Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Primary Schools Programme.

asked the Minister for Education whether he will consider taking steps to ensure that children attending schools under his control in rural areas shall receive suitable instruction in agricultural science and domestic economy.

Needlework is a compulsory subject for all girls in the third standard and upwards in national schools, but domestic economy (apart from needlework) and rural science (or nature study) are optional subjects of the programme. Following on the recommendations of the national programme conference, rural science (or nature study) was in 1926 made obligatory except in certain of the smaller schools, but it was considered necessary in 1934 to make the subject optional with a view to lightening the school programme. For a variety of reasons, however, teachers find it difficult to provide for instruction in rural science and domestic economy, with the result that they are not widely taught in national schools.

The question of increasing the number of obligatory subjects is one which would require the most careful examination because of the many factors which enter into the problem, such as the length of the school day, the relative importance of the various subjects, the provision of the necessary facilities, etc., coupled with the fact that the programme is necessarily based upon a school-leaving age of 14. I could not, therefore, in present circumstances, answer the Deputy's question affirmatively, but as far as domestic economy is concerned it is well to note that, with the continuing spread of the facilities afforded by the vocational schools, better provision is being made for the effective training of girls in this branch than could normally be given in primary schools.

Arising out of the Minister's reply, in view of his reference to the fact that the school programme is limited because the school-leaving age is fixed at 14 years, can the Minister say if any consideration has been given to the raising of the school-leaving age?

I cannot say anything on that matter at the moment.