Sílim go nglacann gach duine leis anois gurb é an Meastachán seo an Meastachán is tábhachtaí a thagann os comhair na Dála. Tá seo fíor mar feictear dúinn nach dtig dul chun cinn ar bith a bheith againn anois gan oideachas agus baineann sé seo go mór le talmhaíocht, le déantúsaíocht agus le gnéithe eacnamaíochta eile de chuid an Stáit. Bhí an t-am ann nár aontaíodh leis an bharúil seo ach tá an ré sin thart agus i láthair na h-uaire tuigeann gach duine a bhfuil suim aige i gcúrsaí eacnamaíochta an tábhacht atá leis agus ar an ábhar sin tá áthas orainn go bhfuil sé beartaithe ag an Rialtas agus ag an Aire níos mó airgid a chaitheamh ar oideachas ins an bhliain atá romhainn.
Tá sé beartaithe ag an Rialtas an aois a mbeidh sé ceadaithe ag páiste deireadh a chur lena scolaíocht a ardú go cúig bliana déag, agus go bhfuil scaifte mór dár ndaoine óga ag fáil oideachais go dtí an aois sin faoi láthair is maith an rud é an ardú aoise a bheith ann go h-oifigiúil. Sé an fáth go bhfuil sé seo a dhíth ná de réir mar atá an fhorbairt tionscail a gabháil ar aghaidh fé mar atá sé fé látháir beidh an dúil ag na daoine óga an scoil a fhágáil chomh luath agus is féidir obair agus páigh a fháil ins na monarcain. Tá seo le feicéail i mo Dháil cheantair féin fé láthair, agus ar an dóigh sin, caillfidh an duine óg an seans a bheadh aige an scil agus an ceárd a thiocfadh leis a fháil dá bhfanfadh sé fada go leor sa gceárdscoil agus is cuma caidé an rud a dheineadh sé bheadh sé íontach deacair air teacht ar an scil seo i ndhiaidh dó toiseacht ag obair i monarcan.
Ag tagairt arís don ardú aoise seo, tá sé so-fheicte nach dtiocfadh leat an riail úr seo a chur i bhfeidhm muna mbeadh dóthain múinteoirí ar fáil. Ar an ábhar sin, tá áthas orm go bhfuil aigne an Aire dírithe ar an deacracht seo agus go bhfuil siad fé láthair ag cur leis an Coláiste Oiliúna atá i nDrom Connrach, Coláiste Phádraig. Beidh i bhfad níos mó múinteoirí ar fáil nuair a bheidh an coláiste seo réidh agus dá bhrí sin, tiocfaidh linn an méid scoláirí atá ins na ranganna a ísliú.
Tá áthas orm freisin a fheiceáil na scoileanna úra á dtógáil ar fud na tíre. Sílim nár tógadh an oiread scoileanna le blianta fada agus a tógadh anuraidh.
I láthair na huaire tá tábhacht an-mhór leis na ceárdscoileanna agus tá a rian sin le feiceáil againn féin ins na Dáil cheantair. Nuair a thagann duine ó thír iasachta chun monarchain a chur ar bun isí an chéad cheist a chuireann sé ná: "An dtig leis na daoine óga a bhéas ag obair ins an monarchain scolaíocht teicniciúil a fháil?" Mar sin tá sé íontach tábhachtach go mbeadh na scoileanna sin againn. Tá sé tábhachtach chomh maith go mbeadh againn na múinteoirí a thig leo an oiliúint teicniciúil sin a thabhairt dona páistí. Tá sé íontach doiligh múinteoirí ceárdscoile d'fháil. Sílim féin gurb é cuid den fháth atá le sin go bhfuil na ceárdscoileanna ag iomaíocht fé láthair le déantúsaíocht chun na daoine oilte a fháil. B'fhéidir go bhfuil airgead níos fearr le fáil ins na monarcain ag daoine atá oilte agus gur fearr leo dul isteach ins na monarcain ná dul le múinteoireacht.
Tá áthas mór orm a fheiceáil go bhfuil sé socraithe ag an Roinn coláiste teicneolaíochta a chur ar fáil i nDún Dealgan. Tá coláiste mar seo a dhíth go géar agus bhí sé ciallmhar í a bhunú in áit a bhfuil cuid mhór déantúsaí agus daonradh trom.
Tá tús curtha leis an obair le h-oideachas a thabhairt dona páistí lag-inntineacha. Níl mórán déanta go fóill san ghné seo den oideachas, ach tá aire an phobail á dhíriú air anois agus de réir a chéile bhéarfaidh an Stát níos mó cuidiú dó. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuilimíd ag fanacht ar thuairisc ó Choimisiún atá ag amharc isteach sa cheist seo agus ba mhaith liom dá dtiocfaidh leis an Choimisiún an tuairisc seo a chur ar fáil go luath, ach ní h-ionann sin is a rá nach bhfuil rud ar bith á dhéanamh fé láthair le cuidiú a thabhairt do chuid, ar a laghad, de na páistí seo.
I mo Dháil cheantair féin tá obair mhór á déanamh ag na Bráithre Eoin le Dia. Tá scoil acu ins an ospidéal atá acu i nDromcarad agus tá múinteoirí oilte ag obair ann. Ba mhaith liom dá dtiocfadh leis an Roinn na múinteoirí seo a aithint fiú amháin in ospidéal in a bhfuil páistí lag-inntineacha is déine tinnis. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuiltear ag fanacht ar thuairisc an Choimisiúin le cinnteacht a dhéanamh de cé hiad na páistí a bheadh faoin Roinn Sláinte agus cé hiad na páistí a bheadh faoin Roinn Oideachais, ach má shíleann na daoine atá i mbun na n-ospidéal seo go mbaineann páistí tairbhe as an teagasc a fhaghann siad, agus ní bheadh múinteoirí fostaithe acu muna síleadh siad sin, ba cheart don Roinn Oideachais na múinteoirí sin d'aithint.
Tá sé cinnte go mbeidh cuid de na páistí lág-intinneacha seo faoi chúram na Roinne seo, agus ba mhaith liom a iarraidh ar an Aire pleananna a bheith réidh aige don saghas cúraim agus oibre a bheadh foiritineach do na páistí seo in dhiaidh dófa a bheith oilte chomh fada agus is féidir é a dhéanamh. Sin, sílim, ceann dos na fadhbanna is mó atá le réiteach againn fé láthair. Ní socrú ar bith é na daoine óga a chur isteach in ospidéal meabharghalair. Níl an galar sin orthu agus cailleann na daoine óga seo an oiliúint uilig a fhaghann siad taobh istigh de bhliain. Is ceart a fháil amach caidé an obair a thig leo a dhéanamh gan stró, obair mar seo a chur ar fáil dófa agus tithe maithe, slachtmhar, compordúil a bheith ann dófa fosta.
Tá obair mhór a dhéanamh san ghné seo den oideachas fosta i ndá scoil, ceann acu i nDún Dealgan agus ceann acu i nDroichead Átha. Tá an Roinn seo ag cuidiú leis an obair seo. Táimuid buíoch, ach sílim gur ceart i bhfad níos mó a dhéanamh agus beidh mé ag súil le seo in dhiaidh tuaraisc an Choimisiúin a bheith ar fáil.
Ag tagairt arís do mhúinteoirí agus an ollscoil sílim go bhfuil sé in am againn aon aicme amháin múinteoirí a bheith againn in ionad trí cinn mar atá fé láthair. Muna raibh ann ach aicme amháin múinteoirí bheadh sé in a chuidiú ní hamháin do na múinteoirí féin ach go mór mhór do na páistí fosta, mar bheadh dul chun cinn níos ré in a gcuid oibre. Sílim féin go bhfuil sé so-fheicse, fé láthair, chomh tabhachtach agus tá sé gan ach aon aicme múinteoirí amháin a bheith againn.
Rinne mé tagairt anuraidh do cheist an pháipéir údAmárach. Ba mhaith liom arís dá scrúdódh an tAire an rud seo. Má táimid chun na Gaeltachta a choinneál beo caithfimid cabhrú le muinntir na Gaeltachta. Tá aithne mhaith agam ar an nGaeltacht agus tá fhios agam go mbíonn ar mhuinntir na Gaeltachta na páipéirí Béarla a léamh leis an nuacht áitiúil a fháil. Má leantar de sin, Béarla a bhéas ag na daoine sa deireadh. B'fhéidir ná fuil an tAire sásta leis an crut atá ar Amárach fé láthair ach sílim gur ceart scrúdú a dhéanamh ar an cheist sin agus sílim go dtiocfadh socrú fóntach a dhéanamh fá dtaobh den cheist uilig.
Because of the fact that probably every Deputy who speaks on this Estimate speaks about the Irish language, the Minister tends to be looked upon as the Minister for the Irish language as well as the Minister for Education. Although I must admit that those two matters must have some association, their close association is not, in general, a good thing because it tends to associate the Irish language with the school, and with the school only, in the minds of our people. Those of us who are anxious about the revival of the Irish language realise that if we are to be dependent on the school only our hopes of the revival as we would like to have it are not too bright.
I should like to emphasise that the school in the non-Gaeltacht areas must be the foundation. Obviously, the language must be taught if it is to be learned and it must be learned if it is to be spoken and if the people are to have an interest in it. I should like to stress that, in case somebody misquotes me. An Coimisiún um Athbheochan na Gaeilge dealt with the main aspects of the revival of the Irish language. Their report is an exceptionally fine production. Many of us who are interested in the revival of the language have long been thinking along the lines advocated in the report.
There are two main aspects to the revival: first, the school aspect and secondly, the aspect outside the school. We are presently re-examining these two aspects and we are once again reconsidering the whole matter and endeavouring to find for ourselves the best methods to advance our aim, which is to have the language spoken again by all our people.
As I mentioned on the last occasion on which I spoke on this matter, the three main objections put forward by those who are opposed to the revival of the language or who have different ideas on it from mine, are, firstly, that we are introducing our children to the Irish language at too young an age; secondly, that we were teaching our children through the medium of Irish where Irish was not the vernacular, and, thirdly, that the teaching of the Irish language was damaging the education of our children and causing psychological difficulties. The educational experts who met in Hamburg a few years ago under the auspices of OECD effectively dealt with these objections and showed that these objections must have been common objections where a second language was being taught because, otherwise, they would not have spent so much time dealing with them. The experts showed that instead of doing harm the introduction of the language to children at a very early age and teaching through the medium of Irish were not only not harmful but a distinct advantage and that the teaching of the language was a very considerable help educationally.
While I agree with their findings— from my own experience, I know their findings are correct—and while I agree we have succeeded in teaching the language to our children to such an extent that it would be most unwise to shout a secret in Irish in any town or village where children were congregated, nevertheless I must ask myself what our aim is and how successful we have been in achieving it. The aim is, of course, that we would have the Irish language spoken. In this, I am afraid we must admit we have not been as successful as we would like to be. We have been successful in having the language taught, in having our children understand it, but we have not yet succeeded in having them speak it to the extent we would like.
If we have not succeeded in having the language spoken as we would like it, and at the same time, as the fundamental principle underlying the teaching of a second language is correct, then there must be something wrong.
I feel that what is wrong is the insistence of the Department down through the years on stressing too much certain aspects which are not conducive to the speaking of the language. Our aim was to produce Irish speakers and the methods we have been using, if followed to their logical conclusion, would be more likely to produce Irish scholars. For example, I feel we had too much reading and writing in the national schools and that, because of this, the child is subjected to constant correction in relation to aspects of this matter which have little to do with the spoken language.
When a child is constantly being corrected in his spelling, in his reading and his writing, in his grammar, it is understandable that after six or seven years of this, it is bound to be psychologically impossible for him to speak the language after school unless he is word perfect in it and, of course, as children of 13 and 14 years are not word perfect, the result is they do not speak it at all.
We are asked by those in authority and those interested in the revival of the language to speak Irish, whether it is broken Irish or not. I believe in this. I believe it is not possible to revive the language unless we adopt this method of speaking Irish, whether it is good Irish or not. That is how the English language was imposed on us in earlier times. It is difficult for the child, when his memory of the Irish language is the number of times he was corrected for a variety of errors during his most impressionable years, to speak broken Irish.
Therefore, the question arises of what are we to do. Obviously we must now clarify exactly what we want done. We must clarify for the teacher exactly what we want him to do. At the present time there is a reappraisal of our methods because of the report of the Commission, and I think that when we are deciding what we should do as the result of this, we should go as far as we believe to be desirable, even if it means knocking over some of the things we held sacred as regards language teaching. I would suggest we eliminate writing in Irish from the school programme to about the fifth class except, perhaps, in the form of transcription which would give the child some idea of writing the language.
I suggest that in fifth and sixth classes we should teach the children to write simple letters. I do not think we would have anything to lose by adopting this method. In our present method it is an aspect of our efforts at revival from which we gained nothing. I suggest further that the vocabulary taught to the children should bear close relationship to the vocabulary of a child in English, or in Irish in the Gaeltacht, in that age group.
Our problem up to now was to know what that vocabulary was. When we have got the report of An tAthar Colum Ó hUallacháin we will know what we want and what is expected. I should like to congratulate the Minister for having appointed An tAthar Ó hUallacháin to this important branch of the work.
With regard to the Irish readers, I feel they should be scientifically graded, particularly having regard to the day and age in which we are living. They should include the vocabulary for the particular age group, with simple forms of grammar, tenses and so on. I feel that there is no need to introduce reading before third or fourth class. In the lower classes we should concentrate on simple sentences and rhymes dealing with the child's own life at home.
I would agree that the ordinary normal language of the school should be Irish. From experience of teaching the lower divisions, I can say that the child has absolutely no difficulty in following conversation, orders etc. in the Irish language from a very young age. It is a sensible thing to teach a child the language as young as possible because the child learns his home language at a very young age and the same will apply to the learning of a new language.
I would do away with formal grammar in the national schools. The amount of time spent on explaining an tuiseal geinideach, an tuiseal tabharach and the various tenses is pure waste. At the moment, in the sixth class we have the primary certificate examination and in the papers children must answer questions on analysis and, to a certain extent, parsing. These are some of the things which give the child the impression of drudgery being attached to the learning of the language. If we eliminated some of the things I have mentioned and concentrated on oral work we would gain considerably from the point of view of speaking the language.
Before I conclude, I should like to say a few words about Fine Gael policy on the language. We are constantly being told by them that they would remove compulsion from the teaching of the language. The programme they are putting before the people, if one can call it a programme, is full of inconsistencies. They say they will do away with compulsion. If one is to teach in the school at all, there must be compulson because there is compulsion in the teaching of every subject in the school. Compulsory Irish is a term which is abused at the present time by many people for one reason or another. It is intended as a term of abuse. It is long after time we got rid of this phrase "compulsory Irish" because it really means nothing. If we put the word "compulsory" with other words, it is a virtue; if we talk about "compulsory education", it is a virtue. Nobody would dream of suggesting that we should not have compulsory education.
It was suggested by the Fine Gael Party that the leaving certificate should be awarded to a student, whether or not he passes in Irish. The problem there is that if you agree to this, some schools will drop Irish altogether. Other schools will select certain pupils to do the Irish paper and the remainder of the pupils will not have Irish as a subject at all. The result will be that we shall end up in very much the same position as that which now exists in the Six Counties where only seven per cent of the children there learn Irish.
Suppose certain students decide to do teaching, to go into the training college. Suppose some of these boys and girls did not take Irish under the system envisaged by Fine Gael. These boys and girls, could, if their marks were high enough, get into the training college and pass through it, and would then be expected to teach Irish in the schools when they could not speak Irish themselves. The only alternative would be to compel would-be teachers to learn Irish and that, of course, would be compulsion.
Take the aspect of the Irish outside the school. The second main reason why the language is not spoken much more frequently is that, when the child leaves school, he becomes immersed in a sea of Béarla. He comes to associate the Irish language with the school and with the school only. A greater effort must be made to Gaelicise our everyday life, to get more Irish in newspapers, more Irish in advertisements, more Irish in the shops. Some business premises and shops exhibit notices to the effect that business can be transacted there through the medium of Irish where they have the personnel capable of doing it. In most of the shops in Dublin, they are capable of doing it but only in a very few of them is there a notice to that effect.
I need not go into the various suggestions in relation to this matter put forward by the Coimisiúin Um Aithbheochan na Gaeilge but some of them are excellent. We should endeavour to unite the effort outside the school with the effort in the schools. We must endeavour to show the children that Irish is a living language. We must endeavour to show them that it is our own language and a national heritage. We must endeavour to show them that it is most important for the future of our nationhood that the Irish language be revived. It is really part of ourselves and it would be a shocking thing if in this generation, with the means to keep the language alive, we should let it die. It is pretty obvious that, unless we of this generation make an honest and sincere effort to revive the language, after our day, hope will be gone.
There are many ways in which we can show our young people that Irish is a living language. Wherever possible, we can speak it ourselves. We can encourage them to visit the Gaeltacht. That is about the best method because they can see people there at work in the fields and in the houses and going about their ordinary everyday task while speaking nothing but Irish. Possibly for the first time in their lives, they will find that the Irish language is not something associated with the school but is part of a living nation. In this House and outside it, we should endeavour to co-operate with each other in our efforts to revive the language.
Anything I have said in criticism of any other policy is sincere and, I hope, constructive criticism. I do not believe in making the Irish language a partisan issue. It is much too important for that, and if we do make it a partisan issue, our efforts for its revival will fail.