I understand from General Mulcahy that many matters will be discussed on Vote 45, on which there is a motion to refer back, but that on Vote 46 the motion to refer back will not be moved.
Committee on Finance. - Vote 45—Office of the Minister for Education.
Sir, I do not propose to move the motion to refer back Vote 46, but on Vote 45 I intend to deal with most of the Department's policy.
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £155,620 chun slánaithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfas chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1947, chun Tuarastal agus Costas Oifig an Aire Oireachais.
That a sum not exceeding £155,620 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1947, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Education.
Is í suim ghlan iomlán atá dhá hiarraidh sna hocht Bhótaí atáim a thíolacadh ná £5,827,150. Tá sí sin £186,638, nó 3.3%, níos mó ná suim 1945-46. Is í suim a hiarraidh don bhliain sin ná £5,640,152 (agus £9,250 i gcomhair trí Meastachán breise do chur san áireamh). Tá méadú ar gach Bhóta ach amháin an Bhóta i gcóir Scol Ceartúcháin agus Scol Saothair. Tá laghdú beag déanta ar an Bhóta sin.
Idir Mheastacháin 1946-47 agus Meastacháin na bliana atá caite is iad seo a leanas na príomhdhifríochta.
Bhóta 45—Oifig an Aire Oideachais.— £235,620 an t-iomlán glan atá ag teastáil, agus tá sé sin £6,768 níos mó ná an Meastachán i gcomhair 1945-46. Is iad cúiseanna an mhéaduithe sin ná 4/- sa tseachtain d'árdú ar an mBónas Éigeandála agus tógaint na "síleála" do bhí ag coimeád an bhónais so ó oifigigh do bhí ag fáil tuarastail ba mhó ná £500. Mura mbeadh an bhreis chostais sin ann, do bheadh an Meastachán seo timpeall £1,000 ní ba lú ná Meastachán 1945-46. Tá méadú beag ar líon foirne na Roinne (foireann ar a bhfuil 122 de Chigirí agus de Thimirí). Bhí 506 daoine ar an bhfoirinn anuraidh agus tá 511 uirthi i mbliana, ach do chuaigh roinnt oifigeach sinsearach ar pinsean, agus do cuireadh ina n-ionad sin oifigigh nach bhfuil ach ar íosphointí na scálaí oiriúnach—rud a laghdaios costas na dtuarastal, taobh amuigh den Bhónas Éigeandála. Tá ocht n-oifigeach ar iasacht ag Ranna eile fós; bhí 19 ar iasacht anuraidh.
Bhóta 46—Bun-Oideachas—Tá £80,337 de mhéadú ar an Meastachán seo, agus is í suim ghlan iomlán atá ag teastáil ná £4,237,070. Na scálaí tuarastail agus deontais atá i bhfeidhm faoi láthair, is iad is bása do'n Mheastachán.
Maidir le díolaíocht fhoirne teagaisc na mBun-Scol, teastaíonn £134,100 sa bhreis i gcóir na 4/- breise de Bhónas Éigeandála do gach oide ón lú Eanáir, 1946. Árdóidh sé sin costas an ítim seo ó £320,600 go dtí £454,700. Teastóidh £10,600 de bhreis i gcóir Scol Clochar agus Scol Mainistreach, toisc an freastal do bheith dulta i méid. I gcás na Scol Ceartúcháin agus Saothair, beidh £14,600 de chostas breise, toisc an Roinn a bheith ag íoc tuarastail agus deontais lánscálach le lucht na Scol seo ón lú Aibreán, 1946, an tráth a scoireadh den scéim sealadach a tháinig i bhfeidhm ar an lú Aibreán, 1941. (Ní faightí ón Roinn, faoin scéim sealadach sin, ach cuid d'íocaíocht na bhfoireann teagaisc, agus d'íocadh na scoileanna féin an chuid eile dí, i geás oide tuata do bhí ar na foirne admhaithe.)
Níl eolas sáthach iomlán le fáil fós ar oibriú na scéime a tháinig i bhfeidhm ar an lú Iúil, 1945, agus go dtugtar cúiteamh páirteach fúithi d'oidí sa tuarastal a íocaid le hionadaithe tráth bhíd féin tinn, agus, idir an dá linn, tá £10,000 dhá sholáthar i gcomhair chostais na scéime. Ní ceadaítear cúiteamh is mó ná dhá dtrian den mhéid íosta atá ordaithe i gcóir ionadaí, agus baineann coinníollacha eile leis an gcúiteamh ina theannta sin.
In aghaidh na méaduithe sin a bhaineas le díolaíocht, tá líon iomlán na n-oidí fostaithe ag dul i laghad, agus suim na dtuarastal ag dul i laghad dá réir sin. Taobh amuigh den Bhónas Éigeandála, meastar, do réir na scálaí atá i bhfeidhm faoi láthair, gur timpeall £98,000 níos lú ná suim na bliana seo thart a bheadh le híoc i mbliana i dtuarastail le hoidí na ngnáth-bhunscol.
Maidir le hoidí a oiliúint tiocfaidh méadú ar líon na ndaltaí sna Coláistí Ullmhúcháin ó 461 i 1945-46 go dtí 486 i 1946-47—méadú a chosnós £3,771 sa bhreis. I Meastachán na bliana so caite, do rinneadh soláthar do 102 d'fheara agus 347 de mhná sna Coláistí Oiliúna, agus táthar ag súil go mbeidh 206 d'fheara agus 423 de mhná iontu i 1946-47. Sin méadú de 104 fir agus 76 mná agus cosnóidh sé £8,090—rud a fhágfas £11,861 de chostas breise ann maidir le hullmhú agus le hoiliúin iarrthóirí chun bheith ina n-oidí.
Síneadh breise seirbhíse do bhanoidí atáéifeachtach cuirfidh sé £9,000 sa bhreis le costas na dtuarastal; ach tiocfaidh laghdú dá réir sin ar an líon oidí a raghaidh ar pinsean agus beidh £1,600 níos lú d'airgead pinsin le n-íoc.
Teastaíonn £3,500 de shuim bhreise mar gheall ar leasú a rinneadh le déanaí ar na rialacháin a bhaineas leis an deontas do bhainisteoirí Bunscol le haghaidh tine agus solais, se chaoi go méadófaí an deontas sin do chineálacha áirithe scol comhnasctha. Beidh £1,000 sa bhreis ag teastáil i gcomhair Scéime na leabhar in Aisce, agus árdóidh sé sin costas na Scéime go dtí £6,000. Mar gheall ar an bhfeabhsú saoil, táthar ag ceapadh go mbeidh sé ar cumas Coistí na bPáistí scataí níos mó de pháistí do chur chun na Gaeltachta faoi Scéim na Scoláireacht Saoire, agus tá na deontais i gcóir an chuspóra so dhá n-árdú ó £1,000 go dtí £1,500.
Maidir leis na deontais do thuismitheoirí páistí gurb í an Ghaeilge a dteanga thinteáin, tabharfar faoi ndeara gur hullmhaíodh an Meastachán ar an mbonn go n-íocfaí deontas £2 in aghaidh daltaí suas go dtí 14 bliana d'aois sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Bhreac-Ghaeltacht. Ar an mbonn so, toisc an laghdú a tháinig ar an líon daltaí a chomhlíon na coinníollacha riachtanacha, bheadh an tsuim a bheadh ag teastáil i mbliana £1,500 níos lú ná suim na bliana seo caite. Faoi mar d'fhógair an tAire Airgeadais agus an Tiachóg dá tíolacadh aige, áfach, tá beartaithe ag an Rialtas deontais bhreise do chur ar fáil chun na críche seo lena n-árdófaí an íocaíocht chaipitíochta go dtí £5 agus an teora aoise go dtí 16 bliana d'aois. Cosnóidh na hárduithe seo £40,000 sa bhreis, meastar.
Is é is cuspóir leis seo tacaíocht níos treise fós a dhéanamh leis an dteanga i gceantair na Gaeltachta agus tréaniarracht a thabhairt, freisin, ar a húsáid a fhorbairt sa Bhreac-Ghaeltacht. Meastar gur cosúla go dtiocfaidh luach saothair cothrom as airgead agus dúthracht a chaitheamh sna ceantair sin ina bhfuil an teanga daingnithe go teann fós agus ón a bhféadfaidh sí, ná tugtar cúnamh agus uchtach dí, leathadh amach ar cheantair máguaird nach bhfuil chomh maith as sa tslí sin.
Tá £2,600 de laghdú ar na deontais do Choláistí Samhraidh ina mbíonn cúrsaí Gaeilge d'oidí scol; ach ba soláthar sealadach an £3,600 a cuireadh i leataoibh i 1945, óir is sa bhliain sin do chéad-chuireadh i bhfeidhm an scéim nua i gcóir cúrsaí sna Coláistí seo.
Bhóta 47—Meán-Oideachas.—Is í suim ghlan iomlán atá dhá hiarraidh don Bhóta so ná £629,760—rud is ionann agus £26,270 de mhéadú.
Teastaíonn £19,000 den mhéadú sin ón deontas i gcomhair Thuarastail bhreise (maraon le Bónas Éigeandála) do Mhúinteoirí Meán-Scol. Is ar bhása na scálaí atá i bhfeidhm faoi láthair a rinneadh an ítim seo a mheas. Costas an Bhónais Éigeandála ó tugadh na 4/- sa tseachtain de bhreis ón lú Eanáir, 1946, meastar gur £66,500 anois é. Líon na múinteoirí go níoctar Tuarastal Breise leo, tá sé ag dul i méid in aghaidh na bliana, óir tá líon daltaí na Meán-Scol ag méadú go buan agus, ina theannta sin, is mó anois ná mar bhíodh sí an uimhir de na múinteoirí nua ag a mbíonn na cáilíochta atá riachtanach dóibh chun Tuarastal Breise a fháil. Tá soláthar dhá dhéanamh chun 1,810 múinteoirí a íoc i mbliana; 1,750 uimhir na bliana seo caite.
Tá £3,870 sa bhreis ag teastáil chun Deontas Ceann-taraithe agus Saotharlann a íoc. I scoil-bhliain 1945-46 bhí 41,793 daltaí ag freastal na Meánscol; 41,200 do bhí dhá bhfreastal i 1944-45, agus 40,013 i 1943-44.
De bharr an mhéaduithe atá ag teacht ar líon daltaí na Meánscol, bíonn uimhir níos mó ag dul faoi na Scrúduithe, agus beidh £1,100 sa bhreis ag teastáil i gcóir chostais na Scrúduithe—rud a árdós an soláthar seo go dtí £18,850. Do chuaigh 12,794 iarrthóirí faoi scrúdú i 1945, agus táthar ag meas go mbeidh 13,000 iarrthóirí ann i mbliana.
Bhóta 48—Ceárd-Oideachas.—Táthar ag iarraidh £47,235 glan níos mó ná hiarradh anuraidh, agus meastar, dá réir sin, gur £461,960 an costas iomlán.
Tá £41,973 den bhreis sin dhá iarraidh mar gheall ar mhéadú sa tsuim iomláin deontas atá iníoctha le Coistí Gairm-Oideachais faoi Alt 53 d'Acht Gairm-Oideachais 1930 — Fó-mhir B (1) den Bhóta. Ar na síontúis áitiúla a tugtar do na Coistí tá méadú eile ós cionn an mhéid íosta atá ordaithe ag an Acht agus, ó tá na síontúis sin ina mbása ag deontas an Stáit, is riachtanach suim bhreise a sholáthar faoin bhFó-mhír seo. Ina theannta sin, tá £12,500 dhá sholáthar faoin bhFó-mhír chéanna i gcomhair deontais do Choiste Gairm-Oideachais Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath le haghaidh na Comhairle le Leas Óige, agus tá an tsuim sin £4,200 níos mó ná deontas na bliana seo caite.
Tá £3,778 de mhéadú tagtha ar an gcostas a bhainean le tréineáil mhúinteoirí. I dteannta na ngnáth-chúrsaí gairid Samhraidh agus na gcúrsaí speisialta do mhúinteoirí Oibre Adhmaid agus Foirgníochta, táthar ag brath dhá chúrsa fhada a bhunú—cúrsa do mhúinteoirí Gaeilge agus cúrsa do mhúinteoirí Oibre Miotail agus Innealtóireachta Gluaisteán. Tá £3,091 dhá iarraidh don chéad chúrsa díobh sin agus £2,283 don chúrsa eile.
Mion-mhéaduithe faoi Fho-mhíre eile is cúis le hiarmhar an mhéaduithe iomláin atá sa Bhóta.
Bhóta 49—Eolaíocht agus Ealaín.— £5,285 an méadú agus £81,350 an tsuim iomlán.
Tá £3,958 den bhreis ag teastáil faoi Fhó-mhír A (1)—tuarastail srl. d'fhoirne na mbrainsí éagsúla Eolaíochta agus Ealaíonn—agus, as an méid sin, tá £2,590 ag teastáil mar gheall ar na 4/- sa tseachtain atá dhá gcur leis an mBónas Éigeandála ón lú Eanáir, 1946.
Iarmhar an mhéaduithe, tá sé ann toisc a chinneadh go líonfaí san Musaem Náisiúnta cúig phosta cúntóra a bhí folamh le tamall fada, agus toisc go bhfuil lán-chostas íocaíochta Stiúrthóra an Choláiste Náisiúnta Ealaíon dhá iompar arís ag an Bhóta ó ceapadh, ar bhása seasamhach, an t-oifigeach a bhí ag líonadh an phoist go sealadach agus é ar iasacht ó bhrainse eile den Roinn.
Na deontais don Mhusaem Náisiúnta agus don Leabharlainn Náisiúnta chun somplaí agus leabhra a cheannacht, táid curtha sa riocht ina rabhdar roimh an Éigeandáil—£1,500 don Mhusaem agus £2,600 don Leabharlainn; sna blianta seo caite, níor tugadh ach £1,000 sa chéad chás agus £2,000 sa dara cás. In ionad £5,000, bhéarfar £8,000 do Chomhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge mar gheall ar fhorás na hoibre. An deontas do Choiste Éireannach na nEalaíon Stairiúil, táthar dhá árdú ó £100 go dtí £1,600 sa chaoi go mbeidh sé ar cumas an Choiste dul ar aghaidh leis an obair dá ndearna tagairt anuraidh—ullmhú agus foilsiú staire na Mór-Ghorta do bhí in Éirinn. Tá £934 de mhéadú sna deontais do na Coistí éagsúla a chuireas drámaí Gaeilge dhá léiriú, agus tá £600 de mhéadú sa deontas do Choimisiún Bhéal-Oidis na hÉireann. Tá £2,000 dhá sholáthar arís chun cuardach a dhéanamh ar Scríbhne Stairiúla Éireannacha atá i gcnuais iasachta, agus chun macsamhla a dhéanamh díobh sin. Deontas an £2,000 d'Institiúid Náisiúnta Scannán na hÉireann, tá sé sin, leis, dá thabhairt arís.
Beidh £2,650 ag teastáil i gcomhair chostais leanúnaigh na mbeartú a ceadaíodh cheana maidir le Cuimhneachán Thomáis Dáibhis agus na nÉireannach Óg.
Tá dhá ítim nua sa Mheastachán seo. Tá £5 de shuim i gcomhartha dhá soláthar chun go bhféadfaidh an Rialtas, nó Ranna an Rialtais, saothair ealaíon a cheannach. Gheobhfar comhairle i dtaobh na gceannach sin ó Choiste a ceapadh le cead an Rialtais. Meastar nach mbeidh an obair chomh fada ar aghaidh i mbliana agus go raghfar faoi aon chostas mhór. Is é atá sa dara hítim nua ná soláthar £1,500 i gcomhair cúrsaí Samhraidh árd-teagaisc i gCeol Gotha agus i gCeol Gléas. Táthar ag brath na cúrsaí sin a eagrú i mbliana, agus gheobhfaidh an Roinn comhairle eolgasach ó Choiste i gcomhair a n-eagruithe.
Bhóta 50—Scoileanna Ceartúcháin agus Saothair.—Is é seo an t-aon Bhóta amháin ina bhfuil laghdú ar an tsuim ghlan atá ag teastáil. £133,840 atá inti sin, agus tá an t-airgead sin £1,050 níos lú ná suim 1945-46. Meastar go mbeidh na leithreasa i gCabhair comh hárd le £9,150. Tá sé sin £8,150 níos mó ná suim na bliana so caite, óir táthar ag súil go mbeidh méadú ar na síontúis ó thuismitheoirí páistí a bheas sna scoilcanna seo, agus, ina theannta sin, go mbeidh méadú ar na fáltais faoi Acht na mBaintreach agus na nDilleacht as ucht páistí eile den tsaghas sin. Mura mbeadh na faltais mhéadaithe sin, do bheadh an Bhóta £800 ní ba mhó ná mar bhí anuraidh.
Táthar tar éis Fo-mhír nua a oscailt chun deontais a sholáthar do Scoileanna Ceartúcháin agus Saothair i gcóir oibreacha ceadaithe, mar atógáil foirgneamh, athruithe ar fhoirgnimh, agus breisiú foirgneamh, agus i gcóir treallaimh le haghaidh gairm-thréineála. Níl an beartú sin ach ar staid triallach fós; ach táthar ag súil go bhféadfadh deontais a bheith ar fáil ón lú Deireadh Fómhair seo chugainn. An tsuim iomlán a bheadh le híoc in aon bhliain airgeadais, níor mhó í ná an tsuim a gheobhfaí, san tréimhse chéanna, de thoradh 1/- san tseachtain ar gách aon duine de na ciontóirí óga agus de na páistí do bheadh faoi choimeád. £4,500 an tsuim atá dhá soláthar i mbliana.
Ní dhéanfadh an scéim seo aon athrú ar iomlán na suime do gheobhfadh Scoileanna Ceartúcháin agus Saothair ón Bhóta agus ó na hÚdaráis Áitiúla i gcóir chostais choinneála ciontóirí óg agus páistí; ach, do roinnfí an íocaíocht sa chaoi ina dtiocfadh leath an chostais ar an Roinn agus an leath eile ar na hÚdaráis Áitiúla. Dá réir sin is é atá beartaithe go ndéanfar 6 pingne san tseachtain de laghdú, ón lú Deireadh Fómhair seo chugainn, ar ghnáth-rátaí an deontais ón Bhóta i gcomhair an chostais choinneála (.i. go laghdófar iad ó 10/- go dtí 9/6 agus ó 7/6 go dtí 7/-) agus, san am chéanna, go ndéanfaidh na hÚdaráis Áitiúla, le cead an Aire Rialtais Áitiúil agus Sláinte Poiblí, 6 pingne san tseachtain de bhreis do chur lena síontús féin.
Bhóta 51—An Gailéirí Náisiúnta.— £6,400 atáthar a iarraidh don tseirbhís seo, agus tá sé sin £1,033 níos mó ná suim na bliana seo caite. I 1940-41 agus ó shoin, níor tugadh ach £1,000 de dheontas i geabhair chun pictiúirí do cheannach agus do dheisiú, ach tá £2,000 dhá sholáthar i mbliana mar bhíodh roimh 1940-41. An méadú ar an mBónas Éigeandála don fhoirinn, is é is fáth le hiarmhar an mhéaduithe atá ar an Bhóta.
Bhóta 28—Institiúid Árd-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath.—Tá £20,760 de mhéadú ar an Bhóta seo, agus tá £41,150 de shuim iomláin ag teastáil dá bharr sin.
Tá an bhreis dá hiarraidh toisc é a bheith beartaithe go mbunófar dhá scoil nua—Scoil Fhisic Cosmosach agus Scoil Stair-Thaighdeadh, agus é a bheith measta go sroichfidh a gcostas sin £20,000 sa bhliain airgeadais seo. Tá £10,000 den mhéid sin dhá chur i leataoibh, faoi Alt 16 (3) d'Acht na nInstitiúide Árd-Léinn, 1940, i gcóir an chostais a bhainfeadh le soláthar agus le hoiriúnú foirgneamh do na scoileanna sin; agus tá £5,000 dá sholáthar, faoi Alt 25 (1) den Acht, i gcóir íocaíochta foirne agus costais eile gach scoile den dá scoil.
Sul a bhféadfar scoil nua a bhunú san Institiúid Árd-Léinn ní mór rún faofa do rith i ngach Tigh don Oireachtas agus sé an nós imeachta ba chirte ná na rúin seo do thairgsin roimh an Meastachán a thabhairt isteach. Bítheas ag súil, dá réir sin, go bhféadfaí na rúin do thairgsin i Mí Aibreáin nó go luath sa mhí seo, ach do thárla deacrachta ann agus níor bhfhéidir é sin a dhéanamh. Gidh go bhfuilim, mar sin, dá iarraidh ar an Dáil meastachán a rith go bhfuil soláthar inti do dhá scoil nua, tuigfear nach bhféadfar dul faoi aon chaiteachas, agus nach ndéanfar sin, go dtí go mbeidh dhá Thigh an Oireachtais tar éis rún do rith ag faomhadh bunuithe na scol seo. Ní féidir liom a rá faoi láthair cathain a déanfar na rúin faofa do thairgsin ach, i gcás na Fisice Cosmosaí go háirithe, tá an oiread san den obair ullmhúcháin déanta go mb'fhéidir go mbeifí i ndon an cheist a thabhairt os comhair na Dála agus an tSeanaid roimh shos an tsamhraidh.
Maidir le Bun-Oideachas de, 453, 962 an mheán-uimhir den líon iomlán daltaí a bhí ar rollaí na Scol Náisiúnta i rith na scoil-bhliana 1944-45. Sin 685 de laghdú ar mheán-uimhir na bliana roimhe sin. Ach bhí 1,800 de mhéadú ar an meán-tinreamh thar mar a bhí sé sa scoil-bhliain 1943-44. 82.1% an meán-tinreamh i gcomhair na scoil-bhliana 1943-44, agus 82.7% an meán-tinreamh i gcomhair na scoil-bhliana 1944-45. Meán-tinreamh na ndaltaí a mbaineann an tAcht Freastail Scoile leo (.i. daltaí idir 6 bliana agus 14 bliana), bhí sé sin, freisin, níos áirde sa scoil-bhliain 1944-45 ná mar a bhí sé an scoil-bhliain roimhe sin. 83.7% an meán-tinreamh a bhí ann i gcomhair na scoil-bhliana 1944-45 agus 83.1% a bhí ann i gcomhair na scoil-bhliana 1943-44. I gCathair Chorcaigh is ea ab áirde a bhí meán-tinreamh maidir le daltaí den aois sin. 88.2% an meán-tinreamh a rinneadh sa gcathair sin. 87.0% an meán-tinreamh a rinneadh i gCathair Átha Cliath. Rinneadh meán-tinreamh do réir 85% i gCo. Chorcaighe agus i gCo. na hIarmhidhe. Bhí an meán-tinreamh faoi 82% sa gCabhán, i dTír Chonaill, i Muineachán, i dTiobraid Árann, i gCill Dara, i Laoighis, i Longphort, sa Mhidhe, i Loch gCarman, i gCill Mantán, i Liathdrom agus i Ros Comáin.
Bíonn an scrúdú i gcomhair theastais na bun-scoile ann gach bliain i dtosach Mhí Mheithimh. Na daltaí a n-éiríonn leo sa scrúdú bíonn fianaise acu gur chríochnaíodar an cúrsa atá leagtha amach ar chlár an 6ú ranga agus go raibh eolas cuíosach maith acu ar na príomh-ábhair a bhí ar an gclár. Le trí bliana anuas bhí iallach ar dhaltaí dul faoin scrúdú. Ó shoin i leith chuaigh 107,000 dalta faoin scrúdú agus d'éirigh le breis agus 77,000 duine acu teastas a bhaint amach, sé sin le rá gur éirigh le breis agus 70%.
Ní beag an obair í a leithéid sin de líon mhór a chur faoi scrúdú, ach bhí cuidiú maith le fáil gach bliain ó na bainisteoirí agus ó na hoidí. Bhí sin le rá faoi oidí nÓrd Crábhaidh agus faoi na hoidí tuata chomh maith le chéile. Murach sin bheadh an obair ibhfad níos troime ar an Roinn. Gan an cuidiú sin ba dheacair don Roinn an scrúdú ar bun ar chor ar bith. Ar an ábhar sin ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine acu sin a chuidigh leis an obair.
Ó thárla go bhfuil laghdú mór tagtha ar an díomhaointeas i measc oidí, táthar ag féachaint chuige go mbeidh dóthain na scol de lucht teagaisc ann san am atá romhainn, agus faoi mar adúras cheana, meastar é bheith riachtanach breis ábhar oidí a chur chun na gColáistí Ullmhúcháin, agus chun na gColáistí Oiliúna, leis.
Ní eile a thagann den laghdú úd ar dhíomhaointeas i mease oidí óg is ea gur féidir an dara bliain d'fhaidiú seirbhíse do thabhairt do bhan-oidí éifeachtacha. Dá réir sin, ní gá dá leithéidí feasta éirí as an tseirbhís, mar ba ghá ó 1938 to 1944 nuair a bhídís 60 bliain d'aois, nó tráth a chríochnaídis 35 bliana de sheirbhís inphinsin; féadfar a gcoimeád go mbíd 62 bhliain d'aois, nó go gcríochnaíd 37 mbliana de sheirbhís inphinsin cibé acu is déanaí.
Tá an-chuid pleanála dá déanamh na laethanta seo, agus táim cinnte, dá bhrí sin, go gcuirfear ceist orm faoin leagan amach atá dá dhéanamh ag an Roinn seo agamsa ionas nach mbeimíd ar deireadh maidir leis an gcaoi a bhfuil an scéal i dtíortha eile. Tá sé éasca go leor athrú a dhéanamh ar mhaithe leis an athrú féin, nó de bhrí go bhfuil athruithe dá ndéanamh in áiteacha eile, nó de bhrí go measann daoine gur leigheas ar gach aicíd an t-oideachas. Ba mhór an díth céille dhúinn, dar ndóigh, agus ba mhillteach an dochar a dhéanfadh sé, dá dtugadh tuairimí den chineál sin orainn beart a dhéanamh gan staidéar cruinn a dhéanamh ar an scéal. Má bítear le hathrú agus foirbhiú a dhéanamh ar an gcóras oideachais seo againne, níor chóir a dhéanamh gan doimhin-mhachtnamh a dhéanamh ar na cúrsaí. Ba chóir go dtuigfimís go maith roimh ré an chaoi a mbeadh an scéal dá ndéantaí na hathruithe. Ní foláir meoin agus caractar ár muintire a choinneáil i gcuimhne. Ní foláir, freisin, gan dearmad a dhéanamh ar an tslí mhaireachtála ab fhéidir leis na daltaí a bhaint amach dóibh féin, agus gan dearmad a dhéanamh, ach an oiread, ar an méid cánach is féidir leis an bpobal a íoc.
Más féidir scéimeanna áirithe a bhunú agus a chur ag obair i dtíortha eile, ní hionann sin agus gurbh fhéidir scéimeanna mar iad a chur i bhfeidhm sa tír seo, ná gurbh ionmholta sin a dhéanamh. Ar an ábhar sin, is é rud atá ar intinn againn gan an iomarca driopáis a bheith orainn ag glacadh le scéimeanna den tsórt sin agus gan aon athruithe a dhéanamh mura bhfuil údar maith leo agus mura meastar gurbh fhiú an tairbhe an trioblóid. Tá gach chosúlacht ann go gcaithfear cur leis an gcóir oideachais atá ar fáil do dhaltaí thar éis dóibh an bhun-scoil a fhágáil. Dá bhrí sin chuir mé coiste rannúil ar bun tamall ó shoin le réamhscrúdú a dhéanamh ar an scéal agus le molta a chur ar fáil faoin gcaoi ab fhearr le dhul i gcionn na ngóthaí. Scrúdaigh an coiste seo na hathruithe atá dá ndéanamh i dtíortha atá comhgarach dúinn agus thug baill an choiste cuairt ar na cineálacha áirithe scol atá sa tír seo againn féin. Táim ag súil le leide a fháil uathu go gairid maidir leis na príomhthuairimí atá acu ar na cúrsaí agus maidir leis na príomhmholta atá fúthu a dhéanamh. Nuair a bheas siad sin scrúdaithe b'fhéidir go mbeadh sé ar mo chumas dul i gcomhairle leis na dreamanna lena mbaineann an scéal. Má meastar gur chóir athruithe a dhéanamh ar an gcóras oideachais pléifidh mé an scéal leo.
Sar a gcríochnaí mé mo thrácht ar an mBun-Oideachas, ní mór dhom tagairt do ní atá an-tábhachtach, eadhon ceist tuarastail na n-oidí. An méadú a tháinig ar an gcostas maireachtála de bharr an Chogaidh, theann sé ar na hoidí mar theann sé ar gach aicme eile fostaithe. Ná scálaí tuarastail a bhí ann d'oidí, níorbh fhéidir a rá go raibh siad sáthach mór. Ach, de dheascaibh an pholasaí choitiain maidir le páigheanna agus le tuarastail le linn na hÉigeandála, níorbh fhéidir aon leigheas a dhéanamh ar an scéal ach amháin a chur in áirithe go méadófaí íocaíocht na n-oidí, tré Bhónas Éigeandála, do réir mar rinneadh le haicmí eile fostaithe. Do míníodh é sin go hiomlán d'ionadaithe na n-oidí sna hagallaimh a bhí acusan liomsa i Meitheamh, 1944, agus i Márta, 1945, agus leis an Taoiseach in Aibreán, 1945.
Do chríochnaigh an cogadh anuraidh agus d'oscail sé sin an tslí chun dul i mbun scálaí nua íocaíochta d'oidí. Chuige sin thugas cuireadh uaim, i Mí na Samhna anuraidh, dárd-Choiste Gnótha Chumainn na Múinteoirí Náisiúnta teacht i gcomhrá agus i gcomhairle liom maidir le scálaí nua a bhítheas tar éis a chur le chéile. Do leanadh de na díospóireachta ar feadh roinnt míosa, agus, aon uair amháin lena linn, d'iarr ionadaithe na n-oidí orm tairgsin deireannach an Rialtais a chur i bhfios dóibh. Do chuireas i bhfios dóibh í. Do bheadh de thoradh ar an tairgsin sin go mbeadh 1¼ milliún punt níos mó de chostas leis an mBun-Oideachas ná mar bheadh leis de bharr scálaí bliana 1938. Rud eile, d'ainneoin na neamh-chinnteachta geilleagair sa tír seo agus ar fud an domhain, do chinn an Rialtas ar an lú de Mheán Fómhair, 1946, mar dháta tionscnaimh don scéim nua, agus bhí an scéim sin le bheith i bhfeidhm go ceann trí mblian, tráth a déanfaí a hathbhreathnú, ag féachaint don chaoi ina mbeadh cúrsaí geilleagair an uair sin.
Mar gheall ar a shéimhe a bhí na díospóireachta—go ceann tamaill go háirithe—do mheas mé ábhar maith dóchais a bheith agam go n-aontódh na hoidí le tuairim an Rialtais go raibh an tairgsin chomh cothrom, réasúnta, agus ligfeadh ár n-acmhainn í a bheith, agus gur mhaith a bfhiú glacadh léi. Go mí-ádhúil, do cinneadh ar a mhalairt de chomhairle, agus thárla, dá bharr sin, go bhfuil naoi seachtainí de scolaíocht caillte ag idir 30 agus 40 míle de dhaltaí bunscoile i gCathair Bhaile Átha Cliath. Do tugadh roinnt mhaith fógraíochta do na pointí go léir a bhaineas leis an gcás, agus níor mhaith liom—ná leis an Dáil seo ach an oiread, is dóigh liom—é bheith d'fhiachaibh orm trácht dhéanamh anseo arís ar na pointí sin go léir. Is fíor gur cúis mhór inní don Rialtas an gníomh sin na n-oidí agus an chailliúin scolaíochta atá ar na páistí dá bharr; ach, mar sin féin, tá sé de dhuaglas orm a rá arís nach n-athrófar an bhreith atá déanta ar na gcás ag an Rialtas. Le linn don Rialtas socrú ar an íocaíocht a thugann an Stát do dhream fostaithe, tuigfidh an Dáil gurb é an rud atá an Rialtas ina eadránaí idir an dream sin agus an pobal i gcoitinne a íocas na cánacha atá riachtanach chun na seirbhísí poiblí a choimeád i bhfeidhm. Dá ngéilleadh an Rialtas d'éileamh ba mhó ná éileamh a mheasfadh sé bheith cothrom agus réasúnta, ní bheadh sé ag coimhlíonadh a dhualgas don phobal a rinne Rialtas de.
Mar adúras cheana tá an meastachán i gcoir Meán-Oideachais £26,270 níos mó ná meastachán na bliana anuraidh.
Tá dhá príomh-údar leis seo: (1) an t-árdú do réir 4/- as tseachtain ar an mBónas Éigeandála a ligeadh leis na hoidí ón gcéad lá dEanáir seo caite, agus (2) árdú a bheith tagtha ar an tsuim iomlán atá iníoctha mar Dheontas Caipitíochta de bharr méadú a bheith ag teacht i gcomhnaí ar an líon daltaí atá ga freastal na scol.
Níor mhiste a luadh, freisin, go bhfuil breithniú dá dhéanamh ar an scéal maidir leis an gcuid de thuarastal na n-oidí a íocas an Roinn. I láthair na huaire tá an scéal dá scrúdú d'fhonn an scála a fheabhsú. Tá súil agam go mbeidh ar mo chumas sar i bhfad a dhul i gcomhairle faoin scéal le ionadaithe ó chumainn na scol.
I rith na ndeich mblian a bhí ann ó 1932 go dtí 1941 agus an dá bliain sin a áireamh chuaigh an líon daltaí a bhí ar rollaí na meán-scol i méid ó 30,966 go dtí 39,537. Sin méadú de réir 860 tuairim's ó bhliain go bliain. Ní nach ionadh ní raibh an méadú chomh mór sin is rith na mblian 1942, 1943 agus 1944. Na deacrachtaí a bhain, de bharr an chogaidh, le cúrsaí taistil ab údar leis sin. Níor tháinig de mhéadú in aghaidh na bliana ar an uimhir i rith an achair sin ach 450. Tá 41,800 ar na rollaí i mbliana, 700 níos mó na mar a bhí ann anuraidh.
De bharr an líon daltaí a bheith ag dul i méid bhí a thuilleadh slí de dhíth ar na Meánscoltacha ach níorbh fhéidir sin a chur ar fáil i ngeall ar an gcogadh. Fágann sin go bhfuil furmhór na scol lán go béal faoi láthair agus go bhfuil cuid acu ag cur thar maoil. Tá sin le rá go háirithe faoi na scoltacha atá sna ceantair ina bhfuil mór-chuid daoine. Táthar ag súil nach fada a bheas an scéal amhlaidh. Tá molta tagtha cheana ó lucht stiúrtha na scol ina lán áiteacha ar fud na tíre faoi scoltacha nua atá ar intinn acu a thógáil nó faoi scoltacha atá ar intinn acu a fhairsingiú. Cosnóidh sin os cionn £800,000. Tá na scéimeanna sin scrúdaithe ag an mBrainse faoi leith atá sa Roinn Tionnscail agus Tráchtála le stiúir a choinneáil ar thógáil tithe tar éis an chogaidh. Tá ceadúnas tugtha acu i gcomhair na coda den obair is géire a bhfuil gá léi. Tá cuid de na scéimeanna sin críochnaithe agus tá cuid eile acu i ndáil le bheith críochnaithe, sin nó tá cuid mhaith den obair déanta orthu.
385 Meán-scoil ag a bhfuil aitheantas faighte a bhí ann anuraidh, sin 6 cinn níos mó ná mar a bhí ann an bhliain roimhe sin. Tríd an nGaeilge a rinneadh an teagasc ar fad i gcéad (100) scoil acu agus ina theannta sin rinneadh cuid den teagasc tríd an nGaeilge i 114. Múineadh an Ghaeilge féin sa gcuid eile ach is tríd an mBéarla go hiondúil a múineadh na hábhair léinn seachas an Ghaeilge.
Is léir go bhfuil borradh ag teacht go seasamhach faoin teagasc tríd an nGaeilge. Ina theannta sin níl caill ar bith ar an dul chun cinn atá dá dhéanamh ag na daltaí maidir le labhairt na Gaeilge taobh amuigh den rang. Ina dhiaidh sin tuigtear dom go bhféadfaí a lán feabhais a chur ar an taobh seo den scéal. Tá scéim dá cur i bhfeidhm anois a chuideos leis sin. Faoin scéim seo beidh deontais faoi leith le fáil ag na scoltacha ina mbeidh na daltaí i ndon an Ghaeilge a labhairt go maith. Tá roinnt áirithe deontas dá gcur ar fáil do na cineálacha áirithe scol agus socrófar do gach cineál acu an caighdeán is ísle nach mór dóibh a shroichin ionas go mbeid i dteideal an deontais. Níl aon tsuim curtha in áirithe sna meastacháin seo i gcomhair na scéime, mar ní bheidh na deontais sin le n-íoc go dtí tar éis deireadh na scoil-bhliana 1946-47.
12,263 a chuaigh faoi scrúduithe na Meán-teistiméireachta agus na hÁrdteistiméireachta anuraidh. 3,702 a chuaigh faoi scrúdú na hÁrd-teisteiméireachta agus 8,561 a chuaigh faoi scrúdú na Meán-teistiméireachta. Tríd is tríd ní raibh aon locht le fáil ar an gcaoi ar freagraíodh na ceisteanna. D'éirigh le 82.6% sna scrúduithe agus bhain 43% Onóracha amach.
An Samradh seo caite chuir an Roinn cúrsaí Gaeilge ar bun d'oidí Meán-scol. I mBaile Átha Cliath agus i gCorcaigh a bhí na cúrsaí sin ar siúl. Rinneadh freastal maith orthu agus d'éirigh go maith leo.
Tuairim's 3,500 oide atá ag teagasc sna Meán-scoltacha. Oidí lán-aimsire is ea tuairim's 2,400 acu sin agus oidí páirt-aimsire is ea an 1,100 eile. Leis na hUird Chrábhaidh a bhaineas furmhór na n-oidí páirt-aimsire. Siad na hábhair is iondúla a bhíos dá dteagasc acu Eolas ar an gCreideamh, Fraincis, Líníocht, Ceol agus Tíos. Oidí cláraithe is ea tuairim's 77% de na hoidí lán-aimsire. Tá na cáilíochta atá riachtanach i gcomhair a gcláruithe ag 8% eile acu, sé sin Céim Iolscoile agus teastas ag a bhfuil aitheantas ó thaobh múinteoireachta. Tá Céim Iolscoile ag 5% den chuid eile ach níl teastas múinteoireachta acu.
Maidir le cáilíochta na n-oidí tá súil dá coinneál i gcomhnaí ar an scéal ag an Roinn. Le linn na dtrí mblian seo a chuaigh tharainn bhí súil ghéar dá coinneál ag na cigirí ar na hoidí a bhí ag tosaí ar an gcéird. Rinneadh sin le hoidí lán-aimsire agus le hoidí páirt-aimsire chomh maith le chéile, agus cuireadh tuairiscí speisialta ar a gcuid oibre chun na Roinne.
De bharr an dul chun cinn atá déanta le 10 mbliana anuas maidir le gnóthaí Eolaíochta agus taighdeadh beidh a thuilleadh glaoch amach anseo ar oiliúin i ngach brainse den Eolaíocht. Cé gur leis na Ceárd-scoltacha is mó a bhainfeas sin, beidh sé le tabhairt faoi deara, freisin sna Meán-scoltacha. I láthair na huaire tá 31,600 dalta ag freastal ar chúrsa na Meán-teistiméireachta. Tá 42% acu sin, sé sin 13,150 (9,500 buachaill agus 3,650 cailín) ag gabháil do cheann éigin de na cúrsaí staidéir atá leagtha amach don Eolaíocht. D'fhonn teagasc an ábhair a chothú cinneadh ar an uas-mharc i gcomhair gach brainse den Eolaíocht a árdú ó 300 go dtí 400 i scrúdú na Meán-teistiméireachta agus i scrúdú na hÁrdteistiméireachta chomh maith le céile. Cuireadh an socrú sin in iúl do lucht na scol agus tiocfaidh sé i bhfeidhm an scoil-bhliain seo chugainn.
Maidir le Meán-scoltacha na gcailín ní foláir do réir na rialacha oiliúin ar Thíos a bheith le fáil iontu. Tá an cúrsa iomlán san ábhar sin dá theagasc :bhfurmhór na scol agus tá 8,650 cailín nó tuairim's 46% ag gabháil don ábhar (7,075 sa Meán-teistiméireacht agus 1,575 san Árd-teistiméireacht). Tá roinnt scol ann nach féidir an cúrsa iomlán atá leagtha amach ag an Roinn a theagasc iontu, de bhrí nach bhfuilid cóirithe chuige sin. Sa gcás sin ceadaíonn an Roinnt cúrsaí nach mbíonn chomh hiomlán leis an gceann eile.
Maidir le Gairm-Oideachas de is léir ó gach Scéim den tSeisiún 1944-45 go rabhthas ag súil le feabhas saoil nárbh fhéidir bheith ag súil leis go dtí sin ó thosnaigh an cogadh. Tá sé sin le n-aithneachtáil go mór-mhór ar an uimhir sa bhreis de dhaltaí bhí ar rollaí na gcúrsaí lán-aimsire lae. I mbliain a 1939-40, chuaigh an uimhir chomh hárd le 15,063, ach laghdaigh sí gach bliain tar éis sin sa chaoi gur thuit sí go dtí 13,025 i mbliain a 1943-44. D'árdaigh sí go dtí 13,958 i mbliain a 1944-45—uimhir is ionann agus 900 dalta de mhéadú. An uair sin féin, ní raibh an uimhir chomh mór agus beadh sí, dá mbeadh gan bac bheith ar chóracha taistil agus boinn rothair bheith le fáil. Is é rud adeir cigire áirithe: "Is beag árd-mháistir nach eol dó suas le deich ndaltaí eile bheadh ag freastal na scoile ach cóir oiriúnach iompair bheith le fáil acu." Ina theannta sin do laghdaigh an freastal i gcuid de na scoileanna tuaithe nuair a tháinig an samhradh agus bhí gá lena thuilleadh oibrithe ar na feirmeanna agus ar na portaigh mhóna. In áiteanna áirithe b'éigean cúrsaí lán-aimsire do bhuachaillí a stopadh go sealadach tar éis na Cásga. Ach, ina aghaidh sin, d'éirigh freastal ranganna tráthnóna na gCeárdScol ó 32,309 go dtí 35,025. Sna ceantair thuaithe tháinig méadú ba mhó ná é sin féin ar uimhir na ndaltaí a cuireadh ar rollaí na gCúrsaí Seisiúnacha —16,145 in aghaidh 11,354 sa tseisiún a bhí caite. Maidir leis an bhfreastal, féadfar a rá go raibh seisiún 1944-45 den Ghairm-Oideachas ina árd-sheisiún ar fad, óir bhí 75,282 de lán-uimhir ag freastal na rang sa tseisiún san in aghaidh 66,688 i 1943-44, agus 65,618 i 1939-40.
Ó thárla an freastal méadaithe sin ann d'ainneoin córacha taistil agus treallamh scol a bheith gann agus d'ainneoin an ghá mhóir atá le hoibrithe ar fheirmeanna agus ar phortaigh, is léir go bhfuil breis suime dhá cur ag an bpobal i bhfiúchas an Ghairm-Oideachais. Comhartha faoi leith ar an mbreis suime sin is ea grúpaí díospóireachta a bheith dhá mbunú ag feirmeoirí agus oibrithe ina lán Gairm-Scol Tuaithe agus, ina theannta san, scéimeanna tréineála dá gcuid oibrithe bheith dhá gcur ar aghaidh ag lucht gnótha agus tionscail i gcomhar leis na Coistí Gairm-Oideachais. Fianaise eile is ea a réidhe a bhíonn fostú le fáil ag deadhaltaí na mór-scol cathrach, óir cruthaíonn sé go bhfuil muinín ag fostaitheoirí sna scoileanna sin agus sna daltaí a hoiltear iontu. Níl ceist an fhostuithe chomh tábhachtach sin i Scéimeanna Contae Gairm-Oideachais, ach tá cuid de na Príomh-Oifigigh Feidhmiúcháin ag tabhairt aire dí, agus ní holc atá ag éirí leo. Mar shomplaí air sin, fuarthas postaí do 91 daltaí san Iar-Mhidhe, do 68 i gCiarraighe, do 55 i nGaillimh, do 50 i Liathdruim agus do 66 i Ros Comáin. Is riachtanach, áfach, a rá go forbhríoch gurb é is príomhfheidhm do Ghairm-Scoil ná oideachas agus oiliúin oiriúnach a thabhairt do dhaoine óga a bheidh ag fanúin sa bhaile agus ag dul 1 mbun na hoibre a bheidh le fáil sa bhaile, agus nach í a príomhfheidhm bheith ag oiliúin an aosa óig le haghaidh oibre in áiteanna eile. Ní i gcomhnaí, áfach, a thuigeann na tuismitheoirí é sin. Féachann na Scoileanna Tuaithe le hoiliúin oiriúnach a thabhairt do bhuachaillí agus do chailíní go mbíonn sé leagtha amach dóibh fanúin sa bhaile i mbun obair feirme nó obair tighe, ach tá a lán díobh san nach dtagann chun na scoile toisc go measaid féin, nó a dtuismitheoirí, nach gá dóibh a thuilleadh oideachais a fháil, agus is iad buachaillí agus cailíní a thagann chun na scoile ná iad súd go mbíonn beartaithe acu dul d'iarraidh oibre in áiteanna eile.
I roinnt mhaith de na Gairm-Scoileanna Tuaithe, cuireadh ar bun grúpaí díospóireachta d'fheirmeoiri agus d'oibrithe feirme atá fásta suas, agus fuarthas comhchúnamh luachmhar ina gcomhair sin ó na múinteoirí Talmhaíochta agus Garraíodóireachta atá ag na Coistí Áitiúla Talmhaíochta. In Ail Finn, i gContae Ros Comáin, rinne cuid de na feirmeoirí an chomhairle tugadh dóibh i dtaobh leanúin ar feadh bliana de chuntais a choimeád ar a gcuid feirm agus do thuarascála orthu a scríobhadh. I nDruim SeanBhó agus i gCeis Cairrgín, i gCo. Liathdroma, do bunaíodh Cumann de lucht fásta toradh chun crainn toradh a fhás le haghaidh na monarchan suibhe i nDruim Sean-Bhó. Sa Sciathóig i gCo. Lughbhaidh, thug a lán feirmeoirí cuaird ar an scoil go bhfeicidís na turgnaimh a bhítheas a dhéanamh i mbainisteoireacht talta innilte, agus tugadh comhairle dóibh maidir le meascadh síolta agus le dea-bhainisteoireacht talún innilte. I gCo. Luimnigh, do scrúdaíodh talamh cheantair Chill Fíonáin, agus cuireadh ar taispeáint na hithreacha éagsúla agus a ndromchla sa Taispeántas áitiúil. I Seana-Ghulainn, sa chontae chéanna, tá suim mhór ag feirmeoirí na háite sna turgnaimh a bunaíodh, cúig bliana ó shoin, maidir le sealaíocht, le scothadh agus le leasú. I dTobar an Choire, i gCo. Shligigh, rinneadh sé cinn de thurgnaimh i rith an tseisiúin maidir le slite chun galra a chosc.
I nGairm-Scoil Mhaothail, i gCo. Liathdroma, rinne deich bhfeirmeoirí óga freastal ar chúrsa speisialta ó Mhí na Samhna, 1944, go Mí an Mhárta, 1945. Chun teagasc a fháil in Eolaíocht Tuaithe agus in Obair Adhmaid d'fhreastaladar na ranga ó 2.0 p.m. go 6.0 p.m., trí thráthnóna sa tseachtain. Bhí cúrsa na hEolaíochta Tuaithe ag oiriúin d'fheirmeanna an cheantair, agus tugadh aire faoi leith do mhíntíriú agus do leasú talún. Ina theannta san tugadh teagasc i ndeisiú agus i bhfeabhsú foirgneamh feirme. Théigheadh an múinteoir chun feirme gach dalta faoi seach dhá chomhairliú maidir leis na fadhbanna faoi leith a bhain leis an bhfeirm. Le linn an chúrsa do ceannaíodh uirlisí do na daltaí as ciste gur íocadar féin síntúis isteach ann. B'é toradh bhí ar an gcúrsa ná gur iarr na deich ndaltaí ar an gCoiste Gairm-Oideachais cúrsa eile a thabhairt dóibh i 1945-46.
Ar achainí an Aire Thalmhaíochta do lean na Gairm-Scoileanna Tuaithe de thástáil síolta i gcomhair feirmeoirí. Cuireadh 7,963 somplaí faoi thástáil in aghaidh 11,726 sa tseisiún a bhí caite. Dúirt Múinteoirí Eolaíochta Tuaithe gur ceannaíodh níos mó de na síolta ó dhíoltóirí creidiúnacha agus gurbh é sin ba chúis le laghdú na dtástál.
Sna Contae-Bhuirgí agus sna Cathracha, déantar freastal maith ar na cúrsaí lán-aimsire i dTíos. Ach, fós féin, bíonn drogall ar mhórán cailíní teacht chun na gcúrsaí seo sna ceantair thuaite. Is truaigh é sin, go háirithe ó theastaíonn feabhsú tís ó theaghlaigh go leor agus, freisin, ó thárla gur ag dul i líonmhaire atá postaí do chailíní a fuair oiliúin in obair tís. I dtithe ósta agus i bproinntithe tá aniarraidh ar chócairí, ar fhreastalaithe agus ar chailíní eile a tréineáladh sa tsaghas san oibre. Coiste Gairm-Oideachais Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath agus iad i gcomhar le Bord Cuardaíochta Éireann, d'eagraíodar cúrsa speisialta chun cócairí tithe ósta a thréineáil i gColáiste Mhuire dEolaíocht Tís, Baile Átha Cliath, i Meán Fómhair, 1944. Do tugadh scoláireachta d'ocht gcailíní agus fuair ochtar eile scoláireachta ón gCoiste Gairm-Oideachais. Ar chríochnú don chúrsa fuair na hiarrthóirí go léir fostú i dtithe ósta agus i bhfundúireachta eile ar fud na tíre. Tá cúrsa eile den tsaghas sin dhá eagrú don tseisiún seo. I mBaile na Trágha, Co. Loch Garman, do tosnaíodh, i Mí an Mhárta i mbliana, ar ghearr-chúrsa dhian chun tréineáil a thabhairt do bhainfhreastalaithe, do chailíni aimsire agus do chilíni cistine; Coiste Gairm-Oideachais an chontae a bhunaigh an cúrsa agus bhí sé faoi choimirce na Roinne agus Buird Chuardaíochta Éireann. Coistí Gairm-Oideachais ar fud na tíre, mholadar é agus thugadar scoláireachta le haghaidh an chúrsa sin do 40 cailín go raibh freastal déanta acu ar chúrsaí lámaimsire i dTíos.
An dara scrúdúchán chun Printísigh a chlárú faoin scéim tréineála atá ceaptha ag Cumann Éireannach na dTrádálaí Gluaisteán, Teoranta, bhí sé ann i Samhradh 1945. D'iontráil 254 iarrthóirí do na Gairm-Scoileanna éagsúla, agus cháiligh 149 le haghaidh a gcláruithe. I gCorcaigh agus i Luimneach tá cinnte cheana féin ar shocruithe faoina ligfear na printísigh ón obair, aon tráthnóna amháin gach seachtain, chun freastal ar na ceárdscoileanna áitiúla. Táthar ag súil go leanfar den dea-shompla sin i ngach áit ina bhfuil Gairm-Scoileanna. I dtosach an tseisiúin seo, do tosnaíodh, i gCeárd-Scoil Sráid Bholton, Baile Átha Cliath, ar chúrsa a heagraíodh do phrintísigh Chóras Iompair Éireann. Tímpeall 80 printíseach a bhí ann agus déanann siad lá iomlán freastail gach seachtain. Cúrsa cúig mblian é agus, nuair a bheidh sé faoi lán-tscoil i gceann cúig mblian, beidh slí ann do 400-500 printíseach den tsórt sin. Chun a chur in áirithe go ndéanfaidh na printísigh a gcion féin den dícheall, beifear ag súil go n-úsáidfidh siad a n-uaireanna saoire chun freastal nach mó ná dhá thráthnóna sa tseachtain a dhéanamh ar na gnáth-ranga oíche. Ag deireadh an dá bhliain tosaigh de fhreastal lae, cuirfear gach printíseach faoi scrúdú, agus ligfear ar aghaidh chun ceárd-tréineála níos áirde na daltaí a chruthóidh go bhfuil cumas agus oiriúnacht faoi leith iontu. Na ceárd-phostaí is áirde ag an gCóras, beidh siad oscailte dá leithéidí sin.
Tuairiscíonn cigirí go dtáinig feabhas ar mhúnadh na Gaeilge sna ranga lae agus sna ranga oíche i rith an tseisiúin. Tá an Ghaeilge tar éis bheith dhá húsáid ní ba choitianta sna scoileanna lán-aimsire lae. Ina lán scol sí an Ghaeilge an teanga ina dtugtar na horduithe coitianta go léir, agus is i nGaeilge de ghnáth a dhéanann na múinteoirí agus na daltaí a gcomhrá le na chéile. Gidh gur go mall é, tá forás ag teacht ar an múnadh tré Ghaeilge. Do méadaíodh arís an iontráil agus an freastal sna ranga oíche. I gCo. Chorcaighe agus i gCo. Luimnigh do cuireadh na mílte ainmneacha ar na rollaí. Do fuarthas comhchúnamh luachmhar ó Chomhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge i roinnt áiteanna. Do cuireadh spéis mór i gclaisceadal i ngach scoil agus do heagraíodh roinnt chraolta gur éirigh go maith leo. Ach b'í an drámaíocht an ní ab fhearr toradh agus is beag áit nár léiríodh aon dráma amháin Gaeilge ar a laghad ann i rith an tseisiúin. I bhfurmhór na Scol Gairm-Oideachais do heagraíodh Cumann Gaelach do mhisniú daltaí na lá-rang chun Gaeilge labhairt lena chéile de ghnáth, agus do cuireadh a lán siamsaí caidrimh ar siúl faoi choimirce na gcumann sin. An mhór-chuid de na Coistí Gairm-Oideachais, chuireadar scoláireachta chun na Gaeltachta ar fáil. Dá bharr sin, d'fhreastal beagnach 600 dalta cúrsaí sa Ghaeltacht, i Samhradh 1945.
Tá deireadh leis an tréimhse thriaileach maidir leis na cúrsaí faoi Chuid V d'Acht Gairm-Oideachais 1930, i gCorcaigh agus i Luimneach. Ó thosach seisiúin 1945-46, tá na Cúrsaí Oblagáideacha ina gcuid den scéim choitian Gairm-Oideachais a riartar ag na Coistí seo. D'athraíodh uimhir na ndaltaí ar na rollaí idir 865 agus 956 i gCorcaigh. D'athraíodh sí idir 549 agus 650 i Luimneach. Is léir ó na tuarascála go ndearnadh dul ar aghaidh fónta i ngach áit díobh sin. Tá ullmhú dhá dhéanamh i gathair Phort Láirge chun cúrsaí oblagáideacha a thosnú, an túisce gheobhfar an treallamh riachtanach. An Chomhairle le Leas Óige, lean sí, ar feadh sheisiúin 1944-1945, den obair ar son aosa óig Bhaile Átha Cliath. Do tugadh aire do na 777 buachaillí a cuireadh ar na rollaí sa dá ionad atá faoi stiúir na Comhairle agus, ina theannta san, do cuireadh teagasc ar fáil do 90 grúpaí buachaill agus do 13 grúpaí cailín ó 32 chumann chomhcheangailte. I Seachtain na n-Óg, 1945, do rinneadh taispeántas tairbheach d'obair na Comhairle.
An taispeántas taistealach d'eagraigh an Roinn de 61 phictiúir le péintéirí Éireannacha, do críochnaíodh é i Mí na Samhna, 1945. Sa dá bhliain a bhí an Taispeántas ar bun, bhí sé ar feiscint i 68 Scoileanna Gairm-Oideachas agus, i dteannta na mílte daltaí scoile gur socraíodh cuairteanna speisialta dóibh, chuaigh 30,000 daoine fásta dhá fhéacaint. Do cuireadh i gcrích go hiomlán an cuspóir ba bhun don Taispeántas: an Ealaín a chur os comhair an phobail chun go gcuirfí suim inti agus go dtiocfadh sí ar aghaidh dá thoradh sin. Do cuireadh oiread spéise sa Taispeántas agus go dtáinig a lán achainí chun na Roinne cheana féin d'iarraidh a thuilleadh dá shórt a chur ar bun.
Ó ritheadh Acht Ghairm-Oideachais 1930 gur thosnaigh an cogadh, bhí tímpeall ocht mbliana slán ag na Coistí chun feidhm a thabhairt d'fhorála an Achta agus lena scéimeanna chur chun cinn. I gcomparáid leis an saol a tháinig leis an gcogadh, bhí costais foirgneamh agus treallaimh agus oibre, an uair úd, cuíosach íseal agus bhain furmhór na gCoiste lán-tsochar as an bhfaill a bhí acu. Le linn na hÉigeandála b'éigean scor go mór d'fhorbairt scéimeanna Gairm-Oideachais; ach, mar sin féin, is beag scéim nár héadromaíodh a ciste mar gheall ar bhreis chostais damhnaí oibre agus treallaimh, agus go háirithe mar gheall ar íoc bónais leis na foirne. Anois tá cuid de na Coistí gan an t-airgead a theastódh uathu chun leanúin de na scéimeanna atá dá bhforbairt faoi láthair, gan trácht ar na scéimeanna gurbh éigean a bhforbairt a chur ar athlá, agus tá an cheist go léir faoi bhreathnú ag an Roinn.
Ní mór bheith ullamh chun foráis na scéimeanna Gairm - Oideachais. Teastóidh a thuilleadh múinteoirí lena aghaidh sin, agus teastóidh tuilleadh eile chun dul in ionad múinteoirí a bheidh ag scor den teagasc. Mar sin de, tá na Meastacháin seo ag déanamh soláthair i gcóir cúrsaí fada tréineála do mhúinteoirí miotal-oibre, do mhúinteoirí Gaeilge agus do mhúinteoirí adhmad-oibre (dhá chúrsa). An chéad chúrsa agus an dara cúrsa díobh sin, tá beartaithe a dtosnú an Fómhar seo chugainn; críochnófar ceann de na cúrsaí adhmad-oibre i mbliana agus críochnófar an ceann eile i 1947. Tímpeall 36 an líon múinteoirí tréineálta a thagann gach bliain as an dá Choláiste Tís-Coláiste Mhuire, Sráid Chathail Bhrugha agus Coláiste Chaitríona, an Charraig Dhubh. Chun go gcuirfear a thuilleadh suime i ndéanamh culaithe ban agus i ndéanamh nithe eile cois tinteáin, beidh gearr-chúrsa sa tsaghas sin oibre ann i gcóir Múinteoirí Tís an samhradh seo. Beidh cúrsaí samhraidh ann, freisin, do Mhúinteoirí Gaeilge, do Mhúinteoirí Eolaíochta Innealtóireachta agus do Mhúinteoirí Eolaíochta Tuaithe. I gCeárd-Scoileanna Bhaile Átha Cliath, ón lú Bealtaine go dtí tosach Mhí Iúil, beidh cúrsa speisialta firéarachta agus gaibhneoireachta i gcoitinne i gcóir 16 gabha óga—duine as gach contae de 16 contaetha. Na Coistí Gairm-Oideachais, is iad a thogh na hiarrthóirí, agus bhronnadar scoláireachta, in aghaidh chostais freastail an chúrsa, ar na hiarrthóirí gur éirigh leo. Do cuireadh oiread iarratas isteach le haghaidh an Chúrsa sin agus bhí caighdeán na hoibre chomh hárd agus go bhfuil beartaithe a mhacsamhail de chúrsa chur ar bun, an bliain seo chugainn.
Níl aon athrú ar an deontas a tugtar faoi Bhóta 49 d'Institiúid Náisiúnta Scannán na hÉireann. Tá curtha roimpi ag an Institiúid leabharlann de scannáin oideasacha a bhunú, agus, le linn na hoibre sin, do breathnaíodh suas le 200 scannán anuraidh, agus do measadh tuairim's 120 díobh sin bheith oiriúnach do phobal agus do riachtanais na tíre seo. Do hordaíodh na scannáin a bhí tofa ach, mar gheall ar dheacrachtaí iompair agus soláthair, níorbh fhéidir na scannáin a fháil gan mhoill. Mar sin féin, tá 88 gcinn faighte faoi láthair, agus táthar ag súil leis an gcuid eile a fháil taobh istigh de roinnt seachtainí.
Faoi Fho-mhír B. 12, tá soláthar leanúnach dhá dhéanamh i gcóir costas a bhaineas le hítimí áirithe de Chuimhne Céad Bliain Thomáis Dáibhis. Cuid mhór den chaiteachas a bhí ann mar gheall ar an gCuimhne seo i 1945-46, do bhain sé leis an Scannán, A Nation Once Again, a rinneadh i gcomhar leis an Institiúid. Do ligeadh an scannán amach le déanaí chun a thaispeáint i ngáth-thithe pictiúirí na tíre go léir, agus fearadh fáilte roimhe ó na nuachtáin agus ón bpobal i gcoitinne. Tá socruithe dhá ndéanamh chun an scannán seo a chur dhá thaispeáint ar fud na Breataine, agus tá tithe an Odeon Circuit ar na tithe pictiúiri ina dtaispeánfar é.
An bhfaca an tAire an scannán sin?
Agus bhfuil an tAire sásta gur ceart an scannán sin do chur go dtí áiteanna eile?
Aon áit ar domhan.
Go bhfóiridh Dia orainn!
Ní ceart cur isteach ar an Aire.
An bhfaca tusa an scannán?
Ní fhaca fós.
Tá margaí ar cois chun a chur dhá thaispeáint i Stáit Aontaithe Aimeiriceá, freisin.
Go bhfóiridh Dia orainn arís!
Ó is é Rialtas Éireann is únaer don scannán, gheobhfaidh sé a chion féin de na fáltais, lúide costais.
Tá beartaithe Scoil Shamhraidh a bhunú i mBaile Átha Cliath, an samhradh seo, do dhaoine atá ag déanamh staidéir ar árdchúrsaí Ceoil. Ollúna Ceoil go bhfuil ainm agus cáil orthu, tabharfaidh siad teagasc uathu i dTréineáil Chórach, i gCeol Gléas, i gCumadóireacht, i Stiúradh Ceolbhúine agus i Meastóireacht Cheoil. Ní bheidh in aon rang díobh sin ach uimhir áirithe de dhaltaí tofa, agus gheobhfaidh siad sin an teagasc in aisce. Cuirfear fógraí sna nuachtáin chun iarratais ar ionaid sna ranga a fháil ó dhaltaí oiriúnacha. Tá £1,500 dhá sholáthar sa Meastachán i gcóir íocaíochta na nOllamh agus i gcóir costas táistil na ndaltaí.
Brainse na bhFoilseachán, nó "An Gúm", mar tugtar air de ghnáth, tá 893 leabhra Gaeilge foilsithe anois aige, uimhir is ionann agus 49 níos mó ná mar bhí foilsithe aige bliain gus an taca seo. Saothair bhunaidh 393 díobh san; aistriúcháin 380 díobh; leabhráin nó billeoga ceoil 112, agus leabhráin de théarmaí ceárdúla 8 gcinn díobh. Céad agus sé cinn d'iomlán na leabhar atá foilsithe, is téacs-leabhra do Mheán-Scoileanna iad; leabhra de ghnáth-litríocht is ea an chuid eile.
Tá tús maith curtha ar an scéim, dár thagras anuraí, chun téacs-leabhra i nGaeilge chur ar fáil do lucht Iolscoile. Tá glactha cheana féin le téacsa bunaidh ar Mhatamataice, ar Chorpeolaíocht agus ar Oideachas in Éirinn, agus tá ullmhú dhá dhéanamh ar eagráin de théacsa Laidne, de théacsa Gréigise agus d'aistriúcháin ar Stair na Rómha.
Go nuige seo, is í uimhir na leabhar atá foilsithe ag an gGúm ná timpealí 650,000.
Ó thaobh slí níl aon mhór-locht ar an gcaoi a bhfuil an scéal maidir leis na scoltacha Ceartúcháin agus Saothair. Tá socrú déanta chun mór-dheisiúchán a dhéanamh sar i bhfad ar an scoil cheartúcháin do bhuachaillí atá sa Daingean. Tá áit do 80 sa scoil cheartúcháin do chailíní atá i gCill Mochuda. I láthair na huaire níl sa scoil seo ach 15 cailíní. Tá áit do 4,461 duine i scoltacha saothair na gcailíní agus níl iontu faoi láthair ach 3,740. Fágann sin go bhfuil áit iontu do thuairim's 700 eile. Ar an taobh eile is beag áit atá folamh i scoltacha na mbuachaillí agus ar an ábhar sin tá socrú dá dhéanamh le scoil shaothair do bhuachaillí sinsearacha a chur ar fáil i gcomhgar Bhaile Átha Cliath. Tá áit do leathchéad buachaillí san Ionad Coinneála i dTeach Maoilbhríde i nGlas Naoidhean. Tagann athrú ó lá go lá ar an méid a bhíos san áit sin. 28 nduine an uimhir is mó a bhí ann in aon lá amháin i rith na bliana seo a chuaigh thart. Cuirtear buachaillí a bhíos 17 mbliana d'aois isteach ann anois. Ní cuirtí buachaillí a bhíodh chomh sean sin isteach ann roimhe seo agus ní bhíodh an oiread trioblóide ag báint leo. Fágann sin nach foláir don fhoirinn a bheith níos áirdeallaí anois.
Sa mbliain 1945 ligeadh abhaile ar laetha saoire ós cionn 2,500 nó 40% beagnach dá raibh sna scoltacha saothair. Do réir na dtuairiscí a fritheadh ó bhainisteoirí na scol tá an Roinn sásta nár séanadh an phríbhléid sin ar aoinne gurbh fhéidir é ligean ar saoire nó gur chríonna an beart é ligean ar saoire.
Tá scéim ceaptha le deontais a chur ar fáil chun na scoltacha ceartúcháin agus saothair a dheisiú. Rinneadh sin i ngeall ar an droch-bhail a bhí ar na scoltacha agus de bhrí nach mbeadh ar chumas na mbainisteoirí an obair a dhéanamh gan cabhair airgid a fháil. Maidir le costas na scéime is é rud atá ar intinn go n-íocfaidh an Stát a leath agus go mbeidh íoc an leath eile ar na húdaráis áitiúla ar a bhfuil cúram cothuithe na malrach le linn dóibh a bheith sna scoltacha. Dá réir sin cuirfear 6d. an duine sa tseachtain de bhreis ar an deontas caipitíochta a íocas na húdaráis áitiúla agus bunófar ciste i gcomhair deontas foirgníochta. Scilling sa tseachtain ar gach malrach dá mbíonn sa scoil an bonn a bheas faoin gciste agus ón gcéad lá da Dheireadh Fómhair, 1946, a déanfar an t-áireamh. Tá £4,500 dá chur ar fáil ina chomhair sin sna meastacháin.
I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. It is a very tiresome thing year after year to have to stand up after the Minister for Education has spoken and move that his Estimate be referred back for reconsideration, and to be putting to him the general thirst in the country for some confidence in the Department of Education, on the one hand, and the general thirst for some knowledge as to the broad lines of the Department's approach to an educational syllabus or programme in the country and to be just meeting the same dumb kind of reluctance to discuss the educational problems in the country to-day.
The Department of Education is now branching out into foreign affairs and I should like to say a word about that first, so as to get rid of it. I asked the Minister if he had seen the Davis film called A Nation Once Again, which it is proposed to send throughout Great Britain and the United States. The Minister said he had seen it. I saw that film in a picture house which I am sure has as good sound-producing apparatus as any picture house in town. So far as the sound goes, it is a piece of stridency which it would be impossible to imagine coming from a film if one did not hear it. There is a commentator on the general film itself and then here and there throughout the film some other commentator comes on. Throughout the film you have a band playing and you also have music in schools. The technical work in connection with that film is as bad as anything could be. During the whole time the second announcer is speaking there is a shocking echo. Every time his voice comes into the picture there is a shocking echo carried on over the whole place, marking very faulty technical production. The music is of the most strident and unbalanced kind, and the same applies with regard to the singing. How anybody could think that the circulation of that film to Great Britain or the United States could add to the prestige of our country, I do not know. It certainly could do nothing but degrade us in the eyes of people who had any ear for art, whatever they might say with regard to the material that was provided for their eyes. If that film, in the condition in which I saw and heard it in Dublin, is to go to Great Britain and the United States, then I say the intrusion of the Department of Éducation into foreign affairs is as disastrous as are its activities in relation to some internal affairs.
I would like to make it clear that the Department of Education did not make the picture.
The Department of Education are boasting and telling us that, with their approval, this film is going to Great Britain and the United States and they hope to make money out of it.
I, for one, am ashamed and I would like any Deputy who has seen and heard that film to give his opinion on it. I will say that it helps us to understand some of the difficulties under which we labour in discussing educational matters with the Minister if the Minister's taste, in ear at any rate, does not rise above what was provided for his ears at the expense of the State in the film I speak about.
However, that is external affairs part, and now, coming to internal affairs, I want to deal with the Department of Education. The Department of Education is one of the main Irish tragedies. It is a real native tragedy, because no finger of any foreigner intrudes into the Department. No mind of any foreigner is brought into the discussions dealing with the programme or the administration that I know of—that is, unless they are inside the Department. So the Department of Education is our own affair, and year after year we have had to point out here how everything possible that can be done in recent years by the Department to obscure what is happening, is being done. From the point of view of the public, every year that passes they have less confidence in what is being done in primary or secondary schools or, indeed, in any other branch of our educational system. The Minister, in his statement to-day, spoke a little of the future. He said:
"Tá an-chuid pleanála' á dhéanamh na laetheanta seo, agus táim cinnte, dá bhrí sin, go gcuirfear ceist orm faoi'n leagan amach atá' á dhéanamh ag an Roinn seo agamsa ionnus nach mbeimíd ar deire maidir leis an gcaoi a bhfuil an scéal i dtíortha eile. Tá sé éasca go leor athrú a dhéanamh ar mhaithe leis an athrú féin, nó de bhrí go bhfuil athruithe 'á ndéanamh in áiteacha eile, nó de bhrí go measann daoine gur leigheas ar gach aicíd an t-oideachas."
It is worth taking it in all its nakedness. I will read from the English translation, and this is what the Minister says:
"This is the age of planning, and I have no doubt I shall be asked for some indication as to what is being done in my Department to bring us into line with the general trend elsewhere in this respect. It is comparatively easy to recommend changes just for the sake of change or because changes have been and are being made elsewhere or because education is coming to be regarded in some quarters as the panacea for all ills. It would, of course, be foolish and fatal to allow ourselves to be stampeded by views of that kind into taking inadequately considered lines of action. If our educational system here is to be altered and extended it must be as the result of very careful consideration and with a full appreciation of all the implications involved in the changes proposed. Due regard must be had to the character and temperament of our people, to the range of opportunity available, to our school-going population and to the taxable capacity of the State. There is no guarantee that systems which can be successfully established and implemented elsewhere would be desirable or feasible at all for us. It is proposed, therefore, to proceed with caution and to initiate no changes except such as are justified and calculated to bear adequate fruit. In view of the probability that additional provision may have to be made for post-primary education, I set up some time ago a Departmental committee to make a preliminary survey of the problem and to suggest lines along which progress may safely be made. This committee has examined the changes being made in neighbouring countries and its members have visited the various existing types of schools here. I expect an indication from them at an early date, as to their main conclusions and recommendations, and when these have been duly examined, I may be in a position to consult the various interests involved relative to changes which it may seem desirable to make in our educational system."
The post-war plans for education, for post-primary education! We are in a country where 90 per cent. of the children are entirely dependent upon primary education. About two or three years ago we had a dissertation from the Taoiseach on the ideal to be sought in primary education—to be able to read, to write and to add up. Simplicity itself. It was so simple that he got his inspiration from seeing a cat showing three of its kittens how to wash their faces.
No water in the schools. A very primitive way of washing. They have no other way except the paw.
Cats usually are able to wash with whatever dampness they themselves can provide. Here we are with just a sneer at the thought that education is regarded in some quarters as the panacea for all ills. What have we, through the Department of Education, to offer the people of this country that will enable them to work out a living in agriculture or industry except primary education, to the extent of 90 per cent. of the people?
Things are so perfect with regard to primary education that the Minister's thoughts are directed to what is being done in other countries for post-primary education. Surely the Minister is aware that in other countries trade unionists, manufacturers, publicists, university people, educationists generally, statesmen—if he turns to Great Britain, at any rate—have all come together to say that primary education is not enough and that neither the administrator, the technician, nor the manual worker in industry can do his work sufficiently under modern conditions on the basis of primary education; that he must have a sound secondary education and that systematic arrangements have been made, not only to raise the school-leaving age to 16, but to see that between 16 and 18 years there is a systematic arrangement with employers that their workers will still go to school.
Take the inspectors' report to the Department of Education and the recommendations on primary instruction, All that is obscured now. For a couple of years we ran into the statistics line; since then we have run into some more descriptive matter. But in the Report of the Department for 1943-44, of 208 pages, the only information we are given as to what is being done in the primary schools is confined, I might say, to three things. We get about 25 lines on the position of Irish in primary schools, from Donegal to Cork, 17 lines on the position of Irish as a medium of instruction in the schools, seven lines as regards English, nine lines with regard to what is being done towards giving instruction in the teaching of music, etc., 22 lines on the school leaving certificate and about 37 on the effect of the war, one of the effects of the war being:—
"Is féidir a rádh leis gur mó an tsuim atá dá chur ag na daltaí fásta i saoghal na gcoigríoch, agus ní foláir nó tá an méadú suime sin agus an bhreis eolais agus tuisciona a thagann de, ag leathanú na h-aigne agus ag múnlú an mheoin aca."
The result of the war was that students in primary schools are taking a greater interest in foreign affairs——
The air force.
——and their minds and characters are being moulded somewhat. But what is being done to prepare children in the primary schools, 99 per cent. of whom do not get beyond that, to prepare them for the future and for their work? No information, good, bad or indifferent is given. All the weaknesses in arithmetic and mathematics referred to in previous reports are passed over. The weakness and the lack of development of the teaching of Irish in schools is to some extent passed over. Anybody reading the report, such as it is, could have no confidence at all that the position with regard to Irish is being strengthened in the schools. The tragedy of the Department of Education is a really naked tragedy. We cannot blame anybody else for it. The fundamental reason for that tragedy is that nobody is consulted systematically with regard to the programme or the work of the Department of Education. The vaults of the Department contain the people who direct the programme, and the vaults smother any systematic reports of the work being done in the country as reflected by the inspectors. There is nothing that it is more important that there should be confidence in than in the work of the Department of Education, and there is nothing that people generally should be more consulted or more informed about. In no way is there any system of consultation between the Department and various bodies that have advice to give about education. I put down a motion last year, before the Education Estimate was taken, asking to have a council of education set up in accordance with the report of the Vocational Organisation Commission. I think it worth while to recall what that recommendation was. I am quoting from the Dáil Debates of March 23rd, 1945, column 1745. Paragraph 540 of that report reads:—
"We recommend, therefore, the establishment of a council of education as a permanent institution to act as the accredited advisory body to the Minister for Education. It should be a vocational, non-political body without any executive or administrative powers. It should strive by securing the ready co-operation of all concerned in education to make fully effective the national educational policy as determined by the Government and the Oireachtas. From the Government's side it would be an organ for cliciting from the school and people the maximum practical support for national policy. From the parents' and educationists' side it would make available to the Minister and the Oireachtas the knowledge and experience of those best qualified to suggest appropriate means to ensure the success of that policy. In more detail, its function would be to conduct a continuous, competent and constructive review of the educational system; to show where wasteful overlapping and lack of co-ordination occur; to examine proposals in the light of the ascertained needs and circumstances of the country; to submit suggestions for the development of education, and to organise public interest and co-operation in its different branches."
The Taoiseach in replying to the discussion on that motion indicated that that would be usurping a Government function, that the Dáil was the proper place where the Minister for Education should get the opinion of parents and, as far as other bodies were concerned, they could consult them quite easily without any body like the one proposed. We are in an utterly chaotic state in educational matters, and nothing will get us out of that except by bringing together an advisory council of education such as was recommended. I think it is an extraordinary position, if the Minister has been looking outside the bounds of this country, and if he has seen a fraction of what other countries are doing on education, seeing that they declare quite soundly that education is going to be the foundation of their social happiness and their economic improvement in the future. Seeing the enormous amount of work that is being done in the endeavour to improve education in other countries, it is astonishing that here, with this Estimate for the coming year before us, the only suggestion he has to make about consultation with anybody is that when a Departmental Committee has examined what might be done for post-primary education, he might be in a position to consult parties in this country who may be interested in education. Both the Minister and the Department are suffering from rigor mortis and, as a country, we are going into a very difficult and a rapidly moving future, without any educational preparation being made therefor. We cannot meet with anything but difficulties, disappointment and disaster if we continue in that frame of mind.
My motion to refer back this Estimate is one of absolute want of confidence in the Minister and in the way in which the Department of Education is working, in its utter lack of contact either with the general life of the country at large, or utter lack of consultative contact with people who are the real technicians in the work of education, the teachers and the managers of the various schools. The tragedy of the whole thing is increased by the fact that circumstances are so favourable to the fullest and most complete cooperation amongst these people for a sound educational policy.
We have no difficulties in this country arising out of the question of religion. From the earliest days in which this State was set up, back in 1922, it was decided to bring in Catholic headmasters, Catholic teachers, Protestant headmasters and Protestant teachers to discuss every aspect of our educational policy. It was the policy of the Government of that time to do so, so that both the general condition of primary education and the general inspectorial position might be made the subject of inquiry and consultation by bodies, set up, as it were, entirely outside the Department or, at any rate, presided over by a person who was neither a manager nor a teacher, by means of a committee on which there were representatives of every class of person that could be interested in education. But from the coming into office of the Fianna Fáil Government that position was completely abandoned.
How does the Deputy make that out?
There has been no bringing of them together.
There has been consultation all the time.
There has been no bringing together of the general body since the Fianna Fáil Government came into office, or, if so, the Department is getting deeper and deeper into the vaults of the Department and denies either a full exposition of Departmental policy in this House or a full examination of their policy by any kind of representative committee.
There is not any committee.
It is because there is not any policy that there is not any willingness on the part of the Minister or the Department to bring other persons into consultation. That is the position with regard to general policy. If there are Deputies here who think that the policy, the programme and the results of the Department of Education can be fully discussed in any kind of constructive and informative way I would like to hear them on it.
From my point of view they cannot. In the first place, in the Departmental report we do not get information that would inform that discussion, and, in the second place, if we did make a contribution to the discussion, based on the facts, then we paint a very miserable picture, perhaps an exaggerated picture. Many of the complaints we hear are complaints from disappointed parents, and from disappointed young people who, having gone out into the world unprepared for their work, in after years realise that they suffered in the schools. If there are Deputies here who think that way they have now a useful contribution to make to the constructive development of the Department's policy and I would be glad to hear it.
On the Irish side, either the Department or the Minister are fooling themselves with regard to Irish in the schools or are endeavouring to fool us. In the written report there is no evidence to sustain the suggestion that Irish is progressing in the schools. However, let us ignore that and go back to 1922. Let us look at the reports of conditions then and at the plans of the committee and imagine what kind of progress they looked for in 1946, 24 years afterwards. Let us look at the situation as it is. Let us speak to some of the really enthusiastic teachers of Irish to-day and hear what they have to say of their own work and of performance in the schools. Let us speak of our own experience of children who have gone through the schools, and compare the actual facts to-day, 24 years afterwards, with what our imagination would have dictated would be the situation with the plans made at that date. The position with regard to Irish must be looked at in a systematic way at once. The whole question has to be examined not by cynics, sentimentalists or cranks, not by people detached in any way, but by people who are enthusiastic, who are practical enthusiasts and who have knowledge, experience and enthusiasm.
We want a body like that set up to see what the position of Irish is from the point of view of stability and progress and grip in the Irish-speaking districts, in the partly Irish-speaking districts and in our rural and urban districts. I do not think that that examination can be effectively or usefully carried out, except in relation to a general appreciation of what we want our educational programme in the primary schools to aim at, and therefore I think we should have the vocational council of education and so get some kind of clear idea as to what standard, what type of person from the educational point of view, we expect our primary schools to turn out, and, in the light of that general standard, to have the question of Irish in the schools, both as a language and as a teaching medium, examined. It could be done separately, but I think it would be infinitely more satisfactory to have it done jointly, because while Irish is a separate question, I do not think it can be detached from a consideration of the general type of product we want to get from our primary schools.
I deal particularly with the primary schools because they are the foundation of everything and because the real weakness in our educational system is there. But when we turn to either secondary or university education, again, if the Minister is looking outside, he must feel very small in himself as an educationist that he has nothing to say with regard to extending secondary education to a greater number of people than are getting it at present, or giving the talented young people who go through the full secondary education course a better chance of getting into the universities. However, that is a matter which I do not want to go into now.
The Minister then said just a word about the position with regard to the primary teachers' strike. Now, a strike is never really called because of the particular grievance most talked about in connection with it; and, if the primary teachers are on strike to-day, I feel that, to a large extent, they are on strike because of the way in which they have been treated by the Minister in relation to their work generally and in connection with their relations with him generally. We all here in this House know the way in which the Minister for Education, after an earnest and conscientious examination had been made into the position of Irish in the schools by some of the best qualified teachers in Irish amongst the primary teachers, treated those teachers and the way in which he declined to discuss the matter with them. There may perhaps have been some discussion between the inspectors and the representatives of the teachers; but, in fact, the Ministerial attitude taken on that report was that it could not be in harmony with what the teachers understood the inspectors thought about their report. In that very important part of their work, which affects in high degree their general work, the Minister threw them completely over and would have nothing to do with them. When, under the stress of their conditions—conditions which I painted somewhat elaborately when dealing with this Estimate last year—they pressed for an increase in their emoluments in the beginning of last year, they were treated with the same lack of consideration and courtesy. They were treated in relation to their financial difficulties in the same manner in which they had been treated in relation to their professional difficulties prior to that. In April of last year the teachers saw the Taoiseach. None of their proposals put forward would be considered by the Taoiseach Subsequently, when they took steps to organise and place themselves in a position where they could go out on strike, if necessary, the Minister made it known, through the medium of a Parliamentary Answer here, that he had under consideration new scales of salary for them. That was in July. He was not able to see them until November.
Ultimately the result of their talks was that we now have the teachers in Dublin out on strike. I think that is a shocking state of affairs and it can be described as nothing but the result of the disgracefully bad handling—the type of handling I must say we are prepared to expect from the Minister and the Department of Education because of our experience both of the Minister and of the Department which we have suffered under here for so many years—and mismanagement of the entire situation. The outstanding feature of this whole debacle is that when the Archbishop of Dublin, as representative of the managers of the City of Dublin and as being spiritually responsible for the 40,000 odd children who are left at the present time without any educational facilities, offered to mediate—he asked merely to have his voice heard, so that the relations between the Minister and the teachers might in some measure be assisted and kept from reaching too great a straining point—he was pushed aside as if he were some outsider coming in and claiming to arbitrate or interfere with the Government, or claiming to dictate to the Government in any way. I think that this most recent experience demonstrates forcibly how impossible it is to expect any progress, or to expect any atmosphere in which any progress can be made under the present Minister for Education or under the present Department of Education unless some very radical change is brought about in their relationship both to Parliament, on the one hand, and to the people, on the other.
Various people are concerned in this whole matter; we have the Minister; we have the teachers; we have the managers; we have the children; and we have the parents. Without putting them in any order of priority or seniority, they are all vitally concerned. But the children are the people who are of real importance. We have had them now for the last three months on the streets of Dublin. We have had the Archbishop of Dublin anxious to mediate. The attitude of the Government is that they are standing out between the teachers and the people, as people who are claiming money from the people.
That is a shockingly discreditable and incompetent attitude for any Minister to adopt. The tragedy of it is that it is in complete accord with the Minister's attitude in this House during the last five or six years when we have asked, year after year, to have this Estimate referred back. I say that the Minister's attitude in the matter is a complete negation of any attempt at a democratic approach. Surely he cannot expect to be able to stand out, and to drive back eventually the magnificent corps of men and women teachers that we have here in this city and, having driven them back into the schools, expect that our education will be carried on in the spirt in which Irish education should be carried on.
I would ask the Minister to sit down now and ponder on the kind of future that faces education, both in the City of Dublin and in the country generally, if the present situation is permitted to drag on interminably and if he is, as it were, going to fight to a standstill. There are so many aspects that one could discuss that I feel it is better for us not to discuss them at all. But we cannot discuss the Minister for Education's Estimate here without appreciating that there are 40,000 children completely idle, completely free, completely undisciplined, and without any kind of schooling whatsoever in the City of Dublin to-day; and that that situation has persisted for three months. There is a corps of conscientious and devoted teachers here in the city who have done trojan service for education in the past and whose financial circumstances were painted in the fullest possible detail here last year and whose financial circumstances are well known to the Minister. They are on strike; and when the Archbishop of Dublin asks to be allowed to mediate he is rebuffed. We are faced with a Minister for Education who merely sits in the vaults of the Department of Education in the same way as he sits in them when it is a question of discussing either the primary or the secondary schools programmes, or, indeed, any other aspect of education. When we were discussing the School Attendance Act his attitude was identical with his attitude now. We pleaded with him from these benches then and we told him that he was adopting an attitude under that Act which was utterly unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, he forced his Act through the Dáil and through the Seanad and he knows to-day that he has no powers to impose compulsory education upon anybody in the country. He would stick his head down. He would decline to listen to reason or advice. If we are to have this situation carried on from the School Attendance Act to the general education policy, if we are to have this refusal to have a council of education set up to help the Minister and to help Parliament to speed, to watch and to control educational progress, if we are to have this refusal to face the position with regard to Irish in the schools, if we are going to have a continuance of the present refusal of the Minister to accept or arrange mediation in the strike, then I do not think there is any Deputy who can do anything but support the motion that I have down that this Estimate be referred back, and which is meant to be an absolute vote of want of confidence in the Minister and the way in which he is handling his Department at a very critical time of this country's history.
I want to direct my remarks to one portion of the Minister's speech. It should have been the most important portion of his speech because I think the incident referred to represents a complete indictment of the policy of his Department and the policy of the Government. I refer to the brief reference made by the Minister for Education to the fact that, for the past nine weeks, no less than 40,000 children are roaming wild around the streets of Dublin while those who could be imparting education to them are on strike in an effort to get a decent standard of living for themselves. One has only to reflect for a few moments on the standard of education in this country and to compare it with the mammoth efforts which are being made elsewhere to step up the standard of education, to realise the catastrophe it is for Irish children to have their education interrupted in the manner that we see to-day. These children have been absent from school for the past nine weeks. Earlier this year large numbers of them were absent from school when their schools were closed as a result of the outbreak of measles and influenza.
We are now approaching the month of June when, normally, schools are closed for holidays. So that our efforts in regard to education, so far as the City of Dublin, this year, is concerned, are represented by this picture, that for the best part of the year 30,000 to 40,000 children roam the streets instead of being at school, absorbing education. That is the situation which, with a remedy in our hands, that is capable of application if there were a little sagacity on the part of the Minister and the Government, we contemplate with the utmost impunity, regardless of its consequences on our youth, already suffering sadly from lack of proper educational methods. I say to the Minister that there is a bounden obligation on him and the Government to be concerned with this question of education in the city at this particular time. There is a moral obligation on the Minister to get into this job and to get this strike settled on terms which will leave no bitterness and cause for recrimination on either side.
On page 12 of the translated speech, the Minister clothes himself in a virtue which no other Government in the world claims for itself. The Minister says that his function in the matter is, as it were, to hold the scales evenly between the community and the claims of a particular section. Most intelligent Governments throughout the world, when they are the paymasters, have always been willing to submit to arbitration disputes arising out of a claim for improvements against the Government as paymasters. Our Government appears to claim for itself virtues and prerogatives that democratic Governments in enlightened countries have never claimed for themselves. In Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada one can have recourse to arbitration in disputes in which the Government is concerned. This impeccable Government could never be in the position of being a defendant. They are the people who balance the scales between the claimants on the one hand and the community on the other hand. I wonder is the Minister balancing the scales in connection with this dispute? The dispute shows the Minister in the position that he is opposed to the teachers' demands and is quite unconcerned with the demands of the parents that the schools should be reopened and that their children be educated.
The Minister, in other words, is in the position that in order to make war on the teachers he has to make war on the parents and on the children. The children are allowed to roam the streets. Their parents are worried about them and are concerned for their safety. The teachers are trying to establish their right to a decent salary. The Minister sits back, like Pharaoh, saying harder and harder words each time and his colleagues are let loose on the country to back up the Minister by equally stony-hearted utterances.
I could not help feeling a temporary admiration for the Department of Education recently in the new found zeal they had developed in inserting advertisements, at the public expense, in the newspapers, nor could I help commenting to myself that that zeal was worthy of a better cause. The Department indulged in a campaign of advertisements, the whole purpose of which was to endeavour to confound the position of the teachers in relation to the public, to appeal to any little public avarice there might be, to any petty jealousies, to any of the twopence looking up to twopence-halfpenny mentality, for the purpose of trying to misrepresent the position of the teachers and to put them in a false position in relation to the community and the Government.
What are the facts of the situation? So far as 90 per cent. of the children of this country are concerned, the primary school represents their only means of education. It is their primary school, their secondary school and their university. Approximately 90 per cent. of the children go into industry and agriculture with only such education as they can get in the primary schools. If that represents our educational position, is not it obviously desirable that we should have in these schools the best qualified teachers that we can get? Is not it obviously desirable that when we employ teachers in the primary schools we ought to pay salaries which will attract the best qualified teachers? Is not it desirable that the remuneration of teachers should not be the perennial source of bitterness and recrimination that it has been here for more than a quarter of a century? Anybody concerned with education must recognise that 90 per cent. of our children depend on the national schools and that, therefore, we should provide the best education we can for them in the national schools through the most qualified teachers that it is possible to get and to allow the teachers to concentrate on educating the children as well as they can and to remove altogether as a source of friction, discord and diversion, quarrels about wages and conditions.
That is not the position here. Is there any Deputy, no matter what his age, who remembers a period of his life when the question of the wages and salaries of teachers has been out of the forefront of public discussion in this country? Every Deputy knows that our national school system has gone hand in hand all the time with a struggle by the teachers to get a decent scale of salaries and to be permitted to concentrate on the education of the children. After their long campaign for a decent standard of living, the situation to-day is—and no advertisements of the Minister's will confound it—that we have approximately 10,700 teachers in the country; that of that number, 7,500, or approximately 70 per cent., with from 15 to 20 years' service will, under this so-called munificent offer of the Government, have maxima varying from £150 per annum to £386 per annum; and 17 per cent. of that 7,500 will have maxima ranging from £150 per annum to £236 per annum.
Let us take even the best of these figures. Let us take the maximum of £386 and analyse what that represents to-day in relation to pre-war living standards. I think nobody in this country will attempt to say that teachers or any other class who work for a livelihood in this country enjoyed an excessively high standard of living in 1938. Large masses of people were grossly underpaid then and their standard of living was capable of substantial improvement. If they are so underpaid that they endeavour to get back in 1946 to the 1938 standard of living, surely that cannot be represented as an undesirable ambition. Surely nobody can say that it is unreasonable for anybody to try to get back to the 1938 standard of living, bearing in mind that, if there had been no war, the 1938 standard of living would long since have been passed.
Let us see what we are offering the teacher now in relation to this 1938 standard of living. The Government's offer provides for a maximum of £386 per annum. In terms of 1938 prices, that means that we are offering a teacher to-day a salary of £221. In other words, we are saying to the teacher in 1946: "Whatever grievance you had in 1938, we will remunerate you by giving you a maximum of £386, which, adjusted to 1938 prices, means that we are giving you a maximum of £4 5s. Od. per week." Only 70 per cent. of the teachers are to get that maximum based on 1938 prices under the Government's offer.
The Government spent a fair amount of money in advertising about the £525 scale which the teachers got. They did not tell the public that, in order to get that scale, you had to be not merely efficient but highly efficient and that, in addition, you had to be married. Nor did they tell the community that only 6 per cent. of the 10,700 teachers could attain that £525 maximum.
Are the teachers asking for anything unreasonable? If you judge the conditions here by the conditions in the Six Counties, the position of our teachers is definitely retrogressive. In Northern Ireland, the lowest scale for a male teacher is from £250 to £550; and the lowest scale for a female teacher is from £250 to £450. In other words, the women in the Six Counties reach £450 and the men reach £550. What is the position here? Here, our teachers start, whether they are married or single, or whether they are men or women, at less than the teachers start in the Six Counties. If they are single men and if they are efficient, they reach £380 as against £550 in the Six Counties. If they are married men, they reach £480 here as against £550 in the Six Counties. If they are women, they reach £350 here as against £450 in the Six Counties. These salaries are increased where the person is highly efficient; but a comparison of the normal scales represents our teachers to be in a much worse position than the teachers in the Six Counties.
That situation is bad enough in regard to pure cash wages; but, of course, it is very much worse in the light of the actual living conditions there and here. In the Six Counties, the official cost-of-living index figure is said to show an increase of 31 per cent. since 1939. Here, the Government's official cost-of-living index figure shows the increase to be 71 per cent. since 1939. Therefore, although the cost of living here has increased by more than twice as much as in the Six Counties in that period, we are offering teachers here substantially less than they are getting in the Six Counties. Yet we are wondering why teachers are not bursting to come into the Twenty-Six Counties, bearing in mind what is going to happen the pay envelope at the end of the month.
In case there might be any simple way of paying teachers' salaries and in case there would be any simple way of understanding about the methods and the remuneration, the Department here have devised a scheme of relating the salaries of teachers, not to their abilities, not to their qualifications, but to a variety of other factors which have no relationship whatever to standards of remuneration in countries with which we are most familiar. A teacher's salary is not based on his qualifications, but is based (1) on the size of the school in which the person is teaching; (2) on the sex of the teacher; (3) on whether the person is married or single; and (4) on the rating of the teacher; that is, whether the teacher is efficient or highly efficient. A solicitor, a doctor, an architect, or an engineer is remunerated on the basis of his qualifications. But, when we come to the teacher here, the size of the school, the sex of the person, whether the person is married or single and, to some extent, the person's rating have to be taken into consideration in order to ascertain the salary.
This whole system is really one which was devised by the British authorities 50 years ago. They did not devise it for themselves, of course. They never applied it to England, Scotland, or Wales. They applied it only to Ireland. The strange part of the thing is that it has long since been abandoned in Northern Ireland and that we are now showing our traditional conservatism by hanging on to the British method of calculating teachers' salaries, which the British would not have themselves and which the Northern Ireland people got rid of. In order to show the extent of our desire to break the connection, we hang on to the good old British system of paying teachers which the British would not have for themselves, but which they lumped on to us, and the Department of Education, or the Government, swallow the thing with enthusiasm.
One would imagine that in 1946 the Department of Education might even stumble towards the light. I do not expect them to go forward with enthusiasm or to do anything in a spirit of rapid progress. But one would imagine that in 1946 they would have sat down to examine the scales for teachers and that they would have said to themselves: "This scheme does not seem to make sense." It is related to factors which do not apply in the remuneration of people in any other walk of life.
The sensible thing to do is to evolve a salary scale which will give the teachers remuneration on the basis of their qualifications, making these qualifications as high as it is possible to get them in order to attract the best people to the profession. The teachers have a rate of remuneration which is not based on their qualifications, because the most competent teacher in the world, competent from the point of view of his ability to impart education to people capable of absorbing it, may not be able to show the best results, not through any fault of his own, if he has to teach children of a particular kind. Cases have come to notice where, on the suggestion of departmental inspectors, brilliant teachers were asked to take backward children and they would find their rating reduced because of the difficulty of imparting education to those children.
One has to recognise that, in respect of education, home and environment and the economic circumstances of a family play a big part in deciding the aptitude of the child to absorb education. Where there is hunger and unemployment in the home, where six or eight people are living in a slum, it is not possible for the children to do their homework or get the atmosphere which is conducive to the absorption of education. Where children roam the streets without proper parental control, or where the family circumstances are of a character that do not conduce to domestic happiness, the children's ability to absorb education is bound to be seriously affected. Why should you base the grading of a teacher on his ability to teach children living in an environment of that kind, if the teacher is fully qualified to impart education to children normally capable of absorbing it? But yet, the Department proceeds to remunerate teachers on that basis, which has no parallel whatever in the remuneration of any other State servants or any other branch of industry or commerce. The least the Department might have done, when they were revising these salary scales, was to get a more equitable method of appraising the efficiency of teachers and relating it to their sex, whether they were married or single, or to the size of the school in which the teacher taught.
I do not know whether the Minister for Education is insulated against public opinion; I do not know whether he is inoculated against the public viewpoint, and I do not know whether he feels that on an occasion like this he is like one of the great Caesars, prepared to sit in the Department of Education until this strike is over and until he adds considerably to our illiterate population, or that the Minister is going to shed some of the brass in which he has enshrouded himself for the last nine weeks and listen to reason. Members on the Government Benches could tell the Minister that there is widespread anxiety on the part of parents, educationists and everybody concerned with the public good, that this strike should be settled and that once and for all teachers ought to be paid a salary which will take out of the public view that incessant demand on the part of the teachers to give them something like a decent standard of living in return for their educational attainments and for the services they render the State.
I wonder whether the Minister thinks that it is the best way to form qualities of character and inculcate an affection for good citizenship to turn 30,000 or 40,000 children loose on the streets of the city for nine weeks. I think everybody who has a close appreciation of the problem realises that irreparable damage is being done to the child's education, to the child's character, to the child's growing sense of citizenship by the fact that a strike is taking place and that the children have their minds switched from a desire to pursue studies to the kind of reckless bravado that goes hand in hand with the release of 30,000 or 40,000 children, permitting them to roam the streets of Dublin. I wonder if the Minister imagines he will help education by pursuing a policy of magnificent isolation and unconcern at this strike. Would it not be better if somebody advised him that in the long run the cause of education will best be served by the Minister dropping his Caesar-like pose and taking steps to bring about a satisfactory settlement of this dispute?
What does the Minister hope to do now? Does he hope to sit on his throne in Marlborough Street wishing for the day when he will beat the teachers? Is beating the teachers the best way to enhance the cause of education? Supposing by economic pressure the teachers are forced back to work. Supposing, after a long struggle, during which the children's education will be neglected, the teachers are forced back to work, in what mood will they go back? Will they go back inflamed with passion to impart education, or will they go back embittered by public opinion and by a system of society which permitted them to make a long sacrifice and then displayed a cynical unconcern as to the result of their efforts?
The defeat of the teachers in this matter will be the greatest blow education has got for a generation, because it will produce, so far as the teachers are concerned, a mass of disgruntled men and women on whom we shall have to rely in the future for such education as 90 per cent. of our people will get in the primary schools. It may be the Minister wants to save his face. How it is involved, I do not know, but I warn the Minister and he ought to take advice in this matter before it is too late. If he is relying on a policy of forcing the teachers back to work, beaten and humiliated, he is doing a greater disservice to education by pursuing a short-sighted policy of that kind than was ever done to education under any aspect of the Penal Laws.
I think that if the whole matter had been diplomatically and intelligently handled in the first instance, there need never have been a strike. It has been handled in a messy, muddled way, with the result that the teachers are losing, the children are losing, and the parents are distraught trying to look after their children, particularly in the built-up areas where vehicular traffic flows at a very rapid pace. I notice that Ministers have come into the arena within the last couple of weeks to defend the Minister for Education in his attitude towards the teachers. It may now well be that the whole Government are going to line up with the Minister for Education in this matter. It is very often harder to be weak than it is to be strong; it is very often harder to appear to be weak than it is to be strong. I suggest to the Government that they do not do their intelligence justice and they do not do the cause of education a credit if, on occasions like this, they want to set themselves up as a bastion that cannot be attacked, as something that must win, as some kind of juggernaut that will crush the teachers.
No more futile and short-sighted policy could possibly be imagined. What the Government ought to do before it is too late is to drop the majestic mantle in which they have wrapped themselves since the commencement of this strike, to rid themselves of the pride and starchiness in which they have enshrouded themselves in the handling of this strike.
There is a very easy method of settling this dispute. Governments in other countries with education at least as high as ours and standards of democracy and intelligence as high as ours have been content from time to time to refer disputes of this nature to arbitration, to a settlement by a tribunal. Can we not refer this dispute the Irish people, not of three people who want to make war on the Government, the teachers or the children? You can get to-morrow a tribunal of one, two or three competent men, of the highest probity and rectitude, to sit down with a knowledge of Irish conditions and examine the claims made by the teachers and the defence to these claims put up by the Department of Education, and get from that body an impartial verdict which the teachers beforehand have offered to accept, no matter what it is.
His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin very kindly offered to mediate in this matter. A brilliant educationist himself, he was concerned with the effects on education of a strike of this kind. He was concerned, too, to ensure that nothing would be done to impair further our educational methods, and I suggest to the Government that they ought now to stand and take stock of the road they are travelling, to realise that a continuance of the present deadlock can only do irreparable harm to education, that they ought now consent to refer this matter to arbitration presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. McQuaid, if he is willing to preside over such an arbitration tribunal, but, in any case, if he is not willing to act, though I feel sure he would in order to get a settlement of this strike, an arbitration tribunal can be found. It can be a tribunal in which both sides will have confidence that it will do the right and proper thing.
The sooner we get that tribunal, the sooner we have the merits adjudicated on by such a tribunal, the sooner we will get back to sanity in matters of education. This Estimate, however, and the number of embroidered things in it, seem to me to be like planning the disposition of furniture in a house which is already on fire. We talk about nonsensical things in this Estimate, things which do not matter twopence. It will not matter if there was never a Department of Education, if we are to sit down, with brass hats on our heads, and allow 40,000 children to roam around the City of Dublin and over 1,000 teachers willing to teach them to parade the streets in an effort to get a decent salary. Those seem to me to be the methods of a madhouse and the sooner the Government get on to the road of sanity, the better for education.
Any outsider listening to our debates here on the Education Estimate year after year, and listening to the particular turn and trend which such debates take, might be excused for saying that this country never should have been free to manage its own affairs. What do we find year after year when this Estimate comes up? Do we find this Assembly of representative Deputies bending their minds in a concentrated way towards the solution of problems of education? Do we find a Minister from a Government Front Bench outlining plans, giving reports on schemes, giving reports on progress made as a result of this experiment or that experiment? I do not remember a year in which the Estimate for the Department of Education in this particular Parliament gave any opportunity to consider education as it should be considered. Year after year, we have the whole atmosphere confused and the energy and minds of Deputies directed towards trying to secure reasonable conditions for those who are charged with the sacred task of educating the youth of this country. Surely any outsider would say that, if that is the situation year after year, and if the whole discussion is taken up with making representations with regard to conditions, there is something rotten in the conditions existing and that that bad, unsound and unsafe state of affairs should not be allowed to drag on year after year.
This year the position is worse than in any previous year. This year, the first year of peace, when parliaments all over the world are entitled to look forward to a period of peace in which to plan so that conditions in that period of peace will be better than they were, we find, added to the complications of the pre-existing situation, a teachers' strike in the capital of the country. We have Deputies, one after another, appealing to a Minister who, we know from experience, has a mind as inelastic and as rigid as a cannon ball, a mind on which no argument, no appeal, can make any impression, whether it comes from here or from outside, whether it comes from laymen or Churchmen or whether it is based on a strong sense of justice or is the helpless squeal of a victim. We feel that the whole thing is idle and that there is no way to face up to the situation—that appeal is idle, that it is waste of time and breath, that it is waste of time to discuss the conditions which brought about the appalling plight which we see in the capital of our country and that the only reasonable appeal to make is an appeal to the head of the Government to remove that Minister and to replace him by a Minister who at least is not stone-deaf to the voice of reason.
Here, as I say, is our first post-war discussion on the education of all the children of all the parents in this country. We get a long, weary and, one might say, endless document read by the Minister, and, from page 1 to the end of that document, can one find any sentence or any paragraph that gives any intelligent consideration to whether our education is progressing or going back? Five years ago, we had a report from the teachers of Ireland, a report based on some years of study, of hard work, of investigation, of conference and consideration. That report was passed to the Department of Education in 1941, and, in the opening pages of that report, we find the statement that the work which ended in the report was undertaken because the teachers, in greatly increasing numbers, were becoming anxious and disturbed because they believed that education was making no progress, that it was going back.
That report took some four years to compile. The outpouring of the minds of some thousands of teachers went into it and we know the type of teachers this country is blessed with— teachers who, in bulk, have the spirit of the evangelist, who regard themselves as having a calling in the sense of responsibility second only to the priesthood, a body of men and women whose patriotism or whose Gaelic intensity certainly cannot be questioned. We had their appeal to the Minister, an appeal made as a result of years of solid, self-sacrificing, patriotic and responsible work, and we had the same deaf ear, cannon-ball mind, the same deaf ear, the same blunt, short, unintelligent reply—the Government stands pat, the Department rigid and the Department intolerant of suggestion, of criticism, of recommendation.
If education is not a success, if it is not satisfactory, if our educational standards are going back, from whom would we expect to get suggestions worthy of consideration? We would expect the symptoms of that nation-decaying disease to become visible first, to whom? To the teacher. And who would be more competent to call on the head of the teaching Department to halt, to pause, to listen, to consider, and, after consideration, to take action, than the whole organised body of teachers? And the response they get is the deaf ear, the solid, stolid, stagnant body. That is the depressing thing about the whole situation—the impermeability of the Department and the rigid, inelastic mentality of the Minister sitting on top.
This present pathetic situation of a strike in the City of Dublin is not merely the outcome of unjust economic conditions. It is a natural reaction, a reaction which was slow in coming, but a reaction which had to come some day. It is merely the worm turning. And how is the situation met, even in the tragic set of circumstances which exist? By the old contemptible Belfast parrot-cry, "Not an inch." Starting with the Minister for Education, we have the repeated bleatings down along the line, from Longford to Fermoy and up and down the country—"Not an inch.""Government is strong; the teachers are weak." Of course, Government is strong. No country would be worth living in if the Government was not strong, and, compared with Government, the greatest organisation in any country is weak, but if the only creed that we are to follow is that might is right and that might is always right to crush the weak, is that a sign of strength, a sign of dignity? Does the mere fact that I can beat a baby give me the right to beat the baby and am I a better man, having beaten the baby?
We have this kind of truculent, intolerant mentality running through every Government Department, and not just through the Department of Education alone. Deputy Norton in very clear words has painted the picture. You can beat the teachers and the end is obvious: the Government triumphant, the Minister for Education triumphant, the Taoiseach triumphant, and the teachers bent, whipped, broken and sneaking back to every school in the City of Dublin, the clothes on their backs shabby, their nerves frayed, a cancer inside their minds, all faith in justice gone and all respect for government completely obliterated. All these men and women with that lost faith, with that cancer in their minds, with that severe humiliation, are to be charged with responsibility for the education of the children of every parent in this country.
Does the Minister ever pause to think that that is a result to be received with jubilation, that that is an end to be struggled for with pride, with honour and with intensity? Does the Minister think he is carrying out his duty as an officer of Parliament by merely bleating, every time he opens his mouth, the same old phrase, "Not an inch—there is nothing to discuss"? Is there nothing to discuss? Does the Minister think that this is a matter between himself and the teachers only? Does he think he is a high officer with mutinous private soldiers under him, that it is not the concern of anybody else? From beginning to end of this unfortunate situation, the Minister has degraded his office and has shown a complete lack of understanding of the situation in claiming that this was a matter between himself, the great ego, and the teachers down below. It is far more the concern of the parents up and down the country than it is his. It is far more the concern of the children who are being allowed to go to seed than it is of the Minister. It is far more the concern of the religious managers throughout the country than it is of the Minister, the Government, the Taoiseach or the Department.
Every citizen in this country and all our blood brothers and sisters all over the world must have hung their heads in shame when the mediation of His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin was rejected and spurned by that cannonball mentality sitting on top of the Department. What was the interpretation of that spurning of that offer of mediation? What was the interpretation? It was consistent with the line of argument taken from the very beginning on this matter by the Minister in dealing with the teachers; it is nobody else's affair, nobody else's business, nobody else's right even to be concerned about the matter. The head of the Government—the Minister's Chief—goes to Geneva and he sits on top of a pedestal, in all his inexperience and in all his rawness, and from the top of that pedestal he lectures to the statesmen of the world and he lays down standards of good conduct.
This Vote is for Education and the Minister responsible is the Minister for Education.
I am aware of that fact, Sir, but I am entitled to say that the head of this Government lays down standards of conduct for ending disputes and for averting them; and the standard of conduct laid down by him —not to end disputes, but to avert disputes—was arbitration, mediation, if possible before the dispute commenced; arbitration and mediation on every possible opportunity that arises during the dispute and he said, very wisely, at the end of every war "there is talk and there are terms; why not have it before the war, or why not try to have it to prevent the war, or stop the war when the war is on?" Would it not be a very, very good idea if some people at home would practise what they preach abroad? What is unthinkable in his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin acting as a mediator—not as an arbitrator? What is the weakness, where is the loss in prestige on the part of the Government, or the Minister for Education, in at least talking it over with his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, and trying, out of that conversation and out of his mediation, to bring this deplorable and ghastly state of affairs to an end? One would think that any Minister, with a sense of responsibility and with a sense of nationality, would be happier to have the situation ended than to sit smugly and say: "We have nothing to talk about; the teachers must walk under the yoke and, as soon as the teachers walk under the yoke and kow-tow to me and my Department, then it does not matter what the standard of education is in our schools."
Does the Minister ever for one moment consider the position of the unfortunate parents with children due to leave school this year? Does he ever consider the position of these children just on the last lap, perhaps hoping to secure some position as an apprentice, or some little competitive appointment, or some little job where they will require a certain amount of education or a certain amount of clerical knowledge to launch them in life? Now the vital finishing months are all being lost to these children, lost through the obstinacy—the mulish obstinacy—of one man; lost through the obstinacy of one man utterly incapable of appreciating the dangerous consequences in advance, even though they were staring him in the face year after year; one man incapable of taking the advice of others, one man incapable of listening to the organised voice of the teachers—the unfortunate teachers-functioning under his administration. Then, when the obvious result arises, when you have chaos and complete disorganisation the Minister's only contribution to the situation is to say: "Surrender—surrender unconditionally, and you may go back to the schools". Is it appreciated generally that when His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin offered himself as a mediator the teachers without exception said that they would immediately return to work irrespective of what the end or the result would be? Is it generally appreciated that if the children have been running wild ever since and the school gates have been closed against them ever since it is not because of anything done by the strikers themselves? It is because of that particular action of the Minister. Up to that particular time the Minister might have placed responsibility on the teachers. From that date onward the responsibility was directly, definitely and entirely on the Minister. Now this situation has lasted some nine or ten weeks and I think I am entitled to say this much—that no member of this Parliament, in all the Opposition Parties, has ever muscled in on that unfortunate situation, not once. They thought it better to use all the influence they had quietly in the background to try to end a situation that can only be regarded as nationally injurious and nationally degrading. Then the Minister's colleagues thought it was timely to take to the hustings like so many irresponsible bellicose boys and from various platforms in different counties to bawl forth their defiance to these unfortunate teachers and the determination of the one Napoleonic man not to budge an inch, not to give a farthing, not to take advice, not to take counsel.
Then the one great man and the one great mind would decide everything; and, whether it was the counsel of His Grace the Archbishop, or whether it was the combined advice of experienced educationists, there was no individual or no body of individuals who could teach that one great man anything; and that when he put the full stop to the last line of this puzzle, dividing the teachers into the 66 different categories and with 66 different rates of pay, there was nobody who could make any suggestion, no matter how experienced or how distinguished or how fair-minded, that could improve on that particular document—that document that stands like the Rock of Gibraltar—and the teachers must understand that the last word has been spoken. When you have creatures of that mentality posturing as strong men, there is something nauseating about the whole thing. It is just like little boys playing soldiers. The strong man is the man who is strong enough to change his mind, who is sufficiently brave to be able to adapt himself to circumstances, who has a sufficient sense of justice to weigh up on which side the greater good lies, whether it is on the side of the mule with his heels dug in or the intelligent animal that is capable of moving. There is nothing strong about mulishness. That kind of ignorant rigidity is the thing that makes the whole situation so entirely hopeless. Everybody admits that before ever this war started there was unrest, uneasiness, a feeling of unsettlement, in the teaching profession of this country and official figures put it beyond yea or nay that the cost of living is practically twice what it was before the war and that, if we were to keep the teachers in the same position to-day as they were before the war, we would have to give at least an 80 per cent. increase and such a settlement would be based on the assumption that they had nothing to complain of before the war. Yet the Minister comes along with his 66 classifications and he says: "That is the last word. We have nothing to discuss"—with His Grace the Archbishop, or anybody else. That is perfection—the 66 classifications. Inside those classifications, we find that if a female teacher goes to the expense and gives her time to get exactly the same degree from a university as a male teacher, that that degree is worth substantially less to the State than if it was carried by a male teacher.
How much less?
Even the inexperienced person reading through the scale could see any amount of flaws, any amount of discrimination as between the sexes. We see that done under a Constitution which states, amongst its earlier declarations, the equality of the sexes in this State. The Minister's attitude is that there is nothing to discuss. The Minister's document may be a splendid document. It may stand up to examination, but is not it entirely unreasonable to say that there is nothing to discuss? One last word: I think the situation was not improved by the propagandist advertisements that were issued by the Minister's Department. When you have an unfortunate situation of this kind, taxpayers' money should not be used, without the authority of Parliament, so as to best your opponent. There should be some more dignified proceeding adopted by a Government Department. But the really disgusting thing about the advertisements and the propaganda was the misleading type of propaganda that was carried out. Supposing we were asked, what are Deputies' salaries in an Irish Parliament, and we said: "Deputies' salaries in an Irish Parliament range from £480 a year to £2,500 a year", it would be true—it would be true in the Government's sense—the words would be true. The meaning would be most misleading. It is true, the ordinary Deputy gets £480. One Deputy, who is Taoiseach, happens to get £2,500. The luminary sitting opposite gets £1,700, etc., etc. But it would be entirely misleading to reply that Deputies' salaries range from £480 a year to £2,500 a year. Yet, that is the type of false, misleading—deliberately misleading—propaganda that was issued at the expense of the taxpayer, in Government advertisements, in order to try to prejudice the unfortunate teachers in the eyes of the public.
The teachers are a worthy body on the whole. They are a deserving body. None of us would be here but for teachers and our children would never get anywhere but for teachers. When you have teachers driven to the frantic, desperate point of rebellion, of strike, of that weapon that should really be unthinkable when it applies to people charged with the terrible responsibility of education, surely, when things reach that point, at least it is true to say that there is something to be discussed and that mediation should be welcomed.
The Deputy has said that the advertisements issued by the Department of Education were false and misleading. I ask him now to give a single example, if he is capable of doing so, of where falsehood was contained in those advertisements.
Of course, the Minister is quibbling.
I am not quibbling. I am as truthful as the Deputy, and that is not setting a very high standard for me.
I hope the Minister is more truthful than the literature that he sends out.
Answer the question, if you are able. Where is the falsehood in these advertisements?
I said they were misleading.
You said they were false.
I said they were misleading.
You said they were false also.
A Leas-Chinn Chomhairle, call on the Minister to conduct himself.
I did not hear the word "false".
The word "false" was used by the Deputy.
Will you look at this?
Let us get the Official Report.
Is that the sample of a man that has a good case to defend?
And an impartial mind?
Jumping around, like an angry flea on a mattress.
I am not jumping around like an angry flea.
Will you conduct yourself? Pipe down.
The Deputy has made a statement, which is on the borders of being unparliamentary, if it is not unparliamentary, that a statement, over which I stand, was false and deliberately misleading. I have challenged the Deputy to show a single respect in which it was false and deliberately misleading.
Stand up and make another speech.
Will you answer that question?
As soon as the Minister subsides. Has the Minister settled for a moment?
No. I will answer any statements of that kind that are made here by the Deputy or anybody else.
As soon as the Minister gets a bit calmer, I will repeat that the Minister, or his Department, in connection with this particular strike, issued propaganda that was definitely misleading. The wording might have been true—and that is repeating what I said before. When you issue literature saying that salaries range from this figure to that figure, and when it transpires that less than half a dozen in the whole of Ireland can ever reach the higher figure, then that propaganda is misleading and the comparison which I gave was a very, very happy one.
I painted a picture which could be understood by all. Now will the Minister rear up again?
Deputy Martin O'Sullivan.
To my mind, the fact that there is no provision in this Estimate for increased salaries for national teachers is eloquent of the tragedy in connection with primary education to-day. The Minister glossed over what the House generally regards as the centrepiece of this Estimate and the discussion which would naturally take place on it. I suggest that any Deputy who would attempt to roam into the field of education generally, having regard to all the circumstances as we see them now, would be making this discussion absolutely intolerable. To my mind, the cardinal mistake in this whole situation was the form of approach to it. The 1920 scale of salaries was dealt with by a commission which was presided over by Lord Killanin. The former Government instituted two commissions, one in connection with the programme and the other in connection with the question of inspection. We also know that commissions were set up in England in connection with educational matters and, more recently, in Northern Ireland.
There was abundant precedent therefore for an approach to a settlement of the teachers' claim along the lines of a commission. It appears to me, therefore, that the whole deadlock in connection with these negotiations has arisen from the fact that the Minister made the mistake of entering solely on his own into direct negotiations with the teachers without at least having somebody who would either arbitrate or mediate. In the course of the negotiations of a comprehensive character engaged in, it was inevitable, human nature being what it is, that there should be differences of opinion as between the Minister and the teachers' representatives. Therefore, that vital link was missing which would have kept the Minister and the teachers' organisation in session until a final settlement was reached.
I think the House will agree, certainly the people of the City of Dublin will certainly agree with me, when I say that the most glorious opportunity presented itself of rectifying that initial blunder in the form of the offer of mediation made by the Archbishop of Dublin. One hesitates to throw his Grace's name into the vortex of public controversy, but this at least must be said, that a person of his high office and the special responsibility with which he was charged for the education of the children of this city was preeminently the individual who was best equipped and best fitted to bring peace into a rather troubled situation. I will also say this, and I know what I am speaking about, that the resentment felt in connection with the reception of his Grace's offer has been both widespread and deep-seated.
What is the cause of the trouble? The trouble, as was referred to by previous speakers, had its origin in years gone by when the salaries of teachers were disgracefully low. The Minister has admitted that from time to time. The teachers desired, more especially in the light of the up-grading which has taken place in Northern Ireland, that their scales of salary should be on a basis which would remove this controversial question once and for all, so that it would be possible for them to give to education the services which the country would expect them to give. I understand, it is spoken about in teaching circles in any case, that the teachers' claim which was presented somewhere about July, 1945, included a request for a commission to adjudicate on these proposals.
It is also stated in teaching circles that the Minister submitted his proposals to the Department of Finance with the recommendation that a sum of about £1,500,000 should be allocated for the purpose and that ultimately that figure was cut down by the Department of Finance to £1,250,000. Does it not therefore appear that the ultimate decision in this very grave matter was taken in the Department of Finance? We are bound to ask what special qualifications have civil servants in the Department of Finance to adjudicate on educational matters?
A good deal has been said about the Minister's personal position. I am not prepared to go into that. There is a feeling that he had his own difficulties with the Department to which I have referred. Whatever measure of blame may attach to him, since the breakdown of the negotiations, in any case, his personal position has become merged with that of the Cabinet as a whole, so that the position we are now faced with must be charged against the Government as a whole. Personally I prefer to approach it from that standpoint.
It has been frequently stated that the increase offered to the teachers represented a sum of £1,250,000 over the sum for salaries in 1938. That is perfectly true. But that does not take cognisance of one very vital and important factor so far as the teachers are concerned, and that is, that in the intervening period a bonus common to other sets of public officials had been granted to the teachers which they were in receipt of up to the time of the strike. That bonus, as indicated by the Minister in replies given in this House, amounted, roughly, to a sum of £450,000, together with a sum of £203,000 for members of religious Orders, or over £600,000 in all. Therefore, if we take that £600,000 from the £1,250,000, the new money to be found is roughly £600,000. I need hardly say, and the Minister I am sure will not challenge it, that, so far as the average teacher, particularly in Dublin, is concerned, he is not disposed to make comparisons. He is concerned to-day with new money and the extent to which his position will be improved. Notwithstanding the claims which have been made, I understand that the new money to be found amounts to £600,000.
I raised this matter before the strike took place in the hope that wiser counsels might prevail. The Minister's main justification for the position which had arisen, as against the plea made in the House to give an increased amount to the teachers to settle the question, was that he had to cut his cloth according to his measure. There was a general implication in that statement, since it came prior to the Budget, that the Minister was limited to the extent that the Budget would not bear an increase so far as the teachers were concerned.
The country is aware of the Budget position. It left the Minister in the position that he was able to give reliefs in certain directions. I think the argument of the Minister on that occasion would not now create the same impression in the light of the facts. I understand, by the way, that for the purpose of a settlement the extra amount involved would not have been serious at the time the strike took place. My view is that it should have been possible, even in the position in which the national Exchequer was, to secure that amount.
The teachers have expressed their grievances over a period of years and repeatedly they have asked the Government to improve their conditions. The teachers are against the system of grading known as highly efficient. This matter was referred to by one or two Deputies. It is, to my mind, an archaic system and there are those in the teaching world who say it has no educational value whatever. It is based on arbitrary standards and evidence of that is to be found in the fact that less than one-third of the teaching personnel can ever hope, in the light of experience over the years, to be included in that category, which means that in the ultimate they are placed on a lower maximum scale. The standards for this particular rating are calculated on the inspectorial system. They depend upon what the inspectors find on a flying visit.
Perhaps there are special visits, but in any case the visit is not of such a prolonged character as to give the inspector a proper background for the teachers' work, say over a period of 12 months or longer. Everything depends for that rating on the material at the disposal of the teacher. I can very well understand the type of student that some of our Dublin teachers have to contend with, first of all, because of the surroundings and, secondly, because of the condition of the children, many of whom are badly nourished and badly clad and not in a physical condition to receive the education available for them. It is that material a teacher has to depend on whether or not he will enter into the higher grade known as highly efficient. It may very well be that you will have two teachers of equal merit side by side in a school, or in close proximity, one dealing with the type of child different from the type I have indicated and as to whom it will be quite easy to satisfy the inspector that his progress is highly efficient, and the other who would find it impossible all the years of his life to persuade the inspector that he was equally entitled to that standard.
This system was imposed on this country by the British Government. They never tried it on themselves. The fact that it has been abandoned in Northern Ireland and is not in evidence in any other place is surely a very sound argument why it should be abolished here. I understand that is one of the major grievances of the teachers and its importance is stressed by the fact that 70 per cent. of the teaching personnel is affected by this type of grading.
As regards women teachers, I know of no other field of occupation where the claim of equal pay for equal work can be advanced with more justification. The woman teacher has to enter the service through open competitive examination. She passes through the preparatory college on to the training college and her duties thereafter in the teaching line are similar in every respect to those of the male teacher. Her responsibilities are similar in every way. An indication was given of the discrimination in the case of women teachers in the matter of university degrees. Male and female teachers take degrees in universities but the male teacher gets a higher rate of remuneration in respect of that academic qualification. That cannot be justified.
Teachers are seriously concerned over their pensions. They are not unaware of what happens in the Civil Service. A civil servant on retirement gets 12 months' pay as a gratuity. The teachers claim that as servants paid by the State they should have similar terms. They make the claim—and this is actually in operation under the new scheme in Northern Ireland—that they should be given 12 months' pay as a gratuity, that their pensions should be based on eightieths, or half-pay after 40 years' service. These are the three main points and they are not incapable of solution even at his stage.
As to arbitration, that has been scouted out of consideration since this unfortunate trouble started. It is not so long ago since I put down a question to the Minister for Finance relating to a claim for arbitration so far as various Civil Service organisations are concerned. The Minister intimated that a reply would be forwarded to the appropriate organisations before June 1st. There is reason to believe, having regard to the controversy around the question of arbitration, that the Government are apparently making up their minds on the matter of arbitration for the Civil Service. If that is so, I cannot understand why the same thing cannot be applied in the case of the teachers.
I suggest that we do not now need arbitration. I suggest that we get back to the position where a distinguished Churchman offered his services for the purpose of mediation. He will still be available, I am sure, and the Minister and the Government, without any suggestion of loss of rights or prestige, might make a gesture of goodwill and sympathetic understanding. If they do, I believe a solution of this problem can still be found.
When the Estimates come along I think there should be a review of the situation in particular Departments under discussion during the previous year, and a fair summing-up given, taking the advantages and the disadvantages, and then suggestions for improvement during the coming year. In other words, there should be a debate. From the main Opposition this evening we had nothing at all in the nature of a debate. We had, instead, just sheer denunciation. That was the effect. It occurs to me that when some Deputies speak they see everything black and nothing praiseworthy or good, particularly in the domain of education.
The work in the primary schools was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition as being something that was under criticism by parents; as something that was very unsatisfactory and very bad. I think the very opposite is the case. I can truthfully say that I seldom hear a parent complaining of the education given in the national schools. That is perfectly true as far as my personal knowledge goes. From time to time we see reports in the newspapers from various people that spelling is bad, that the knowledge of geography is poor and so on. I never hear these complaints coming from parents. My belief is that very good work indeed is being done in the primary schools, and that parents have an appreciation of that good work. It was stated in the debate that conditions regarding education were chaotic. In Dublin, just at the moment, there may be chaos during what, I hope, is a brief period of strife, but taking it all in all, there is not a condition of chaos in schools and there has not been for a great many years. Complaints have been made. The educational machine is a very delicate one and a very important one, and there cannot be chopping and changing without possibly doing tremendous harm. There may be experiments in other domains, but experiments in education must be slow and careful and must be well weighed up before action is taken.
A commission headed by an educationist is at present sitting and when the report of that commission is furnished any necessary steps will be taken. It would be much more helpful if there was a fair presentation of the case here, and if we had testimony on the credit side as well as on the debit side in a debate of this sort. It is a wonderful thing that our primary schools are doing really secondary school work and doing it very well in the senior classes. The special mark of a secondary education has always been a language in addition to the vernacular. We have that in all our schools. It is a very difficult task to carry through, but still it is being very well done indeed. That is something we ought to be proud of. We should also be proud of the relations that exist between the teachers and their employers. I do not think you have such happy relations existing between workers and employers in any other branch of education.
Is the Deputy referring to the Department of Education?
I am referring to clerical employers.
I am glad to hear the Deputy saying that.
Up to now the Department has always acted in such a way that these relations have been maintained, and can be maintained between the teachers and their clerical managers. One of the brightest spots in the picture has not been referred to, that in every primary school of every denomination every child is taught his origin, what his outlook on life should be and his last end. To my mind that. outweighs everything. That is not the case in other countries, many of which have gone mad. We hear people telling us that we should look abroad to see what is being done in the educational field.
That is what the Minister said.
We have a position here in regard to education that I hope will last for all time. That is something which should be mentioned. Coming to the general discussion of the situation as it is, one of the brightest things that I see in the educational horizon is the possibility of further progress in the Gaeltacht. I am very glad that additional grants can be made to those families who are using Irish as their every-day language. A great deal of good will be done in the Gaeltacht and the Breac-Ghaeltacht areas by such grants. Many have become more enthusiastic about the language and a large number of additional families have become thoroughly Gaelic speaking. Some people may say that money grants should not be used to bring about that end. We must remember that it was economic pressure established English in this country, and that if we could exert the same economic pressure in favour of the restoration of Irish we would have the language back within a generation, certainly within two generations. As matters stand that is impossible, and the best we can do is to encourage them. I am very glad that is being done.
One thing that I think would help the spread of Irish in the Breac-Ghaeltacht and its permanent establishment in the Gaeltacht is the theatre movement. I am not suggesting that new theatres should be put up, because existing schoolhouses or village halls where they exist would do admirably. If every parish were given a Government grant, ranging from £20 to £40, towards the establishment of a little theatrical or dramatic society that would count.
If you had a theatre movement established, you would interest the whole community in the language, and a very important point is that you would have a post-school interest in the language, which unfortunately does not exist at the moment. Such a movement would keep young people interested in the Irish language, in Irish poetry, Irish music and Irish dancing for years after they had left the primary school.
Of course, conditions would have to be laid down, and I might suggest some. There should not be fewer than 20 members in such a society, because you would require that number for choral work, verse speaking, for certain dances and so on, and you would also want that number to develop a wide interest among the people. Then two, but not more than two, out of each family should participate in such a company. The people have to go home from the halls and two represents protection and company on the road. On the other hand, if you have more than two out of each family, you reduce the number of families directly and keenly interested in that work. There should, of course, be regular rehearsals, and I think some special recognition should be given to approved new plays in the dialect of the district in which the company is formed. If something of that sort were done throughout the Gaeltacht and the Breac-Ghaeltacht districts, there would be a healthy cultural occupation for the people throughout the whole year and particularly in the dull months of winter.
On the English side, there is a certain amount of criticism. It has been pretty evident for years, and, on the whole, it is unmerited. Spelling is weaker than it was in the old days, but weak spelling does not necessarily imply ignorance of a language. As a matter of fact, a person who spells very badly may have quite a good knowledge of the language and may speak it very grammatically and well. Under the old system, there was just one book for each class in each school for one year. There were only three main subjects, which meant that there was ample time for them. The object of the teacher was to secure that every child would be able to read that book from beginning to end and able to spell every word in it, and the object of the inspector very often was to find out if just that were done in the school.
Many of the words used in these lessons were not words in ordinary or common use in ordinary conversation, or even in ordinary correspondence, but the pupils were familiar with them, and, of course, the teachers were very familiar with them and they often introduced these words where simpler words would be better and so the speech of the old schoolmaster was usually pedantic and high-flown, and the star pupils reflected that. Much of the time given then to spelling was a waste of time from the educational point of view. At present, we encourage boys and girls, especially in the senior classes, to read several books throughout the year, to make use of the school library, or the county or municipal library, and I think that, on the whole, the boys and girls leaving school now have a wider and really better knowledge of English than they had under the old system.
Indeed, they have not. Nobody will agree with you there.
There has been loss and gain, but I think the gain is greater than the loss. A great many of us are inclined to compare the body of children leaving our schools at present with the star children and the special type of child in the old days. Of course, that is an unfair comparison to make. I have one criticism to make myself. It is a criticism in which, I fear, quite a few will agree with me. I think that oral expression is not at all as good as it was 25 years ago. I know that boys and girls are frequently refused positions in business houses because they have not got a good mode of expression, good pronunciation and good enunciation. This comes within the sphere of my own experience, and I know it happens. I think it is a pity that it should happen. I do not think there is any snobbery in question. They are not turned down because they do not belong to a certain class. They are very often turned down because they have not got that readiness of expression which they might have, and, in fact, which they should have, and very often they have not got that assurance and self-confidence that good pronunciation, good enunciation, and good quick speech and delivery usually give. I think that is a pity.
The late Mrs. George Bernard Shaw in her will points out the importance of oral expression and I would recommend the clauses of that will to all who are interested in the placing of boys and girls. Her views were perfectly sound and perfectly right, and if they were put into operation right through, from the primary school up, it would be a great help to our people in business and in any other walk of life. I hope I will get some backing in that point of view. I do not want to be misunderstood. I want nothing in the nature of an Oxford accent—far from it; but good, clear, vigorous speech, with correct vowel qualities and quantities and correct clear-cut sentences should be possible for every child leaving a national school. It would be an immense help to such children, if they had it. Phonetics appear to have been frowned on for some time. In the Irish colleges phonetics was a separate part of the instruction given for many years, but, for some reason or another, the subject was dropped and, so far as I can gather, it is now no longer encouraged either in Irish or English. If people are learning French, or German, or any other foreign language, they go to the utmost trouble to get the sounds as nearly correct as they possibly can. Why not do that here with Irish and with English? Why not do it with English in the schools? I think that so far as vowel sounds, consonance and assonance are concerned it should be done. Unfortunately some inspectors do not seem to regard it in a favourable light and if they do find any effort being made in that direction some of them are rather inclined to say that there is not a true Gaelic spirit in the school. That, of course, arises through ignorance and stupidity.
At the present time a sad situation exists in the City of Dublin where the great bulk of our poor children are roaming the streets. I hope that that is a situation which shall not be allowed to continue much longer. No matter what had to be done, or what the consequences were, that situation should never have arisen; it should not, now that it has arisen, be allowed to continue. It has been brought about by the bad conditions obtaining for so many years. It is not altogether a matter of money. The salary issue is not the most important or the principal cause in the strike situation to-day. At least I do not think so. I think the general conditions of service have contributed more to the strike position than the mere question of salary. That question of "highly efficient" has been a heart-break to a great number of teachers ever since its institution. It is hard for people who are not practical teachers themselves to understand why this system should give rise to so much discontent. If circumstances were such that every teacher, through hard work and application to duty, could reach the highly efficient standard, I do not think that there would be any complaint about it at all. But there are many things over which the teacher has no control which go to secure that mark and it is no wonder that you have all the discontent, all the grumbling, and all the fulminations at the present time on that matter.
I shall try to explain some of the things which militate against a teacher being marked as highly efficient. Suppose, for example, you have two teachers in a school which is on the verge of being a three-teacher school, what you have there in effect is two teachers doing the work of three. In order to get a third teacher you must for a period of six months have 10 more than the number required for three teachers—that is, you must have 10 over the number necessary for the retention of three teachers. That must be the case for six months. Therefore, you have two men who for a minimum period of six months are doing three men's work. It naturally follows that that work cannot be done with the same efficiency as if the school were fully staffed. If an inspector comes along and examines, he is not likely to find the children as well drilled as he would if these two teachers had merely their normal number of pupils to contend with.
That position usually does not last for just six months. It goes on for two years, and possibly longer, because you may come practically to the end of your six months with more than you require, have one wet week at the end of that period, and your numbers are immediately brought down to what is just barely required; and you have to sail off gallantly again into another period. In that way the teachers are overworked and harassed in that particular type of school. If it is a three-teacher school on the borders of four the same situation arises; if it is a four-teacher school on the borders of five you have the same situation. But the biggest hardship of all occurs in the two-teacher school where two teachers are required to do the work of three. Unfortunately, inspectors do not always make allowances for that. It is true that they can take these circumstances into account when they are giving their markings; but what you find is this—that there is a programme there for each class and the inspector goes around, expecting that programme to be done in the way in which it should be done, and he marks on proficiency and not on circumstances. That is number one. You may have extreme poverty in a particular neighbourhood and the children in that neighbourhood will not be able to do the work as well as children more favourably situated and better nourished. I myself have had particular experience of that in the great building strike here in Dublin. I found that the children of those strikers went positively stupid through sheer hunger and perhaps also because of the trouble in their own homes. That is the sort of thing over which no teacher has any control or any command. The work will go down in any school in a district in which that occurs. The teacher has no control and no responsibility for it, but he suffers because of it. Bad weather may play an important part too. If children live a considerable distance from school a bad shower coming on at the wrong time in the morning will keep them at home and they lose at least half a day. Previously they lost the whole day because they did not come in at all if the morning were bad; but with the two-session day now they very often come in in the afternoon. Now you might have another school much more favourably situated, with the pupils living in close proximity, and they can come into school no matter what the weather may be and you have, therefore, a constant, high attendance.
It also happens that in a particular district the pupils may be of the one class, having the one level of mentality. That sometimes occurs through intermarriage and very often occurs for some historic reason—the settling in that particular district of a particular type of people at a particular time. It is true, to my own knowledge, that in districts of that sort it is practically impossible to bring the children up to a standard that in the normal school would be considered a fair standard of progress. There is another matter. There may be an inspector in charge of a school for a number of years who has certain ideas as to the value of subjects. For instance, he may think that arithmetic is the most important subject in the curriculum and that the other subjects do not matter very much. He may be able to persuade the teacher that that is so. Then the great effort is devoted to that subject. Very often, extra provision is made for it on the time-table. A teacher must be a certain number of years in receipt of a certain high mark before he is allowed to slide in on the highly efficient scale. Take a teacher who has had that mark for two or three or four years. Then the inspector is removed and replaced by another man who believes that nothing counts except geography. He holds an examination and finds that the pupils' knowledge of geography is very poor. He will mark down that subject. The teacher will recover his mark in time, when he gets to know what the inspector wants but, in the meantime, he has been marked down and his chance of a highly efficient rating is gone. That happens very frequently. In the built-up areas in the City of Dublin it was practically impossible, for years, to do good normal work because you cannot do normal work under abnormal conditions. Many teachers suffered. It is no wonder that the teachers of Dublin, anyhow, are very dissatisfied and feel that they are unjustly treated in the matter of efficient and highly efficient ratings. That system has gone elsewhere and I hope it will be abolished here.
There could be improvements in the inspection system. I do not intend to say much about it except to state two facts. I have seen thoroughly good men, excellent teachers, fine fellows in every way, so maddened by the conduct of the inspectors that they would almost strike them, and I have seen them on the point of doing it. In some instances I would not have been one bit sorry, if it were not for the scandal to the children, if they had struck such inspectors. I have seen lady teachers, excellent teachers, burst into tears under the strain of inspection. The majority of our inspectors are fine, decent men, but the system lends itself to a certain amount of abuse. In every walk of life there is the mean man, and the natural tyrant, but such a man should not have scope to exercise his meanness or his tyranny in the educational field. I state two facts: that I have seen men mad enough to strike the man examining them and I have seen women breaking down and crying under the strain of examination, and these women had been doing excellent work for years and were highly efficient and received a highly efficient mark at the very time these incidents occurred.
I spoke rather at length last year on the question of salaries. It is a lamentable thing that it should have to be spoken about when education is being discussed either in the House, at congresses or anywhere. It turns the debate from being an educational discussion into something on a very much lower plane. The position has improved vastly since last year. I must admit that straight away. Some sections of our teachers regard themselves as being unfairly discriminated against. I believe that a very small adjustment, an addition, mark you, to these sections of the teaching body, would close the quite narrow gap that exists between the demands of the teachers and the offer of the Department. Surely, the issues are so grave that that gap should be bridged. There is a quarrel, a fight, a war, if you like to call it so, in progress between the teachers and the Department, but it is a war of friends. I trust that excellent friendship will be shortly restored and that the poor children of the City of Dublin will be gathered in from the lanes and by-ways and given the shelter, protection and instruction that it is their right to receive in the schools of Dublin.
In my opinion, this is the most important Vote that comes before the House, because our cultural life and our economic life depend ultimately on our standard of education. When we bear in mind the very large percentage of our people who have to rely solely on primary education, the question of primary education becomes all the more important. One would expect, at this time, that we would have got from the Minister responsible to this House for education and for the policy in regard to education, very much more information than we got in his speech, particularly when one realises the anxiety displayed on the part of other countries to lay plans that will ensoure greater progress in education. These countries stress the importance of education in promoting the welfare of the people. It is to be regretted that in discussions of this kind so much time has to be taken up every year in connection with the conditions of the teachers. Owing to the present situation, it is inevitable that a good deal of time must be devoted to that matter. Unfortunately, the Minister passed away from that on to other matters after a very few minutes. I wish to join with other Deputies in expressing regret that this stalemate has occurred and has continued over a period of nine weeks and, as the Minister told us, that from 30,000 to 40,000 children in the City of Dublin are running wild through the streets, particularly when one remembers that perhaps one-seventh or one-eighth of these children, who were in their last year at school, will never get an opportunity of going back to school again if the situation is allowed to remain as it is until the summer recess.
Having listened to one or two points made on this matter by Deputy Butler, who stressed in a particular way that it was not so much a matter of salary as many other things, I feel that it is not so much a strike by the teachers as a revolt against the whole system, not merely the complicated system of grading and determining the salaries of teachers, but the whole system and policy in regard to education. The teachers made it very clear in a report a few years ago, following a commission which they set up to deal with the matter, that they did not approve of the policy of the Minister for Education. One would have expected that the Minister, even now after nine weeks, would have made some attempt to defend a position which has obtained so long, causing a good deal of inconvenience and hardship to many people in this city.
I do not want to be unfair or unreasonable in any way. I do not want, like other Deputies, to place the full responsibility on the Minister, because I do not think it is an individual responsibility at all. It is a matter of major policy. There cannot be any doubt but that it is an Executive responsibility. Neither do I agree with Deputy O'Sullivan that civil servants in the Department of Finance were responsible for this decision. Surely it is a decision which was made by the Government. We have often heard from the Taoiseach about the necessity for and the importance of having a strong Government. The fact that a Government are prepared to ignore grievances and the wishes of people and to adopt steam-roller methods so far as their ideas are concerned, is not, in my opinion, an indication of strength. The characteristics of a strong Government are that they can yield gracefully and show their anxiety to solve problems. At the present time there is no indication of any anxiety on the part of the Government or of the Minister to meet the crisis which has arisen. It is not by merely behaving like a donkey, being stubborn or refusing to move, that you can solve a problem like this, especially when we remember the Government's policy regarding commercial and other strikes and the suggestion that there should be compulsory arbitration before workers with a grievance should have recourse to a strike.
Apart from the merits of the case, I think the teachers have been treated with great discourtesy. When one august individual, because he was charged with the responsibility of looking after the spiritual, material and educational welfare of the children of this city, offered his services as a mediator—I refer to His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin—his offer was bluntly refused. He did not ask to arbitrate. If he had asked to arbitrate it might be a different matter, because he had expressed his sympathy with the teachers. But he simply suggested that he might mediate between the teachers and the Minister. I cannot understand why the Minister refused the offer of His Grace. I do not think the rigid, inelastic mentality of the Minister is at all helpful. I do not think it is wise to be so autocratic about a matter of this sort as the Minister is.
I do not want to engender any heat about it. But I do say that, even at this hour, the Minister should be graceful and say: "I am prepared to accept the Archbishop's intercession in the matter and see what can be done." because I think it will create a horrible situation if the people who are charged with shaping and moulding the character of our young children have to crawl back like rats into the schools, with bitterness, discontent and a feeling of great injustice in their hearts. Surely that is a situation which ought to be avoided. I do not want to blame the Minister in particular, but the Minister ought to make some effort to bring about mediation in the matter and show that at least there is anxiety on his part to end this difficulty.
I referred at the beginning of my speech to plans with a view to progress that have been made by other countries. We also cannot ignore the necessity for a higher standard of education. I think we are entitled to ask: Is our present system the best we can provide; is it adequate and suitable to our requirements? So far as an expansion in education is concerned, the Minister made reference to that matter in his speech. He said that it is a planning age and that he might be asked what plans he had prepared in his Department for an expansion of our educational system. He went on to say:
"It is proposed, therefore, to proceed with caution and to initiate no changes except such as are justified and calculated to bear adequate fruit. In view of the probability that additional provision may have to be made for post-primary education, I set up some time ago a Departmental committee to make a preliminary survey of the problem and to suggest lines along which progress may safely be made. This committee has examined the changes being made in neighbouring countries and its members have visited the various existing types of schools here. I expect an indication from them at an early date as to their main conclusions and recommendations, and when these have been duly examined, I may be in a position to consult the various interests involved relative to changes which it may seem desirable to make in our educational system."
I think that is an amazing policy so far as any expansion of or provision for post-primary courses is concerned—that we are to leave it to people in the Department of Education, who have no real appreciation of the problems that exist in the normal life of this country. They have not the contacts with many people in our community who might be looked upon as experts so far as the question of providing increased facilities for the education of our people is concerned.
The Minister tells us that, having received a report from the Departmental committee, he may— mark the word "may"—be in a position to consult the various interests involved relative to the changes. That is an unheard of method of determining a matter of this sort. A different body should be constituted. Evidently the Minister is so much opposed to the recommendations of the Vocational Commission regarding a council of education that he wants to show his contempt for the people who compiled the report by setting up this sort of committee to deal with post-war plans for education. He informs this Parliament that he may possibly consult various interests that are involved relative to the changes that may be proposed by this committee. I think if the policy adumbrated by the Vocational Commission regarding the sort of body that we should have to advise the Minister on matters of education is sound—and I believe it is—surely a question of this sort ought to be addressed to a council constituted in the manner suggested by that report.
We have agriculture as our primary industry and I am one of the people who believe that the stagnation in agriculture is, in the main, due to lack of education. If you compare our technical equipment and technical knowledge of agriculture with the more progressive countries that are our competitors in the British markets—with Denmark and Scandinavia—you will find they have a much higher technical knowledge. That is a matter that vitally concerns a post-primary course, and is that to be left merely to a Departmental committee, a committee set up in the Minister's Department? I agree there ought to be a compulsory post-primary course for at least two years and it ought to be a vocational course. I do not believe we will receive from a committee of this sort the best type of plan to deal with the problem and to produce a scheme and a policy in keeping with our circumstances.
I believe this strike is a revolt against the whole system. The Minister knows as well as I do that the people best qualified to express their views on education are the teachers. They made it very clear in their report of four or five years ago that they are not satisfied with the system or with the success attained. We have been pursuing a particular system for a good many years, almost since the inception of the State, and one would expect the Minister to avail of the opportunity, after a quarter of a century, to have a very close examination as to the progress made, if any. There is a wide difference of opinion about the teaching of Irish among people who are anxious to promote the Irish language. A great many people, including teachers, are not satisfied that teaching all subjects through the medium of Irish is a sound policy. I feel the Government should have paid some attention to, and shown some respect for, the views expressed by that very important and honest body of decent citizens, the teachers.
A doctor, who was an examiner for the National University, told me his experience regarding teaching through the medium of Irish. He was examining a number of students in medicine and one lady student came before him and she showed very little knowledge of her subject. He said: "It is all right, but I am afraid we will meet again," which meant that she would have to come back and do another year. Her excuse was: "Well, sir, I am doing the course through the medium." That was her excuse for her lack of medical knowledge.
Does the Deputy mean that she was doing her medical course through Irish? I was not aware that the University was providing courses through Irish.
That is what I was told. The doctor gave me that as an example.
I want the Deputy to state whether he was informed medical courses through Irish are provided, and whether this incident with reference to the girl means that she was doing a course in medicine through Irish. It is news to me that such courses are being provided.
I have told the Minister what I heard the examiner say, and I cannot give the Minister any more information about it.
It would be easy to check up on it, would it not? That should be done.
I do not know anything more about it, but that is the story told to me. I was rather amused with Deputy Butler's description of our primary course. He stressed that a child in this country is taught what its origin is and what its end will be, and that was the most important thing of all. I admit that is so, that it is important that every child ought to appreciate what the ultimate aim of life is. I am afraid that so far as the philosophy of life is concerned there is very little attempt to provide the child with a proper outlook. I think the whole system is too standardised. There are things that are more essential than merely cramming into the child's mind what you find in textbooks. There is the philosophy of life and the question of children using their eyes. They should be taught how to observe things, how to appreciate nature—how to contemplate things like that. They ought to be able to give information that is not merely provided in the textbooks, but to tell them how to acquire information afterwards, so that they would have knowledge that would be essential for them to have in their particular walks in life. We must realise that primary schools lay the foundation of education, and that when a child leaves these schools he or she must add to their knowledge if they are to have any standard of education at all. In the report the Minister refers to what has been done in the schools and to the progress made by vocational schools, especially in regard to rural science. On pages 17 and 18 of the Minister's statement we are told of a number of farmers in County Louth who had experiments carried out regarding seed mixture and the management of pasture, and of a townland in County Limerick where a soil survey was made.
What puzzles me about the whole question of education, and particularly agricultural education, is this: Who is charged with the responsibility of looking after agricultural education? Are we at cross purposes between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education? I am aware that a good deal of jealousy exists between rural science teachers, on the one hand, and agricultural instructors on the other hand. It is time to make it clear where the line is drawn, and how far the responsibility of one Department extends.
I think that has been done. All the vocational education committees have had the position explained to them.
I am glad to hear that, because I do not think it is wise to have a Department merely dabbling with a subject and suggesting at the same time that full responsibility rests with another Department. There ought to be a very clear line of demarcation. I do not think it would be wise for a certain amount of education to be done under the vocational system, such as rural science, and then to have full responsibility thrown on the Department of Agriculture. It is essential that the position should be cleared up between the two Departments. It is vital to our future interests that there should be a clear cut policy concerning the improvement of facilities for agricultural and vocational education. I am satisfied that one of our biggest problems is the lack of technical knowledge. It is almost certain that agricultural production will remain stagenant while we lack technical knowledge. It is a most essential equipment for our people. I want to make a last appeal to the Minister not to be so autocratic and so rigid towards the problem that is there for the last nine weeks. In view of the many appeals made by every Deputy who spoke, even by a Deputy in his own Party, he ought to be gracious enough to undertake when replying that he will make one further effort to try to solve that problem.
Like other Deputies, I am somewhat disappointed that no provision has been made in the Estimate to extend to well-educated boys of poor parents the advantages of secondary education. I am aware that the Department tries to bring pressure to bear on local bodies to grant scholarships but these bodies can only provide for a limited number of such pupils from primary to secondary schools. In many cases there are perhaps 20 candidates for three scholarships, and there may be only a few marks between those who were lucky and the others. That means that 16 or 17 children of poor parents may not get a secondary education, and when they are finished with the primary school their only hope is to get some trade or stay on a farm. I would like to see the policy followed in connection with primary schools that is adopted in vocational schools. Public authorities have to provide a minimum rate for vocational education and the Minister should be in a position to compel these bodies to raise a minimum rate for the provision of scholarships from primary to secondary schools.
I should like to get information regarding the granting of free school books. What method is adopted? Is the issue of books confined to families who are in receipt of home help? I have had complaints from mothers, whose husbands were earning 39/- a week, that they had been asked to pay for school books. We know that when there is a standstill Order regarding wages in existence it is very hard for the parents of a large family to find 10/- or 15/- for school books. Where families are in receipt of small wages or in cases where they are dependent on widows' and orphans' pensions these books should be given free. I also object to the policy adopted by the Government regarding the wages paid caretakers of vocational schools. In some cases the amount is limited to the wages paid to agricultural workers, and in other cases, as in my constituency, to the wages paid to persons similarly employed as caretakers by the county council.
When it was found that one caretaker employed by a county council was receiving a higher wage than the vocational committee was paying they asked the Minister concerned to sanction an increase but he would not agree. I refer to the position in Wicklow, where the caretaker of the vocational school, if he was receiving the same wage as the caretaker of the courthouse, would have £3 or £3 10s. a week. These men are employed sometimes from eight in the morning until 11 o'clock at night, and the wages they receive are lower than those paid locally. I hope the Minister will reconsider the position and will see to it that, where wages are laid down, these caretakers will not be treated any worse than others.
With regard to the teaching of Irish, I have had experience of children who were trained in Irish-speaking schools. I can say that these children have sat for examinations for Civil Service and other positions and have taken very high places in these examinations. I refer to children who had attended Kilcullen School where the pupils are taught solely through Irish. I agree with regard to the teaching in national schools. I find a great improvement in the children who are taught by native Irish teachers in these schools.
With regard to the strike of teachers, I do not want to adopt the attitude taken up by some Deputies here. I have had long experience of strikes, and I believe that there is not another Deputy who has as much experience of, or who has taken as active a part in strikes as I have. Abuse and attacks are not calculated to bring about a settlement, and in that respect I congratulate the teachers in that they have not said one word which could give offence to the Minister or any other individual. I regret, however, that words have been used here to-day by men appealing for a settlement which might give the Minister, if he were of a different type, an excuse for prolonging the struggle, and I appeal to him to forget anything of that kind which has been said here.
We have heard a very plain statement from Deputy Butler that it is on the ground of conditions, and not wages, that the teachers object. I am not suggesting arbitration, but I note that the Minister says that he has to consider the feelings and wishes of the public. He has received resolutions from various public bodies.
These resolutions have not taken one side or the other; they have merely made an appeal to the Minister to meet the teachers again, with a view to bringing about a settlement, and I believe that if the two sides met within the next week, a formula could be agreed upon and a settlement brought about. If, as Deputy Butler has said, it is small points which have produced the teachers' grievances, I am certain that, with goodwill on both sides, this unfortunate dispute would be brought to an end in circumstances in which there would be neither victor nor vanquished.
I have discussed the position with teachers and I have never heard them say an unfriendly word of the Minister. They recognise that his sympathies are with them to a certain extent, and they appreciate his position as Minister carrying out the orders of the Government. But the Government can afford to be generous. They will not be giving way by opening up negotiations again. I suggest that a formula can be found, and I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to reopen negotiations with a view to bringing about a settlement. A settlement will have to be come to some day and I urge the Government not to let the strike continue until the summer vacation, as it is generally rumoured it will continue, because the longer it continues, the more likelihood there is that things will be said on both sides which will not help towards a settlement.
I should like to see the Government taking their courage in their hands, and, with the goodwill of all public representatives, reopening negotiations. I appeal to other Deputies who may speak in this debate to exercise restraint in expressing their views. In all the negotiations in which I have taken part, I have never adopted the policy of attacking the employers with whom I sought to negotiate a settlement, and if Deputies proceed on the basis of making attacks, they are not serving the interests of the people or the cause they advocate. I appeal finally to the Minister, in the light of the fact that the Government are in a position to be more generous than the organised body of teachers, to reopen negotiations. I am certain that he will have the goodwill and good wishes not alone of every Deputy but of all the public bodies who have forwarded resolutions asking for a settlement and a termination of the deadlock as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there is a teachers' strike on in Dublin at the moment, which tends to cloud the whole position with regard to education. I should like briefly to refer to that strike before going on to deal with other matters. The teachers have become embittered as a result of long years of neglect and underpayment. They also, I think, have found the difficulties of carrying out the educational policy of the Government to be almost too much for them. I refer to the system of teaching through the medium of Irish. Speakers have appealed to the Government and other speakers have appealed to Deputies not to fish in troubled waters. I should be long sorry to fish in troubled waters, or to exacerbate a position which is already very serious, but I would say to the Minister that, in the opinion of the great majority of the citizens of Dublin, the Government have taken up an attitude in relation to this strike that would not be tolerated in the case of a private concern by the general public or by the Government themselves. That is the impression left on the public mind and the sooner the Minister decides on meeting the teachers and having a roundtable conference, the better for all concerned, because, in the meantime, the children of the primary schools in Dublin are left to run around the streets, get into mischief of all sorts and into all sorts of danger.
Now, further to the question of the teachers' strike, I would refer to two matters in that connection. One is this question of "highly efficient" which has been mentioned by other speakers earlier in this debate and I think it is obvious to all of us that that system is one which may penalise a teacher through no fault of his or her own. Any system that does that is inequitable and I think it is high time that the efficacy of that system was inquired into.
The second matter to which I wish to refer in connection with the teachers is equal pay for women. I personally am a believer in equal pay for women and I think that, whatever arguments may be advanced against us in certain lines and certain classes of work, or in certain professions, those arguments do not apply to the teaching profession, where a woman has to pass the same examination as a man and has to teach the same number of children the same subjects for the same hours; it is very difficult to put forward, in connection with the teaching profession, any case to impartial people to prove that there is any justification in paying that woman less than her confrere, a man, is paid.
To turn from this question of the strike which, as I said, has upset the whole position of education in the country at the moment, to the general question of education, I think that most parents in this country are profoundly dissatisfied with the primary education which their children receive. Deputy Butler, speaking earlier this evening, said that he had found parents who were wholeheartedly in favour of our present educational system. I think that probably arises from two things: (1) that people are rather hesitant to criticise the professional man to his face, and (2) owing to the fact that Deputy Butler himself is a very distinguished and competent teacher. I think he gets results in his own personal teaching which possibly colour the views of the parents. I can only say that the opinion I have formed from talking to the man-in-the-street is that there is something very radically wrong with our education in this country. Nine out of ten employers to whom you talk will tell you that, in their opinion, the standard of education has fallen much below what it was in their young days. Speaking as a young man, I must say I have not any great sympathy with the views of elderly people who look back on the past and say: "Oh, everything was lovely in my young days and, you know, the younger generation to-day are no use"; but when those people tell you that when they bring in boys to interview them for a job they find the boys cannot spell correctly, cannot read correctly and cannot add, subtract or multiply correctly, then you are driven to the conclusion that certainly those boys do not seem to be particularly well educated and I am afraid—and I am sorry to say this— that, in my opinion, a great deal of that dissatisfaction with the present standard of education arises from the supreme difficulties of teaching through the medium of Irish.
Now, I am sorry to say that because, however nationally desirable it may be, educationally it is undesirable and educationally it is madness. In doing that you are flouting one of the fundamental laws of education and no country can, in its educational system, flout the fundamentals of teaching and expect to have a well-educated body of children as a result of that. But that is what this country is doing and some day this country will wake up to it. I think this is the third occasion in this House on which I have said that I consider that educational madness; and, as I mentioned earlier, I think that psychologically the teachers' strike has a good deal to do with the appalling difficulties with which those people have been faced in carrying out that almost impossible policy.
In connection with that, I would like to tell the Minister a little story that was told to me some years ago by an employer in this city. He carries on a business in which the work is of a very highly techinical nature. It is also well paid. In the days when this man told me this story—it was actually before the war—a woman who was trained in this particular work could earn up to £5 a week. Now £5 a week in 1938 was a very good wage for a woman. He told me that he interviewed a number of girls on one occasion. He selected one girl—a very nice young girl—and he said to her: "You know we do all our calculations here in the decimal system." She looked at him rather troubled and said: "I am sorry, I am afraid I do not know how to do decimals.""Oh," he said, "that is quite all right, we will teach you that quickly enough.""But," she said, "I have been accustomed to learning arithmetic through the medium of Irish and I am afraid I would not be able to learn it." Very much against that man's will he had to let that girl go. Now that is one of the difficulties and that is one of the prices which has to be paid. If we are prepared to undertake those difficulties, if we are prepared to pay that price by all means let us do so; but do not let us delude ourselves into thinking that we are not paying the inevitable price for a system which, to put it mildly, is extremely difficult to work.
Lastly, I would like to refer to a couple of other matters. One is the question of the school-leaving age in this country. I think until we raise the school-leaving age our children will not be as adequately equipped as we would like them to be to face the difficulties of life. We are living in a mechanical age and in a scientific age, whether we like it or not. We are living in an age of complicated machines which require complicated calculations in their operation. If we have not a highly educated population we will fall behind in the struggle for existence that confronts the world. One of the ways, in fact the only way, adequately to equip our people for that difficult situation is to give them the best education we can for as long as we can. The present school-leaving age is too low and, in my opinion, should be extended by at least two years.
There is a matter which comes before the Corporation of Dublin periodically. Any Deputy who is a member of the corporation will bear me out. It is the problem of vandalism in the City of Dublin. Day after day we get reports of damage done in public parks and to corporation property all over the city. That has been going on for a very long time and at the present moment every country in the world is suffering from an increase in vandalism on the part of children. It is very difficult to say how much of this vandalism is done by children. The corporation officials do find children uprooting flowers and damaging trees. We know that a certain amount of it is done by children of the school-leaving age. I would say the more serious damage is probably done by youths up to possibly 20 years of age. Nevertheless, that vandalism has its roots in lack of training during childhood. I have been careful to mention that I consider that this question is a world wide one at the moment. I do not know that we suffer in this manner more than other countries do. I am concerned that we in Ireland should face that problem and should take what steps we can to deal with it. The corporation are going to ask for the co-operation of the Press, the radio and any authorities who deal with children and of the parents in dealing with this problem. The Minister for Education should seriously consider introducing into the schools a course of training in national and civic consciousness.
This is one of those difficult problems that really should be dealt with by the parents but, if the parents do not do it, we have to start the good work in the schools. I know that the teachers have an already loaded curriculum but, just as in America children are taught their duty to the State, we here could very well introduce a short course specially designed to inculcate national and civic consciousness. We would find that we had done a work which was well worth doing. I put that to the Minister and ask him to consider it.
The important items of the Education Estimate which engage the attention of Deputies annually are this year overshadowed and dwarfed, if not completely submerged, by the stark tragedy that is happening in our midst when education of any sort is being denied to 40,000 children in the City of Dublin. In these circumstances, it is difficult to get down to a discussion in the normal manner of the humdrum and matter of fact, although important, details of the Estimate. The attitude that the Government and the Minister have adopted is an amazing one. It would seem to indicate that they are the only section of the community who do not realise the seriousness of the position and that they are more concerned with preserving their domination and authority than acceding to the request of the public men of the country, the parents of the children and all men of goodwill, who are bending their efforts to try to bring this deplorable controversy to a satisfactory termination. Year after year, as has been mentioned by other Deputies, one of the items under discussion on this Estimate, almost invariably, has been the question of increased remuneration for teachers. That that should have been the case over so many years was a matter for regret. The story of the teachers' struggle has been a sorry one, not alone under this Government but under previous Governments, both alien and native. For the past 25 years, I can truthfully say there has been a series of betrayals, so far as the teachers were concerned, by the Governments in power. In 1922, following the war and the soaring cost of living, a figure was reached, not up to the standard which had been reached by trade unionists in various walks of life, and an offer was made to the teachers by the then Government of a lower figure because of the fact that prices were expected to fall, and their salaries were stabilised at a figure less than they would be entitled to on the then cost of living. Notwithstanding that that figure was to remain fast, there were four cuts subsequently administered to the teachers. Each of these was nothing less than a Government betrayal of a sacred promise made to a responsible section of the community.
The transfer of the Teachers' Pension Fund from what it used to be to what it is to-day was not by any means a commendable transaction, to my mind, on the part of the Government. Up to that time, the teachers had loyally contributed to that fund. Their side of the fund was found to be perfectly solvent, whereas the other side was completely empty, like Mother Hubbard's cupboard. The Government took the proceeds of the teachers' contributions, to the extent of £1,250,000 or £1,500,000, into the Exchequer and guaranteed teachers' pensions in future. The teachers used to pay 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. contribution but, by a subterfuge, 9 per cent. was deducted from the teachers in the form of a cut, though they make no contributions direct.
The Deputy must be aware that of the 9 per cent. cut, 5 per cent. was restored to the teachers in 1938.
Was restored. I am speaking of what happened at the time. I think the Minister will not contradict me on that.
If Deputies are not properly briefed, it is open to me to point out that they are making mistakes.
The Minister will not contradict what I state in connection with the transfer of the pension fund. What I state is correct, from my memory of what took place. That has been the story of disaffected and disgruntled teachers striving to secure what they consider decent salaries on which they can maintain themselves on a standard of living justified by their exalted position in the nation. There have been junior assistant mistresses, untrained assistants and other grades, working for wages and salaries that were a byword and a disgrace to any Government. There were some highly-paid men and, because of a few highly-paid men, there was an erroneous impression created in the general public mind that the teachers as a whole should be very content and satisfied.
I should like to take the average salary of the teachers and ask anyone, having due regard to the needs of education, whether the teachers as a whole are reasonably paid in this country. I think that Deputies on all sides of the House would have to agree that, on balance, they are not.
Long negotiations took place between the teachers and the Minister in connection with the Minister's offer. But we must have regard to the background. After all these years of struggling, they eventually took strike action. That is the big unforgivable sin they have been guilty of—taking strike action against the Government in defence of their rights. That action was not taken hastily. The matter was given full consideration and submitted to a vote of all the teachers throughout the country. Strike action is not an illegal weapon so far as I know. It is a legitimate action taken by workers fighting for their rights. As a worker myself, I hope the time will never come when it will be an illegal weapon.
It is regrettable to have to take strike action, particularly in the case of the teachers with their big responsibilities. For those working for hire, either for the Government or for private individuals, the strike is their final weapon to try to achieve success. It was with no light heart that the teachers took strike action. They waited for months in the hope that something reasonable would be offered to them. Eventually, they were not satisfied with the offer of the Minister. I will not go into the figures, because they have been dealt with by Deputy Norton and other speakers. It has been shown that if the offer of the Minister were accepted the purchasing power of the salaries of the bulk of these teachers, 70 per cent. of them, would be about £4 per week according to the 1938 standard of prices. If that is regarded as a fair requital for the services of the teachers, I think we have lost all sense of values in this country.
Since then we have had 40,000 or more children sent adrift in the City of Dublin, some of them in their last year when schooling would be most useful to them. That is a very serious matter for the parents and for the citizens of Dublin and the people of the country as a whole. It is a matter which should seriously concern the Government and every Deputy. Yet, when His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, who has, I suggest, as great, if not a greater responsibility than the Minister himself for the spiritual and material welfare of the children in this diocese, offered his services as a mediator, his offer was incontinently turned down, the Minister stating that the Government had said their last word in the matter and that no useful purpose would be served by offering mediation. That attitude on the part of the Government seems incomprehensible when we remember that the Government have, in a praiseworthy effort to preserve industrial peace, sent inspectors from the Department of Industry and Commerce all over the country to settle either small or big labour disputes.
These officials have performed very useful work in preserving industrial peace where strikes took place or were threatened. Does it not show a glaring inconsistency on the part of the Government, who interpose their officers between private employers and employees when disputes are in the offing, that they should point blank refuse mediation in regard to this matter from any outside source, even from the exalted source from which it was tendered? Is it that they feel that they would be bending the knee or losing prestige? I think it is a completely erroneous idea on the part of the Minister and the Government if they think they would lose anything in the way of prestige by meeting the teachers, who, after all, are only indirectly their employees, because they are directly the employees of the managers. So far as I know, the managers would be unanimously in favour of any method that could be adopted to settle this dispute. What could be wrong in submitting the offer put forward by the Minister and refused by the teachers to the mediation of his Grace the Archbishop? Even if the Minister said: "I am not prepared to go any further, I cannot go any further financially; that is as much as the Government think the taxpayers should be asked to pay," there is the other question of the multifarious grades introduced, probably 50 or more.
Does not the Deputy realise that all these grades were there before? There are far fewer grades in the proposals of the Government than there were before.
Even if a thing is wrong, it is justified because it was done before.
If that statement is correct, the teachers I have been speaking to are unworthy of being teachers, because they did not seem to know that. Their proposals did not include all these multitudinous grades and classifications. Their suggestions would have boiled them down to some small number. The number of grades contained in the proposals in my opinion was one of the most objectionable features, quite apart from the financial clauses. If the case is as strong as the Minister feels it is, why refuse to submit it to the mediation of the Archbishop and tell him the points that actuated the Government in making the offer and point out that the teachers refused to accept it?
I think it is wrong for the Government to arrogate to themselves, because they are the Government, the right to say: "We have said our last word and nobody must dare to interfere," irrespective of the consequences. They allowed the strike to go ahead and the children to go around, and there is no evidence of any intention or offer on their part to bring it to a termination. Other Deputies have appealed for an approach to be made in the matter. Even now it is not too late to make a move in the matter. On other occasions, when a serious crisis of a different character faced this country, the Taoiseach responded to the appeal made by the elected representatives of all Parties in the House in the interests of peace. I appeal to the Minister and the Government to respond to the appeal which has emanated from their own side of the House as well as the Opposition side to take a step that will mean no negation of power and accept the offer of mediation from his Grace the Archbishop and close this unhappy chapter so that the children can return to school. Such a step would, I think, redound to their credit. There will be no question of one side boasting that they had gained a victory. It should be done in the interests of the children and of the parents and of the citizens generally. Really, the Minister and the teachers, when all is said and done, are fighting each other over the bodies of the children.
That, I think, is not playing the game. In the interests of appeasement, I appeal to the Government to reconsider their attitude and accept the mediation offered, and thus remove the hardships which are being suffered, allow the children to go back to school, and restore harmony between the Minister and the teachers so that the programme which has been carried on so effectively and efficiently will continue to be carried on along the old harmonious lines with no recriminations as a result of this unfortunate strike.
Last year when we were discussing the education Estimate we were under the shadow of the teachers' strike and we all made an appeal to the Minister in the hope that the strike would be averted and that peace would be restored. Notwithstanding our appeals, the strike has taken place, bad feelings have been aroused, and our little children have been allowed to run amuck. Parents are disgusted that such a thing could happen in our lifetime.
I was under the impression that the strike was confined to Dublin. Do I understand that it has now spread to County Meath?
It is not confined to Dublin. The teachers throughout the country are supporting the strikers 100 per cent.
Am I to understand that Dublin is not part of the country?
No doubt Dublin is immediately concerned, but the country teachers are supporting the strike. I think it is time we had a review of our educational system. We are all satisfied, just as the teachers are, that conditions are not right in the national schools. The primary schools are the poor man's academy. Fully 95 per cent. of the people go through these schools and go no further. When they get a proper education there, the most of them make very good in life. The teachers are satisfied that there is too much cramming. The averages are falling in most schools and there is a definite failure in the language drive. Most of the books that are being published are nothing more than political propaganda for a certain Party. There should be review of these things.
The teachers are satisfied that the Minister is completely out of touch with them. He is the same as a dictator; no one can see him. It is the duty of the Minister, who has power over so many people, to go out at least once a year to meet the teachers. There are four or five inspectorial areas in Ireland and I do not see why the Minister should not visit them at least once a year, have a talk with the teachers, hear their views and find out where the shoe is pinching.
We hear a lot about democracy, and that would be a really democratic thing to do. The Minister should have an annual talk with the teachers to find out how things are progressing. He could ascertain if the teachers are satisfied with the programme, or if it could be improved. Instead of doing that, he sits and sulks at home and he leaves the teachers to fend for themselves. They are under the impression that they are not getting help from above.
We hear a lot about the revival of Irish. I suggest you will not revive it if you carry on your present policy. I suppose 80 per cent. of the new teachers are being brought from the Irish-speaking areas in the West. I have no objection to that, but I say that a vast number of the teachers trained in recent years are semi-illiterate. That is a hard thing to say, but I can state that there are teachers who can hardly spell their own names. It may be they are good teachers in the Irish language, because it is the language of their youth. It is easy for them to learn it when they have it in the home, but there are other subjects in which they are not competent. There should be an examination in different subjects. All the other teachers have to pass severe tests.
I cannot allow that statement to be made. Every teacher who comes from the Gaeltacht area has passed a first-class secondary examination, has passed the leaving certificate with honours, has gone on to the training college, has completed his course in the training college and has passed the appropriate examination. The Deputy ought to know a little more about the teaching profession, because he is in rather intimate touch with it.
The Minister knows all about that, and I will come to that, too. I am quite satisfied that many of the young teachers are semi-illiterate and are not fit to teach the children. That is not saying a wrong thing. It is all because you are picking up these kind of people, simply because they have a smattering of the language. We want education in every sense of the word.
The statement the Deputy has made is wrong. I am not picking up anyone because he has a smattering of the language. These teachers have to pass a competitive examination to get into the colleges. They have then to pass the appropriate examination, including the final examination for the teaching profession. The Deputy still persists in the remark that they are semi-illiterate. I suggest he ought to go to the next meeting of the County Meath Teachers' Association.
Will you go there, too?
Certainly, I will go.
I will meet you there.
Is it in order for the Minister to jump up like a jack-in-the-box interrupting a Deputy?
When he is making misstatements I will interrupt him, just as I interrupted the Deputy.
The Minister will interrupt only in so far as he is allowed by the Chair.
The Minister has a right to wind up the debate; he has not a right to interrupt any Deputy.
I think that the Minister's statement was something more than an interruption.
I will not withdraw a word I said.
The Minister is responsible for the qualifications of teachers and he is quite right in correcting the Deputy if he made a wrong statement.
No one said it was a wrong statement. My word is just as good as the Minister's.
Is it the ruling of the Chair that any time an incorrect statement is made in the course of a debate, the Minister has a right to jump up and interrupt?
I am not making any general ruling, but the Deputy ought to accept the explanation of the Minister in regard to the qualifications of teachers appointed by him.
It may be believed by a great number of Deputies, in view of the situation that has arisen, that they know more about teachers and teachers' conditions than the Minister.
In view of what the Chair has stated, I will withdraw, reluctantly. Now, as to vocational schools, they have been a bugbear in my county for many years. I am of the opinion that a public inquiry is needed as regards vocational schools in County Meath. I am satisfied that we have vocational schools in Trim, Navan and Kells that are doing splendid work but, as regards the schools in Nobber and Dunshaughlin, they should definitely be blown up.
I am sorry I have to say these things, because I would like to see several more vocational schools throughout the county, but facts must be faced and money is being squandered in those places, paying a few teachers to keep four or five children going the whole day long. It is a public disgrace. Month after month we have discussed the situation in County Meath. We have referred repeatedly to the schools at Nobber and Dunshaughlin and wondered what we could do. Now the Minister has sanctioned the erection of a grand new building in Dunshaughlin. What the Minister should do is to organise a good transport service to bring the Dunshaughlin pupils into Navan. If he were to do that, I believe the result would be very beneficial. It is unfair to put a big bill on the county. I expect that this new school will cost something like £10,000; then we will find it is only a white elephant, and later on some person will get it for a mere song.
I should like to see a public inquiry into all these things. I do not want the Dunshaughlin people to be deprived of education, or the people in Nobber either, but facts must be faced. I am a responsible member of the Meath Vocational Committee and I know what I am talking about. We all know that those schools were put up in the past because of a political pull, and nothing else. The big-wigs, when they got into power said: "We will throw a school here and there and you will see the higher education we will give." That was all right, but the unfortunate ratepayers of County Meath had to pay for the schools and the white elephants are there to-day for anybody to view.
I want the Minister to take a special interest in Dunshaughlin and Nobber and to find out if the schools there justify their existence. If not, he should put a stop to the building of the new school at Dunshaughlin. If you can get 25 pupils to attend those schools I would be quite satisfied to have them erected, but that is not going to happen. There are teachers there for a number of years doing damn all, and it is not their fault. They are going there as teachers but they have sweet damn all to do. They have only a few little girls to teach and the few coming in are begged to come in to make the school justify its existence. These are the facts, but because I say these things I am called a propagandist.
The Deputy is taking care to say these things where he cannot be answered. He is taking care to make statements about vocational teachers and about schools in Meath where they cannot be answered by the persons concerned. Will the Deputy make these statements outside?
I say the Minister is a deliberate liar.
The Deputy must withdraw that statement.
I withdraw it.
I now come to the snag, to the burning of conscience that occurs. When a female teacher in a school where the average is at a certain figure, retires in the ordinary way a male teacher would be appointed. I agree if it is carried out in all cases, but I know that it is not done in County Meath. I can point to four people with a definite strong political pull, the backbone of Fianna Fáil, who were appointed. They were female teachers. I will not mention the names of two others, with high degrees, with 20 or 25 years of honourable service in national schools, and when schools became vacant in their areas they applied for the appointments in the same way as the others. They were not appointed. The Minister stuck his heels in the ground then and said that he could not interfere with the rules. Why was there interference with the rules in other cases? In Galway some appointments were also made. It was a purely mean political matter. The teachers I refer to can live without the positions and no thanks to the Department. It was in their cases a matter of dirty mean spite, because they would not bow and scrape to the Department and the Taoiseach. It is time to stop it. They want the teachers to come in and bow and scrape to them. I do not want anything from anybody. I always pay my way and paid 20/- in the £. I want fair play and justice. We are not getting it.
In regard to vocational teachers in County Meath, three or four of these teachers, when elections occurred, went around openly on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and got on public platforms. They become hysterical to get Fianna Fáil into power. I say that that is not fair to the parents of the pupils, and not fair to the community. It is time that teachers who are paid by ratepayers of all classes should teach and do nothing else. They should keep off the platforms. If they have to go on platforms they ought to behave themselves and not make little of people who are paying their salaries. I ask the Minister to bring in a definite rule that such teachers, who are there because the people are paying them, get off those platforms and let politics be carried on in its own way and in its own time. It is not right for those people to be insulting decent people in my native county.
As regards the strike, I am not going to say much about it, as enough has been said. Certainly I am blaming the Minister as a man too mean and too stubborn to bow. Either that or he is the tool of the Taoiseach. My belief is that he is only a shadow there, and that the Taoiseach has said: "We will stand firm on this." Whether he stands firm or not the teachers are honourable people, who have brought up the present generation and I hope that the generation being reared is as good as it was in the past. Certainly the teachers are not going to bow and scrape to him. They have done that long enough. As I said last year, the devil thank most of them. They were let down absolutely. The teachers put their hands under the Government's feet for years and years and now the Government has trampled on them. However, the teachers have dug their heels in now. It is time that the strike was stopped, and time the plain people got a chance. It is time the poor unfortunate children in Dublin got some education. At any time it was a small amount of education they got. It was time the strike was brought to a conclusion.
I listened to Deputy Mulcahy speaking about the Davis film and heard him say it was a great national one. The biggest snag I saw in it was that it was not the Davis film at all. It is true that Thomas Davis appeared in it for a short time, but he moved out and the Taoiseach moved in. Then we had all that the Taoiseach has done, from the Shannon scheme to the present day. We had loud speakers, too. Was there anything there about what the others did? There was not a word about Michael Collins, Cosgrave, Kevin O'Higgins and those who made the seat so rosy and so cushy for the Taoiseach. No, the Taoiseach was the encyclopaedia of the Irish revival. Fair play is fair play; give honour where honour is due and if there is to be propaganda, let it be done down along. Let it start at the beginning and go along to Pearse, to Collins, to Griffith and those who built up the nation. Let it not be done in a mean and skunky way. I do not care if the Minister is in power for ever. If the people want him they can keep him there. We want honesty. I will say no more though there are things I could say.
I could go on for two hours on this. I am living in a county that is steeped in meanness and politics. It is steeped in dirt, where job-hunting is the order of the day, where men are brought from the north, south, east and west to drive the fake nationalism down our throats—but it is not working. As regards the revival of the Irish language, there is absolutely a tug-o'-war between the Gaelic League in the County Meath and the vocational committee. The old Gaelic Leaguers whom we had there are being shoved out and the new Gaelic Leaguers are being shoved in. They come in with a great blare of trumpets and a gibberish of the language. They may have some genuine interest in it, because they were born with it, and the devil thank them, but there is no use in their trying to force the language on the people who have been trying to spread it for years and years. I can see that before many years have passed certain of those gentlemen in County Meath will be stepping into the shoes of certain men who are going out. I know why there is beating of tom-toms. They are not out for the revival of the Irish language but are job-hunting. That is dirty and rotten. The Irish language is dying fast because the Irish people are sick of the job-hunting.
The old Gaelic Leaguers in County Meath are as good Gaels as ever came from other parts. They held the fort for 50 years, but when they see what has blown in to blow them out they have to stand in the background. I say it is a shame and a disgrace that such things should happen. The Irish language at present is almost cursed instead of being blessed. Meath is not the land of the Pale. It is one of the foremost counties for the revival of the language. We blow about Gaelic League classes, but at the same time it will be found that there is a terrible lot of fake behind the whole thing. In County Meath we are paying between 30 and 40 good teachers of Irish. I am satisfied that in the majority of the classes there are only three or four pupils. At the start there are 20 or 30 pupils. When an inspector goes round to see how the classes are going on, in many places he finds the schools closed and the lights out, but on Saturday the teachers are paid in full. In some places we find that there are two pupils smoking "fags" at the fire.
That is the Irish class. In the name of Heaven, do we hope to revive Irish by that type of hypocrisy? I do not blame the teachers—it is not their fault that the classes are not there. What is responsible for that position is the job hunting which is going on, and, while it goes on, we will get nowhere.
Finally, I ask the Minister what he proposes to do about these buildings in Dunshaughlin and Nobber. If he proposes to erect these buildings, will he guarantee the people of Meath that there will be at least a roomful of pupils there? If he will, I am all for building, but the population is not increasing in these areas and the only solution that I see is the provision of transport services to bring the pupils to those centres in which there are classes.
What strikes me about this group of Estimates is that the Minister's speech in any one year might be recorded and the record simply turned on the following year. There is no difference whatever, and I am not surprised because there has been no change, so far as primary education is concerned, in the last ten or 15 years, except a change for the worse. I am old enough to remember when it was a popular thing in this country for speakers to say from public platforms that it was the policy of the British Government to keep us in ignorance and darkness, to keep us a nation of illiterates. I want to ask anybody here who knows anything at all about it, who has a family of his own, who is in touch with or who deals with children leaving primary schools, if there is any improvement in the teaching, the programme or in the finished product. So far as education is concerned, since we got our freedom and our own Government, we certainly have not done anything to improve the standard of our people.
As has been stated already, 90 per cent. of the children of this country leave school at 14. Their schooling is finished at that age. Will anybody say that the average pupil leaving the primary school at the age of 14 is in any way equipped to face the world? Frankly, he is not, and the Minister knows it and if he does not, he ought to know it. We talk here of more production from the land, of our people taking advantage of the latest inventions and the latest scientific discoveries, of the necessity for soil surveys and for the proper fertilising of the land and for our farmers, our farmers' sons and farm labourers being able to read, to understand, to appreciate and to get value from the numerous leaflets issued by the Department of Agriculture. I want to say quite frankly that nine out of ten of the pupils leaving the primary school are unable to understand the leaflets. Deputy Moran does not agree with that.
No. I do not.
The difference between us is that the Deputy, fortunately for himself, had not to finish his education at the primary school. I had, and I am perhaps in at least as close touch with the pupils leaving these schools at 14 years of age as any Deputy, and I believe in facing facts. It is no pleasure to me to have to make the statements I am making. I should much prefer to be able to say that our children leaving the primary schools now are much better equipped educationally than they were before, but there are enough people in this country burying their heads in the sand without my starting to do it. There is enough codology going on in this country about education, but I challenge any Deputy to say that the children have a higher standard now than they had 25 or 30 years ago, leaving at 14. I venture to say that 90 per cent. of the parents of the children who finish their education when they leave the primary school will assert that they are not nearly as well equipped as children were 30 years ago.
I want now to say something about Irish, and before I utter a word about it I know that I am going to be misrepresented. I am as anxious perhaps, as any other member to see the Irish language going ahead, and, if I have one regret in life, it is that I have not been able to acquire a knowledge of it myself. But is it in the interests of the language that we should pretend we are making the progress that we are not making? Will we help the language by pretending that everything is lovely and that it is going along all right? Are we helping the language by indulging in the sort of nonsense that was responsible for having every one of the census forms printed in English and Irish. I want to throw out a wager here. I wager that not five per cent. of the census forms will be completed on the Irish side, after a quarter of a century of the most intensive effort to make the people Irish speaking.
Let us face the fact. The fact is that not only are we making no real progress in teaching Irish, much less teaching subjects through the medium of Irish successfully, outside the Gaeltacht, but in order to preserve whatever is in the Gaeltacht itself, we have to pay the people who were born with the language to continue speaking it. The Minister and the Department know—and, again, if they do not, they ought to know— that if 90 per cent. of the teachers expressed their minds, they would say, in relation to Irish and to education generally in the primary schools, what I am now saying. Let us face that fact and let us ask ourselves how long we intend to be satisfied in the changing state of this world with having at most 10 per cent. of our children able to proceed from the primary to the secondary schools, not to speak of university education at all.
In present circumstances, having regard to the present day cost of living, I would say that at least 5 per cent. of the 10 per cent. who are sent to secondary schools are sent there and kept there only by the greatest possible sacrifice on the part of the parents and the remainder of the family in view of the very high cost of secondary education as we know it in this country. We are talking about a nation standing on its own feet and we are talking about a nation that is anxious and desirous of expanding and developing both agriculturally and industrially; and we are talking about Irish culture. I say that we are turning out 90,000 of our children at the age of 14 practically illiterate. Do you call that education? If that is education then I certainly do not understand the meaning of the word education. I think that it is time the people of this country asked themselves whether we are getting value for the five million odd pounds that we are spending on education in this country.
The Minister, according to one part of his speech, seemed to think that we could not afford to spend any more than we are spending now. That is, of course, a completely wrong approach to this question of education. If it is necessary, in order to educate the children of this country, that we spend £10,000,000 or £15,000,000—if that is going to give us the desired result— then we cannot afford not to spend it. I would to-morrow morning cheerfully vote for double the sum asked for here if I thought that by giving double that sum we were going to get real education and that the children of this country were going to get the chance to which they are entitled and which they should get. We talk about national education and we talk about free education. It is neither national nor free. We have parents in this country living in poverty, many with large families, on small wages and they are asked to pay 10/-, 15/- 20/-, 25/- or 30/- at a time for books. Often a slip is brought home by a child, or by two and three children, and that slip is equal to the total amount the head of the house gets for his week's work. It simply cannot be done. We should denude ourselves of this humbug that we are carrying out our duty to the children of the nation and that we are giving them the chance to develop intellectually which, I submit, we are bound to give them. The fine, high-sounding phrases in the Constitution are all right, and they sound all right; but when we come down to actual, practical work and to giving practical effect to those high-sounding phrases—talking about all citizens being equal before the State—the boy who is compelled to leave school at 14, or perhaps before it, unless he happens to be a very outstanding boy will find himself handicapped from the start in the race of life as against the boy whose parents can afford to send him to a secondary school and, better still, on to a university. Those are the facts of the present situation. I do not think the Minister can dispute them. I do not think he will dispute them. I do not claim to be an educationist, nor do I claim to have any technical knowledge of education; but I do claim to have a little commonsense. I do claim to be in close touch with the ordinary people of this country, both in the rural and the urban areas. I do claim to be at least as interested in the matter as anybody else. I am painting the picture as I see it and as it is seen by practically every parent who has spoken to me on the matter—not within the last week, or the last 12 months, but over a long period of years.
I think this House will have to face up to this question of education in a realistic way; otherwise we are simply going to go on, year in and year out, voting a certain amount of money, which may vary slightly from year to year, listening to a certain speech from a particular Minister, which may vary a little each year. That is not my conception of what we should be doing in regard to education in this country. If we are going to content ourselves with that then we are going to make no progress. I think, if I may say so— though perhaps it may appear to the Chair to be irrelevant—that there is a relationship between the subject matter upon which I now speak and the fact that so many of our people are unable to get a living in their own country. I think that a great many of our ills—not only our economic but also our political ills—can be traced back to this whole question of education, or, rather, want of education. A lot of our troubles in this country, particularly within the last 25 years, arose mainly from a complete misunderstanding of the position. A lot of our troubles to-day arise from the fact that people are not sufficiently educated, either politically or economically, to understand what the real position is.
There are people who have been turned out of our schools within the last 20 years who still apparently do not know that this is a completely free and sovereign country. I do not want to go any further in that matter. I have put my views before the House. I believe them and they are honestly and sincerely held by me. It is possible that I shall be told I am wrong. I do not think I am.
If I do not devote part of my speech to the question of the teachers' strike it is not because of any want of sympathy on my part with the teachers. It is merely because that matter has already been very fully debated here and most of the points that could be made have been made. I will content myself with saying that I think it is a great pity from the point of view of the Government and the Minister; and I do not entirely blame the Minister personally, but I do think that the Government's attitude is to be regretted. It is not helpful to anybody. It is certainly not setting a good headline to other interests in this State. I would suggest that, not merely in the interests of the teachers, but in the interests of the children and the parents and in the interests of education itself the Government should reopen the whole matter now.
The Government, if it does that, will not lose "face" and will certainly not lose any prestige in the eyes of the people. I agree with the other Deputies in this House that if the matter is reopened and gone into again now, with goodwill on both sides, the whole thing might be settled much more easily than many people believe. I think no member on any side of this House would like to see the teachers and the children driven back—beaten by the State and driven back—with a still greater sense of grievance than they had coming out. That would do no good in the long run, either to the teachers themselves, the Government, the children, or education generally. I join with other Deputies, who have spoken on this matter, in suggesting to the Minister that, without any loss of prestige and without any question of the usurpation of the power and authority of the Department of the Government, this matter should be reopened now. If it is reopened I believe it can be settled and the sooner it is settled the better.
Somebody who desired to deride the Rising in 1916 described it as a teachers' rebellion. It is a rather strange and ironic commentary that, as a result of that Rising which gave us an Irish Parliament, the teachers who were referred to in that connection have been almost continuously in rebellion in one form or another since. My earliest recollections in this House, since 1923, coincide with discontent amongst the teachers, controversy about their conditions and successive reductions of one kind and another in their salaries and allowances. The concession that was given on the transfer of the pension fund, that the teachers would not make further contributions, was immediately offset by a cut of 9 per cent. It is that particular line of policy, pursued by successive Governments, that has culminated in the situation in which 40,000 children in this City have not been at school for nine weeks. That is a melancholy situation and the finding of a formula or medium by which that situation may be brought to an end is a task that the Minister should not be afraid to face. It is a task in which he should be earnestly supported by his colleagues in the Government.
It has been very truly said that we are too poor to economise in education. It may be added that our experience of the years in which we have had control of our affairs has been that, officially, we have been too stupid to learn real values in this matter. In regard to one aspect of what Deputy Morrissey said, I think it is time that it was stated very emphatically that the present national school programme tends to limit the opportunities the children have of getting sound education. I do not know by what process of reasoning or imagination the present programme was devised but I do know that the books of to-day, which are changed so frequently, compare very unfavourably indeed with the old 4th or 5th books of 30 or 40 years ago. At that time the programme consisted of three or four subjects, while in the present-day programme subjects are extremely numerous and, I am afraid, very often, results are very poor. I ask the Minister to consider what is the measure of the loss in educational value consequent on the discontent that has been created in the teaching profession over all those years.
I suggest it is very considerable. I think I can refer the Minister to pronouncements of his own when he was in Opposition—I know I remember a number of notable pronouncements of his Ministerial colleagues—making all kinds of protestations of sympathy with the teachers. The statement made by Deputy Keyes this evening, that there have been successive betrayals of the interests of the teachers, represents the facts but, worse still, their conditions, salaries and general interests have been made the plaything of political controversy for a considerable time.
The Minister's attitude in this matter is very regrettable. Neither the Minister nor the Government would suffer the least loss of prestige in doing the right thing in this matter, that is, in ending this present difficulty in an honourable and fair way, and in a manner that the citizens of Dublin and the people of the country would desire, and also in closing finally and forever the chapter of discontent, dissatisfaction and sourness in the educational field. The Minister's uncompromising statement, that the last word has been said, resembles statements made by other people in another part of this country, that not another inch is to be given.
The Minister had a fine opportunity in this matter. In the most graceful and generous terms possible, His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin agreed to a suggestion that he should mediate in this matter. His claim to enter this field is very firm. As head for a number of years of one of the most outstanding educational establishments in this country and a well recognised authority on this question, he would bring to the consideration of this matter a rich store of knowledge of education and would have a very fine conception of what was required. The offices of the Archbishop, kindly tendered, were declined. May I say, without any bitterness, that it is remarkable that on three successive occasions recently, three members of the Hierarchy in this country have been snubbed by one or another member of the present Government, although nobody could suggest that the matters about which they were willing to say or do something were not vital, were not outstanding, were not, in some cases, extremely urgent so far as the welfare of this country is concerned?
This muddle in the educational field resembles the muddle in economic affairs in this country, the muddle that has condemned a quarter of a million of the people to exist on State charity of one kind or another, the policy that favours vouchers instead of work.
Is this in order?
I think it is a little bit off education.
I realise it is, but I suggest the comparison is so striking that it is worth mentioning.
If we had more education we would have fewer vouchers.
This muddling of this particular matter is, in my opinion, entirely discreditable and unworthy. The logic of the cost-of-living figures is inescapable, even by the Minister. There has been 71 per cent. increase in the cost of living since 1939, as against a great reduction in another part of this country where salaries for teachers are considerably better for most grades.
A very remarkable statement appeared in the Press a few days ago from a well-known authority on economics, Professor Busteed of Cork University. His close examination of the whole question revealed that, of various classes of people taken in this connection, the people who had suffered most in the years of the emergency were those on a fixed salary. On that basis alone—and the figures have been given already more than once here this evening—I suggest that the teachers have an unmistakable right to a fair decision.
It is not too late yet to have this matter put right. I suggest to the Minister that a graceful way of dealing with the matter can be found yet—a way that will not inflict any humiliation on the teachers or on the Government. Could not consideration be given to the question of asking the teachers to return to work and promising them that whatever adjustments are possible within reason will be considered? Surely an approach of that kind is worth making and the person willing to intervene is one whose authority, whose influence and whose interest in this matter are undoubted and undoubtable.
After many years' experience of the discussion of an Estimate of this kind, I feel that it is deplorable that, 25 years after this Parliament was established, this should be almost an annual question, and that this evening the deadlock between the teachers and the Department should overshadow every other consideration in regard to education. This debate should not be the occasion for discussions of this kind. It should be the occasion on which the whole field of education should be surveyed, the occasion on which a great deal of the time of the debate should be devoted to the question of school buildings, to the consideration of whatever reforms are necessary in primary education and many other matters of that kind. Instead of that, we find the main time of the debate taken up with this question and we have this sordid, squalid struggle going on year after year and leading in the end to disaster.
I have no hesitation in saying that the Minister has no justification for continuing this policy of stubborn isolation in this matter. As a result of the views expressed almost unanimously here this evening. I hope that a new approach will be made immediately, an approach which will enable the children of this city to go back to school, an approach which will lead ultimately to some measure of permanent and reasonable contentment amongst the teachers and an approach which will result in a solid benefit to education in the real sense of the word.
The Minister for Education has shown himself so sensitive in the course of this debate that one has to be very careful to avoid hurting his feelings.
No, I am sensitive only to misstatements, to statements that are not true.
The Minister should have at least sufficient knowledge of the rules of this House to avoid interrupting Deputies, knowing full well that he has the right to conclude this debate and everything that is bottled up in his mind and raising his temperature can be poured out on the House at the close of the debate. There is no necessity for the Minister to interrupt or interfere with the free course of this discussion. He will have his opportunity when we have all said what we have to say. There is a motion down to refer this Estimate back for reconsideration. There has been a similar motion each year, I think, during the last few years and that has been very essential. One of the reasons why the Minister is feeling so sensitive in regard to every remark passed on the conduct of his Department is that he knows that almost every citizens of this State outside is saying that the Minister is the most incompetent of an incompetent bench of Ministers. It may be that the Minister's complete failure has been due to the fact that he is merely a stooge for the Taoiseach, that the Taoiseach is running the Department and that the Minister is only a vocal and noisy "dummy".
The Minister is responsible here for the administration of the Department and the Deputy should not criticise anyone but the Minister.
We can have just a little passing observation on the subject and that is rather kind to the Minister, inasmuch as it is attributing some of the failure to somebody higher up.
The Deputy cannot get away with that. At the risk of incurring displeasure, may I point out that you, Sir, have made it clear that I am responsible for the administration of the Department? I do not want the Deputy to relieve me of any responsibility.
That has been made very clear.
It is Government policy, as well as the Minister's policy. There is collective responsibility for it.
I do not want any leniency.
The Minister may continue on a rowdy course. This may be causing him some uneasiness, but he may be able to sleep on it to-night and possibly the morning may bring some change in his temperature and temperament. His hopeless failure and the hopeless failure of the Department during the past 14 years has been due to his completely ignoring competent expert advice. When the reasonable consultation that could be offered to him by people who are competent to advise. When the British authorities were in control of education here, to give them their due, they did consult those who had a right to know and did know something about the requirements of educational policy.
I wish to draw attention to the fact that there is not a House. It is a very important matter.
In view of the hour, we might report progress.
I move to report progress.