teachers, at the present time. I believe the position so far as Irish is concerned is secure. We have been accused of going too fast or going too slow. We are going ahead anyway, and we are advancing in the direction suggested; there is no turning back.
I am not yet quite satisfied, because I have two specific questions to put. One is, is it possible for an intermediate school among the largest schools in this State to get the full intermediate grant without presenting ten per cent. of its students in Irish as a subject for a certificate, whether an intermediate or a leaving certificate; and the second is, are the programmes of such schools subject to inspection? If so, does the Department insist that Irish be a subject on the ordinary time-table at a suitable hour?
Yes. The programmes are all submitted to us. The question of the grant will depend not on what happens in one year, but what happens in two or three years. We never do deal with the schools in that way. If, over a period of two or three years, there is in any programme a decided attempt made to ignore Irish, then we would have to consider the partial or total withdrawal of that particular grant. That is quite inevitable. There is power under the rules to withdraw the grants by tenths until the total amount is withdrawn. It is a matter that we have pushed forward strongly, and the Deputy knows we have not been deterred by criticism. We think we are going as fast as circumstances demand. We have pushed that matter forward; we have not hesitated and we do not think it is necessary to be unduly unreasonable or to be unreasonable at all.
Can the Minister give us any indication of the intention with regard to the bonus promised to the first-of-first teachers? Deputy O'Connell raised the matter, and the Minister did not make any reference to it.
Like all other questions, that involves the expenditure of money. The amount is small, if you like, but that is one of the usual questions on which the House is unanimous. In the present fiscal position I doubt if the Minister for Finance could meet a demand of that kind.
Is this a question?
No; I want to say something.
I understood the debate was to conclude when the Minister finished.
That was a matter I raised earlier to-day—whether or not it was a matter of right or privilege under the Standing Orders of this House.
The arrangement was made by Deputies whom I deemed to be the responsible people. I am not prepared to prevent Deputy Flinn from making a speech if he chooses.
On a different Vote?
No, on this Vote.
As a matter of fact, it will be much more a question than a speech. I was very interested in the statement made by the Minister about the number of children in industrial schools—that the actual total of them is as great or greater than the number in England.
Almost as great—I am speaking from memory.
I am not pressing the point. Even if the number is any way near as great, it is a very remarkable statement to have made. The suggestion that it is due to the fact that the parents want the children to be there, where they cannot afford to keep them, is also very remarkable. The Minister said, and I am not criticising the statement at all, that a good deal of what is nominally educational expenditure is poor relief. I am suggesting to him that either now or at a later time he should tell us what, in his opinion, is the amount of money which is supposed to be segregated to education, but which is really poor relief.
took the Chair.
I think, in almost every Estimate of this House—I might say in every Estimate put before the House— there is hidden poor relief of one kind or another. What I am anxious to do is to get more accurate segregation of accounts so that we will know. I agree entirely with what the Minister said as to whether or not it is educationally desirable that children should be fed in schools in order that they might be able to take advantage of education; that is the case that is put forward, but if this charge for feeding children is not an educational expenditure it should be clearly set forward as poor relief and as part of the figures which we would have to analyse in trying to understand the actual fiscal, industrial and economic position of the people in the country. The Minister also suggested that the education Estimates did not in other ways cover the whole education expenditure. There, undoubtedly, is local expenditure either in maintenance of schools by the local authorities by subscriptions obtained by the management, and so on. What I am asking is that we get to know what we have to add to what is set out in the Estimates under the heading of "Education," so that, in the way of total contributions through other sources we should know what the total cost of education is. The Minister told us that the cost of education in this country in certain institutions was low, due to the fact that these institutions were run by religious, and that if they had to be run by lay people the actual cost of carrying on that portion of the education system would be much higher. I should like if, now or at some other time—I am not suggesting that the Minister should give us the figures at the moment—to get what the actual relative cost of education in those religious-controlled bodies would be, compared with what the cost would be if controlled by a purely secular lay system. I want to know what is the amount of the actual cost of education that we have to add to the nominal cost. I want to find how much money directly and indirectly contained in the Education Estimate should be really under Poor Relief.
I would like to ask the Minister whether he has received a report from a medical inspector about the sanitary accommodation of a school in my constituency?
I have no particulars of that here.
It was brought under the notice of the medical inspector and a request made to see that proper sanitary accommodation should be provided for the school.
If the Deputy will send me a note giving the particulars I will look into it. There are 5,000 schools in Ireland and there are, from time to time, complaints in some way or another about most of them. When the school is brought to my notice I will deal with it.
Is there not a medical inspector to deal with the condition of the schools?
Not at all.
There is one matter to which the Minister did not refer in his reply, and that was in connection with the lady teacher in Virginia. He promised to look into this, but I got no reply yet.
I am trying to deal with that case. The case is rather involved. The question is in that particular instance whether the lady herself is not partly responsible. She did not take the steps she should have taken if she were keen in the matter.
She had no choice; she was simply told to go.
She knew a week beforehand that the school was going to close. That and a few other similar cases are still under consideration.