: Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis an leasú seo. Mar a dúirt mé agus mé ag caint ar an Dara Chéim don Bhille, tá obair mhór le déanamh ag an mbord i dtaobh aithbheochain na Gaeilge, ach muna bhfuil sé de dhualgas ar an Roinn Oideachais dul i gcomhairle agus fanacht i gcomhairle leis an mbord, tá seans mór nach mbeidh a gcuid oibre éifeachtach ar chor ar bith.
The Minister and the House will be aware that one of the problems in relation to development in the restoration of Irish over the years has been a sense of independence in the Department of Education in relation to language policy which at times has veered into isolationism. While on this side of the House we are naturally in favour of the independence in general of Government Departments and the Ministers to whom they are responsible, there is a particular case here, as the Minister has just said, in relation to Irish in that it is not the specific responsibility of any Government Department.
The reason for this amendment, with which I agree, is that it is an attempt to break through the isolationism of the Department of Education in regard to their role and the effectiveness of that role in the revival of the language. I might draw the Minister's attention to Athbheochan na Gaeilge, The Restoration of the Irish Language laid by the Government before each House of the Oireachtas in January 1965 and to two recommendations specifically. Recommendation 140 is that the language should be taught to all primary school children. Recommendation 141 is that the main aim of primary schools in the teaching of Irish should be to give the child a functional command of the spoken language.
The Government's comment on these two reports in paragraph 171 on page 102 was:
This is the position in all National Schools and will continue to be so.
That was in 1965. In January 1978, 13 years later, according to a survey published in The Irish Journal of Education, 66 per cent of Irish primary school teachers opposed the current policy of requiring school pupils to learn Irish. The reference is an article in The Irish Times of 18 January which reads:
Of those teachers who thought that Irish should not be obligatory for all pupils, 83% felt that those pupils who had low achievement in language skills generally should be excluded. Only 7% mentioned parent objection as a ground for exclusion. Fifty per cent of teachers surveyed reported that children had a sound symbol difficulty with the first language as a result of learning a second one, a further 31% perceived language conflicts of spelling, 40% with language structure, but 60% of the teachers felt learning Irish increased the pupil's awareness of Irish culture.
Therefore, there is a need for Bord na Gaeilge to give this sort of situation rather more teeth than it is being given in the Bill in its present incarnation. The House may not be aware of A Black Paper on the Decline of Irish as a School Subject in the Republic of Ireland between 1967-1977 by Mr. Liam S. Andrews in which he observed at page 45, paragraph 5.33:
The response of the Department to the situation involving low levels of competence in Irish amongst post-primary school pupils has been to avoid taking urgent action at primary level where the source of the problem seems to be, and to concentrate efforts on the junior years of post-primary education. The remedy is to introduce an Irish course of a lower standard than the existing post-primary audio-visual courses, designed to cover a period of three years. A drop in standard is therefore officially recognised and incorporated in the proposed new course. This must have far reaching effects on other priority areas in the Irish language teaching system.
We would be glad to hear what the new Bord na Gaeilge would have to say about that kind of analysis. They will not be in a position to find out whether that analysis and that charge are correct and accurate unless they are given the kind of powers proposed in this amendment.
Nor is the situation very much better at post-primary level. The Minister may be aware of a publication called Teangeolas published by Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann and an article in it by the Director of the Institute which contains the following rather devastating paragraph:
Is léir gur tháinig laghdú mór ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa chóras oideachais ó thús na seachtóidí. Is léir freisin gur laghdú leanúnach atá ann. Tá sé leanúnach, nó carnach, ar chaoi eile freisin: na mic léinn a fhoghlaimíonn tríd an nGaeilge ar scoil is iad sin na daoine fásta is fearr a mbíonn an Ghaeilge acu ar ball; ba iad freisin ba mhó a sholáthraíodh múinteoirí náisiúnta agus múinteoirí Gaeilge le haghaidh scoileanna iarbhunoideachais go dtí seo, go mór mór ó dúnadh na coláistí ullmhúcháin. Ní féidir ach ísliú caighdeáin a theacht ar chaighdeán na Gaeilge a mhúintear sna scoileanna dá thoradh sin.
This is a serious state of affairs and it is amply evidenced, if further evidence was needed, by the Statistical Report of the Department of Education for 1974-75 and 1975-76. If we look at the table in that report for results of the leaving certificate examination we see that among boys, for example, 11.3 per cent of the boys who took Irish failed, got grade E or lower. When we look at all the other percentages it is astonishing how much lower the failure rate is in Irish than in many other subjects. It is closer to English which stands at 9 per cent and is less than half of French at 23 per cent, German at 25 per cent, and some of the others are even more significant. For instance physics and chemistry was 54 per cent, biology 42 per cent, agricultural economics— God help us—was 72 per cent. We are asked to believe that the rate of success in Irish in the leaving certificate examination in the ordinary paper is up to three times better than the rate of success in the more orthodox subjects in the curriculum.
Another reading of the figures is that there is a conscious light marking of the Irish papers in the leaving certificate examination and that this is contributing inexorably to the decline in standards that was talked about in Teangeolas. I should like to refer the House and the Minister to the Report of the Committee on Irish Language Attitudes Research. In that report the authors, basing their conclusions on the most scientific survey yet done to attitudes to Irish, comment:
There is at the same time widespread disillusionment with Irish as experienced in school and with the low levels of communicative—competence acquired in the language in schools—even for secondary school students who go as far as the Leaving Certificate. Our surveys on the general conversational ability levels achieved in schools have shown that there is a considerable basis of truth for these beliefs and further that, for students who complete their education at primary level or even at Group or Intermediate Certificate level, competence levels achieved in the language are very low, and for Group Certificate students, especially, high examination failure rates in the past appear to have been a very real basis for resentment against the language.
That report also states:
In the past, Irish language policies were based on a misunderstanding of the potentialities of the existing educational system. Although that system was not designed to produce communicative competence in second languages, it was taken for granted that the task of producing Irish speakers could be left mainly to the schools. The disappointing results are interpreted by many people as a proof that the task was impossible.
The task may or may not be impossible, but until we have some positive input into the Department of Education from the outside we will never find out whether they are going about it in the right way. This amendment seeks to give the board the possibility of making that kind of input and that is why I support it.