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Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 May 1962

Vol. 195 No. 11

Committee on Finance. - Vóta 30—Oifig an Aire Oideachais (Atógáil).

Debate resumed on the following Motion:
Go gcuirfear an Meastachán siar chun a aithbhreithnithe.—(Deputy O'Donnell.)

The decision in relation to education for the rising generation is the most important function that any Government can exercise. We feel that the Department of Education should never be regarded as a junior Ministry or an unimportant Department because it is the basis upon which success in other walks of life depends. As such, the Department should get the honoured place it deserves.

While some of us were aware that we were somewhat behind in the matter of education, it came as a bit of a shock to us to see in a recent survey how far behind we were in comparison with other countries. It is no use comparing this year with 1930 in our own country. We must compare our position with that in neighbouring countries. In the field of primary education we saw that we spend only one-third of the amount spent in England and Wales.

Primary education is the most important facet of our educational system because—and this is an unfortunate fact—almost 75 per cent. of our people can avail themselves only of primary education. In those circumstances, we must emphasise the importance of primary education. At present, there is no job, not even a labouring job, which does not require a good standard of education. There is a lot of detail associated with building and cleansing work so that all jobs now require a good standard of education.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

The curriculum has not been changed since 1926 and in view of what has been said here, I think it needs a general overhaul. Secondary education in this country can be availed of only by the children of people who can afford it. Whether they have ability to absorb the instruction is completely irrelevant. If they have the money, they can go to secondary schools. We in the Labour Party consider that entirely wrong. We feel there is a moral obligation on the Government to give to every child an equal opportunity to develop his talents and brains to the greatest advantage and to put himself on an equally competitive level with others of his own age and ability.

In spite of that we find, according to the recent survey quoted here, that per head of the population, we spend only about a quarter of the amount our neighbours across the water spend on secondary education—that only one in seven of our primary school leavers goes to secondary schools. That is a very low percentage by comparison with continental countries where the percentage is something like 75 to 90. In Japan, 98 per cent of children between 15 and 19 years of age attend secondary schools. They are now training some of our people at Shannon.

Before I pass from the point that we spend far too little on education— roughly one-third of what our neighbouring countries spend on a population basis—I should like to quote from the document Investment in Education published by the Federation of Irish Secondary Schools:

If we were told that an intricate machine such as an electronic computer could be built in Ireland at one third of the cost required elsewhere, we would unquestionably be amazed. The training of a talented young Irish mind is not only a much more delicate, intricate and involved process than the building of a machine, but it must extend over a much longer period. Even the most intricate machine can be built in a period of 1-2 years, while the adequate training of a young mind may extend over 15-20 years. The claim that a young man or woman can be adequately educated in Ireland at one-third the cost taken in a neighbouring country certainly seems to us equal cause for amazement and scepticism.

That paragraph sums up the whole problem which confronts us. Coupled with that, we are in the unfortunate position of having practically no vocational guidance when our students reach the threshold of careers. I believe there is an attempt being made in Dublin by the vocational education committee in this regard but I would remind the Minister that there are many more places than Dublin in this country and it is the duty of the Government to appoint inspectors to give career guidance.

There is far too much wastage at the moment of young people being well educated and taking the wrong careers ultimately. After two or three years, they change and start all over again. In our universities, 45 per cent of first year students fail. I believe this to be mainly due to the absence of vocational guidance. Due to late marriages, Irish parents lose touch with career problems; it is so long since they themselves were confronted with those problems and things have changed so much in the intervening years that parents are completely at a loss when it comes to guiding their children into the right careers. Therefore, I feel it is the duty of the Minister to appoint these career guidance officers and to have them visit secondary schools throughout the country each year from January to June. I am aware that some secondary schools have adopted their own means of giving such guidance, but some financial assistance at least should be forthcoming from the Department towards the furtherance of this work.

I was glad the previous speaker mentioned the fact that it was almost impossible to get teachers of modern languages in the Twenty-Six Counties. Had I been the only one to raise the matter, I throught the Minister might not take any notice of it. It is a fact that there is a great shortage of modern language teachers here and in view of the fact that so many Deputies have emphasised the importance of modern language instruction in our secondary schools, I have one suggestion to make to the Minister which might alleviate this shortage. I suggest that he should recognise the honours graduates from the Northern Ireland university for incremental service in the Twenty-Six Counties. We make a lot of bones about the removal of the Border, but if it were removed, we would find that under our present regulations all these graduates would be completely unqualified for incremental posts under the Department of Education. I would appeal, therefore, to the Minister to recognise teachers of modern languages who graduate from the Northern Ireland university for incremental posts in this part of the country.

While vocational education has undoubtedly improved and expanded over the last 10 or 15 years, much remains to be done. There should be no delay however about doing it.

I should like to refer to the erection of primary school buildings throughout the country. At present, there is a tendency when replacing an old fourroom school to build a three-room school. Possibly the reason is that in the old school the extra room was a spare room or something of that kind. With the development of the schools medical service hardly a day passes without a doctor, a dentist or a nurse visiting a school. We are all in favour of this and hope it will be further expanded. But because of this the Minister should urge the school architects to provide an extra room for this work. Much of the success of the schools medical service depends on the co-operation extended to the doctors by the teachers and the Department. Teachers, know that when a school medical examination takes place the mothers and pre-school age children come in to avail of the service.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

When this occurs there is general chaos in the school. The Department should therefore co-operate by providing a special room where the parents of a child could privately discuss with the doctor or dentist the result of the examination. At present, that is not possible.

Some time ago, I asked the Minister a question concerning physical training in the schools. I was not aware until recently that there is a very significant difference between physical training and physical education, and that there are a few very good schools in Dublin turning out each year about 30 physical education teachers. Unfortunately, most of these have to go overseas to secure an appointment. I would urage the Minister to make incremental posts available to these people, particularly in view of the fact that the recent report on the curricula of secondary schools referred to the necessity and desirability of providing physical education in our schools.

I have one point to make in regard to the Irish language. I feel that the programme laid down in the secondary schools, particularly that for the leaving certificate, tends to prevent a pupil from enlarging his knowledge of Irish. A pupil who puts down on his paper the bare necessities will do much better than one who writes pages and pages of Irish when answering a question. The former pupil need not be too good at Irish grammar. I feel too much stress is laid on grammar. When a student makes a grammatical mistake in Irish compositions, he incurs heavy penalties. As a result, he is afraid to express himself fully in Irish for fear of making grammatical mistakes. We all speak English, but very few of us speak it perfectly. We all make mistakes in grammar in English and nobody minds. That should be our attitude towards Irish in examinations also: that the more general knowledge of Irish a pupil has, the more marks he should get. He should not be penalised for petty grammatical mistakes. I welcomed the decision of the Minister some years ago to introduce an oral test in Irish. It was a step in the right direction in helping to remove some of the hatred felt, particularly by students going for the leaving certificate.

I would again impress on the Minister the importance of making effective changes in our educational system. As it stands, secondary education is only for those who can afford to pay for it, and that is not right in a Christian country.

(South Tipperary): We have had two Estimates under discussion here today, one for Defence and the present one for Education. I agree with the Minister's statement on page 1 of his address to the effect that we must regard education as an investment. It is an investment in the brains of Ireland and this is a Vote on which I would personally be inclined to be more generous than on most others.

I agree with him also as regards the treatment of backward children. While we must admit that the institutional facilities for the mentally handicapped are inadequate, at the same time, he is right in saying that in the borderline cases, we should try to have as many children as possible dealt with in the local schools, in their own home environment, rather than take them away and place a stigma of mental deficiency upon them by so doing.

The Minister mentioned the great increase in the number of secondary schools. He gave the figure for 1933-34 as 377 and for 1962-63 as 542. The enrolment in these schools has increased from 40,000 pupils in 1933/ 34 to 80,000 pupils in 1962/63, and he hopes to have 100,000 pupils by 1970. That is a desirable development, particularly in so far as it is bringing education more and more within the grasp of people in the more isolated parts of the country.

Looking over the report of the Council of Education I find on page 252, paragraph 429, that in 1924-25 there were 278 recognised secondary schools, with an enrolment of 22,897. In 1956-57 the number of schools had advanced to 480 and the enrolment was 62,429 pupils. However, it rather surprises me to find that, in spite of that advance, only 2,322 pupils, or four per cent., were in our secondary schools as a result of scholarships from public funds. That is too small a percentage in view of such an advance in pupil attendance. It would seem that we have been too penurious in the allocation of secondary scholarships in the past or that the standard of pupils in our primary schools has been too low.

I would agree with the conclusion reached in this report and would advocate the provision of increased grants and scholarships consistent with the principle of some parental contribution, where possible. That is socially desirable. I would never think it should be our aim to provide everybody with something for nothing. Where people are able to pay or to make some contribution in all walks of life, it is desirable they should do so.

Many remarks have been made about the small amount of money being spent on education in this country. If our educational standard were proportionate to the amount of money which has been spent on it, I believe that, en masse, we would be considerably more uneducated than we are. However, at this juncture, I wish to pay tribute to one body of men who by their efforts have succeeded in raising and keeping at a moderate level the standard of education in this country, namely, the Irish Christian Brothers. More than any other body of men they have contributed to the progress made in education. This is all the more praiseworthy when we consider that the average cost per child per year in these schools up to 1961 has been the small figure of £10 per year.

We are inclined, by virtue of our insular position, to think that educationally we are equal to, if not better than, most countries. I heard that proposition promulgated in the diningroom of this House about an hour ago. It is a fact that education has been brought more and more to the people not alone in Europe, in Britain and in America, but also in Russia. A few years ago, I happened to be at the World Fair in Brussels and like most people who went there, I thought I should like to see the Russian Pavilion. It displayed power and propaganda. One annexe was entirely devoted to education and various facets of education were photographically displayed. Attached to each photograph was a legend giving the percentage of people in Russia of school-going age in proportion to the entire population who were engaged in these various educational pursuits; underneath was the percentage similarly engaged in the United States. The purpose was to show the power of Russia and the inevitability of Communist triumph, that they were devoting so much of their resources to the ideological advancement and education of their people that the ultimate conquest by Communism was inevitable.

That has been a factor in broadening the approach to education in Great Britain. I should be very doubtful if it was for purely humanitarian purposes the old school tie was to a certain extent discarded on the other side of the water. Britain has come to realise, as America has come to realise, that if she is to survive as a nation, it is essential she should try to mobilise her entire talent, and not concentrate merely on educating a privileged section of the community. We are, I think, in an analogous position. If we are to survive, our survival will not lie with the Army, for which we voted moneys here this week, but largely with education, and the degree and quality of the education we can give our people. In considering that education, we must regard every member of our community, no matter from what walk of life he may come, as a potential asset to be used for national development purposes.

We are a small country and we cannot allow any good brain to lie fallow. If we do so, we deprive our community as a whole of some element of progress. In considering that, we must recognise that to-day the planning ahead in Europe, as in Britain, is directed towards ensuring that an ever-increasing number of people will secure both secondary and university education in the next decade. It is a fact that the enrolment here in our secondary schools is proportionately much lower than it is in European countries. Deputy Dillon gave the figures.

One speaker referred to the discrepancy in relation to secondary school facilities in the different counties. He instanced Donegal and he gave the figure for Donegal as 18.7 per cent. in the 12 to 18 age group. He picked the lowest enrolment rate in Ireland. If we take another county not very much different from Donegal, the Minister's county, we find the enrolment rate there is the highest in Ireland. I do not know whether that is due to the influence of the Minister, or to something else. There the figure is 38.1 per cent. It is difficult to understand why secondary education is so much appreciated in Clare and why there is such a lack of appreciation in Donegal.

Is the Minister, I wonder, satisfied that we are receiving value for money in relation to vocational education? From all sides of the House, at county council level, opinions have been expressed time and again that, in proportion to the money spent, we are not getting an adequate return. In the Department of Education Report for 1958-1959, the cost of secondary education is given as 8d. per hour. The cost of vocational education is given as 1/10 per hour. The difference is rather extreme and a little difficult to understand.

In my county, one of the most successful schools there is a private enterprise venture. The principal is co-author in the little pamphlet issued here yesterday by the Federation of Secondary Teachers. Here we have an example of a small capital outlay on a private house. That school, at a fraction of the cost, is far more successful to-day than anything put up with public money. That seems to establish the principle of private enterprise and voluntary effort as against the stultifying effect of State enterprise.

When we compare this country with Great Britain — such a comparison is desirable because we have such close contact with Britain and because so many of our people emigrate there— the position is not unreasonable from the point of view of national education and the point of view of our economic resources. The Irish people are keeping pretty close to Great Britain £ for £ with regard to their payments for national school education. The position is different in relation to secondary education. The disparity is even greater when we come to university education. The emphasis is entirely in favour of Great Britain from the point of view of expenditure on these two types of education.

If we take the average income of the Irishman as being half that of the Englishman — that is roughly the position — and if we accept that about double the number of people here in proportion to our population go to university as compared with the position in England — again, that is roughly the position — we should be expected on that basis to provide just about a quarter of the amount of money from public funds for university education. The point is that we do not. The amount provided in England from public funds per pupil per annum is £576; the figure here is £89.2. If we were to provide a sum similar to that provided in England, allowing for the higher percentage availing of university education here and for our proportionately lower income, we would be expected to subscribe £144 per pupil per annum. There would appear to be a considerable leeway to be made up here, if we are to maintain a standard and keep ourselves on a competitive basis with other countries, particularly Great Britain. The Minister may reply that we are spending a higher percentage here through our university grants and through grants to Trinity College in relation to students who are not citizens of this country. I am aware of that, and I think the grants are fairly balanced in that regard.

With regard to our educational end-product, particularly from our secondary schools and pre-university, I am informed that in Britain and in Northern Ireland, a much higher level is secured in the fields of mathematics, physics and modern languages. I believe that to be true. I know from my own experience in days gone by that I always found fellow students from these schools much better than I was at mathematics. These are important points. These are the subjects on which we must place increasing emphasis in the future. Even since I left school, applied mathematics and physics have become much more important subjects. We are now in the age of atomic physics. The importance of electronics and analogous subjects and how they have become important in the last decade does not need to be emphasised.

I did not know until recently, and indeed it arose in response to a Question by Deputy Patrick Byrne, that teachers who had been employed in England and who return here are disallowed the incremental additions to their salary which I always thought they were allowed. It seems extraordinary that a teacher who has spent six, seven or eight years, perhaps, in a first class English public school, and who would be an acquisition to this country as a teacher, based on his experience abroad, is in that respect almost debarred from returning to teach in his own country.

The present Minister for Education who is a medical doctor is well aware that to secure an appointment here it is almost necessary to have postgraduate experience outside this country — in Great Britain or elsewhere— and that experience gained there is a considerable asset, almost, as I say, a prerequisite in securing a post here. That redounds to the benefit of the Irish people, to the benefit of patients up and down the country. Is it not extraordinary that an analogous form of thinking does not prevail in the Department of Education?

The difficulty of securing science teachers has been mentioned already, and never were science teachers more necessary. Yet, these people receive no encouragement to come back to this country. The Minister may provide some extra money for laboratory services but these services cannot give of their true worth if first-class teachers are not available.

In a general way, too much emphasis has, in the past, in this country, been placed upon what I might call dead languages. Too few of our secondary schools are capable of giving pupils a worthwhile science course. The difficulty, of course, has largely been financial. It requires considerable outlay to equip and to maintain even a modest laboratory. I am glad to see the Minister at least making some small contribution to that end. I hope he will not think my criticism too carping but I cannot help saying that it seems like too late and too little. The importance of science in secondary education should have been appreciated many years ago. I should like the Minister to consider whether or not, particularly for the demonstration of certain laboratory work, the help of Telefís Éireann should be availed of.

Agricultural science as a subject was introduced here in 1943 and, as a subject, it has made very little progress. The enrolment, peculiarly enough in an agricultural country, has been disappointingly small. I do not exactly know the reason. One reason suggested is that land is necessary in order to give a proper course. Another reason suggested is that a degree in Agricultural Science, as laid down by the Department of Education, is necessary and that it is difficult to secure teachers for just that one small subject.

It may be, indeed, that in our secondary schools we are still afflicted with some kind of childish outlook like this: "Ah, the auld farmer; what about agriculture; that is not a decent job to be taught at all." Agriculture is the basic economy of our country. I would exhort the Minister to bring strong pressure to bear on our secondary schools in this connection and if there are any difficulties or regulations in the way to try to have them removed. Perhaps he could arrange for an occasional visit for instruction by local agricultural instructors. At least he could introduce rural science in all our national schools and, as Deputy Dillion suggested, he could introduce, for reading purposes, a farm manual.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

(South Tipperary): I must confess to some disappointment when I read this report of the Council of Education. I felt there were several aspects of education with which I should like them to have dealt. They will probably claim that they were limited by their terms of reference. I should like to have had their views on our system of education. I should like to have had their views on the economics and financing of education, and whether the present system of financing one part of education from the Central Fund and the other, the vocational part, partly from local funds is the best system. I should like to have had their views on the relationship between vocational education and secondary and other branches of education. I should like to have had their views on the vexed subject of the teaching of Irish history.

I have often felt that in the teaching of Irish history an undue emphasis has been placed upon all the wrongs which we as a people have suffered in the past. I think it has given us a wrong slant and that, as a people, we are inclined to keep looking backwards rather than forwards. We live on an island and our nearest neighbours live on another island, and come what may we have to live with them. It does not really help the average young emigrant leaving this country to be imbued with notions and ideas — and perhaps exaggerated notions — of all the wrongs that his great-grandfather suffered in the past.

It is all right to read history in an objective fashion and have it presented in an objective fashion, but we are doing an injustice to ourselves as a people by portraying our history in the fashion we have been wont to do in the past. I do not think it makes it any easier for our exiles to adapt themselves to surroundings in which, through economic circumstances, they may find themselves. A more objective and less emotional approach is desirable.

The Minister has made some alterations in regard to the teaching of languages. Apparently it is now possible for teachers to get recognition in certain circumstances if they have been teaching some specified language on the Continent. The Minister has told us that is to prepare us for entry to the Common Market and to give an impetus to the teaching of modern languages. Desirable as that is, the Minister should have gone a little further. If we take the figures and if we take one dead language, Latin, we find that in 1925, 12 per cent. of the girls doing the intermediate certificate, took Latin. In 1957, 37 per cent. of the girls doing the intermediate certificate took Latin, and 38 per cent. took Latin in the leaving certificate. I wonder what use was that Latin to the majority of those girls?

If we take boys we find that in 1912, 69 per cent. in the Middle Grade, as it then was, took Latin. In 1957, 91 per cent. took Latin in the intermediate certificate and 91 per cent. took Latin in the leaving certificate; 16 per cent. took Greek in the intermediate certificate and 16 per cent. took Greek in the leaving certificate. Those figures show quite a substantial trend amongst the boys and girls towards Latin and Greek, two dead languages, and no matter what incremental arrangements the Minister makes about French or German he will have difficulty in upsetting that general educational trend —unless he takes more concrete steps than would appear to be in his mind judging from his speech opening this debate.

The Minister will have to start a campaign to try to urge upon secondary schools the importance of reorienting their ideas on these subjects. He will have to point out to them that it is necessary in this day and age to appreciate that we are entering a community where those dead languages are not known and that it is more important for our people to have a knowledge of French or German rather than Latin or Greek. There is a limit to what you can print in any syllabus or curriculum and it is clear that if you push Greek and Latin you have to do so at the expense of some other subject.

The Minister has already been bombarded pretty heavily on the subject of teaching through the medium of Irish. I should like to ask him one or two questions and should like him to reply "yes" or "no". The first question is: does he believe that Irish will ever be revived as the vernacular of the country under the present educational system, having regard to the results obtained in the past 40 years?

The next question I would ask him is: does he ever think it will be revived as the vernacular under any system, barring extreme compulsion, and we will rule that out? I would ask each member of the House to put these two questions to himself. It is certain that the present system has had completely negative results. In spite of these results, we find in the report of the Council of Education on page 130, paragraph 228, the following:

We believe that teaching through Irish in the secondary schools is a logical postulate of the movement to restore the language as a vernacular. If the language is to have status it is imperative that other subjects be taught through its medium. This is dependent, of course, on the fulfilling of three conditions — that the students are sufficiently advanced in their knowledge of Irish to follow courses in other subjects through Irish; that the teachers are fully qualified to give instruction through Irish in the subjects allotted to them; and that suitable textbooks are available. Where these conditions are fulfilled secondary education can be given efficiently and successfully through Irish.

There were 35 members on this Commission and that is the opinion of 32 of them.

Now we pass to page 284 of the same report to reservation No. 1, by Reverend Canon W. Nesbitt Harvey, Dr. Henry Kennedy and Dr. Patrick Moran. This reads:

In Minority Report No. 1 on the Primary School presented by us in June, 1954, we expressed the view that the Majority Report was dominated by extra-educational considerations, namely, the attempt to establish the Irish language as a vernacular. We stated "The main object of educational policy over the last 30 years, namely, the restoration of the Irish language as a vernacular, was based on theories which have proved groundless. The result has been failure, and there is no indication that if that policy is pursued in the future, a different result will ensue" (par. 10) and again "We believe that the introduction of the Irish language in the infant schools and in at least the early stages of the primary standards, and still more its use as a medium of instruction is a serious limiting factor in the width and quality of our primary education" (par. 11). It seems to us that the same extra-educational considerations govern the present Report. We do not agree that Irish should be a compulsory subject in the curriculum, nor do we agree with the use of Irish as a medium of instruction. The teaching medium should be the vernacular. An attempt to change the vernacular should not be an objective of an educational system. The status of Irish as a compulsory subject of necessity narrows the field of education.

The lamentable position of teaching of languages to boys is shown in the following table setting out the number of boys taking continental languages in the Leaving Certificate.

In 1955, out of 3,153 boys examined, 299 took French, eight German, seven Italian and two Spanish.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

(South Tipperary): In 1956, of 3,366 boys examined, 330 took French, 13, German, 11, Italian and six, Spanish. In 1957, of 3,492 examinees, 397 took French, nine German, five Italian and five, Spanish. The report continues:

These figures must surely be unique in Western Europe showing that of boys leaving secondary school only about 10 per cent. have a knowledge of any continental language. In the educational system, modern languages are not merely to be regarded for their educational and cultural value. They are becoming more and more a necessity because of the growing trade and commerce between peoples. It is not necessary to emphasise their importance for students entering University courses in science and engineering in this modern age.

We are convinced that the major factor in the limitation of modern language teaching is the amount of time devoted to Irish in the limited weekly teaching period of 27-hours. The same cause is effective in the limited teaching of science and while we are in agreement with the objective of a liberal education set out in the Report as opposed to undue specialisation, we feel that an extension of the study of science subjects is essential in modern conditions.

It is signed by W. Nesbitt Harvey, Henry Kennedy and P. Moran and dated 30th September, 1960. I wonder which of these two opposing views the Minister will succumb to, or will he be influenced by extra-educational considerations?

Deputy Dillon has already covered pretty adequately the various problems which the compulsory teaching of Irish occasions. I should like to emphasise one — the cruelty to many children. As legislators in this Assembly, we are quite prepared to legislate and coerce the infant mind, to try to push a language and push teaching through the medium of a language which is not the language of the child. Would we be prepared to submit ourselves to a like discipline? How many of us here have done so? I have no feelings against the Irish language. It was my favourite subject at school. It was a subject I found easiest to acquire but I am quite aware that many other children who went to school with me had the greatest difficulty, children who in other respects were as intelligent, if not more intelligent. We are taking a lot upon ourselves in visiting a form of treatment upon these children which we might not like visited upon ourselves.

In such matters as this, has there ever really been a mandate from the Irish people for the compulsory teaching of Irish? In trying to establish it by these methods as a living language, we are doing a disservice to the language itself. A feeling has been growing up that it is being used as a cover for political patronage. That feeling is growing, not alone among the young people who have been forced to learn through the medium of the language and have so come to dislike it, but amongst people who, in later life, believe that they have been victimised by the reason that Irish is necessary to obtain a particular job. Does that not seem ridiculous? When a doctor is being appointed in the middle of Tipperary, where a word of Irish has not been spoken for a hundred years, he must pass a qualifying examination in Irish. To make hypocrisy more complete, in many cases, the examinations are only a front.

You have the case of prospective rate collectors going before the county council to be appointed. Quite frequently, the county manager asks in Irish: "Have you a knowledge of Irish?" They can answer "Tá" or "Níl" and if they say "tá", they are qualified. That is a test that I have witnessed not once but probably a dozen times. We have got so accustomed to this kind of phoney existence here that it has now become second nature to us.

I would conclude by appealing to the Minister, particularly on this issue, not as one opposed to the Irish language — as I said already it was always my favourite subject — but as one who believes that we are exposing ourselves as a people to public ridicule by our attitude to this, our own language.

Ar an ócáid seo ba chóir go mbeadh an chéad fhocal adéarfadh Teachta i dteangain ár sinsir. Fé mar is eol dom tá an tAire Oideachais agus na gluaiseachtaí náisiúnta ar nós Connradh na Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Gael Linn agus Cumann Lúith-Chleas Gaedheal ag déanamh a ndícheall ar son aithbheochaint na Gaeilge. Tá siad ag déanamh a ndícheall chun chluichí, damhsaí agus cultúr na nGaedheal a chur thar n-ais san áit is dual dóibh in Éirinn.

Dá dtuigfeadh na daoine a phráinne atá ceist seo aithbheochaint na teangan do bheadh a mhalairt de scéal againn. Tá dualgas orainn go léir ár ndícheall a dhéanamh chun an Ghaeilge d'aithbheochaint agus cuspóir an Phiarsaigh a chur i bhfeidhm — Éire a bheith ní amháin saor ach Gaelach chomh maith; ní amháin Gaelach ach saor chomh maith.

It is ironical that we must admit that this country is one of the few countries of Europe in which education beyond the primary level is not as yet regarded as a human right.

Education in this country is still reserved as an essential prerogative of the rich, the powerful and the wealthy of this State. The poor man's child has not, as yet, a chance to ascend to the zenith of fame in any subject, in the social, economic or political life of this country. We are trying to educate our children on the cheap and hoping to get the very best results. Very few people seem to notice this fact. It is usual to come in here on this Estimate and congratulate ourselves on the high standard of education in this country and then proceed to make a ferocious attack against the element of compulsion in the revival of the language.

I should like to leave the question of the revival of the language aside for a while so that we may ask ourselves what is being done in Ireland to bring our education up to the standard required. Deputy Pattison has said that the Department of Education should not be regarded as a junior Department, as a Department of complacency and conservatism, where little change can be expected. I want to make bold to put the claims of my Party to free education in this country, free secondary, vocational and university education.

It seems to us a terrible waste of human talent and ability that education is still the prerogative of the wealthy people. It seems to us that too many of our universities and our secondary schools are cluttered up with rich men's children who do not possess the same latent talents or ability as the poor man's child, if he were given a chance. Money is the criterion of education, not ability and that is what we protest about.

We look with admiration upon countries such as America where every man has a chance of seeing his son become President and where Irish workers, given a fair chance and reasonable opportunity, decent conditions and good wages, can become the best in the entire field. Irishmen, all over the world, have reached the greatest heights open to them in the church and in the economic, social and cultural spheres of Britain, America and the Commonwealth because they got the opportunity. It is a great tragedy that so many thouands in this country are denied the opportunity of developing the talents with which God endowed them. It is a great waste of human endeavour and a criminal neglect on the part of the Government to allow that to continue.

It would take a long yardstick to measure the tremendous loss to the nation of those human skills and ability. An average of 50,000 to 60,000 people per year emigrate from this country as statistics have shown in recent years. Let us try to conjure up the cost involved of educating that number of people and then exporting them for the benefit of other nations. That situations exists because we still hold on to the ultra-conservative straitjacketed education of 50 years ago.

I believe that if the Minister is not realistic and if our sense of social justice does not prompt us to change our educational system, we will be forced to change it, whether we like it or not. The economic facts which we must face as a result of our entry into the Common Market, if we are allowed in, will force the Minister for Education, whoever he may be, to realise that he wants intelligent, competent, adaptable workers capable of standing up to their counterparts in Europe.

It is quite understandable that our workers are not trained in the techniques and devices of modern industry. It is a well-known fact that the industrial worker in Germany is engaged for upwards of four years in training before he is permitted into industry. I am not aware of any such provisions whatsoever being made here and the result is that many of our workers are led into blind-alley jobs and too many more are forced to emigrate. The Minister will require these capable, competent and intelligent workers in the future and I would ask him to set about establishing the various training centres in order that this may be made possible.

If we do not take these steps now, it is obvious that we are going to be unable to tackle the colossal task before us — competition in a free trade area. This is going to be the most excruciating experience which the Irish people were ever asked to contend with. The Minister will be relying, in the first instance, on education to fit the needs of our time, to keep abreast of the happenings in this atomic age, to be able to implement the tools of industry and to keep abreast of all the modern techniques and devices of this modern age. If the curricula of the schools are not changed to bring about that happy situation, I believe that, industrially, this country will go down.

Certain facts were revealed here in relation to the backward state of Irish education. I think it is true to say that out of approximately £12 million being spent this year, 19.2 per cent. will be spent per pupil annually as against 48.16 per cent. on pupils in England and Wales. For most of the children in this country, primary education is the only education they can ever hope to get. It is vitally important that it should be as thorough as possible to fit them for after-life.

On secondary education, we are spending, I believe, approximately £33.4 per pupil per year in this country as against £146.8 per pupil in England and Wales — four times as much per pupil here. Secondary education, in my opinion, is the doorway to greater educational pursuit and to a university career. Unless the Minister ensures that there is free secondary education, he must realise that he is depriving the vast majority of our boys and girls of the opportunity of ever seeing the inside of a university, irrespective of how talented they may be.

We ask the Minister to make available free education in our secondary schools and if he assesses the cost of that, he will find that it will not prove too great an impost on the taxpayers. I believe the public would be willing to pay for this tremendous investment in human endeavour. While the portals of the secondary schools are closed to such a large number of people, no one can suggest that we have free education in this country.

The Minister will probably tell me that there has been a great increase in enrolments to the secondary schools; that they have risen in recent years, from 1951 to 1959, from 50,000 to 70,000, but we must have regard to the fact that there is a possible 282,000 pupils who could avail of secondary education who cannot be provided for. We have, therefore, 212,000 pupils to provide for who could get and possibly should have got a secondary education in this land.

On the university side, the story is even worse. We spend approximately £89.2 per year per pupil on university education.

At 4.59 p.m., notice was taken that 20 Members were not present.

At 5 p.m. the Dáil resumed and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle adjourned the House until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 29th May, 1962.