I had concluded my remarks on primary education when the House adjourned the other night. With regard to secondary education, the Estimate shows an increase of £24,650 over that of last year. This is due to a number of causes:—
(1) The increase in the number of schools and in the number of pupils. Five new schools were set up in 1948-49, and the total number of pupils in all the schools increased from 43,710 in 1947-48 to 45,413 in 1948-49, that is by 1,703;
(2) the increase from 2,025 to 2,040 in the number of teachers employed who are in receipt of incremental salary, and the additional increments payable within the scales to teachers who are already drawing increments;
(3) the increase in the number of candidates taking the certificate examinations (there were 13,171 candidates in 1947-48 and it is expected that there will be 13,716 in 1948-49) and the resulting increase in the number of examination centres and of superintendents of these;
(4) the growth in the number of classes in respect of which the special grants are payable for science, domestic science, agricultural science and manual instruction. The number of such classes has risen from 1,488 in 1947-8 to 1,696 this year.
The secondary school system is of long standing in Ireland, Many of our schools were providing secondary education long before the State first came to their aid in the year 1878. Since then aid has been provided by the State on an increasing scale.
The general relations between the State and the secondary school authorities are of the happiest. A representative of the secondary schools who is in a position to speak with the highest authority stated recently that the relations of the school managers with the State "approached the ideal". In these circumstances it is not to be expected that any marked changes would occur in secondary education from year to year. I should like, however, to refer to some points worthy of note
Among these there might be placed first the grants for Irish and bilingual schools. These schools are divided into three categories, viz., schools designated "A", or schools in which all subjects are taught through the medium of Irish (except languages taught through their own medium); "B1" schools, or schools in which at least half the teaching time is devoted to teaching through the medium of Irish; and "B2" schools, or schools in which at least one subject other than Irish is taught through the medium of Irish.
The total number of "A" schools is now 106, an increase of four on 1947-48 There is also a slight increase in the number of "B1" schools—64 in 1947-48, 66 in 1948-49.
Thus the number of "A" schools is somewhat more than one-fourth of the total number of schools, which is 409. In 215 schools, that is, in more than half the total, some instruction is given through the medium of Irish in a subject or subjects other than Irish itself.
It is often supposed that the fact that large numbers of secondary schools use Irish as a medium of instruction is due to something in the nature of compulsion on the part of the Department. That this is not so is clear from the fact that there is also a large number of schools which do not teach through Irish, and I should like to emphasise that though the Department encourages, financially and otherwise, the use of Irish as a medium of instruction there is no compulsion whatever or no hint of compulsion in this regard. The matter is entirely a question for the school manager.
Naturally, I strongly desire that where work can be efficiently carried out through the medium of Irish, it will be carried out in an increasing way.
The charge is often made against the secondary schools that the work done for Irish there tends to be literary, to the neglect of the spoken language. While it is true that the secondary school must, by its very nature, emphasise the literary side, it must be said that the secondary schools in general have made considerable progress in the cultivation of oral Irish during the last 25 years. Anyone who was familiar with their work then and compares it with the present position will readily recognise that fact. In this regard, of course, it is only right to say that the solid foundation laid in the primary schools through the country does much to make easier the task of the secondary schools.
To spur the schools to further efforts, however, there is a scheme whereby special grants are awarded to the schools which do most to promote the use of Irish as the ordinary language of the public outside the classroom, with a view to their acquiring such a command of it as would enable them to use it afterwards in everyday life. These special grants are not confined to "A" schools or to bilingual schools, but a quota of awards is made to the most deserving schools in each category (i.e., including that of the schools in which Irish is not a medium of instruction outside the Irish class).
Another matter of interest is laboratory grants. These grants are provided to assist secondary schools in the upkeep of science laboratories, kitchens and workshops, in connection with the practical teaching required by the Department's programme in experimental, agricultural and domestic science, and in manual instruction.
Increasing importance attaches to the teaching of science, and not least of domestic science. For many years there has been a continuous, if slow, rise in the number of schools in receipt of these grants, and in the number of such classes provided. The increase from 1947-48 to 1948-49 has, however, been rather remarkable. In the former year there were 261 schools in receipt of the grants, with 1,488 classes, and in the latter year 292 schools with 1,696 classes, that is, there have been an additional 31 schools and 208 classes. The increase has been most marked in general science, in domestic science, and in the general course for girls which covers physics, chemistry and hygiene. It is hoped that this trend will continue. In the modern world a knowledge of science is an essential part of a cultural as well as of any other kind of education. Moreover, in a small agricultural country, it is becoming increasingly evident that the application of science and of scientific research to what is our main industry is a prerequisite to the progress to which we all look forward, and to the stemming of emigration by advances here not only in agriculture but also in skilled industry, the two avenues by which a country without substantial mineral resources can hope to enter a world market, and to gain a strong position in the trade world.
Provision has also been made to repeat this year the two short summer courses in mathematics for teachers in girls' schools, and it is hoped that this will help to raise the standard of teaching in that very important subject. One of these courses will be given through the medium of Irish and one through English and the individual teacher may choose the course which she wishes to attend.
Some 20 or more years ago Euclid's Sequence of Propositions was discarded —which may or may not have been a good thing. Unfortunately, however, Euclid's Sequence was not replaced by a more suitable one, with the result that every textbook has now its own particular sequence. It seemed to me that nothing would be more apt to confuse the young mind than a plethora of sequences, and I have arranged for consultation between my Department and the university with a view to determining some one suitable sequence on which it is to be hoped that writers of textbooks for this country will base their works in future.
The number of choirs and orchestras on which a grant is payable has shown a steady, if slow, increase for many years. The number of choirs and orchestras concerned in 1947-48 was 188 and 53, respectively, and in 1948-49 is 193 and 54, respectively. While these figures are gratifying, I should like to see music more widely cultivated in the schools, and it is to be expected that with provision as from 1948 for special inspection to be devoted solely to music, much further progress will be made in regard to this very important subject.
With a view to encouraging the study of music, and of French and other modern languages in the secondary schools and giving recognition to their cultural value in education, I have arranged, after consultation with the various school associations, that from 1949 on the marks allocated to these subjects at the certificate examinations will be increased.
There may be other points in regard to secondary education which Deputies would like to discuss later, but, speaking generally, no great changes can occur from year to year. It has been said that "educationists are never content"; nor indeed, perhaps, ought they to be. But we have a system here that is unique in the sense that the secondary schools are all non-State schools, and the fact that relations between the school authorities and the State are so good speaks well for all concerned.
All things considered, I would say that the school authorities and teachers are, in my opinion, doing their work very efficiently and are attaining a great measure of success therein.
Unlike the primary and secondary systems, vocational education is a comparatively recent development in this and in other countries. Here it dates in the main from the Act of 1930. The promoters of that Act visualised a scheme extending to the most remote parts of the country, and their idea has become embodied in the form of the present 180 schools.
Again, unlike the primary and secondary systems, vocational education is still far from maturity, and since one of its growing pains is that its aims are often misunderstood, it may be well to try to explain briefly what these aims are.
Its functions are threefold. First of all it provides for the continued education in urban and rural areas of young people who have completed the primary school course. Secondly, it gives technical instruction as a preparation for various trades and callings— this principally in the cities and large towns. And the third, and what may prove to be not the least important, service it renders is to provide, in both town and country, education for adults.
It is not to be understood, however, that there is a very sharp distinction between these three types of education. Actually, very many schools provide all of them, and throughout all three there runs the common principle that the education and training given is based very largely on the requirements of the economic life of the district. Lest it should be thought, however, that the schools are concerned merely with what pertains to the local economic life, I should add that it is the constant care of the school authorities to see that general education, character formation, and above all, religious instruction are fully provided for, and that thus the schools are real educational institutions and not mere training centres.
Technical education was in existence before the 1930 Act, but at that time it was confined to Dublin and some of the larger towns—but even there, although the quality of the work in Dublin was very high due to the influence of the then College of Science, it was only in the embryo stage, for there were few direct contacts between the technical school and industry, and attendance at technical classes was for the young worker largely a matter of personal choice.
Now, however, the face of things has changed completely. Comprehensive apprenticeship training schemes are in operation by the Electricity Supply Board, the Society of Irish Motor Traders, Córas Iompair Éireann and the Great Northern Railway, under rules drawn up by these bodies in co-operation with the Department.
In addition to these schemes of a national scope there has been a steady increase recently of local training schemes, arranged by particular organisations working in conjunction with the vocational education committees of their areas. In Dublin, for example, affiliations exist at present between the technical schools and the following trades, professions and services: architecture, bakeries, the building trades, catering and hotel work, the cinema and theatre trade, electrical installation work, flour milling, mechanical engineering, motor car engineering, ophthalmic optics, printing and book production, quantity surveying, radio service work, watchmaking.
Continuation education extends to both rural and urban areas. It is a full-time day-school scheme for boys and girls of from 14 to 16 years of age who hope to take up employment when they have completed their course.
This type of education is often accused of not leading directly to employment, but to make such a charge is completely to misunderstand its purpose. In fact, especial care is taken to ensure that, while the course includes a substantial amount of practical instruction of one kind or another, undue specialisation is avoided, so that the pupil's choice of a career may not be limited by his being rendered unfit for, or indisposed towards, whatever openings might occur at the end of his school days.
Further, a whole-time day school system for boys and girls of 14 to 16 which confined itself to the development of some manual skill or technique and neglected the "whole man", or woman, as the case may be, would not be education at all. As I have said before, any system of education worth the name that is provided for children during their formative years must be imbued with the general purpose of education, which could hardly be better expressed than in the Department's Memorandum V.40, to which I made special reference last year. I would recommend Deputies who have not got a copy of this memorandum to apply for one through the usual channels.
"To develop, with the assistance of God's grace, the whole man, with all his faculties, natural and supernatural, so that he may realise his duties and responsibilities as a member of society, that he may contribute effectively to the welfare of his fellow men and by doing so attain the end destined for him by his Creator."
That memorandum was published a few years ago. Accordingly, all day-school programmes included, in addition to instruction in practical subjects, a certain amount of work in general subjects, including firstly instruction in religious knowledge (for which the Vocational Education Committee are indebted to the co-operation of the hierarchy and the local clergy), and, secondly, a course in the Irish language which must always have an essential educational value for an Irish man or woman.
The position of Irish in the vocational schools, while not so good in the towns as in the country, is very satisfactory when it is considered that the attendance at these schools is voluntary.
In all, 28,000 pupils attended classes in Irish in 1947-48, approximately half of these at day classes and half at night.
There is a growing effort being made to bring Irish outside the classroom, and the vocational schools generally under the stimulus of both committees and teachers are playing an increasing and a proper part in organising activities such as feiseanna, dramatic festivals, concerts, community singing, question times, and discussion groups. In this they are bringing about a most fruitful co-operation with the magnificent work done in many areas, particularly by the primary teachers. This social activity is what is most needed if the interest in the language and its increasing use is to be maintained among post-primary pupils, and extended among the adult population.
Continuation education is increasingly appreciated. It may be mentioned that shortly after the Act was passed the attendance was only-about 9,000, whereas to-day it stands at about 15,000, and that on a voluntary basis. I understand that in Dublin alone, despite the recent opening of a number of new centres, there are still upwards of 3,000 boys and girls who would attend continuation courses if the accommodation and staff were available. A development policy of extended buildings has already been agreed on in consultation with the Dublin Vocational Education Committee.
It is sound policy to place facilities for continuation education within the reach of as many of these boys and girls as possible.
Rural schools deserve special mention in the vocational education system, for in the first place they are 120 of the total 180 schools.
The typical rural school has a staff of three teachers, and serves a district of approximately six miles radius. About two-thirds of the time is devoted to teaching in the day school, and one third to evening classes either at the permanent centre or at temporary centres in the more remote parts of the district. Thus it provides courses for the young and for adults.
While the general subjects are not neglected, rural science and manual instruction for boys and domestic economy subjects for girls form the backbone of the day programme.
The instruction and guidance given by the teachers in the evening classes is no less important than their day work, and is particularly necessary inasmuch as it provides a stimulus for the adolescent and adult who otherwise would lose the desire and the capacity to learn.
The rural science teacher, for example, who is usually a university graduate in agricultural science, meets in his evening classes, or discussion groups, as they rightly tend to become, many of the more alert and progressive type of young farmers, and has there an admirable opportunity of stimulating ideas and of imparting his specialised knowledge of the science that should underlie agricultural practice. These discussion groups have already borne much fruit in the shape of young farmers' clubs, and they prepare the ground for the instructor of the county committee of agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture and I have under consideration whether it would not be possible to correlate more fully than heretofore the work of these experts serving in connection with each Department.
The manual instructor likewise gives invaluable instruction in his own sphere in both the day and evening classes. He and the rural science teacher are complementary to each other, for the one is concerned with the education of his pupil as farmer and the other with his education as a rural dweller. The manual instructor in his evening classes teaches the people to provide themselves with what they are actually in need of, while at the same time giving them hand and eye training. He teaches the superiority of work done methodically in accordance with a plan.
In recent years, owing to the dearth of skilled tradesmen, many farmers have had to undertake the erection of farm buildings themselves, and I understand that the help and advice of the manual instructor has been much appreciated in this regard and is always made freely available.
I have long had experience of the technical excellence of the work done in the City of Dublin technical schools and have been able to appreciate what a contribution it has made over many years to the economic and commercial life of the city, but here on what I might call the rural periphery of the vocational education scheme I have found in my contacts with members of the vocational committees and teachers a quickening of life and spirit at a point where education touches the life of the men and women on the land which is one of the most inspiring features in our educational world to-day. This quickened spirit is, I feel, bound to permeate the whole educational life of rural Ireland.
It is scarcely necessary for me to comment on the importance of domestic economy instruction. Whatever improves the standard of home life, indirectly raises the general standard of living and thought in the country. For many years the teachers of domestic economy have played an important part in improving material conditions in Irish homes, and will, I have no doubt, play no less a part in the future not only in regard to material conditions, but in regard to social conditions as well. They, in co-operation with organisations such as, for example, the Irish Countrywomen's Association, could, I believe, go far in changing the country's whole standard of living, in the widest sense of the term and, in so far as the Department can bring about fruitful contact and co-operation between these associations and the vocational education committees and their work, we are actively engaged in doing that.
The extension of the system from the building end was arrested in mid-career by the war, and many vocational education committees are now pressing for sanction to proceed with their building plans. In recent months I have received a number of deputations in this regard, and if I am not always in a position to accede fully to their requests, they will understand, I think, that we are doing as much for them in that way as we possibly can.
The discussions which have been taking place between ourselves and the members of the various vocational education committees have always led, not only to a better understanding, but to better progress with the work.
Notwithstanding other urgent requirements and the leeway of the war years that presses so heavily, I am glad to say that in a number of cases I was able to agree to the erection of one-roomed, two-roomed, three-roomed and four-roomed schools, and I hope that conditions in regard to finance and to materials will soon be such as to enable me to sanction the erection of many more.
In connection with the building of schools, I hope it will not be invidious to single out for special mention the community spirit of the people of Pallas, County Wexford, who contributed to the value of £400 in labour, material and site to the erection of one of these buildings in their midst. It is a special pleasure to help people who are prepared to help themselves and I should like to see many other districts emulate their example.
This is a general picture of the position of vocational education, but there are also many particular features which deserve mention. Foremost among these is perhaps the workers' courses, leading to a diploma in economic and social science, which began in the City of Cork, under the inspiration of the President of University College there, and which soon extended to Limerick and Waterford. Similar courses have since then been instituted in Dublin, with the co-operation of the Dublin City Vocational Education Committee and of the authorities of University College, Dublin.
Another useful activity that went on during the past year was the holding of short intensive courses in various crafts, for both teachers and non-teachers. For teachers there were courses in rural building construction (at Bush, County Louth); and in mechanical drawing and in rural science at Dublin. For non-teachers there were courses in farriery at Kilkenny, Ballinasloe, Cork and Kilrush; rural building construction at Roscommon; care of electric equipment in rural areas at Naas; rural science for land workers at Mallow; agricultural machinery at Cork: and rural domestic economy at Drishane, County Cork. There was also a special course in Dublin for Electricity Supply Board apprentices.
Courses of a similar type have also been provided for this year. They will comprise instruction for teachers in Irish and drama at Galway, in rural science at Dublin, in agricultural machinery at Cork and in rural building construction at Bush, County Louth. For non-teachers courses will be given this year in farriery at Dungarvan and Westport, in rural building construction at Ennis and Carrick-on-Shannon and the special course of training for Electricity Supply Board apprentices will be repeated this year at Kevin Street Technical School, Dublin.
County Cork Vocational Education Committee have placed before the Department for approval proposals for a course in music with particular reference to improving the standard of instrumental performance and training persons in the art of choral conducting. This is a development which I consider should be encouraged as being a contribution towards the brightening of rural life and the spread of cultural activities in the smaller towns and villages.
In October last I met a deputation representative of Macra na Feirme (the Association of Young Farmers' Clubs) and discussed with them ways in which the vocational education system might be better integrated with rural life and particularly may help them in some of their more pressing engineering and scientific problems. One of the results of that discussion was that the Department of Education entered into collaboration with Macra na Feirme and with five county vocational education committees in sponsoring a series of lecture-demonstrations by five commercial firms on the use of modern farm machinery.
The lecture-demonstrations were conducted during February of this year and were very successful, both from the point of view of the numbers attending and their enthusiasm. This is a form of practical adult education which I feel will be of value to the farming community in making them aware of modern approaches to farm-work, and in teaching them how to carry out for themselves repairs to farm machinery, and other operations which the farmer might do on his own farm with a minimum of equipment.
The firms who took part in this activity were: The Ford Company, Ferguson Company, International Harvester Company, Allis-Chalmers Company, the lecture centres for each firm being Dungarvan, Kilkenny, Athy, Ballinasloe and Ardee, respectively. It is remarkable what advance can be made in bringing instruction and assistance to the farmer when he gets the co-operation of the organised young farmers and the co-operation of the vocational education committees and their teachers, the Department and the firms whose machines are being used, who, naturally, have a technical understanding of the work which even the teachers or those engaged in education purely and simply cannot be expected to have.
With regard to reformatory and industrial schools, in St. Conleth's, Daingean, the sole boys' reformatory school, there is accommodation for 250 boys, and on the 31st December, 1948, there were under detention there 207. Approval has been given for the provision of improved accommodation in this school by the erection of two new wings, which will contain classrooms, dormitories, ablution rooms and workshops. One of these wings has been completed, and the question of when the building of the other may be undertaken is under consideration at the moment. The total number of girls under detention in the two reformatory schools for girls on 31st December, 1948, was 36, of whom seven were in one school and 29 in the other school.
In boys' industrial schools there is accommodation for 3,394, and the number under detention on 31st December, 1948, was 2,937. The number for which there is accommodation in girls industrial schools is 4,351, and the number under detention on 31st December, 1948, was 3,271. All these schools are under the direct general and medical supervision of qualified officers of the Department, and are visited frequently for that purpose.
Nearly 2,600 children were given home leave in 1948 and the Department is satisfied that the school managers allow children home on holidays in all cases where it is possible to do so without prejudice to the children's own best interests.
Where it is not possible or not desirable to allow children out of school, arrangements have been made, as in former years, for special picnics, excursions and outings for the children who were not allowed holidays.
Complaints have been received that, owing to lack of vacancies in the Dublin industrial schools, it has been necessary to commit boys to schools at a distance, thus rendering it inconvenient and expensive for poor parents to visit their children. To remedy this, arrangements have been made with the Christian Brothers for the establishment of an additional school for 250 boys at Celbridge. Construction is now in progress, and it is expected that it will have so far advanced by early in 1950 that it will be possible to accommodate 100 boys there by then.
The only place of detention under the direct control of the Department is that at Marlborough House, Glasnevin, where there is accommodation for 50 boys. The average daily number under detention for the 12 months ending 28th February, 1949, was 11, and the greatest number under detention on any one day was 21.
In relation to Vote 49 there is no change in the Grant-in-Aid for the purchase of books for the National Library. The principal feature of note in this regard this year is that the Ormonde manuscripts, for which a Supplementary Estimate of £20,000 was passed last year, have been deposited in the library and that it is hoped that arrangements will be completed very shortly for them to become the property of the nation.
These documents, which were in the possession of the Ormonde estate and were preserved in the Muniment Room of Kilkenny Castle, now constitute the largest and most important collection of mediæval and modern records extant in Ireland.
During the year also many collections of family papers, rentals and other documents relating to Ireland were acquired by the National Library.
Two exhibitions were arranged in the main hall during the year, the first being an exhibition of books and documents relating to Cashel which attracted a large number of visitors.
The collection of Irish maps, ranging from the end of the 16th century up to date, which is at present being exhibited in the main hall, has created considerable interest and has brought many orders for photostat copies of the maps.
The grant for the survey and reproduction of Irish historical records in foreign collections remains also at the same figure.
There is a reduction of £1,000 in the amount provided for the Grant-in-Aid for purchases for the National Museum, but in actual fact there was well over £1,000 in this expense account on the 1st April, 1949, which offsets the reduction.
Although lack of space precludes from having in the museum all that might be desired, many improvements in regard to space, lighting and equipment have been made there in recent years. Noteworthy in the last year has been the exhibition of Spanish folk art, which concluded some days ago.
One valuable acquisition to the museum during the last year was the Grattan Liberty Boxes, kindly presented, on permanent loan, by Lord Iveagh.
Another was the priceless national relic, the Lismore Crozier and its Shrine, kindly presented, on permanent loan, by the Marquis and Marchioness of Hartington.
Under this Vote, too, a number of miscellaneous matters are provided for. There are summer courses in music. These courses, conducted by musicians of high repute from Great Britain and the Continent, have proved highly popular and useful and were attended, not only by people who were interested professionally, but by many members of the public who were attracted by the lectures on musical appreciation. It is proposed to continue them on approximately the same scale in 1949-50.
The allowances or scholarships for post-graduate scientific research have been increased somewhat to meet the increased cost of living, and are otherwise retained on the same scale as before.
They are intended to give Irish students of proven ability an opportunity of making a beginning in scientific research here, and it is hoped that this grant may have some small effect in influencing the more brilliant of our young graduates, who are in such demand abroad, to devote themselves to industrial or other forms of scientific research in their own country.
The grant to the Folklore Commission has been increased to £12,000 in recognition of well-directed efforts to preserve all that still survives of the distinctive culture of the past. It is hoped that this increase may enable the commission to secure adequate accommodation, to offer the collectors and the staff generally the attraction of secure remuneration and, in general, that it may place the commission in the position of being able to develop its plans free from the heretofore perennial problem of how to make ends meet.
After careful survey of the activities of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge since its inception and after evaluating as closely as was possible the results that might be said to have been achieved I decided to reduce the grant to that body by £2,000. In the letter to the Comhdháil conveying my decision I made clear the reasons underlying my action. They were not actuated by motives of mere economy but by a genuine doubt as to whether adequate results were accruing from the annual grant being made. I made suggestions which, if carried out, would, I think, make more fruitful the work of the Comhdháil.
I have increased the grant to Taidhdhearc na Gaillimhe by £1,000. The directors of that theatre have decided to extend the sphere of their activities in future by staging plays locally in the neighbouring Gaeltacht areas and that is a development which I consider deserves the fullest support.
I have also increased the grant to Compántas Amharclainne na Gaeilge, in this case by £200. It is generally admitted that the Compántas has done valuable work in producing bilingual variety shows, which can be followed and enjoyed by those who have only a slight knowledge of Irish. It is well known that they are very considerably hampered by the amount of rent they have to pay for the hiring of a theatre.
In the Estimate for the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies the apparent additional increase of £12,120 in sub-head A is due to the fact that savings amounting to £10,000 under this sub-head were credited in the recent Supplementary Estimate to sub-head B, where £10,000 more than originally estimated was required. The Institute had effected considerable savings on administration and on various schools, and in addition, a balance had been carried over from previous years.
On the other hand, it will be noted that there is a reduction of £10,000 in the amount provided under sub-head B due to the fact that the work of reconstruction at Dunsink Observatory and at No. 5, Merrion Square, is nearing completion.
The actual increase of £2,120 arises mainly for rent arrears which, for some time, have been outstanding.