——a certain amount of anxiety. It is a question of money. We want more money for schools. Deputy Hennessy wants hot baths and modern sanitation in every country school, apparently. The position is that we have a number of inspectors and these inspectors are not able to reach on the work. An individual inspector, working every day, cannot cover more than 120 schools. There are always schools in arrears. We have not a sufficiently large inspectorial staff. Furthermore, a large percentage of the inspector's time—I should say fifty days at present—is occupied with examination of training college papers, setting papers for various examinations and marking them. Inspectors have the marking of the papers in connection with primary school examinations at present, in addition to carrying out their work of inspecting 120 schools within the school year. In a great many of these schools the inspector should, by right, carry out a general inspection, which involves two days in a school, so that it is utterly impossible for the inspectors to do the work allotted to them in the schools. If we are now going to have compulsory examinations and if we put the work on the inspectors of marking the papers, and being responsible for supervising the examinations, there is no doubt whatever that we must largely increase our inspectorial staff. I am not satisfied, while we are giving freedom to the teachers, while there is a good standard of efficiency and while the inspectors' reports are what they are, that it will give the results that Deputy Byrne anticipates if we make this primary certificate examination compulsory. In any case, it is a step that I am not going to take without going into the question more fully.
Deputy Dillon and others referred to the Gaeltacht. It is our policy to give the fullest possible opportunity to Gaeltacht scholars to prepare themselves for the profession of teaching or to give them technical training. It will, however, take time. In the first place, we have not got the number of secondary schools in the Gaeltacht that we should have. There is a great lack of secondary schools in Deputy Dillon's constituency and that is a serious drawback. However, in order to give the Fíor-Ghaeltacht pupils still further advantages and inducements, I am going to consider the question of seeing whether we cannot do something to meet the demand that has been made by Deputies of all Parties, that we should endeavour to give some additional teachers to schools which are on the border-line—that is, schools which, if they had a few more pupils, would be entitled to an additional teacher and just fall short of the required average. I am not committing myself, because I realise that if we give additional teachers to these poor schools in the Gaeltacht in which we are so much interested we will inevitably have a demand for additional teachers from other areas.
Another proposal that we are looking into very closely is that we should try to train young girls from the Gaeltacht as domestic economy instructresses. At present there is no Irish-speaking institution where domestic economy is taught—that is, where Irish-speaking instructresses can be trained. We are looking into the question with a view to remedying that defect. There is no doubt that there are large numbers of well educated young men and women available in the Gaeltacht for other callings besides the teaching profession, if we can only find the employment for them. Recently we had occasion to advertise for applicants who would be competent to proceed for a course of training as manual instructors through the medium of Irish. We got about 200 applications for 12 positions. That is proof that there are plenty of young people available. In this particular instance they were all fairly satisfactory and if our resources were such as to give us an opportunity of placing those young people in other occupations they certainly would deserve to get a chance. I can assure Deputy Dillon that I am just as much interested in this matter as he is, and so are the other members of the Government. We are all endeavouring to make the Fíor-Ghaeltacht really Irish-speaking—particularly as regards the schools—and we are sincere in our endeavour to give all the assistance we can to young people from the Gaeltacht.
A question was raised by Deputy O'Sullivan with regard to compulsory attendance. Why, he asked, would we not raise the compulsory attendance age to fifteen years for those who have not reached the sixth standard? The continuation system of education which we are organising in the country at present has not been sufficiently developed to enable us to say definitely what ought to be done in that respect. In connection with the raising of the school age, we are at once up against the question of the big finance that would be necessary. Some 60,000 children, I am told, leave the schools every year, and it is thought that some 30,000 of these would come under Deputy O'Sullivan's category. It would cost something like £150,000 if we were to keep these on for an additional year. If Deputies will bear in mind the extraordinary cost of further extending the system of elementary education, I think they will be more reluctant to advance these suggestions.
We are endeavouring to extend the system of continuation education through the country. I am very much interested in endeavouring to extend it in rural areas. Up to the present we have been largely confined to urban areas, and in these areas it is natural circumstances being as they are, that people generally—committees and even officials—would be more anxious to concentrate on technical education proper, because they consider it of more value and of more benefit to the country, than on continuation education. We are endeavouring to extend continuation education and, in the near future, we hope to be able to make an announcement that Section 103 of the Vocational Education Act will be implemented. Under that legislation it will be possible to give special grants to the Gaeltacht. Arrangements have already been in hands for the building of schools in some of the Gaeltacht areas. I am particularly keen on assisting those areas. Deputies will recognise that often we have not sufficient instructors who are capable of teaching through the medium of Irish.
As regards the rest of the country, we are satisfied with the progress made. Many Deputies are dissatisfied, but it must be remembered that the new system of vocational education is really only a year or two in operation. A great deal of work has fallen upon our staff. They have to do organisation work throughout the country, and they have been occupied also with building proposals. The majority of our counties have at least one, and sometimes two or three, proposals for new schools, and these proposals have occasioned a good part of the work. In addition, there is the question of teachers, their status and scales of pay and the courses which are to be followed. I am endeavouring to go into that question and to form a picture of what our continuation and technical education system will be like when we have exploited to the full the powers of raising rates and granting proportionate sums from the Exchequer for local developments.
We have not really progressed sufficiently far; we have not got sufficiently under way in the organisation of the new system to be able to state with definiteness that we have achieved certain results. We cannot speak in the same deliberate manner in which Deputy Byrne speaks of the efficiency or inefficiency of our system. I can assure Deputy Good that the numbers in attendance at classes are being maintained. There has been a slight decrease in the number of students last year as compared with the previous year. The current year's report— that is, 1931-32—is not yet in our hands, but according to the reports for the last year there is an improvement in teaching. The gratifying increase in the number of students doing science courses has been well maintained. Commerce still holds the foremost place. Domestic economy and art are well catered for, so that I think we have really to congratulate ourselves on the fact that the general attendance is so good, and that the general efficiency is being maintained.
With regard to the question of entrance examinations for these courses, Deputy Byrne should know that it is not perhaps the best criterion to judge large numbers of children who were very backward in the schools solely on their answering of written examination papers. We may have very excellent children, considered quite stupid at literary subjects, who may turn out to be very good craftsmen and mechanics if we can only give them the necessary training. A number of the very best students in the technical schools, were practically illiterate from the literary point of view. Is an officer in charge of a technical school to turn away students who could do such wonderful work as to build up a wireless set or make a suite of furniture, just because they could not pass the literary examination? We will always have large numbers of boys and girls who were not very successful in the primary schools looking for admission, in one capacity or another, to the technical schools, and it would be very hard to put up a strictly literary examination that would deny them entrance.
The average student spends two years on a course at present. We hope when we get things properly established, when we are working to an ordinary routine and when we are away from the organising work which is taking up so much time, that students will follow the courses for about three years. In that connection I would appeal for more co-operation from local committees. Very often people interested in trade and commerce, and prominent employers in the different localities, take no interest whatever in developments in connection with the local technical schools. If we could get employers to take more interest in the work of these schools, and to keep them in touch with modern conditions outside, undoubtedly their help would be of very great value. As circumstances are at present we are getting on very well. We have reduced the membership of the committees. Schemes have been put forward and, as far as we know, the committees are making the best possible use of the money available. Of course every development requires fresh finance, and Deputies recognise that great developments, such as raising the leaving age, extending continuation education, or embarking on large building schemes, are likely to cost large sums of money.
We have already allocated £120,000 this year for primary school buildings. If Deputies know of particular cases where something should be done to remedy insanitary or ill-conditioned schools, I hope they will call my attention to the matter, so that the Department may get in touch with the management.
As regards local contributions, we have always tried to meet people and to be guided by local circumstances. If the district is particularly poor— take County Donegal as an example— we sometimes give the full grant, or we are satisfied with a contribution in the way of stones, lime and sand.
Deputy Corry raised a question about two teachers in Cork. As far as the Department is concerned there is no power to interfere with any teacher who may be drawing a pension, whether an Army pension or a local government pension, so long as he is not in receipt of a pension from the Teachers' Pension Fund.
Deputy Kissane raised a question regarding the position of Irish in the vocational education schools. We are going into that question at present, and we hope that proper provision will be made for Irish in future in all vocational education schools and schemes.
With regard to the question which Deputy Breathnach mentioned of teachers who had been dismissed and who made application for re-instatement, we have now received sanction to proceed in restoring them to their full rights, and we hope that matter will be settled satisfactorily in a very short time. Deputy Blythe referred to a number of matters, including the question of Roman type. I do not think any Minister should take it upon himself to change the type, no matter how much he may feel aggrieved, without having some expert academic opinion on the question. I do not think the language is yet in a sufficiently safe position to enable us to make the change, although I recognise that, perhaps, the balance of the argument is in favour of the Roman type, if the circumstances that we have here were not present.
With regard to text books and standard books and criticism ofAn Gúm publishing department, we intend to devote our efforts more to the production of text-books and set standard works, biographical, historical, or scientific works. There is great difficulty in finding competent translators and still greater difficulty in finding persons who are able to write entirely new text-books. That is a matter we are going into, and in which we would like to have the co-operation of Irish scholars and Irish teachers generally, in an endeavour to produce standard sets of text-books for our primary schools, our secondary schools and our technical schools, so that all teachers would have books, with the assistance of which they would be enabled to impart instructions through Irish.
The new dictionary will be an unique work both in volume and, I think, in erudition. It is not to be a key book of another dictionary, which would necessitate the use of an additional dictionary. This dictionary is to be compiled on the usual basis. It is to be a dictionary explaining the meaning of words, and not the meaning of phrases, and it is thought that every possible source has been well searched for words, and that all existing knowledge will be very accurately brought together in the publication.
With regard to the question of "A" schools, it is quite true that only one college made application to be recognised as an "A" school. In this matter the girls' schools have certainly given a great example to the boys. This year we have 35 girls' schools looking for recognition as "A" schools. The number of boys' schools is still somewhat behind. With regard to Latin in preparatory colleges, provision is already made, where it can be of use to the students, to give them instruction in Latin. The same applies, to some extent, in connection with other modern languages. For example, French is being taught in one of the girls' preparatory colleges. It is not proved to my satisfaction that Latin is absolutely necessary. The programme is sufficiently wide at present. There are subjects like rural science, drawing and music, all of which any teacher has to acquire a mastery of in addition to the other ordinary subjects, so I do not know whether it would be advisable to make Latin compulsory. Obviously it is a question on which there would be a difference of opinion.
With regard to the important question—which I almost forgot, when Deputy Byrne interrupted me—the question of promotions, we feel that if normal promotion can be carried out, the child being transferred to a new class each year, that a great deal of the present uneasiness and expressed dissatisfaction about our primary education will disappear. The question is, what is a normal period in regard to promotion? The teachers claim that 100 per cent. Promotion is absolutely impossible, and as certain Deputies who have expressed the teachers' point of view explained to the House, there may be very sound reasons for that view. But, unless the inspector is satisfied that there is a sound and satisfactory reason for not promoting the child, the child must be promoted to the next class at the end of the year. Therefore, on the whole question of promotions as on other questions connected with education, we must be guided largely by local circumstances. We must leave matters largely in the hands of the inspectors. They will be guided by their general knowledge of the teacher, the general efficiency of the school and the general circumstances. We have to rely on them to do the best they can in the circumstances. I think we should not try to give the impression in the country that by issuing further regulations, by driving the inspectors and the teachers further, that we are going in some way to raise the standard. The standard, I think, compares favourably with the standard in other countries.
In connection with Deputy Hennessy's remark that we were neglecting the classics, I am told that, in fact, in our secondary programme at present we are devoting more attention and we have more pupils in classics than they have either in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. That is a matter that is not brought to the notice of the public. The particular things in which our educational system which may be as good as, or even superior to, the foreign system are never emphasised. They are never even mentioned. They are kept carefully in the background, and every carping criticism that can be made, everything that can be said to the disadvantage of the system, is somehow seized upon. Deputies should be reasonable and understand that the system is probably, in the long run, very much better but certainly not a great deal worse than it has ever been.
Deputy O'Sullivan, my predecessor, last year pointed out in connection with the question of arithmetic that we were apt, when we thought of arithmetic to compare the feeble efforts of our own budding offspring perhaps with our own wonderful efforts, or with the brilliant fellow who used to be at the top of our class, and we were naturally apt to conclude that the present system had deteriorated— that is comparing the work of the present day with the best work of our own student days. But if we go and speak to an inspector or to the older children we will probably find that there is no great change in spite of the fact that there has been a general onrush of new circumstances. I think there may be a certain loosening perhaps of the control the teacher had in those days. In addition to that employers state that the young people coming to them and the people who are going into the technical schools, are not as good as they used to be, and that the standard has definitely declined. They ought first of all to be able to show us that these applicants for employment or applicants for entrance to the technical schools have come straight from the primary schools. If boys or girls leave school and spend four or five years, or even two years, outside without following any occupation or keeping up their studies there is no doubt whatever but that they will greatly deteriorate. I think that we should bear these circumstances in mind.
With regard to the Teachers' Pension Fund which Deputy O'Sullivan referred to, there has been no change in the situation since the time of the late Ministry, and I am not aware that any change is about to take place. With regard to the question of the Secondary Teachers' Superannuation Scheme, it is proceeding satisfactorily. I think something like 59 teachers—four of whom have since died—have been granted pensions.