I do not think that Deputy Moylan was quite correct when he said that no copies of the Minister's statement were made available. Outside the door of the Chamber there are at least 150 copies of the Minister's statement available for Deputies. What perturbs me is that the statement is completely in Irish.
Committee on Finance. - Vóta 39—Oifig an Aire Oideachais (d'atógaint).
English translations are available.
The copies available in the Lobby are in Irish.
Both Irish and English.
There are at least 100 copies in Irish.
There must be the same number in English.
I fail to see the necessity for issuing that number of copies for Deputies when not more than 15 or 20 Deputies will take part in the debate and the full statement of the Minister will be embodied in the Official Report.
On the general question of education, I maintain that this is really the most important Estimate that comes before this House, no matter how strongly Deputies may feel on other matters. Fundamentally, the future of this country depends on the type of citizens produced and the education given to those citizens. Not alone is the Department of Education of importance with regard to the situation in Ireland but it has a bearing on the viewpoint taken by people outside this country. In other words, we export one out of three of our growing population and it is essential, in view of the fact that we are unable to give a living to them at home that, if they do happen to go, we should send them, not as hewers of wood and drawers of water, but fitted for and capable of taking up reasonably good positions abroad.
I do not think that that is the position at the present time. It may be said that as far as our university graduates are concerned, the professional group, engineers and doctors, are in a position to take their rightful place in society abroad. That may be but, for every university graduate that leaves the country, one thousand individuals leave who have not gone past the primary education stage. It is in this connection that I wish first of all to deal with the problem of primary education.
Straight away, I agree wholeheartedly with Deputy Moylan who pointed out that the curriculum of primary schools is overloaded. I do not think that that can be contradicted and it is one of the greatest faults with regard to the primary school programme. Apart from the curriculum, one of the greatest drawbacks at the present time is the condition of our schools. I am not in a position to deal with the city areas but the number of schools that need replacement at the present moment is astounding.
In the course of Dáil questions, I extracted from the Minister certain information in regard to the number of schools that needed complete replacement, the number of schools that needed reconstruction and I also got from him the figures of the money spent on large schools and the amount spent on the smaller groups. I asked a Dáil question of the Minister as to why, in view of the necessity for keeping people on the land, adequate attention and equitable treatment had not been given to proposals for the building and reconstruction of small and average-sized rural schools and whether in connection with the building of new schools official cognisance has been given only to what are regarded as large and important schools in urban areas. The Minister's reply was:—
"It is not a fact nor is there any foundation for the assertion that adequate attention and equitable treatment have not been given to proposals for the building and reconstruction of small and average-sized schools."
That reply from the Minister is a denial of the suggestion in my question. I think the Minister should be very careful when he gives replies in this House. I do not know whether the Minister recollected that there was a number of written replies as well as ones for oral answers. Although the Minister denied in his oral reply that the rural areas were neglected, in the written reply the figures themselves prove that in the erection of schools priority was undoubtedly given to the building of large schools in rural areas.
According to the Minister's replies, there is a total of 822 primary schools needing completion. That is a tremendous number—822 schools need to be demolished and replaced and another 161 need reconstruction and enlargement urgently. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that many of these schools to-day are nothing but hovels, unfit to house animals not to speak of bringing in young children to give them an education.
The position has got so serious that we have had the sight of frantic parents in a number of instances withdrawing their children from these hovels in a form of strike in order to spotlight the shameful conditions which obtain with regard to the teaching of the children. None of us agrees with strikes. I, at the time, emphasised to the Minister that, because some parents found it desirable in their own outlook to cause a strike, no priority would be given towards the erection of a school in a locality in which a strike took place. I do not like to see these strikes taking place but it proves how shocking the conditions are in some of these schools that the parents were driven to take that step. I maintain it is impossible to give anything like a decent education in some of these hovels.
In the course of a further question to the Minister I asked him the number and addresses of the schools in respect of which proposals for replacement or reconstruction are under consideration for more than five years. The Minister's reply to that was that he regretted he was unable to give the information requested in the Deputy's question since its compilation would involve the expenditure of a considerable amount of official time which he was satisfied would not be warranted.
The position is that we need 822 new schools. I asked the Minister a simple question. In how many of these cases was application made over five years ago? The Minister tells me he is not in a position to give that information. In other words, the Minister, for some purpose, possibly in order not to have the Department disgraced, will not give the information to the House as to the number out of these 822 schools that have applied for replacement five, six, seven, eight, nine and perhaps ten years ago.
If the Minister wants to tell me that the number of applications that are awaiting attention for over five years is small, where then lies all the great work in the Department? Why is it impossible for the Minister to make that small number available? Am I not correct in assuming that the number is large—that it is a large percentage of the 822 involved?
That is only part of the story. I should have thought that the Minister would have been more than anxious to clear his Department of any blame by giving to the House and to the country the number of applications made to his Department which have been lodged for over five years for the replacement or erection of new schools. I would have thought that it would have been a simple matter for him to do that.
Having regard to the rate of progress at the moment with the replacement of these schools, how many years will we have to wait for the 822 schools, to say nothing of the 161 schools that need reconstruction? It is an admitted fact that this year money is short for all capital development purposes. I presume that the Department of Education has to suffer the same as every other Department and that the amount of money available is being reduced.
In so far as primary education is concerned, there should be a fair proportion of whatever amount of money is laid out or expended on primary schools in rural areas. I can only go back for the past three years but I suggest that priority has been given over the past three years to the erection of large schools in urban areas.
The Deputy was given a considerable amount of information. Would he indicate what items in the information he got is evidence of that?
I am coming to that. I do not intend to leave the Minister under a wrong impression with regard to his own replies. I said that priority should be given towards the erection of small schools and medium-sized schools in the backward areas especially. I think, when it is a question of a choice between a school going up in Dublin, Mullingar or Cork as against schools in the rural areas in Donegal, Galway and elsewhere, priority should be given to the schools in the rural areas.
In reply to a question yesterday, I asked the Minister if he would state the grant expenditure on new schools and the reconstruction and improvement of existing schools for the years 1953-54, 1954-55, and 1955-56. In the year 1953-54, a sum of £1,071,000 odd was spent on the construction of new schools and the reconstruction of existing schools. Of that sum, £631,000 odd was spent on the construction of schools where the grant exceeded £10,000. In other words, 17 schools were built and the cost of the 17 schools was £631,000. That left less than £400,000 for the rural areas. Is that a fair proportion?
Over the last three years, a sum of £3,163,000—leaving out the last few pounds in the figure—was spent on the construction and improvement of schools. Of that, a sum of £1,300,000 went towards the construction of schools where the minimum grant was £10,000. In the three years, 48 schools were built where the grant exceeded £10,000. I can bring it down to an average for the Minister and ask him whether he would contradict this for the three years: 48 schools were built at an average cost of £27,000 each, making a total of almost £1,300,000. That is what 48 schools cost and the total amount available in the three years was a little over £3,000,000.
Where, then, was the fair treatment given to the small and middle-sized schools, if over 40 per cent. of the total amount available for the construction of schools was spent on the large schools in the rural areas? I do not think there is any justification whatever for that type of expenditure. When we have 822 schools needing replacement, I think it is ridiculous to build palatial schools. I understand that the Government is short of money and when that is so why not have a reasonable approach to meet the problems with regard to education? Why not try to meet the urgent needs of the rural areas instead of concentrating to a great extent—as the Department has done—on the needs in cases where the pressure is the greatest?
I know perfectly well deputations will come to different Ministers and put up strong cases but is it because these deputations are led by prominent people who carry a lot of weight that priority is to be given to the erection of schools to suit these people? Is it because you have groups of parishioners in backward parishes who are never heard of, and who never see their local T.D. except once in three or four years who are quite and peaceful, that their applications can be left lying on the shelf for seven or eight or nine years?
The Deputy is talking generalities. If he could give us the name of a school or the name of the places, we would have something into which to get our teeth.
I asked the Minister to give me the number and addresses of schools in respect of which proposals for replacement or reconstruction have been under consideration for more than five years. The Minister's reply was that he regretted that he was unable to give the information since its compilation would involve the expenditure of a considerable amount of official time which, he was satisfied, would not be warranted. Why does the Minister ask me a question when the information is available in his Department and he refuses to supply it?
I am asking the Deputy a very simple question: could he name one or two of the schools he is talking about, palatial or otherwise?
Does the Minister deny that schools are at present being built where applications are in for six or seven or eight years and where the old buildings are in a shocking condition? Can the Minister deny that?
I tell the Deputy he is talking generalities. His speech would be much more pointed and effective if he would give the names of one or two of the schools he is talking about.
I have no intention of engaging in cross-fire with the Minister on this matter. I asked the Minister a very simple question and he had time and a complete Department available with figures and statistics to let him know how many schools were awaiting attention for over five years. Yet the Minister could not give me even that little bit of information and I must assume that the reason he did not do so was that it would blow the lid off the entire Department if the information was disclosed.
I do not know what interpretation I am entitled to put on the Deputy's generalities.
I cannot help the Minister. All I wish to say to the Minister is that if he can prove to the satisfaction of this House that the figures I have given are wrong I will be the first to apologise. If the Minister can tell me that priority—I shall not even go that far—that a fair distribution of the money made available for construction of national schools, was given to rural areas compared with what was given to city schools and if he can prove that, I will accept it. I do not think any more need be said about it.
I would point out to the Minister that in his reply I do not want to be given the same type of statement as when he said that the number of grants sanctioned in recent years for school building projects in rural areas has been considerably greater than that sanctioned in respect of schools in urban areas. That is perfectly true; the number of grants sanctioned may be greater, naturally, because there are more schools in rural Ireland than there are in the cities and towns. But how is it, that of the amount of money available, a fair proportion was not given to the rural areas? Why was not more than 50 per cent. made available so far as rural areas were concerned? It goes to show, in my opinion, that the strong bias that should exist towards rural education and the development of rural Ireland is lacking at the top so far as the Department of Education is concerned. So much for the primary schools.
I would like the Minister to give us the percentage of pupils who, having obtained their primary certificate, then go on and seek a secondary education? What percentage of the primary students have the opportunity of getting a secondary education? I am sure the Minister has that figure available—does he want me to give it to him? Deputy Moylan is quite right when he points out that at the present time the slant in secondary education is towards what he described as the overcrowded Civil Service and other professions. Being a skilled politician, he did not give us any idea of what these other professional classes are. Of the total number of boys going through national schools only a minimum number have an opportunity of getting—poor and all though it may be —secondary education. The slant for secondary education is all wrong. It is geared to the outlook of 100 years ago. To a great extent, of course, it caters for the people who go on for the Civil Service, for the church and for other professions. As far as giving an idea to a young fellow on business or anything else is concerned, it is the last thing that enters into the minds of the people who set out the curricula or the training programmes in the secondary schools.
In so far as scholarships and burses are concerned in regard to secondary schools, we compare most unfavourably with our neighbours in the other part of this divided State. I have not got the figures for last year, but in the previous year we gave burses and scholarships amounting to £150,000 when, in the Six Counties, the amount given was £600,000. With a population of 40 per cent. of our population, they were able to put up burses and scholarships of just four times the amount put up by the institutions in this State. There is no need to comment on the comparison there.
The whole trouble here, when people speak on this Estimate, is that they are likely to be misrepresented both inside and outside the House. I think that is one of the reasons why so few Deputies take the opportunity of speaking on this Estimate. It is essential that a lot of the fog should be cleared away from a number of matters involved in the Estimate. In connection with secondary education, I understand there are a number of grievances among the teachers, among the parents and, naturally, among the pupils with regard to the extraordinarily harsh papers set for the intermediate and leaving certificate examinations. A number of teachers in various parts of the country have drawn attention to this matter over the past two or three years.
I have examined the matter, looked at some of the papers and have satisfied myself that there is a strong case to be met. I hope the few remarks I make on this matter will be studied in the Department and, if possible, that sympathetic consideration will be given to the suggestion that drastic changes will be made in regard to certain examinations. I shall give details here in respect of the mathematical papers set for the intermediate and leaving certificate examinations.
The first paper with which I shall deal is the geometry paper in the honours leaving certificate examination. The time for the paper is two and a half hours. From 1934 to 1943 there were ten questions on the paper. The pupils had a choice of four, having had to answer six out of the ten questions. That choice existed up to 1948. Then there was a change, the pupils having to answer six out of nine questions. In 1953 there was another change, the pupils then being required to answer seven out of eight questions. The same applied in 1954. I cannot see the reason for the change which left the children with no choice. It is a most heartening thing for young people going into an examination room and looking down through a paper, to see that there is a choice. They can then select the questions which they are confident of handling and leave the knotty problems until later. If a young person looks at his paper, sees no choice and finds that the first couple of questions are likely to stick him, it is possible he will do badly on the whole paper. There is a psychological matter involved in that.
I think the reason why there is no choice given is that it makes it easier on the man who is setting the paper or on the person who is examining the paper afterwards. As I said, two and a half hours is the period laid out for that paper. I regard that as entirely inadequate for the answering of seven questions, especially for an honours paper in geometry. It is injurious to the health of any young person. I shall now run briefly through the other papers. For the algebra paper, the time for which is two and a half hours, also between 1935 and 1948 the pupils had to answer six out of ten questions. In 1953 they had to answer seven out of eight; the same applied in 1954. With regard to arithmetic, from 1936 to 1948 six out of nine questions had to be answered. In 1953 six out of seven had to be answered and in 1954 seven out of seven.
I think that is ridiculous. Why give no choice? There is no excuse for this kind of thing. The number of questions to be answered have been increased and the pupil has no choice. Young people going to school to-day are no more supermen than they were 15 or 20 years ago, and it is unfair to have made the examinations more difficult. I would suggest to the Minister that those responsible for the setting of these papers should be smartened up. They should remember that they have gone past their youth, that the examinations they are setting are for young people who go into examination rooms very often trembling and nervous. Many of the people who set those papers had a choice themselves and there is no need for them to be unmerciful at this stage, whether they be civil servants or university authorities. Whoever they are, they are not doing a good job.
The final point I should like to make has been mentioned here by both the Minister and by Deputy Moylan. I want to know what is the official policy with regard to the revival or the restoration of the Irish language. This is where a Deputy treads on very dangerous ground. Horns will be put on a man in here if he makes a mistake in his wording, and I will have to call on the Man above for guidance that I do not put my two feet in it and leave myself open to all sorts of attacks by pressure groups both inside and outside the House.
I ask the question in view of a statement that appears in to-day's newspapers. I have a copy of theIrish Independent, but the report appears in the other papers as well. A statement was made at the I.N.T.O. course in University College, Galway, by Donnchadh Ó Laoire. He was speaking on standardising Irish and said that the setting up of a Gaeltacht Department should be welcomed as the most practical step taken in the language cause since Irish was first placed on the curriculum of our schools. He suggested that an effort should be made without delay to undertake the task of evolving the basis for a standardised national language.
I should like to know what is the Minister's view on that. Have we reached the stage now, after 34 years of trying to restore the language in a certain form, that we now admit failure and that we have decided we will get away from dialects? Is there only one way now to revive the language—by standardising it? That statement and the views taken by a number of people in the Department mean that we have been all wrong in our approach to the question of the revival of the Irish language since 1922. This is very important because the people as a whole have to pay for the expenditure involved in this and I have no doubt that the public are not too critical if they know that that money is being spent properly and wisely. The general public are very patient on this matter of the revival of the language, but I do not think the general public will keep their patience much longer if they find that from 1922 to 1956 all the money that went into the various dialects has been wasted——
Who says that?
——and that the attempt will now be made to put a standardised Irish language on the market.
Who says that?
The Minister, I am sure, follows the statements made by very prominent people in the revival of the Irish language—and numbers of them are within his own Department— who have been trying in recent years to introduce a standardised form of the language. Surely the Minister does not deny that such an attempt is being made?
The Minister has no responsibility for the utterances of people outside this House.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the Minister is responsible for statements made outside this House. He himself has made a few statements outside this House which may be commented upon.
I would be complimented to hear them commented on, but if I was expected to hunt all the hares that appear on the ground I would be looking for something like myxomatosis.
I would not wish that on the Minister but I happened to be lucky enough to listen to Radio Eireann last Friday when a speech by the Minister in Donegal was being discussed. I am sure the Minister will not deny this. I took down the exact words. He was speaking to the people in a rural area in Donegal, an area I presume where emigration is just as familiar to the people as it is to Deputy O'Donovan, the Parliamentary Secretary. I will give the Minister's own words. He said: "The Irish language is like Jacob's Ladder. It is a direct link between Heaven and earth for the Irish people."
Not exactly my words.
With no disrespect, I think that is going a little bit too far. The interpretation, if I want to put it on the statement, is that before long it will be essential for every Irishman to know the Irish language before St. Peter will allow him in.
I will send the Deputy a copy of my speech. It was not in English and did not quite contain that sentence.
I did not hear the Minister saying it but I have heard those words exactly as quoted on Radio Éireann and surely Radio Éireann will not misrepresent the Minister.
There was a lot more added to it.
I can assure the Minister the radio report of the Deputy's remarks on the Irish language contained these words: "The Irish language is like Jacob's Ladder. It is a direct link between Heaven and earth for the Irish people."
Is there not something in it?
I hope there is quite a number of ladders and I hope no attempt is being made to cut away all the other ladders for Heaven and have only that one there with the Minister for Education, I presume, standing at the top of the ladder to decide who has the Irish language when they go up for admittance.
Is there any suggestion that other ladders as a means of communication between man and Heaven were laid aside or denied?
I am afraid I am not familiar with the remainder of the Minister's oration in Donegal.
I shall send the Deputy a copy.
Unfortunately, Radio Éireann did not give any more of the speech than I have quoted. They may have given another sentence or two but the speech as a whole should now be made clear, because possibly a wrong impression has been created in the minds of the public who listened in to Radio Éireann on this occasion.
They are not all too gullible.
I think the Minister should assure us here, since the Leas-Cheann Comhairle rules me out of order for quoting people who are outside this House, that so far as the language is concerned no further experimenting will be made with it. Goodness knows, the people concerned find it hard enough to deal with it as it is. The dialectical forms of the West, of Cork and Donegal are there for a long time and these people should not be asked at this stage to throw up that for the sake of a language that will be imposed on them, a manufactured language made up by a group of geniuses sitting in some back room with marbles in their mouths trying to find words that can be pronounced by people all over the country, having these particular words manufactured so that they will suit Donegalmen, Corkmen and Connemaramen as well. I am glad if I can take the Minister as making it clear that there is no intention of having this programme carried out, whether these pressure groups insist or otherwise, and I am sure the Minister is well aware that some of these pressure groups are making no bones——
Could I give the Deputy the further consolation that I spoke to the Irish-speaking people of Glencolumbcille in the best Munster Irish I had available and there was no misunderstanding between us, even about Jacob's Ladder?
I do not suppose there would be any misunderstanding about Jacob's Ladder. I presume the Minister did make that statement about Jacob's Ladder?
I said a lot more about Jacob's Ladder.
It is a pity the Minister would not make a copy of that available.
I shall send the Deputy a copy.
I would be very interested in it.
He is anxious to get on to the ladder.
There are not many rungs in that ladder as it stands at the moment. I am glad the Minister has given the assurance that there is no question of imposing what I describe as a form of illegitimate language on the dialects that exist there now.
Our university system is a bit outmoded and needs a little bringing up to modern standards. We have 30 members in the Senate of the National University.
I understand we are not dealing with that particular Vote.
I thought some of the university moneys came under this.
That being so, it rules out a lot of what I had intended to say now.
Beidh lá eile agat.
I shall deal now with national schools.
The Deputy is nearer now.
We see anonymous letters in the local papers daily, signed by people who have not the courage to append their signatures, calling for an end to punishment in the schools. "Spare the rod and spoil the child." I do not advocate injuring any child but neither do I want to encourage "Teddy-boyism" of the morrow. The foundation of our future citizens can be laid in the schools. We hear a lot of talk about the right of the pupil but I think the pupil should be taught not only his rights but his duties, not forgetting his duties to his neighbour.
I should like to see more effective co-operation between the different Departments. It could be done so far as the Department of Health and the Forestry Branch are concerned. Let it be a deciding factor, under certain circumstances, that a child should be inoculated against diphtheria before allowing that child to go for examinations. Furthermore, I should be very pleased if in county districts our children were taught to play their part to a greater extent on Arbor Days. Our school books should encourage children to be tree-minded.
Surely that is the responsibility of another Minister?
I quite agree but I have asked for the co-operation of the schools in this connection. Many of us have reached our present age without becoming tree-minded, unfortunately.
I would urge that a proper wording of our National Anthem should be issued to the schools and that it should not be used as we see it now, for the benefit of certain political Parties. Reference has been made to the building of schools.
The Deputy got away from that very quickly. That was a hit and run case.
Stay in the North, like a "guid mon". On the subject of school building, I would ask the Minister not to confine himself to the "school around the corner". We have schools in my constituency some of which are not fit for cattle. I have brought them to the Minister's attention and I should like him to expedite school re-building in the areas in question.
As my friend, Deputy McQuillan, has apparently climbed Jacob's Ladder, I will come back to the few points on which he concentrated. Like Deputy Moylan, a few of us are interested in the educational problems confronting this nation from the point of view of the primary schools. When it comes to secondary and higher education, there is a protection for the parents and children concerned—a variety of schools, and so on—which does not exist in the case of the primary school child.
Like many other Deputies, I find it necessary to draw attention to the condition of many of our primary schools. As the Minister pointed out, certain progress has been made; that is true not only of his term of office but of the term of office of Deputy Moylan. There is one point in this connection which has not been touched upon either by the Minister or other Deputies. The hold-up in the building of new schools is very often due to under-staffing somewhere. It may be in the Architectural Division of the Board of Works or in that section of the Department of Education which is handling this matter. I am convinced that, because of under staffing somewhere, many new school buildings which are urgently required in rural areas are not being erected. If that is so, I would ask the Minister to do all in his power to ensure that, if the problem is being solved satisfactorily in his Department, something is done in relation to under-staffing so far as the architectural side of the work is concerned.
Those of us who were educated in some of those old school buildings can testify that some of them are fit to be anything but schoolhouses. We know what it is to spend from 9 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. for five days of the week in those old buildings. Very often, the conditions there are merely an incentive to the school-children to get out as soon as they can because of the atmosphere pervading the old buildings where they must spend so many hours. It is true, of course, that the school-teacher, too, is faced with the problem of having to spend his working hours there as well. At the moment, I consider it to be my duty to urge the speeding-up of the school-building programme in rural Ireland from the point of view of the school-children.
I notice, when travelling to Dublin each week, that in different towns there are some excellent new school-buildings. The Minister and his Department may justifiably say that the schools must be enlarged in view of the child population in these areas. We appreciate that point and it is well to see these new buildings. Because of our obligations to our constituencies, some Deputies have to travel to remote parts of the country and then we are bound to compare the conditions prevailing in these remote areas with the conditions which obtain in other areas through which we pass on our way to Dublin so far as schools are concerned.
In his opening statement the Minister referred to the birth rate. I know a few schools where at the present time the reverend manager and the teachers are striving to get additional rooms although in some instances they are fairly new schools which were erected only about ten or 12 years ago. In my own parish, even when the planning of the school was undertaken some 14 or 15 years ago, the Department and the officials concerned were strongly advised by the reverend manager and the school-teacher that the proposed building would not be large enough. They had to provide all the relevant information as to the number of children baptised within a few years prior to that time, the number of school-going children and so on. Common sense should have prevailed. Having regard to the information supplied to the Department at that time by the reverend manager and the school-teacher, and all concerned locally, they are justified in their criticism of the erection of a school which is now found to be too small for the area.
Therefore, it is essential that there should be more flexibility in policy in relation to the erection of school-buildings in rural Ireland. More space than is required to meet the immediate demand should be provided in the hope that the child population of the area will increase and that, in that event, there will be accommodation for them in the local schools so that it will not be necessary to incur extra expenditure as a result of bad planning in the beginning.
I am very pleased to note the Minister's statement in relation to new schools for handicapped children and the system of education adopted for such children. To me, that is one of the highlights of the Estimate. I may be biased but I am more interested in hearing that than I am to hear of any matter in connection with the National Art Gallery or the Arts Council. Undoubtedly, these matters are of concern to many people but to me the question of handicapped children takes precedence over them. It is an awful thought that in years past there was no form of education available to many of these unfortunate children. While the Minister has good news in regard to that item, which I appreciate, I would ask him and, through him, the Government, to intensify that policy, whatever our difficulties in regard to finance may be, because the duty is imposed on every Deputy, whether supporting the Government or in opposition, of providing whatever advantage is possible for these unfortunate children.
Reference has been made to secondary schools. The Minister said that while there were many critics of the form of education in some of the secondary schools, our secondary schools are good shapers of character. I hope he is right. I am not so sure. The secondary schools under the control of the Christian Brothers are a credit to this country and may be truly termed real shapers of character, but I am afraid that quite a few of the secondary schools are not shapers of character but shapers of snobocracy.
The old school-tie system, which the Minister and members on the other side of the House fought against and which was predominant in this country at that time through the foreign system of secondary education that was imposed on this country, is still present in many of our secondary schools. Credit must be given for the form of secondary education that is given in the Christian Brothers' schools and in many other schools. Reference is often made to the fact that many Corkmen come to Dublin on a single ticket. Probably in the Minister's Department there are quite a few Corkmen and quite a few come through the Christian Brothers' schools, not through the other schools, which I am not so sure are shapers of character.
The problem of vocational schools is a big problem. Coupled with it is a matter raised by Deputy Moylan, the raising of the school leaving age. The raising of the school leaving age must be considered in regard to the number of school buildings available and the accommodation in them and also in relation to the number of teachers. I am not saying that it has been the policy of the Minister or his Department but I am afraid that, because of lack of co-operation somewhere or other, we are not making any progress in this matter. There should be in the national schools some form of vocational teaching which would introduce vocational education to the boys and girls. It might be possible to get the co-operation of the county vocational education committees in providing classes in national schools on one or two evenings in the week which would be a stepping-stone for pupils in the sixth or seventh standards in the national schools who would desire to proceed to the vocational schools or even to secondary schools. I know that very often there is lack of co-operation even on the part of the local manager in that respect but it should be possible to have a vocational teacher travelling in rural areas and spending a few hours in some of the national schools, not of course in the obsolete buildings about which we are all complaining but in some of the newer school-buildings. It would be a way of introducing vocational education to the children. It might prevent them from getting into their minds the idea that when their primary education is finished there is nothing for them but to look for any job that may come their way.
Education in the secondary schools and colleges gives those who can avail of it an avenue to a better life. A system embracing the national schools and the vocational schools might help us somewhat in the rural areas. Owing to the enormous cost of building, it would be impossible for us to expect additional vocational schools in the many centres in which we would like to have them. To remedy this situation, it would be necessary for us to explore the possibility of having co-operation between the national schools and the vocational schools.
I now want to refer to what might be called the hardy annual. It concerns the matter of school-books. I remember, when Deputy Moylan was Minister, he gave an extraordinary answer. He said that as far as he was concerned, at any rate, it would be impossible to have the books handed from one child to another because when the children had finished with the new books they were cast aside. I do not agree. Indeed, I am convinced that there is a vicious ring operating somewhere. I am also convinced that the type of book which suits a boy in the fourth standard should suffice for a younger brother when he leaves third class.
I am convinced that there are too many changes in relation to the type of books in use. It is not the children who ultimately complain. As youths ourselves, we can all remember the excitement which new books caused to us—an excitement not derived from the knowledge contained in the books but merely from looking at them but there is little excitement among the parents when they get a hefty bill from the local school-teacher or when they go into the bookshops in Cork City and are told the price of the books. This system is one that must be radically changed for the benefit of the parents who have to pay the piper.
Much comment was made in regard to overcrowded syllabuses in the national schools. I believe that the children are being forced to take up too many subjects. We seem to be drifting away from the necessity of instilling into the minds of the children in rural areas the importance of rural life and agricultural science. We are endeavouring to convince parents that if Johnny or Mary finish their primary education all they have to do is to spend a year or two in a secondary college or commercial school in Cork City and all the jobs in the commercial world are available for them. We know that that is not true. In our educational policy, we are not striving to instil into the minds of the people in the rural areas the importance of agriculture.
The fewer foreign languages we teach the better. We can get on all right without them. Perhaps we could even climb Deputy McQuillan's Jacob's Ladder without them. The minds of the children in the rural areas are directed towards faraway places and our policy should be to direct them towards the rural areas and the importance of agriculture.
Deputy McQuillan spoke about the overall policy relating to the Irish language. I do not worry whether people here or outside are upset by what I have to say. I say it because it is essential for me to do so. There is something very wrong from the point of view of the children in regard to the language. We all want to see the Gaeltacht protected, preserved and improved but I ask the Minister is it fair to continue a policy of victimisation of the child who comes from an area which cannot be classified as a Gaeltacht area?
Much has been said in regard to the system of education and we always hear the old saying: God be with the good old days. Apparently, the national teachers of 70 years ago were far ahead of the present-day teachers as a whole. There are many children in the Gaeltacht who qualify, go into the colleges and advance further. Their ambition is—and nobody can blame them—to improve their knowledge, not of Irish of which they have a fair share already, but their knowledge of the English language.
It is all right to pursue a policy of preferential treatment but we ought not deny an equal opportunity to the boy or girl from Cork City, for example, who, when they enter for an examination, are placed in a difficult position from the start. In the first place, their whole life is one in which Irish is not spoken. The environment in which they live is not Gaelic and yet they can in an examination get 60 or 65 marks in Irish and maybe up to 70 marks. In regard to all other subjects they may get anything from 75 to 80 marks. On the other hand, the boy or girl from the Gaeltacht may scrape through the other subjects but because they excel in the Irish language there are so many places provided in the colleges for them. That is the point I should like to make clear.
I do not say that in criticism of the language. I love the Irish language and I have every reason to love it and it is my desire to see the language prosper. It is also my desire to kill the complaints heard from day to day from parents in connection with their children having to learn Irish. I believe it is essential to give a bigger opportunity to the boys and girls of the non-Gaeltacht areas. If we can instil into the minds of the boys and girls that they are being treated equally with all others and convince the parents that the children can hold their own with those from the Gaeltacht so much the better. If we pursued that policy the Irish language would be a true living language not only in the Gaeltacht but throughout the country.
Ba mhaith liom tacaiocht a thabairt do'n méid adúirt an Teachta Ó Maoláin maidir leis an Leabharlann Náisiúnta. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil níos mó spáis ag teastáil ann agus os rud é go bhfuilimid sna Náisiúin Aontaithe faoi láthair, beidh mórán páipéirí ag teacht isteach agus ní bheidh spás ann dóibh. Ba cheart go mbeadh faisnéis le fáil sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta i gcóir gach aoinne a tiocfadh an tslí maidir le rudaí a thit amach céad bliain ó shoin nó níos mó, más gá é. Muna féidir leo a lámha a chur ar rudaí mar sin, mura bhfuil deis leis an taighde atá ag teastáil a dhéanamh le fáil go héasca agus go compordach acu, ní féidir linn a rá go bhfuil an Leabharlann ag comhlíonadh a dualgais.
Is fíor a rá nach gcuirtear mórán suime sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta sa Dáil de gnáth agus ós rud é nach féidir tagairt a dhéanamh di go minic b'fhéidir go gcuirfidh an tAire an cheist sin faoi athbhreith. B'fhéidir gur ceart áit éigin sealadach a chur ar bun munar féidir leabharlann nua a thógaint. Pé scéal é ba cheart suíomh a chur in áirithe i dtreo is nuair a thiocfaidh an t-am chun leabharlann nua a thógaint, go mbeidh áit oiriúnach le fáil comhgarach do lár na cathrach.
Tá an t-airgead do na coláistí Gaeilge sa nGaeltacht gearrtha ach más maith linn na coláistí sin a chothú i dtreo is go mbeidh mealladh ann chun an teanga a choimeád beo agus mealladh do na daoine thart an teanga a labhairt i gcónaí ina ngnáthshaol, is léir go gcaithimíd gach cúnamh a thabhairt do na coláistí sin. Níl aon amhras ach gur ceart dúinn na coláistí Gaeilge a choiméad i slí ina bhféadaidís freastal d'éileamh na ndaoine ó na meánscoileanna a bhfuil togha na Gaeilge acu cheana. Ní mór dúinn na cúrsaí is fearr is féidir a chur ar fáil sna coláistí sin i gcóir na macléin a théas go dtí an Ghaeltacht, cuir i gcás, le linn an tSamraidh chun feabhas agus snas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge. Mura bhfuil cúrsaí oiriúnacha den tsaghas sin le fáil ann, beimid ag dul ar gcúl.
Tá gá mór ann faoi láthair le scríbhneoirí nua-Ghaeilge chun obair na teangan a choimeád ar siúl agus ba mhaith an rud dá bhféadhfadh an tAire obair den tsaghas atá ar siúl ag Comhaltas Uladh i dTír Chonaill a chur ar bun sna ceantair Ghaeltacha eile.
Maidir le tithe scoile, bhí morán tagairt dóibh ach do réir dealraimh nílimid ag teacht suas leis na riaráistí. Do réir na bhfigiúirí ba cheart dúinn bheith ag tógaint 50 scoil gach bliain agus má tá an scéal mar dúirt an Teachta Ó Maoláin go bhfuil 800 scoil i ndroch-chás, ba cheart go mbeadh timpeall 100 scoil á dtógaint gach bliain.
Ós rud é go bhfuil an líon páistí sa nGaeltacht ag titim b'fhéidir gur féidir rud éigin a dhéanamh chun cuid de na scoileanna a thabhairt le chéile. Go pearsanta, ba mhaith liom iad d'fhágaint mar atáid ach nuair a bhíos an t-aon oide amháin i scoil bheag is rí-deacair dó caighdeán réasúnta maith a shroicheadh sna ranganna uachtaracha. B'fhéidir gur féidir linn níos mó a dhéanamh chun scoileanna den tsaghas sin a thabhairt le chéile. Mar adúras cheana b'fhearr liom féin iad d'fhágaint ach dá mbeadh an t-udarás oideachais sásta, dá mbeadh mánaigh agus eaglaisigh agus na daoine eile a bhfuil baint acu leis na scoileanna sin sásta, go mbeadh caighdeán níos fearr le fáil dá gcuirfí cuid de na scoileanna sin le chéile, ba cheart an cheist sin do scrúdú.
Níl morán eolais againn maidir le gnáthchúrsaí na Roinne ach an méid a tugadh dúinn in óráid an Aire. Ní dóigh liom gur chuir an Roinn aon tuarascáil amach le blianta agus mar sin níl againn ach an cúntas ón gComhairle Oideachais.
I would like to say, as I have just been saying in Irish, that we are really depending on the Minister's statement for information as to the working of the Department and the work in the schools. We have also a certain amount in the Report of the Council of Education which was published about two years ago. However, as Deputy Moylan said, we have not got as much information as we expected. We have got the usual review and statistics, reference to school buildings, the arrangements for dealing with salaries and teachers and so on, but the Minister has not attempted to give us any appraisal of the work of the schools during the year, any changes that have taken place, any special examinations or reviews that have been made by the inspectors. We have not got any information as to whether matters are proceeding satisfactorily or whether there is any recession or retrogression.
We all know that in the educational field there are bright spots and spots that are not so bright and, as the Minister knows—we have been both dealing with this Estimate for a very long period of years—his request to me as Minister—a very reasonable and logical one—was that more information should be given, either by publishing the inspectors' reports or summaries of them, or by the Minister himself, dealing with these general questions of the work in the schools. It is for the purpose of enlightening the public and of giving members of the Dáil the opportunity of dealing with these Estimates in a serious manner and of trying to get a better grasp of the problems of education and of equipping themselves so as to give advice and counsel as to the steps which might be taken in time, that the Minister and the Department of Education, as far as possible, should give more information as to the work of the schools.
In reply to Deputy McQuillan, the Minister gave certain figures showing that the size of classes in Dublin was something over 43 per teacher on an average. I notice that one of the recommendations of the Council of Education was that, while many people think 30 should be the optimum figure, they were prepared, in view of the circumstances and the need for economy, and for doing things as carefully and as cautiously as possible, to admit that the figure should go up to 40 in larger classes. We have no information as to what steps the Department have been able to take in this matter or what is the actual position, until the Dáil reassembles. I know this was an issue in which the Minister was always keenly interested. It is one about which one hears a great deal from parents.
The question of the supply and quality of teachers was referred to. I should like to ask whether the Minister is satisfied that sufficient is being done to provide lay teachers in sufficient numbers for the national schools. I should like if he gave us the figures showing the arrangements and the facilities which are available and the number of places for the training of religious and lay teachers. In connection with that, I should like to know what is the position about those untrained teachers upon whom we have to depend to such a large extent in the smaller schools. Will it be considered advisable to give these untrained teachers the opportunity, subject to certain tests, of going for courses of training, or will we be faced with the position that they will remain for indefinite periods in the schools to which they have been appointed? I should think that if they are suitably reported upon by the inspectors they would be sent for further training after a period of trial which, after all, corresponds with the monitorial system which many people think was very beneficial as part of our training courses for teachers.
It is for those reasons that I am interested in the question of accommodation. I should also like to know what is the position with regard to the recommendations of the Council of Education regarding the teaching of drawing, nature study and physical training in the schools, whether anything further can be done in the training colleges to strengthen the position as regards science and particularly, of course, of science bearing on agriculture and rural life. Is the Minister satisfied that the teacher candidates at the present are doing sufficiently thorough courses, seeing that they will be important later on? The rural school will always be an important institution to the extent that it can take part in the life of the countryside. Its value will improve and be more esteemed there if the teachers are in a position to do the type of work which they may not be able to do by way of experiment or in classes but which, if they had the necessary training, they could do to a great extent through the ordinary literary subjects, even through conversation and through their influence with the chilren and the manner in which the schools are maintained. Such teachers can do a great deal to make the schools worthy of the work that is being done in them, of the people who frequent them and of the countryside in which they are situated.
The vocational schools have done a great deal through the medium of rural science to help rural life. If we could get the same spirit, the same approach and the same atmosphere from the teachers who are going into the rural primary schools, I think it would be a great matter and would help in some small way in keeping our rural communities together.
In connection with the question of training, I should like the Minister to state whether the number of junior assistant mistresses tends to decrease, whether the junior assistant mistresses will continue to be a feature of the service or whether they are a disappearing entity and that, in some period of years, they will be replaced by fully-trained teachers. I should also like the Minister to tell us whether the figure of 400 which has been mentioned as the average wastage is correct. I do not know whether it is quite correct.
The Minister has referred to the numbers in the schools, the falling trend in the birthrate since 1947, and that it is expected another cycle of reduced enrolments will begin this year or next. One would like to know how he envisages the corps of teachers during the coming period of years or for the next three or five years, what the number of teachers will be and how the smaller schools will stand. Will they tend to decline at a greater rate or what will be the position having regard to the census figures which we have had recently? As I have mentioned in Irish, it seems to me it may be necessary to examine the question of reorganising the rural schools if there is to be a large number of one-teacher schools.
The Minister has given us very little satisfaction in connection with the recommendations of the first Report of the Council of Education. I am rather disappointed because I had hoped we would have had some indication of what the Department's final decision was regarding the recommendations of the council. In fact the position is distinctly unsatisfactory. The Minister in page 1 of his speech says:—
"The examination and consideration of the recommendations submitted in the first Report of the Council of Education which was presented to me in the summer of 1954, and of the very valuable comments thereon which I have received from the ecclesiastical authorities and the various educational bodies, from all of whom I invited expressions of opinion, are nearing completion in my Department. I hope that it will be possible for me to reach conclusions before long but I cannot tie myself to any time-table in this respect."
We are not asking the Minister to tie himself to a time-table. We just want him to tell us what conclusions he and his officers have reached and why, in view of the consultations that have taken place, it has not been possible to reach decisions or, if they have been reached, why the House could not have been informed in regard to these matters, some of which seem to be rather simple and capable of determination quite easily, and others of which, like the school-leaving age, may raise bigger issues.
Last year on the 8th July the Minister said that in another two months he expected to have the views of all the interests that he had considered it necessary to consult regarding these recommendations. Now he tells us that he has not yet completed the examination of the views given to him. I had hoped that, as he stated last year, by the end of the year all possible information would have been in the hands of the Department and, not alone that, but that they would be in a forward position to enable them to come to decisions and let the House and the country have the benefit of them through a White Paper or otherwise as to what the intentions of the Department were regarding these recommendations.
This Council of Education was appointed in April, 1950. It reported in June, 1954, and the Minister tells us now that he cannot tie himself to any time-table. We are fast reaching the position when nobody, except persons who are specially concerned, will have any interest in the report or in the recommendations of the council. Are we to take it that they will amount to a dead letter or that they will be put on the long finger? Last year when I queried the Minister's not having referred the question of the school-leaving age and the provision of continuation education to enable the school-leaving age to be raised specifically to the council he informed me, as he had informed the Dáil and the country, that he considered that secondary education was a convenient detached field which the council could usefully survey and examine while the Department was making up its mind about the recommendations of the Council of Education regarding primary education. He made the statement characteristically that the important question of the pattern of the system beyond the age of 12 would be postponed until conclusions were reached on proposals already submitted.
Seeing that a certain number of years was spent on examining the question of primary education and that the council thought fit to refer in very specific terms to the necessity for extending education after the primary school leaving age and that this must have been known to the Department, it is certainly extraordinary that the Minister who, I am sure, had a motion down in this House 20 years ago on the necessity for raising the school-leaving age, should tell us now after all those years that he will not be bound by a time-table. Surely the House and the country are entitled to more consideration as to what the Government have in mind.
We fully understand the position regarding the aspects of the matter to which Deputy Moylan has referred, the cost and the time that will be required to provide the necessary teachers, and the great cost of providing the necessary accommodation, if it is thought well to go ahead with raising the school-leaving age. We do not know however what the Government's view is on that matter and, at the rate we are going on at present, we are not likely to know it for years, perhaps, if ever. The statement made last year by the Minister that he wanted to ensure that anything proposed would have been very fully and carefully thought out, is certainly extraordinary, because the point comes when one is convinced that it is no longer consideration that is involved but lethargy or procrastination or simply complacency or indifference, to put it in rather stronger language.
The two reasons which the Council of Education put forward for raising the school-leaving age, if that were found to be at all feasible, were well known and well appreciated in the Department when I was there. The first was the fact that we would like to give our school pupils a further opportunity of improving their knowledge of Irish. There is no doubt but that the Irish language programme threw a great deal of work upon the primary schools and if, by prolonging the school-leaving age, one gave the children a better opportunity of improving and generally perfecting their knowledge of Irish that would be all to the good.
A second reason was also advanced and that was that a large number of children, when they leave school at 14, can be described as not having a good minimum education. The commission reported that about 36 per cent. of our youth of 14 to 15 years of age and 55 per cent. of those from 15 to 16 years of age were enrolled in no school in the academic year 1951-52. The Minister has given me certain figures since showing that it is estimated that, in relation to the year 1954-55, 58.6 per cent. of the boys and 63.3 per cent. of the girls between 14 and 15 years of age are enrolled at courses of whole-time education. The total number of boys and girls between 14 and 15 is 51,400 and, of these, 31,300 are enrolled in those courses. That means that about 20,100 are not so enrolled.
The insurable age for employment is 16 with the result that, from 14 to 16, there is a period of suspense and waiting when young people are either not employed or if they do find employment it is often of a very spasmodic character — some kind of badly-paid occupation, a cul-de-sac which does not lead to anything better, where the employer often drops the youngster after a few months, as may suit him. It is often purely casual and seasonal employment. At this age, the youngsters are at a very impressionable stage. I think the figures of juvenile delinquency will tend to show that if they are more free from control at the age of 15, let us say, they are more likely to get into trouble. It is fairly certain that, at that age, you have a larger number of offences in the field of juvenile delinquency than perhaps at any other time.
Even if we could not do better for the children than to organise them during the long summer holidays, to try to help out the work that the boys' clubs do so very well in Dublin, when they try to collect the youngsters, it would be worth while. I see that efforts are being made to get them down to the farmers through the trade unions. That is an excellent and splendid idea. I hope it will work out and succeed to the extent that we shall have not alone hundreds but many thousands of youngsters going down the country and getting a holiday which will do them good and keep them out of mischief. We hope they will be better citizens as a result of these arrangements.
In view of the very large number of young people who go to Britain, moral training and discipline is a very serious problem. I believe we should do everything possible to encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility among parents as well as children. We ought to do everything possible to give them more self-respect. We ought to prepare them in a more practical way for the difficulties which they are likely to meet, particularly in an alien atmosphere which, too often, is not even neutral but is morally harmful and one of which they have had no experience.
The Council of Education mentioned that a good deal of the work done at present is by way of repetition and that there is a good deal of waste of time even for those who have attained the sixth standard. The ordinary course provided by the national schools for those pupils who have completed the course at standard six is, in practice, little more than a repetition of the latter course. It then goes on to say:—
"Within the organisation of the large schools, it might be possible to teach a more advanced programme and give to the higher standards at least some of the individual attention they need. In the smaller school that is impossible, unless under the exceptional teacher. The needs of the pupils of the smaller schools are the greater because they cannot find in the countryside about them the many opportunities for alternative education which are open to pupils of the larger schools situated in the urban areas."
Having examined the question, the council went on to say that, in their opinion, continuation education ought to be extended and facilities for it made available in all areas. They referred particularly to the vocational schools. The paragraph of importance with regard to the basis of all this examination of the standard of education of our children when they are leaving the primary schools is paragraph 371, page 242, which reads as follows:—
"The primary school course, as we have defined it, is a minimum basic course. It is not in our opinion, however, sufficient to enable young persons fully to take their places in the world in which they live, or adequately to qualify them to meet the demands made upon them by their avocations in life. It is, in effect, an insufficient minimum education under modern conditions. The council, as a whole, feels that, in addition to the time available between the end of the primary school and the present statutory school-leaving age of 14 years, at least one further year's attendance is desirable for all children."
They go on to say, in paragraph 372:—
"In the foregoing paragraph we refer to the need for a suitable course of at least one further year's education. For the normal child that would mean a course extending from the age of 13 years to 15. This would be a minimum course, for we should desire that it would be such as would encourage attendance for three years or at least two years from the end of the present statutory age."
In paragraph 387 they say:—
"Influenced, therefore, by the difficulties connected with any satisfactory reorganisation of the existing national schools to provide adequate post-primary education for all pupils above standard VI and the necessity of avoiding, as far as possible, any step detrimental to the efficiency and continuity of these schools, we consider that increased facilities for further education could be provided by ensuring that schools of the continuation type be established in all areas."
The council was of opinion that these facilities were needed and were very necessary to meet fully the needs of primary leaving pupils other than those who entered the secondary schools.
The Minister has told us that there has been an inspection committee or body, that there has been a conference regarding inspection. I should like him to give us further information. He has stated that the matters under discussion are receiving careful examination. I trust that no further change will be made in the system of inspection without the House being given an opportunity of considering the matter.
People are apt to regard inspectors as bogey men. There is no ground whatever for that. If not all, very nearly all the inspectors come from the ranks of the national teachers and why teachers should have any feeling that they would not get fair play and consideration from the inspectors, particularly in the procedure and in the set-up that we have in this country under the managerial system and the Minister and his Department, is more than I can understand.
Supervision is necessary. In all walks of life there must be supervision. We may be very fine people and we may do splendid work but we probably do better under supervision or when we know that there is likely to be supervision, that there is someone to look over our shoulder without in any way impinging on our rights or questioning our capacity so long as we do our work satisfactorily. It is just part of the system. The reference to it gives one the feeling that perhaps grievances are being created or are likely to arise which have not very much foundation. Controversies in the Press or by way of correspondence between teachers and inspectors are unfortunate in that what was probably a small difficulty arising out of a difference in temperament, or such, is expanded out of all measure and the whole basis of the trouble is changed to be made an issue between the two very important bodies, the teachers on the one hand and the inspectorate on the other. I hope we have seen the end of that difficulty.
I was dealing with the numbers of pupils who, according to the Council of Education, have not a satisfactory education on leaving the national schools. I asked the Minister a question recently and he told me that at the age of 14 years 2,521 had not completed Standard V and 4,969 had not completed Standard VI. Of course, in some of the schools, there are pupils of 12 and 13 years who are good enough for Standard VI, whether they are promoted or not, and who can give a good account of themselves. We have also to make allowance for the fact that while one third of the pupils may be above average, one-third may be average, there may be another one-third, or somewhat less than one-third, below average. It is unfortunate that we still have such large numbers who do not seem to have got even the elements of education and that they have to face life without any further opportunities.
It is for that reason that we have every right to express dissatisfaction with the Minister's failure to grapple with the problem and to face up to the recommendations that were made to him and the representations he has received and to make up his mind one way or the other. I have said before, I am fully aware, from long and sad experience, of the difficulty the Minister for Education has in carrying his plans into operation on account of the great cost that these reforms entail. In order to get public opinion behind the Minister and to make the country more alert to the position, the Minister should take this opportunity of telling the House what his ideas and what his plans may be and I am sure that all Parties and all Deputies would be glad to support him in every way possible, though fully conscious of the difficulties of the present time.
The other point on which some special emphasis has to be laid and to which attention should be directed is the question of technical education. A professor of chemistry at University College, Dublin, at a recent meeting, reported in the Press, said that while chemistry students entering a British University would have studied chemistry for at least two years, in Ireland half of the entrants had no knowledge of science; that much of the science teaching in Irish schools was done by teachers who had no degree in science; that few of our industries were sufficiently large to set up their own research departments, and that to the Institute of Industrial Research and Standards industry must look in increasing measure for aid in the solution of its problems.
The Minister will have seen the recent report issued in Britain on technical education. According to the figure supplied to me of 3,727 candidates who presented themselves for the leaving certificate examination, 622 boys were presented in chemistry. That would be less than 18 per cent. There were 3,388 girls who did the leaving certificate and of these only 46 did chemistry. Thirty passed the examination. The figures for general science were somewhat better but the numbers were comparatively low in the case of botany. Two hundred and forty-three girls took the examination. That was about 7 per cent. It has to be borne in mind that the girls show up much better in the subjects of physiology and hygiene where about one-third did the examination and in domestic science where almost one-half sat for it.
But one of the things that has appeared in the British report is the stress on the further education of girls. Of course, we have the same problem except perhaps to a much less degree. Paragraph 91 of this report on technical education says that the problem is how to increase the number of girls entering for science courses and the weakness there is in the secondary school, where there is a shortage of teachers of mathematics and science more pronounced than in boys' schools.
We ought to do more to get teachers who would satisfy modern standards and whom the authorities, who have a right to speak on this matter and who have given their opinions, would be satisfied are teachers properly qualified and who are able to give us sufficient numbers of students who have done scientific courses even before they go on to the university.
I notice that in agricultural science the number of boys was rather low also—131. The Minister referred to the question of agricultural science and agricultural teachers, and I am sure that other speakers will be dealing with that matter. One hundred and thirty-one boys passed, out of 3,727, in the year 1955. I suppose that at least half of these would be from urban areas but, even so, the figure looks very small. One hundred and thirty-one boys were presented for examination in agricultural science.
The point in the Minister's speech, as translated, was that vocational committees were in touch with the Department of Agriculture as to the best method of utilising the services of teachers in building construction. I should like to ask the Minister what is the position regarding rural science. Both Deputy Moylan and myself were always dissatisfied with the attitude of the Department of Agriculture in regard to rural science teachers and to the possibilities of the vocational schools in the rural areas. Here we are told that the teachers are to be utilised under the ægis of the Department of Agriculture.
We wonder whether the Minister is satisfied that the Department of Agriculture should come into this matter. On the question of science in the school one learns, in the English report, that 60 per cent. of the students take science as the main subject in the higher form of the grammar schools in Britain. One also reads that if talent is not to be wasted, more boys and girls must stay at school until 18.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce informed us that he was proposing to introduce legislation to deal with apprenticeship. I hope that the Department of Education will play its part in improving, if that is possible, the system of apprenticeship. I suggested to the Minister in the discussion on his Estimate that there should be a national council, perhaps, to deal with the question of apprenticeship. It is a matter that affects the vocational schools very seriously.
The experience in my time as Minister was that the trade unions were co-operative in setting up apprenticeship committees. I have no doubt but that in the period that has since elapsed they will not be less co-operative but more co-operative. I am sure that if there were a national council it could go hand in hand with improvements on the technical education side.
I certainly think the time has arrived when there should be a national body representing our professional technologists, our universities, business, labour and industrial interests to deal with the problem of technical education and make recommendations to the Minister. I believe very strongly that we could learn a great deal more by sending those who are in responsible positions in the educational field abroad to see what is being done in other countries. In the field of technical education there can obviously be great improvement. There are improvements in regard to laboratories and in regard to teaching. There are improvements in industry in countries like Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Sweden.
I am sure our experts, inspectors and our principal teachers could learn a great deal and that they might be able to evolve such a system as is recommended across the water by which those who are in employment would be able also to attend sandwich courses over a period, and proceed to get higher qualifications in technological subjects and ultimately, perhaps, to work in with the university courses.
The Minister has not told us, and I should like to know, what is the position, in view of the overcrowding and of what I have just been saying, with regard to the school-leaving age, the question of science in the schools and the advancement of technical education, regarding the technical school building programme in Dublin? We know there is serious overcrowding on account of the great increase in population and we see long queues at the vocational and technical schools in September when the schools open. Perhaps the Minister would tell us what is the position, whether we have sufficient accommodation for the other 40 per cent. or 45 per cent. of our pupils between the ages of 14 and 15 if they come along and attend voluntary courses?
The Minister referred to special grants for science, domestic science and technical instruction. I do not know what the amount of these grants may be but I take it they are not very substantial. The net increase for secondary education was £71,420; £30,000 of the increase was in the provision for capitation grants due to the increase in the number of pupils; £39,000 in provision for incremental salaries grant. That is £69,000 so that it would appear that the figure for special grants for science is not very great. I wonder would the Minister tell us what facilities or what assistance is likely to be given or whether he has had any representations regarding the provision of equipment and the fitting out of school laboratories, for example, and such other facilities as might be necessary for the extension of science teaching in secondary schools?
I am inclined to agree with Deputy Moylan in some measure that, after all, parents have not a choice in regard to schools. The schools are there and it is for us, through our influence and through whatever opinions we may have, and particularly for the Department of Education, to influence the schools, the managers and headmasters and authorities of the schools, not alone in regard to the education of boys but in regard to the education of girls, to which reference has been made very recently, as to how improvement can be brought about. Whether we like it or not we are in a new age, a technological age. We have this problem of emigration; we have the problem of maintaining our households and of trying to make our young people see that there is something else in life besides amusement, going to the pictures, going to the dance-halls and so on. We want to give them that sense of purpose and responsibility that I have spoken of.
I think that the tendency is to leave too much altogether to the authorities of the schools, to the headmasters and managers. The primary responsibility is for the parents, but the parents feel that they have handed over these functions and important duties to the school authorities. That is not enough. First, they have the responsibility in their own homes to do everything they can to assist the schools in their work and to see that their children are brought up, not alone as good Christians and good Irish men and women, but disciplined, controlled, orderly, clean and tidy in their persons and likely to be a credit to the country, so that if they have to go elsewhere nobody will be able to point the finger of scorn at them. Both externally and internally we would like them to be worthy of their country and of the Irish people but I am afraid the lesson is not being driven home sufficiently in regard to the responsibilities of parents in the matter.
The vast majority of parents, of course, are excellent and do their work splendidly but we have this small number who do not. One constantly hears of those who do not practise the virtues of personal hygiene and who do not practise good manners and proper behaviour in public. I hope that the Minister who, I am sure, is keenly interested in all these matters, will endeavour to see that if we cannot have the extra subjects that the Council of Education wants included on the curriculum of the primary schools for good and sufficient reasons, we will have more emphasis on these fundamental principles of telling the truth, being honest in dealings with one's neighbour, paying one's debts and treating the State as a neighbour also, remembering that when one robs the State it is a breach of the Seventh Commandment just as when one robs one's neighbour or one's mother or father.
I am afraid I may have digressed into matters that could more properly be dealt with in a lesson on the Catechism, but it is a matter on which I feel very strongly and on which I think the influence of all of us could be very usefully and beneficially brought to bear. After 40 years, since 1916, we certainly need the assistance of every agency and every influence, and the help of everybody, Department and officers of the State, in trying to get a proper standard that will be worthy of this nation and that will make people feel that when we speak of ourselves as a Christian nation that has carried the torch of Christianity through the centuries of persecution and tribulation, we really have the right to hold up our heads to-day and say that we are at least as good as we were, and that we are good enough, at any rate, to give good example to our neighbours and to set a standard for them which they will try to reach and which will influence them in their turn. Nothing could be of greater influence than our young people giving the good example if they have to emigrate and work elsewhere. Nothing could be worse than that they should, as some of them do, depart from the values and the practices they learned at home.
I was very glad to read that the number of "A" schools had increased. I was very perturbed to hear there had been a falling off for some time past and that there was a feeling among responsible authorities that secondary schools were not doing as well as they should be. Whether the introduction of the text books is the sole cause of the improvement is another matter. I should prefer to believe that the personal influence of the Minister in the Department, with the headmasters and with the schools, and the fact that he stands for a policy of Irish in the schools and, of course, the realisation that the secondary schools give a lead in this matter and that they will produce the future leaders of opinion and of the professions, are responsible.
The Minister referred to the question of how best the schools can compete with industry for the services of technologists without creating analogies in relation to salary and other matters and said that it is a question to which no satisfactory answer has so far been found anywhere. I suppose the explanation is a question of £.s.d., but surely, in connection with the Dublin technical schools and even the technical schools outside Dublin, some arrangements could be made to get the services of part time teachers who have these technological qualifications.
I know that is done to a very great extent by the Dublin Vocational Education Committee. I feel sure there are many young Irishmen who may have had some experience abroad and in respect of whom, admittedly, we could not pay the salary which they could draw if they were willing to emigrate to Rhodesia or Ontario but who, so long as they could get a reasonable livelihood in Ireland, would be prepared to come to these schools. There are bodies like the Institute of Engineers and the Institute of Architects who might assist the technical schools. If the Minister had a national council to advise him in respect of technical education, I feel sure he would get valuable advice from the representatives of these professions.
There is another matter in which I am interested and which arises in connection with the qualifications of teachers of science and the general question of preparing our young people, in a more practical way, for the life of the present day. I should like to know whether any examination has been made of the position in industrial schools. Efforts have been made to try and combine vocational education work with work in some, at any rate, of these institutions. I think that in the larger industrial schools, particularly, it would be a great pity to neglect this aspect, even though it might cost a fairly substantial amount of money. This money, however, would be an investment, for which the country would be well repaid, for giving the boys in these institutions a more modern technical training in such things as motor engineering and building construction.
I would ask the Minister to look into that matter and also into the question of placing boys in these schools after they leave them. I feel sure the Minister is interested in the future of these boys and girls and I should like to know whether it has been possible, through the social organisations, to keep contact with them after they leave the institutions. In the case of the girls it would be very important. It would be desirable if these institutions adopted the practice which was initiated of having some kind of past pupils' union. If they met together and corresponded and kept in touch with each other, even though some of them had to leave the country, I think it would be of great benefit. From the religious viewpoint it would be most advantageous.
I rise to speak on this Estimate principally for one reason, to urge the Minister to bring about a change, a complete change, in the teaching of Irish in our primary and secondary schools. I do so for two reasons. I feel the present system or method employed in our schools has had an adverse effect on the education which our children have been getting. Secondly, I speak on the matter because I think it has hindered the growth of the language revival. I think the evidence available against the system which has been operated now for 30 years is indeed overwhelming. We have our leading educationists in this country speaking about it and talking of the difficulties in the system as operated at the present time. We have had Deputies from both sides of the House, year after year, complaining of the manner in which the Irish language is taught in the primary and secondary schools; and we have had the teachers themselves on several occasions—and they should be persons with first hand knowledge—asking for a change in the system that is being operated and, I believe, unsuccessfully operated for nearly 30 years.
The only degree of support which the present system has got has been from the Report of the Council of Education. The Report of the Council of Education on this subject, I think, demonstrates that it can be regarded as only a pusillanimous approach to the question. In paragraph 203 the report indicates that the present system with regard to the Irish language has met with a great deal of apathy. Even the mild words of the report indicate that the policy that has been worked in the schools for the past 30 years has failed to bring about the enthusiasm for the language which we would all so desire.
I feel the fact that the love of the language has been soured, that the enthusiasm for the language has been warped and the fine ideals have waned is because we have had a policy in the schools which has not been conducive to the revival of the language. To my mind, the principal argument against the system is the effect it has had on the education of our children. We have got a duty in this House to see that persons who are unable to provide for their own education get it through the State and we must try and fulfil that duty and see that the State gives to the children the best possible education.
I should like to quote to the House the evidence collected for many years and published in the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the use of the Irish language as a teaching medium. The report was published by the I.N.T.O. in 1941. This report indicates that the teachers' organisation went very carefully into the effects of the teaching of Irish in primary schools where the home language was English.
Does the Deputy mean the teaching of Irish or teaching through Irish?
The teaching through Irish of subjects where the home language was English has had a deleterious effect on the education of the children concerned. I should like to quote first of all from page 28 of this report. It refers to the teaching of arithmetic through the medium of Irish in standards I, II and III.
"Five hundred and fifty-four, roughly 86 per cent. of the replies to the query: ‘Do all the pupils receive benefit from instruction through Irish equal to that which they would receive through English?' were in the negative. Eighty-seven, or 14 per cent. held the contrary view."
The report deals very adequately with different aspects of mathematics, and sums up the findings on page 41 on this subject in regard to all classes and branches of mathematics in the primary schools as follows:—
"The vast bulk of the evidence submitted to us in the replies would go to show that once the mechanical aspect of mathematical instruction is mastered further progress is definitely hampered by the use of a language other than the home language of the child. This applies especially to the application of problems and theorems in geometry and with overwhelming force when it is sought to show algebra to be what it really is, generalised arithmetic. We are convinced from this evidence that an unanswerable case is made against the use as the medium of mathematical instruction of any other language, save the home language of the child."
Surely that could not be in stronger language. Surely we should take some cognisance of what the I.N.T.O. say with regard to this problem. I know other Deputies may be better qualified, from first hand knowledge of the teaching of the Irish language, than I am to speak on the teaching of arithmetic through the medium of Irish in national schools, but the fact remains that here is evidence from the teachers' organisation on this subject which clearly indicates that pupils have for years been deprived of the full benefit of education in this field. The same is true of history, and on page 42 the report says:—
"In comparing the benefits to be derived by the pupils from instruction in history through the medium of Irish, and through the medium of English, 382 of those replying asserted that the benefit from instruction through Irish was not equal to the benefit from instruction through the medium of English. Fifty-five held that it was."
Similar queries were asked in regard to geography and a similar percentage replied that the benefit was less to the pupils than if they were taught through their home language. I think the evidence which we all have from our own knowledge of the inadequacy of the education that our children are getting, is borne out by this very detailed report, which I think has not been given sufficient attention since it was published and which the Council of Education in its report largely ignored.
I referred earlier to the effect I believe the present system has had on the love of the language, on the desire of people to speak the language. Again I speak from observation and I feel I speak on behalf of many other people who have had the same experience which I have had. However, I want to refer Deputies to perhaps a higher authority than my word, the authority of the professor of Irish language and literature in University College, Cork, Professor R.A. Breathnach, who has published an article in the current edition ofStudies headed “Revival or Survival?” Here again another very learned authority, to whose views we should listen, has added his testimony to that of the many others who have spoken about the deleterious effect that the present policy has had on the revival of Irish. Page 137 of this article reads as follows:—
"The pressure exerted in the field of education, mainly in the national schools and to a less extent in the secondary schools, in the cause of the language, is so well known in general outline that there is no need to dwell on the subject. It is to be hoped that someone with longer experience than the writer can claim of the policy as applied in the national schools will trace in detail its development from the first beginnings to the ultimate stalemate. It can scarcely be denied that the machine designed to mass-produce speakers of Irish has proved to be a lethal contrivance. It was geared to perform the task of establishing infant Gaelic microcosms within an adult English macrocosm. In its failure to make any impression on the latter, it seems to have produced only apathy and a sense of frustration in the minds of many of those who, more than any others, have borne the burden of the day and the heat thereof for 30 years. Apart from the effect on the morale of the teachers, amply evidenced by numerous public pronouncements, there is no doubt that the continuous use of pressure methods to propagate Irish in the schools has killed much of the love, joy and pride proper to the teaching and learning of the language; in the absence of these the study, its patriotic motivation obscured or lost, ceases to have any real meaning and bears only Dead Sea fruit."
Again on page 141 the Professor says:—
"The establishment of Irish as thesummum bonum, then, seems to have brought, as far as the language itself is concerned, a minimum of real progress. Certainly, the outcome has not been to give the majority of students who have been taught wholly or partly through Irish anything approaching a satisfactory colloquial command of the language.”
Would the Deputy tell us again who is the gentleman?
Professor Breathnach, Professor of Irish Language and Literature in University College, Cork.
I am sorry his predecessor is not still alive.
The present holder of the Chair holds very strong views on this subject. I feel we must take into account the views of persons such as he. I think we have proof in our own House, which is a microcosm of the nation, proof of it outside and proof of it from the many publications of many official bodies in education that the system up to the present time has not been satisfactory.
What experience has he of the primary schools? Does he state in the article what investigations he has made?
I think the Deputy will gain great benefit from reading the whole article.
I am afraid I would not, but still.
If the Deputy is not blinded to what appears in the report I think he would get benefit from it.
The Report of the Council of Education contradicts everything that is said there.
I could bandy around reports with the Deputy if I wanted to, but I think the Deputy would do well to read a comment by another educational authority, this time in the 1954 winter edition ofStudies, again by a lecturer in education, this time in University College, Dublin, Father Ó Catháin, who has criticised in very strong terms the manner in which the Report of the Council of Education was worded and its recommendations on this question of the teaching of Irish. If the Deputy would look at this article, he would see that in three or four pages of his article he criticises in no uncertain terms this part of the Report of the Council of Education and refers to the fact that they have endeavoured to give an appearance of unanimity but that, in fact, it is clear from the report that they were far from unanimous in their recommendation. Let me quote from page 374 of this article:—
"I am not against ‘compulsory Irish'. Have we not compulsory arithmetic and English, and one hears no complaints? But I am against a compulsion that has remained meaningless to most of our people."
There is no compulsion.
Of course, there is.
Not at all.
It is compulsion inasmuch as there is compulsion in Latin, arithmetic and English. I am in favour of making Irish compulsory.
As a subject, it is compulsory. Arithmetic through Irish is not compulsory. The Deputy started off by saying that.
I did not. I have no objection to Irish being made compulsory just as I have no objection to other subjects being made compulsory. I feel that, as Professor Breathnach has said, Dead Sea fruit has certainly been borne, from the experience we have had up to the present time.
Some of the remarks in this debate up to the present have been directed towards the desirability of raising the school-leaving age. I want to add my comments to them. I feel we have developed in Ireland over the past 30 years a very fine system of social welfare benefits, a very fine system of assistance to our citizens when they are in need. There are many aspects of it yet which we should like to improve but, on the whole, the system has been one of which we can be proud. The one aspect of assistance to our community which the State has largely neglected is the inadequate education it gives to its young citizens. The report of the Council of Education demonstrates that two-thirds of our children get no further education beyond that given to them in the primary schools. That is a scandalous situation and one which we must try to remedy at the earliest possible opportunity. It seems to me that, cost what it may, we must make efforts in the near future to raise the school-leaving age. Even if extra burdens have to be borne by our people, I feel they would willingly be borne if it were made clear to them why we are requesting them to bear them.
We have a duty to our young people to try and ensure that they are given a proper start in life. It is a deplorable state of affairs that so many of them have such a poor start when they leave the primary school. In the time that must elapse before the school-leaving age is raised, I should like the Minister to try and increase greatly the number of scholarships granted through his Department so that the more advanced and cleverer ones, at any rate, can be given facilities for better education which they are unable to afford out of their own means.
I come now to the matter of the export of works of art from this country. There is considerable evidence that many fine works of art, both of our native art and foreign art, have been leaving this country over the past few years. At the present time, the markets have never been higher for works of art in England and America. Many of the finest specimens we possessed have left this country and gone to foreign buyers. Other countries have legislation to try and stop it. The Minister should consider bringing in legislation to try to give compensation to vendors of pictures and other works of art who wish to sell them and get a market price for them, so that these works of art can go to the State. This system is being adopted in countries such as France, Italy and Spain. We should endeavour to ensure that our native works of art are not scattered throughout the four corners of the earth and that the works of art which we possess are kept in Ireland for the enjoyment of our people.
I should like to follow Deputy Costello by stressing the need for a great deal more scientific education in this country and, what is even more important, a great deal of elementary education to give people the desire even to learn science and technology. It is very much easier for us to talk on this subject now that the Council of Education have made some serious and very conservative pronouncements and have clearly indicated that the primary school course cannot provide the full minimum education required by our citizens. It is a sign of the complete lack of realism in this country that, with all the controversy we have had since the war and with all the difficulties we face, that single sentence by the Council of Education has not had more comment among all sections of the community. In some ways, that sentence is to my mind of far greater importance than anything said recently about the balance of payments or our economic difficulties.
I have been thinking for many years that the principal problem in this country is an educational one. I have taken the trouble to inquire into comparable educational facilities in other countries in Northern Europe. I can say without fear of contradiction that we have the worst technological education in Northern Europe—the fewest facilities, the fewest number of teachers, the fewest number of schools and the fewest number of pupils. No country comes anywhere near us in our deficiencies in that respect. It is the fault of no particular Party or Government; it is the gross deficiency of feeling and thought among the lot of us. None of us and no section of the people is primarily responsible.
If we study the history of education in other countries we will find that it is a curious thing that, generally, it is a small group in the community which stimulates better education. Very often you will find that the people in charge of education—the managers, the educational authorities, the politicians or any particular group of societies— do not bring about educational reforms. Improvement generally comes through a few enthusiasts who may represent any one or many sections of the community. We have lacked the enthusiasts, and in full measure. Part of the whole deficiency in education here is based on the fact that there has been a presumption amongst us all and among both the principal Parties of this House that high-grade technical education is not required by the vast majority of the agricultural community. It has been assumed by way of default or remission that that is the case.
Is the Deputy confining his criticism to rural areas? I take it he is excluding the work done in Dublin?
I am speaking mainly about rural areas. That being the case, the whole of technological education lags behind because the major part of the community is not considered to require these greater facilities. This has been the case in regard to a number of countries. There is nothing exceptional about it. You have only to study the rural educational history of Denmark or Holland or Belgium or Great Britain to find that, in these countries, too, there was a period of pronounced and prolonged deficiency. Therefore, there is nothing of which we need be particularly ashamed except that we have left it desperately late whereas other countries have gone ahead.
There has always been a tendency for rural education to lag. It lagged in Denmark for a very considerable period. They got their independence earlier than we did and they took steps earlier than we did to put it right. Agricultural education lagged in Holland. At the point when greater facilities were established for elementary agricultural education, and elementary technology in the schools, it was found that there was a gross deficiency of teachers. As far as I can ascertain it has never lagged through any lack of co-operation on the part of managerial authorities, whoever they have been, in Northern Europe, whether lay or ecclesiastic.
The demand for this kind of education springs from a number of diverse individuals in the community, of no particular kind or sort, and it is they who get the job done and get the improvements effected. The Butler Educational Act was passed in Great Britain in, I think, 1945. No one can say that in the previous period of ten years there was any large-scale political agitation either in the Labour Party or the Conservative Party for the improvements made as a result of that Act. It came largely from educational experts and enthusiasts of a miscellaneous type.
As I have said, we have to face this issue and we have to face the fact that, according to the Council of Education, a very large number of people do not reach the conclusion of the primary school education; they are unable to take it, unable to follow the full course; and they consider that the school-leaving age should obviously be raised. Some time ago the Youth Unemployment Commission proposed the raising of the school-leaving age and nothing was done about it. There was a Commission on Agriculture, which reported in 1947 and which recommended an improvement in agricultural education facilities of the junior type. Nothing was done about that. In fact, it looks to me, from studying the history of this country, that one of the things we have all done on both sides of this House is to ignore the solid but difficult recommendations of practically every expert council that has sat for us since the foundation of the State. As I have said, we have studied the patient recommendations of many of these people; they have proved in the light of events to be excellent and most of them have been ignored.
I notice also that the Council of Education recommended the study of nature and of rural science in the primary school. That also has been adverted to by other organisations. So far as rural science is concerned, I understand that it is taught in less than 100 schools out of the total number in the State. I understand that only 4,000 out of nearly 500,000 engaged in agriculture take the night classes which go on from November to January, given by the Department of Agriculture. I understand that about 4,500 people take the rural science courses in the vocational schools, representing the children of 250,000 farmers. I understand that secondary school courses in rural science and allied subjects are taken by 1 per cent. of the secondary school population.
Of course, the position is that agricultural education should be in the premier place in this country; that this is not the case is no more the fault of the present Government than of the past Government. Agricultural instruction and education should be in the very highest position. The salaries should be the highest; the kind of people attracted to that work should be the finest citizens in the State; it should be almost, apart from ecclesiastical education, the No. 1 education of the country. That is not so. Neither the emoluments nor the conditions of service at the present time are likely to attract people to go into this service and the appallingly inadequate conditions at Albert College for the training of science students would discourage any person except one with an extraordinary vocation for agriculture from entering into that field. That is the position. It is a thing about which we all ought to start thinking. This is a non-political subject. We are all of us equally guilty.
The fact is that, if you compare this country with any other country whose major export is agricultural, the whole of the ground work and the basic foundation of teaching here is grossly inadequate; the whole of the agricultural teaching is inadequate. I am referring to countries such as Great Britain, Holland and Denmark, who compete with us in the British market, who are competing more than successfully with us at the present time and who, in fact, are driving us out of the British market.
One of the things about which we have to make up our minds in this country is the fact that there is an enormous number of people here who, because of the easier opportunities of economic life in Great Britain, do not genuinely believe that there is any point in a farmer's son here on a farm of less than 50 to 80 acres acquiring the complicated kind of science which will enable him to increase agricultural production on the farm. There is a sort of feeling that, even if production were doubled on the small holdings by the use of science, both practical and theoretical, no greater number of people could be supported on that farm, that more might even leave it, whereas of course, unless we insist that the whole of the land of this country be used productively to the maximum degree, we shall not survive as a nation; we shall not be able to support a larger population. We shall recognise that, even although the population of rural areas does not increase in itself, it would bring purchasing power to the neighbouring towns, to those who provide the farmers with goods and services and in that way we can achieve the object we set out to achieve, which is to increase economic activity in this State.
We have to make up our minds about this. It so happens that in every other country in Europe which exports agricultural produce, education for the smallest farmer, from five acres onwards, is considered absolutely indispensable if that farmer and that agricultural community are to export their produce in competition with others. There is no acreage limit whatever in any of these countries. In none of the countries who compete with us agriculturally is it considered that, for two-thirds of the agricultural area, agricultural scientific teaching of the very highest, most complex order is unnecessary because the farms are too small or the land is too poor to make it worth while. There are millions and millions of acres in Europe supporting families, whose produce is exported to Great Britain, where the land is no better than the land of Mayo, Donegal or Kerry, where climatic conditions are no better and where agricultural science is considered absolutely indispensable.
The basic foundation of rural education is surely that the primary pupils, either through the school-leaving age being raised or through other methods, have got to be given the basic training to want to understand technology, to want to regard the soil and the use thereof as a scientific matter, to want to have the ambition to explore the mysteries of the soil and the whole of the science of botany and zoology. The desire to understand, the desire to learn has first of all to be inculcated before the vast majority of these people are capable of taking the instruction.
Again, there is nothing unique in that. In practically every other country where scientific education follows upon primary education, a considerable proportion of the teaching in the first few years is in relation to the language of the people concerned, be it Dutch, Danish or German, to mathematics and to fundamental elementary science, in order that they may proceed to understand and be sufficiently educated to comprehend technology, science and go ahead with further technical education. That being the case, we can understand that, so far as this country is concerned, this preparation for further technological education is absolutely essential. I take it that that is what the Council of Education had in mind when they used these very conservative words, that the primary school cannot provide the full minimum of education.
It is extraordinary how little this statement has sunk into the mind of the community. To my mind it is a tremendous condemnation of the present educational system. This recommendation is a tremendous condemnation of the preparation which has been given to the school-children in this country now facing an age of automation, an entirely new and different age from which we cannot escape unless we want deliberately to remain in the backwater. There may be arguments for remaining in the backwater and not taking part in the scientific age. If there are arguments, let us be frank about them and let us establish a new system of education which encourages emigration. Let us decide to have something different from the other countries of Europe. Whatever we do, let us be outspoken about it. If we say we cannot afford high-grade technological education in this country, if the Budget cannot support it or if the people do not want it, let us make up our mind about it.
I would be prepared to advocate for my constituents a reduction in the current Government expenditure to enable further educational facilities to be provided and I would be prepared to advocate any reduction in current or capital expenditure under other heads in order to provide capital costs of buildings and technical apparatus and anything that was required in order that education would be improved. It would be a desperate thing if Deputies were not willing to support such a proposal if the Minister came before the House and said he required money and that it was difficult to find.
It is interesting to note that a number of people have been talking about this. We had the report of the joint Commission of Macra na Feirme and the National Farmers' Association on the Agricultural Institute. There are a great number of paragraphs which deserve to be recorded in the annals of this House in the same way as Deputy Costello quoted reports of other councils and committees which debated educational problems. It is just as well that some of this would be put on record. Let me quote from page 9 of the Report on Agricultural Institute:—
"An appreciation of agriculture should permeate our whole educational system. This should begin in the national school, where agriculture should get its proper place in the reading-books, and should be deepened and extended in the vocational school, the secondary school and the university. A knowledge of rural science, sufficient at least to appreciate the elementary ideas of botany, chemistry and biology is desirable for life on the land."
Speaking of rural education on page 23, Section 18 of the report, the commission states the following:—
"Holland and Denmark owe their present high state of agricultural development to their comprehensive systems of agricultural education over the years. In Denmark, the Folk-High schools of Gruntvig give the young people a pride in their country and a love for the land, two factors without which more agricultural efficiency is sterile."
In relation to vocational education, the commission report as follows, on page 23, Section 19:—
"It is vital to recognise that the major function of vocational schools should be to improve education in agriculture: our most important vocation. It is not sufficient for such education to convey the necessary skills for becoming a farmer, it must also convey the desire to become a farmer."
This report was written largely by farmers, together with professors of agricultural subjects in the university. The report goes on to recommend a very great extension of rural science and agricultural science in the vocational schools.
It is just as well to make some comparisons. We have now reached the stage when we should not be ashamed of making comparisons with other countries. Every country has deficiencies to overcome. The British, according to their present Prime Minister, are in mortal peril. One of the disgraceful things in this country is the smugness we adopt in studying many of our problems as though we were afraid to face our own deficiencies when the Parliaments of practically every other country in the world are constantly admitting theirs and admitting the things that need to be overcome.
I am frequently told that you cannot compare Holland with Ireland; that they are different. The only thing I know about Holland is that it is an infinitely more congested country; that it has some 5,500,000 acres of arable land crowded into a small community very much smaller than Ireland. They have lost the Empire on which they depended for their existence. The country was severely damaged during the last war and the people have to work very hard to improve their economic conditions. They have always had to do so. They are a very hard working people with, perhaps, less imagination than we have. They have the benefit of a longer period of independence with all the privileges going with it. They compete on the British market with us and they are composed to a very considerable degree of people of our own religion. I refuse to admit that there is not an element of comparison.
Nobody can tell me or anybody with any sense in this country that Irish farmers and the sons of Irish farmers need a lower standard of technical study than Dutch farmers because nobody can prove it. Judging by the export figures and the difficulties we have in expanding agricultural production there is no proof that such is the case. There is an element of absolute comparison with Holland or with Denmark for that matter. There may be a difference in the methods of teaching that should be adopted. It may be more difficult to teach agriculture in this country owing to the diversity of the soils. The problem may be greater or more difficult but we should glory in overcoming these difficulties if there are such.
In any event in Holland £2,000,000 per annum are spent on agricultural education among the sons of 147,000 farmers compared with our £250,000. That is the first fact to notice; £700,000 is spent on agricultural primary education; £670,000 on agricultural secondary education and the remainder on research and agricultural university education. I should not like to quote our figures.
There are general evening courses, two winters of 144 hours each for certain classes of students which include natural history, chemistry, zoology, live stock and dairying, fertilisers. There are 436 classes of ten members upwards totalling 7,000 pupils. The teachers act as advisers in their spare time. It was found that this general course was not suitable to the majority of the community because, first of all, being evening work, it was difficult particularly because the people lived far away from where they worked. Finally, it was found that the course took place at a time when the students had forgotten too much of the work they had done in the primary school. It was found that there was a lack of continuity between primary education and this general course. The premises were inadequate for the teaching. The Dutch Government, consequently, in full co-operation with the ecclesiastical authorities—I might add with the very great enthusiasm of the ecclesiastical authorities, particularly those of the same religion as the majority of the people of this country—inaugurated the elementary school agricultural education for boys between the ages of 13 and 14.
There are 206 elementary schools in a country where there are 147,000 farmers. In those schools, there are 18,000 pupils coming from 5,500,000 acres and not from 17,000,000 acres as they do here. Every sixth day of the school the teachers visit the parents' farms from which the students come. Successful pupils go on to more advanced classes. There are four forms in these elementary schools. In the first year the total period of school work is spread over 40 weeks in the year, two and a half days a week, leaving the boy to work for his family for the rest of the period. In the second year, there are 40 weeks of one day per week, and in the third and fourth years the school term is 30 weeks for one day a week, leaving plenty of time for the boys to do the work which is required of them on their farms.
In the first form there is a total of 560 hours of work during the year. This is interesting—of the 560 hours, 120 are allotted to the Dutch language and 120 to arithmetic. Most of the rest of the first year is devoted to natural history and the history of Holland. It includes civic teaching and teaching on all the needs of Holland as an agricultural country, the teaching of the young farmer, his duties towards his land in connection with export and marketing, in connection with the difficulty of holding Holland's place in the world's agricultural market and methods of improving it. That is one of the courses in the first year. It is repeated in subsequent years because this subject—the whole of it—is not regarded as a subject which can be dealt with fully for pupils of that age. That is regarded as a subject for adult education taking place at the age of 18 or 19.
Nevertheless, the elements of it are taught so far as young boys can understand it, at that time. In subsequent years all the agricultural subjects are taught, including practical advice and demonstrations, visits to farms and so on, and all the teachers are ultimately linked with advisory services—many of them are advisers in the summer months—and the whole agricultural and advisory teaching services even at the primary school stage are interlocked so that no teacher ever becomes too much desk-bound because they are constantly out on the farms and always combine teaching with practice.
If we wish to reach the agricultural competence of Holland and Denmark nobody can tell us that we can escape the implications of that kind of teaching of Holland. It may be difficult to bring about anything similar here; it may be years before we could do it, but I cannot see from an intensive study of modern agricultural science how we can compete with other countries in the British market, how we can raise the competence of our people without that kind of teaching. What I am saying is no reflection on the Irish people; it is simply the plain fact that if the Dutch and the Danes need that level of education we need it.
As I have said, a study of the agricultural output of this country and others would seem to prove that beyond a doubt. In Holland, having gone through this three or four years' course in elementary education, 3,400 students go on to the advanced winter schools of which there are 40 in the country—again, a country of some 5,000,000, arable acres. These winter schools are what are known as secondary vocational schools, but they cannot be compared with our vocational schools because the element of comparison is not there. They take place from October to April. There are two forms and, again, in the first form, for pupils who have gone through the three-year course in elementary education out of the 768 hours of study in these winter classes, 120 hours are for Dutch and mathematics, showing the tremendous importance of the teaching of language in order to acquire a deeper scientific knowledge and also the importance of the fact that apparently—unless the Dutch are very much more stupid than we are—no person can acquire sufficient knowledge of his language to pursue technical studies without continual refresher courses in that language and extension in the teaching thereof.
Therefore, in the fourth year of agricultural teaching 120 out of 768 hours are occupied with Dutch and mathematics. I notice also in these winter schools that 48 hours out of the 768 are occupied in engineering, a subject which is very much neglected in the countryside. The number of farmers' sons who acquire technical knowledge enabling them to maintain agricultural machinery is grossly inadequate. In the second form of these winter schools, 10 per cent. of the time is still spent on non-agricultural subjects such as the language and the literature of the country and on mathematics. In the second form of the winter school agricultural book-keeping plays a very important part and it is an interesting fact because, as far as I know, there is practically no agricultural book-keeping taught at all in this country. Farmers' sons grow up completely unequipped to understand the science of agricultural book-keeping which is not at all simple but is very complicated because of the factors of depreciation and miscellaneous revenues that accrue from every form of agricultural production.
I shall not go into the question of advanced agricultural education in Holland because the superiority of their advanced agricultural education is so much greater than ours that it would be painful to recount it and it does not arise on this Vote which does not relate to universities. I only hope that some of the proposals of the National Farmers' Association Commission on the agricultural institute will be adopted in regard to advanced agricultural education in this country.
As I have said, this is a matter from which we cannot possibly escape. There is no question but that there is a very great apathy in this country about rural education and there is no question but that this tidal wave of emigration, which has proceeded since the war and for which no one Party or Government is responsible, has caused the very great majority of our people to feel that there is the line of escape, there is the easy way out of their difficulty, and it is very understandable that if everybody who lives on the western coast of Ireland can get work in Great Britain why on earth should they indulge in a course of agricultural education which would be wearisome and difficult to bring about and of which the results would be problematical, with all the difficulties of providing capital, engaging in modern methods of farming, with the inevitability of co-operation between all small farmers, if there is to be any success.
That is the challenge to the community to-day and there is no escape. Neither the development of industries in the West nor any other method we can adopt can save the country from the ever-growing emigration except we consider the whole land of the country as land which must play its fullest part in our economy.
At least we must take some steps to provide these facilities. We can issue a challenge to the whole community that those are alternatives and that otherwise we can see the tremendous growth of emigration continuing and continuing until only the land that is easiest to work will be worked. As I said, these are matters of vital importance.
It is true to say that the post-primary education of our people in relation to agriculture is just as vital a factor if we are, for example, to engage again in so humble a thing as the becon trade of Great Britain. It is a vital factor which cannot be achieved without intensive mental training. We shall never be able to run the Danes and the Dutch so close in competition on the bacon market of Great Britain, which is worth £12,000,000 to our people in this country, without intensive mental training. Modern bacon production cannot be carried on save by intensive mental and technical training.
It can be done no longer on the old traditional basis. We must face that fact if we are to have a first-class bacon trade with Great Britain, if we want to face the continuous competition that will come, even in the beef trade through imports of Argentinian beef, we require infinitely more mental and technical training. The question is very simple: is there something so miraculous about our people that they apparently require one-twentieth of the technical training given to the people who come from the land of Holland, Belgium and Great Britain? Is there something so miraculous about us that we engage in competition with these countries, that we can produce our own feeding stuffs with the best possible results without really doing anything about mental and technical training? Are we so remarkable a people that we can suffer this deficiency of education? Are all those other people wasting their time? Will we eventually find that the £2,000,000 spent by the Dutch people on agricultural education was wasted, that we were the intelligent ones? Will we come out in the end better than they?
I very much doubt it. The principal problem of this country, outside its immediate economic difficulties, is the lack of mental training and technical education. It is one subject about which we can speak non-politically because we have all been deficient. The present Government, either in their first period of office or now have shown no great desire to make revolutionary changes when they had their opportunities any more than we did when we were in office and when we came back to office.
Our reason for not giving opportunities for better mental training to our people is that we know in our heart of hearts that emigration makes it unnecessary. This becomes a major problem—finding the teachers, the buildings, getting the desire for the education. This is a major problem which requires to be tackled immediaately.
Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,
I was very interested in this debate this evening because most of the people who spoke seemed to have very definite views on how education in this country could be improved and should be improved. Perhaps the most revolutionary suggestion was made by Deputy Childers. Might I suggest to the House and to Deputy Childers that while agricultural education is very necessary and that nobody will deny that any amount of money spent on it would be well spent, there is something else which must be tackled first, and that is the question of education in general.
We in the rural communities cannot close our eyes to the fact that the standard of education in our rural schools is terribly low. There is no use in talking about giving higher education to boys and girls who are leaving school at 14 while the teachers hint to them that they should not continue any longer because their standard of living would not be improved by so doing. They have practically no education, I am ashamed to say. Many people in the House will probably say I am wrong in that. I said last year and I repeat it now, that the present system of education under which teachers, most of whom are doing their best, are trying to teach through the medium of Irish to children who are not of Irish-speaking homes is wrong. There are far too many of our 14-year old children leaving school semiliterate.
There is no use trying to deny it. We find it all over the country. We heard to-night that 33? per cent. of the children attending schools may turn out to be Irish scholars and may leave the primary schools with a sound knowledge of Irish and of everything else taught through the medium of Irish, but 66 per cent. go out unable to carry out their ordinary daily business through any language because of the fact they have not got a sound primary education. All we have to do is look at the returns of the primary leaving certificate examination to find out about the small number of children put forward for this examination in order to find that there must be something wrong.
I believe that as long as we continue this system, and unless the Minister and his Department take a definite decision on this matter, we will never have proper education in our primary schools. There was a lot of talk last year—it has died down since—about cruelty in schools. I believe we will not make scholars through the stick. We will never make Irish speakers by trying to beat Irish into the children. That system does exist in a number of schools. I brought a couple of cases to the attention of the Minister but I have not received his decision yet in any of them. I suggest that cruelty, whether it be fore the purpose of making children learn Irish or for any other purpose should not be allowed in our schools. I would draw the Minister's attention to a report in theIrish Times of June 19th, headed “Gaeltacht na Midhe—the Experiment that Failed.” The person who wrote that article pointed out that in Gibbstown Gaeltacht in Meath there is a very fine modern school. When that school was first erected it had something like 70 pupils. The number has now dropped to 16, while an old school, which should be condemned, a mile down the road, is packed to the doors. There must be something wrong. I suggest that the Minister should have this matter investigated.