Private Member's Business. - Council for Adult Education in Ireland Bill, 1980: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

It is an honour for me to introduce this Bill. The Fine Gael Party in promoting the Bill are the first major party in this country to have a comprehensive policy on adult education and to have such a policy enshrined in a Bill before Dáil Éireann. I should like to set out the background to the Bill and the reasons for it.

In Ireland, as in many other countries, many children leave school at the age of 15. They do so for genuine reasons such as the desire to take up an apprenticeship and to enter industry. They do very well, as do those who leave school when they are over the age of 15. There comes a time in every person's life to question whether one is doing enough and there is a need for a structure of adult education or recurrent education to enable people to continue their studies.

Many adults as workers are obliged to keep abreast of technological developments in their chosen careers. There is always a wish on the part of workers to better themselves and to seek promotion within the work place. The adult as a parent is concerned about his family, the education of his children, family health and various other matters. As a citizen an adult needs to understand and participate in the democratic processes of the State. I regard this aspect of education as very important. People have a right to be informed of their constitutional rights and they should understand the many intricate processes within a Government organisation. The adult is the user of leisure and should be able to avail of courses on how to plan the use of leisure. For instance, there might also be courses on how to enjoy one's retirement, something we lack to a great extent here.

Perhaps the most important aspect of continuing education, adult education or recurrent education, call it what you will, is that of using it as a social weapon in regard to people who, as children, were deprived of adequate and sound basic learning, perhaps through family circumstances. Indeed, it was acknowledged by the Minister to me that between ten per cent and 15 per cent of pupils leaving primary schools in Ireland have a basic lack of reading ability. A report was published recently on this matter and the Minister acknowledged the problem in the House on 15 May 1979 replying to Questions Nos. 24 and 25 when he said he was aware of the report referred to by Deputy Horgan and myself concerning a survey which found that between 12 per cent and 13 per cent of primary school leavers have reading or writing difficulties. The Minister went on to say that it was in fact accepted in most developed countries that ten to 15 per cent of the school-going population may be backward in basic literary skills. This is one of the problems confronting us, but not necessarily caused by the schools system.

It is the social aspect of adult education about which I am seriously concerned. To my mind there is an obligation on the State to provide every amenity for adults to catch up on or improve on their learning. There have been a number of major public statements on this matter. One that comes to mind immediately is the Murphy Report entitled "Adult Education in Ireland" which was submitted to the Minister, I think, in 1973. That report, which was comprehensive and certainly worthy of reading, recommended a number of proposals. Certainly in relation to the proposals contained in Chapter 6 my Bill meets quite a number. However, I hasten to add that the Murphy Report has not been acted on by successive Governments. The report became available on 21 November 1973. Seven years later, by and large, it has been pigeonholed like many others we have seen published and presented in this House.

The National Council for Educational Awards have published a very interesting paper entitled "Discussion Document on an NCEA Award Structure for Recurrent Education". It is noted in this NCEA report that the Murphy Report recommended:

that the NCEA be the official body to award accreditation to Adult Education programmes provided through radio and television if and when it is requested that such courses be offered as credit for a Degree, Diploma or Certificate Award by Accumulation.

That is one aspect raised recently by the NCEA. In their summary of main recommendations the NCEA recommended that a new award level should be introduced, to be called the Foundation Certificate, that the entry requirements would be geared very much to the needs of mature students and the recognition of the role of work experience as an entrance qualification to such a course. That is an interesting document to read. It forms part of an on-going attitude which I am pleased to note is coming about in official circles. That NCEA document is worthy of note and has made some very valid recommendations. Within the framework of the Bill now before the House I would hope that the NCEA would be able to advance further in this approach.

I should like to refer briefly to an address given by Paul H. Bertelsen, Chief, Adult Education Section, UNESCO to the ninth annual conference of Aontas in Wexford in May 1978. That conference was a very in-depth discussion of the responsibilities of governments in relation to the provision and implementation of life-long learning in our community. The paper delivered by Mr. Bertelsen was a very comprehensive and detailed one and shows up the Irish position in a rather poor light, which is most unfortunate.

There is a need—and this Bill establishes it beyond doubt—to put adult education on the same footing as primary and second level education. It should not be regarded as a minor appendage to our educational system. Because it has a vital social role to play in our society it should be given far greater recognition than it is at present. Indeed, I am completely dissatisfied with the present position of the Department of Education in relation to adult education. There is no section within the Department dealing specifically with adult education. That is a downright disgrace. This is stated in a reply by the Minister to me on Thursday, 22 March 1979:

Provision for the promotion and administration of adult education services is not made in my Department by the allocation of staff exclusively for this purpose.

I decry that situation as a basic starting point, that there is no section in the Department guiding the administration of adult education policy. Subject to correction, to my knowledge there is no civil servant whose full time occupation exclusively involves adult education. I think that is the substance of a reply the Minister gave me to a supplementary question.

On Wednesday, 1 November 1978, I asked the Minister for Education how the range and scope of adult education courses in the Irish Republic compared w other EEC countries. I also asked him how the structures governing adult education courses here compared with those in other EEC countries. The reply I received was:

Specific information of the type requested by the Deputy is not readily available in the case of all other EEC countries. I am satisfied, however, that, in general, the range, structure and scope of adult education courses provided in this country compare favourably with the position in those countries.

That was a very evasive answer. I suppose it had to be given because the fact is that there is no solid structure, no vertical or horizontal structure, in relation to the administration of adult education here.

It is impossible to ascertain, for instance, the amount of money spent on adult education by the Government. Granted moneys are spent by different Departments, even in the Department of Education expenditure on adult education is fractional. There has been no attempt to make available to the public or to Members proper statistics as regards who provides adult education courses, who attends them, what subventions the courses receive and there is no basic philosophy available in stated form as to the role the Department plays or wishes to play in the overall evolution of adult education. The lack of commitment by the Government to adult education is seen quite plainly when one looks at the moneys provided for teachers involved in adult education courses. Teachers who drive in the evenings to places to provide night classes in adult education on a part-time basis receive the royal sum of 5p per mile. That highlights the attitude and approach of the Department and the Minister to adult education. Very few civil servants would travel anywhere for 5p a mile and to offer teachers performing socio-educational duties which frequently involve going out at night in bad weather and perhaps along country roads, 5p per mile for that service is nothing less than insulting to the teachers concerned.

The rate of pay of these teachers is £4.10 for the general teacher taking part in such courses. The rate goes up, where various levels of courses are being offered, to £5.35 and £6.52 but, by and large, the basic is £4.10 per hour. I do not consider that an attractive rate taken in conjunction with the mileage allowance. I need not say much, although I could because these figures point out the low priority the Department places on the provision of adult education. The lack of statistics, the lack of manpower involved in the Department in adult education, the lack of separate subheads for votes in the budget—all these things paint the picture of adult education in Ireland far more adequately than I could.

Coming to the Bill itself, section 2 establishes the Council of Adult Education. The background to the Bill has been modelled to a certain extent on the NCEA Bill that has recently gone through the House. Obviously, that model should be used to a certain extent in that it deals with education. It was a very bad Bill but I was able to eliminate the mistakes in drafting this Bill and I was able to use the NCEA Bill as a framework. Also, the Bill is obviously up to date in that it takes into account current legislation.

Section 3 sets out the functions of the council which are to plan, organise, co-ordinate, encourage, facilitate, promote and develop adult education. I should like to make quite clear that there is no attempt in the Bill to give the council powers to establish policy. That can never be done because it is the Government of the day that has the responsibility of laying down policy on adult education and it is for the council to administer that policy. Section 3 (2) gives further powers and functions to the council to conduct and promote research and to publish material and to make submissions to the Minister and to engage and consult and seek advice, to recognise courses and awards of institutions, universities, colleges, professional bodies, trade bodies and other academic bodies, to award scholarships, to sub-educational institutions, assess standards and so on. The council has power under section 4, having consulted the Minister for Education and local interests, to establish regional committees and may also establish county committees in consultation with the Minister.

It has been brought to my attention that 50 adult education officers or organisers have been allocated to the vocational educational committees. It is proper to say that down the years these committees have played a good part in the provision of adult education throughout the country and there is no attempt on my part to deny them their right to participate in adult education. What I am trying to do in this Bill is to strengthen the structures of adult education with a view to harnessing existing resources.

Section 5 reads that the members of the council shall be a chairperson and 17 other members. Section 6 states that these members shall be appointed by the Minister and shall reflect the interests involved in adult education and that the Minister shall take into account the advice of the central executive of Aontas and such other bodies, statutory and voluntary, before making the appointments.

It is proper to note here that the Minister should be, and is, obliged in the Bill to consult with Aontas in this matter. The role of Aontas in adult education has been magnificent. This is a voluntary body which get a subvention from the State. I hope that in the coming years subventions to them from public and private sources will be increased substantially. They have pioneered the development of adult education and there is no attempt by me in this Bill to do anything other than to strengthen Aontas in their efforts and to recognise, as I have done in the section, their efforts in relation to adult education.

There is no need for me to discuss the method of appointment of the chairperson and vice-chairperson, the qualifications of members and their terms of office. These matters can be dealt with adequately if the Minister grants me the privilege of bringing the Bill to Committee Stage. Section 10 allows the council to appoint advisory boards to assist the council in their deliberations. The Bill provides that there shall be a director and other officers and servants. The council shall be funded by grants-in-aid payable by the Oireachtas through the Minister for Education and the council will be obliged to make a report to the Minister which shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Under section 17 the council may appoint a registrar who will be responsible for keeping records. The First Schedule deals with the council in relation to the chairperson voting, to have a quorum at a meeting, the position of the director vis-a-vis the council and other legal matters which are normally dealt with in the council. The Second Schedule deals with advisory boards.

In this Bill I have laid down a proper framework for the development of adult education in Ireland. The adult education officers are welcome but a great deal of work has been done under the umbrella of Aontas and the Department by vocational educational committees, community and comprehensive schools, various rural bodies, such as the ICA. Macra na Tuaithe and so on and the trade union movement. I was glad to see the Minister set up a committee involving RTE. That is a step in the right direction. The Minister for Labour has also set up a committee to deal with education.

These matters are all central to this Bill. I am trying to set up an overall national organisation which will work with all those interested in adult education and which will form regional and local committees, taking into account the opinions of all those involved in adult education. It is only by having such a council that we can see how much of a national effort is being made promoting adult education. The position in relation to paid leave is very unsatisfactory. The whole matter is so fragmented as to be seriously unsatisfactory. I am not satisfied for the Minister to stand up and say that the position is satisfactory or to ask what Fine Gael did when they were in Government. I freely admit that the last Government may not have done very much in the very difficult economic period but what I am trying to do here—I hope I have the support of the Minister and the Labour Party—is to lay down once and for all a proper national council to deal with adult education, to set up a proper framework for the development of the council and for the channelling of funds in and out of the council. If this Bill is accepted we will have done a good day's work. The social forces in our society demand that adult education be available on a wider basis than at present and that this should be seen to be done. The only way that can happen is by the establishment of a council for adult education in Ireland. I recommend the Bill to the House.

Is é is bunchospóir leis an mBille seo ná Comhairle um Oideachas Aosach a bhunú sa tir seo. B'ionann é sin agus údarás nua a mbeadh feidhm dlí leis a thabhairt ar an saol chun dualgais áirithe a chomhlionadh i leith oideachais a chur ar fáil do dhaoine fásta. Labhróidh mé ar ball faoi na dualgais atá i gceist agus faoin riachtanas atá ann go bhféachfai leis an mbealach a réiteach chun go bhféadfai iad a chomhlionadh. Ach nior mhiste dom a rá i dtosach báire nach dtagaim, olc nó maith, le bun-smaoineamh an Teachta gur cheart no gur gha Comhairle den saghas ata a moladh sa Bhille a bhunú. Agus ná measadh éinne gur toisc nach suim liom ábhar an Bhille a deirim é sin. Go deimhin, is fáda siar a théann mo theagmháil phearsanta leis an ghné seo den oideachas agus ba leasc liom an ócáid a ligint tharam, agus mé im Aire Oideachais, gan réimse tábhachta agus éifeachta an oideachais do dhaoine fásta a fhorbairt agus a fhorleathnú go mór. Ach chun an chuspóir sin a bhaint amach nior ghá gléas den saghas atá á mholadh anseo a chur ar fáil ar an mbonngur leor a bhfuil ann cheana féin d'údarás reachtúil chun pé athruithe is gá a dhéanamh a thabhairt chun críche.

An tAcht Oideachais Ghairme Beatha, 1930, atá i gceist agam. Leagann an tAcht seo an cúram ar na coistí gairmoideachais cúrsaí oideachais a eagrú a fhreastalódh ar riachtanais oideachais na ndaoine fásta de réir mar a d'fheicfí iad ag an leibhéal áitiúil do na coisti éagsúla. Ar an iomlán tá mé sásta go ndeachaigh na coistí i mbun a gcúram go fonnmhar, críochnúil. Ní ar a bhfuil déanta go dtí seo ba mhaith liom labhairt anseo ach ar an méid is fédir a dhéanamh laistigh den údarás reachtúil sin atá ar fáil i gcomhthéacs Acht na bliana 1930.

Fáth amháin gur leasc liom údarás nua reachtúil a bhunú ná go mbeadh an baol ag baint leis go ndéanfaí oideachas do dhaoine fásta a dheighilt amach an iomarca ón gcuid eile den chóras oideachais, agus tá me cinnte gur rud é sin ar bhfearr a sheachaint. Bheadh sé ag teacht trasna ar an éabhlóid atá tar éis teacht le blianta beaga anuas ar dhearcadh an phobail, sa tir seo agus ar fud na hEorpa, agus ar fud an domhain, déarfainn, ar an oideachas i gcoitinne agus ar oideachas do dhaoine fásta go speisialta. Más féidir téama amháin thar théama eile a aithint san éabhlóid sin is é téama an chomtháite é. Is é sin le rá gurb é leas na ndaoine fásta é an soláthar oideachais a dhéanfaí dóibh a bheith préamhaithe sa chóras oideachais i gcoitinne.

Luaim dhá shampla den chlaonadh sonnrach sin i ndearcadh an phobail. Ar an gcéad dul síos is léir ón éileamh atá ann ar scoileanna pobail gur mian leis an aos fásta go mbeadh dlúthbhaint idir na cúrsaí foirmiúla oideachais don aos óg agus gníomhaíochtaí oideachais an phobail a ndéanann an scoil sin freastal air. Mar shampla, is sa bhfoirgneamh céanna a dhéantar soláthar ar an dá riachtanas agus is é an córas céanna bainistíochta atá freagrach as na cúrsaí. Ar an dara dul síos nior mhiste tagairt a dhéanamh don tuairim atá ag teacht i réim, aris ar fud na hEorpa agus ar fud an domhain nó ar fud an Iarthair, pé scéal é, gur rud é an t-oideachas nach féidir teorainn chinnte ama a chur leis ach gur cheart go mbeadh fáil ag an duine, sa mhéid ba mhian leis é, ar an oideachas ar feadh a shaoil. Ní lia tír ná téarma ar an smaoineamh seo, agus chualamar trácht ar cheann acu cheana féin, is é sin "education permanente" sa bhFrainc, "continuing education", "recurrent Education" agus mar sin de. Gné ar leith den ghluaiseacht seo is ea an dearcadh atá coitianta go leor, gur cheart go mbeadh sé d'uain ag an duine nár éirigh go maith leis ar scoil le linn a óige filleadh ar an scoil d'fhonn cáilíochtaí foirmiúla a bhaint amach. Nuair a bhí an Teachta ag moladh an Bhille do luaigh sé an méid seo ach ní dóigh liom gur gá an Bille atá ag an Teachta roimh an Teach anois chun é sin a chur i gcrích. Is mó cúis atá ann nach mbaineann daoine áirithe leas as an scolaíocht éigeantach—agus dúirt an Teachta Collins é seo in a oráid—agus ar bhonn na cothromachta amháin ba cheart go bhfaighidís an dara seans chun pé cumas atá iontu a fhorbairt. Cúis mhór áthais dom is ea é go bhfuil méadú ag teacht ar an lion daoine gur mian leo filleadh ar an scoil agus go bhfuil iarracht fhóinteach á dhéanamh freastal ar a gcuid riachtanas anois.

Ach tá an soláthar seo á dhéanamh faoin chóras oideachais atá ann agus tugann sé sin ar ais mé go dti an bhundheacracht a bhaineann leis an mBille seo. Ní gá structúr nua a chur ar bun nuair is féidir na cuspóirí ceanann céanna a bhaint amach laistigh den structúr atá ann cheana féin. Ar bhonn eacnamaíochta amháin ba dheacair géilleadh don tuairim go bhfuil gá le comhairle ar leith chun cuspóirí an Bhille seo a thabhairt i gcrích.

As I have said, I oppose this Bill on the grounds that the establishment of a council for adult education would be unnecessary and wasteful. Lest there be any misunderstanding of my position in relation to adult education, let me say at the outset that I strongly support the idea of the development of our adult education services. I have given concrete evidence of my interest in this area by my decision to make provision in last year's Estimates for the appointment of 50 adult education organisers.

It is generally agreed that this decision represented the single most positive step so far taken in this field and I welcome the opportunity afforded me by this Bill to outline the functions which have been assigned to these organisers. These are: to identify the educational needs of adults in the committee area, to examine the existing provision of adult education courses and facilities, to suggest possible areas of co-operation between agencies and services engaged in the provision of adult education, to prepare for the VEC Adult Education Sub-Committee a draft annual programme of adult education activities, to organise the programme as approved by the VEC Adult Education Sub-Committee and by the VEC, to provide an information and advisory service on adult education courses and facilities, to co-operate with other local statutory and voluntary organisations, especially with those with a particular interest in adult education, to prepare an annual report on the adult education programme for the VEC and the Minister for Education, and to liaise with local economic interests in relation to the organisation of courses for the provision of skills needed for local development.

I want to take some points on the Bill. It seems that this Bill has been drafted without regard to the great variety of means by which adult education is made available at present, the number of in stitutions involved and the range of activities which is comprehended. The Deputy mentioned a number of the organisations and the people who were committed to adult education and said he did not intend to interfere with their functions or activities in this regard, and I accept that. However, it is necessary to refer, even in broad terms, to the activities that are available now. The committee mentioned by Deputy Collins when he was speaking on adult education, who issued an interim report in 1969 and their final report in 1973, defined adult education as follows: the provision and utilisation of facilities whereby those who are no longer participants in the full-time school system may learn whatever they need to learn at any period of their lives. That is a comprehensive definition. Anything can be taken in under the umbrella of that definition. No distinction was drawn between formal and informal education and the emphasis was placed on the process of adult education as serving the needs of people in every sphere of human development.

It was also stated in the report that its primary concern was with education as it related to those who have broken, for one reason or another, with full-time education. As has already been mentioned, the 1930 Act provided for the establishment of 38 vocational education committees to administer at local level general and technical education, including adult education, under the direction of the Department of Education. Such legislation, therefore, provided for the statutory provision of adult education courses at local level, to meet the demands and needs of local communities. This provision, consisting of part-time day courses and part-time evening courses, quickly grew to such proportions that it became a very significant responsibility of the vocational education committees. There are approximately 300 vocational schools reaching all areas of the country and amongst the whole-time teaching staff there are approximately 40 categories employed for special purposes. In addition, there is a very large complement of part-time teaching staff employed to meet the general and specific areas of interest in the adult education sector. Now, comprehensive and community schools, also, have provided a further opportunity for the enlargement of the area for providing adult education. These schools were established with the intention of fulfilling the educational needs, both formal and informal, of the community in which they are located and the numbers participating in adult education courses have increased annually since their establishment. The programmes for a number of the community schools which I have seen are very impressive and very comprehensive, indeed.

At third level, universities, colleges of technology and the RTCs, are also actively involved in the provision of adult education courses. The constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland in Cork, Dublin and Galway have separate adult education or extramural departments serving the requirements not only of those adults in the immediate surrounding but also in adjoining, and even distant counties. St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, has also involved itself in this area and has offered diploma courses in adult and community education. The colleges of technology in Dublin have always been associated with adult education activities, operating as they do under the control of the city of Dublin VEC. The regional technical colleges which also operate under the VEC system make a valuable contribution to the adult education provision in their respective regions every year.

In addition to the courses of the more formal educational nature to which I have made a summary reference, there are equally valuable activities appertaining to the areas of youth and sport. Indeed, the Minister of State at my Department has made significant advances in the adult field here—in regard to music, drama, painting, the study of history and literature, the treasures of the museums and libraries. There are also the services provided to Government Departments on adult education, such as winter classes, farm schools, lectures and symposia organised by the Committees of agriculture. Indeed, the Department of Education are not the only Department involved in adult education. It is provided also by the Department of Labour, the Department of Health, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and Roinn an Taoisigh.

Now, in this Bill the proposed council are expected to co-ordinate all these activities and to implement national policy on adult education. All the institutions, agencies and other organisations to which I have referred operate in accordance with their own statutory authority and would not be answerable to a council established under this Bill. It seems to be proposed that responsibility for the promotion of adult education in the many institutions, in association with the Department of Education, would be removed from that Department. Nevertheless, the main sort of revenue of the council would be through the Minister for Education. Fees would be charged only in accordance with the provisions of section 19. It would be helpful in this regard if an estimate could be given of the total amount which it is expected would be made available annually through grant-in-aid to the council and an outline given of the purposes for which the grant would be payable. If the council were not to be the source of funds for adult education in the case of the VECs, the universities and the various other institutions involved in this area of activity, how could it effectively plan "organise, co-ordinate, encourage, facilitate, promote and develop adult education" as stated in subsection (3) (1) or "implement national policy on adult education" as proposed at subsection 3 (2) (a)?

There is general confusion of thought permeating its entirety and this may be illustrated by reference to the provision in subsection 3 (2) (f) that the council "shall recognise courses and awards of institutions, universities, colleges, professional bodies and trade bodies and other academic bodies". The question must arise as to what does recognition mean in this context. The universities have a statutory right to award qualifications and the National Council for Educational Awards have been established by statute to confer qualifications on a statutory basis in the non-university area. Recognition of such awards does not depend on any provision of this Bill. On the other hand, it is surely inappropriate to bracket such proven qualifications with awards from unidentified "professional bodies, trade bodies and other academic bodies". One may also inquire as to the purpose of subsection 3 (ii) (1) in the context of the functions assigned to the National Council for Educational Awards. Similarly, the provision in subsection 3 (3) is out of place in the context of the role of the Higher Education Authority in the third level area and of the vocational education committees in relation to the vocational schools, of the technological colleges and the regional technological colleges.

Those are some of the reasons why I am opposing this Bill as being unnecessary. I appreciate the Deputy's interest in adult education. I would be in support of him with this Bill if I felt it was necessary for the continuance of a flourishing adult education sector in our educational system.

I should like to commend the industry and energy of Deputy Collins in going to the trouble, if not necessarily the expense, of preparing, presenting and introducing this Bill and, indeed, to his party for allocating time for its discussion in the House. However, I have to say that from the point of view of the Labour Party it is seriously deficient and it is unlikely that we will be actively supporting it, for reasons which I hope to make clear.

In the first place, there would be general agreement in the House —although it might be more muted on the Government benches than it would be on these benches—that the primary need in adult education at the moment is and has been for quite some time, for finance and for resources. The need for finance and for resources is far more self-evident than the need for new structures. While on some occasion cases car be made for declining to make additional resources available to any sector of the educational system until the structures have been renewed, on the grounds that the structures concerned are discriminatory or inefficient or wasteful it some respect or another, I do not think that that case can be laid at the door of the structures which administer adult education in this country. In fact, if anything, the miracle of educational housekeeping which has been done by the various agencies involved in adult education here, literally on a shoe string since they came into operation first, is something which, if anything, would give us some confidence in calling for further financial allocation of resources as the major priority in this area. We in the Labour Party are not opposed to new structures in adult education or anywhere else on principle. Anyone who reads any of our numerous policy documents can be in little doubt of that. The Bill and the case which Deputy Collin has argued for it are not strong enough to justify the major initiative of the type proposed.

There are many points on which Deputy Collins, the Minister and I would be in agreement. Principally they rela to the need to make adult education less of a cinderella in our educational system and educational structures generally. We often talk of the need for adult education but I would not like such talk to obscure the fact that it can be considered also an entitlement. When one looks at the growth of the educational system over the years it is obvious that for a variety of reasons the main thrust of expenditure and resources allocation generally has been towards the younger age groups in our society. This has had the approval of all political parties and of many families and voters who support these parties. At the same time not even the substantial sums of money which continue to be devoted to education in general and to the development of the educational system have been successful in ensuring that 100 per cent of our young population leave school even today equipped with the basic abilities in literacy and numeracy which will enable them not just to make their way but to make it well and fruitfully in an increasingly complex and competitive society.

The situation has developed in such a way that, even as a larger proportion of each age cohort is encompassed in the educational system in the younger age groups, a continuing fraction of virtually every age cohort over the age of 12 or 13 escapes from the formal educational system illiterate or barely literate, innumerate or barely numerate, and is added to the vast pool of human resources in the community whose full potential has not been realised and perhaps will never be realised to the degree to which it might be. For every gleaming new school and for every leaving certificate class which pass triumphantly through the doors of its school or college there are people who never make it that far. They are not just in the same age group as the leaving certificate classes. They are older and in many cases they are their parents. While it is a pleasure to be able to demonstrate that the average level of education is rising and that children are better educated in many respects than their parents, this does not educate their parents. Philosophically if we are to argue for equality of educational opportunity we have logically to extend that equality to people of all ages or at least to skew the allocation of resources towards the younger members of our community, as seems to be the general practice in modern democratic states. We must become more conscious than we have been in the past of the relatively real and important right and entitlement of those who through no fault of their own—I cannot stress that too strongly—were denied the benefits of a full and adult education.

We are increasingly changing the way in which we talk about these things. We are going from talking about adult education to talking about recurrent education. Some of the modern tendencies to prolong the institutionalised education of young people may be open to examination. Unfortunately, as things stand at present the educational train, if I may use such an analogy, is an express. One gets on at the beginning and if one gets off at any intermediate station the damndest difficult thing to do is to rejoin that train at any stage in its subsequent journey. If we had not just a single train of this kind in the educational system but a series of trains, timetables and interlocking destinations it would be possible for young, active and vigorous people who want to leave the educational system for the world of work at an earlier age than the leaving certificate to be able to do so in the knowledge that it does not prejudice their right at a later date to return to full-time or part-time education aided by the State or paid study leave by their firms. That is one of the ways I should like to see the educational system developed.

The structures are not the only aspect of the problem. If a young person's educational experience in the school to which he goes at primary or post-primary level is not good he is likely to want to escape from it at the earliest possible date and is unlikely to come back to it however grandiose or well financed any scheme for recurrent or adult education may be. The size of the problem has been variously estimated. I do not have the exact reference with me but in the 1971 census, which for one reason or another is the last full census we have of its kind to date, the number of adults between the ages of 25 and 65 who had only primary level education was almost one million. These are people who are people who never counted in the arguments about equality of educational opportunity. The Murphy report went into some further detail about this issue and, even though its data is ten years old, it is still relevant. Page 65 of the Murphy report indicated that, according to the statistics given to it by the Department of Education, in March 1972 over 10,800 boys and over 9,000 girls of fifth and sixth grade in the primary school left the formal school system in the three year period 1967-1970. That is 20,000 young people who up to 1970—that is not that long ago—were leaving the formal school system at the grade. Those of them who have not died or emigrated are still around. They are hardly the parents of school age children yet but they will be shortly. They represent part of the real need in our society. On page 66 of the report the authors conclude from the statistical evidence that in 1971 a substantial number of 16 year olds had finished with formal schooling; 20 per cent approximately of those who sat for the leaving certificate failed to qualify; 27 per cent of those who sat for the intermediate certificate failed to qualify; approximately 50 per cent of those who entered for the group certificate failed to qualify.

It goes back beyond that to the Investment in Education report five years earlier, in 1965, which estimated the total outflow from the educational sector in the ten years from 1961 to 1971 in the following manner: 29 per cent would leave with no qualifications; 24 per cent would leave with primary certificates; 40 per cent would leave with second level certificates; and 7 per cent would leave with third level certificates. The Investment in Education report predicted at that time—if one looks back at this report one will see that in many ways it was a prophetic document—that over half of the school leavers who left the educational sector in the ten years between 1961 and 1971 would leave either with primary certificates, since abolished, or with no formal qualifications at all. This gives us some indications of the size of the problem.

I hope that the forthcoming census will give us a more up to date idea of the size of the problem ten years later. I have no doubt that it will show that things have improved but I am equally sure that it will show that the problem which remains is still substantial.

Deputy Collins and I—and, I imagine, the Minister—would be on common ground in stressing the importance of urgent action to meet this national problem. Perhaps we part company when we come to consider the Bill, because I have one basic problem about it and a number of problems relating more to detail. The first problem I have, which is the overarching one in a sense, is the absence not just in the Bill but in the speech of its proposer of any clear idea of whether the proposed new institution is to fit into the existing structure of education or to fit into a totally new and remodelled system of education.

In my research on this I excavated a number of policy documents produced at various stages by Deputy Collins' party in an attempt to see exactly the scheme of things which might be envisaged here. The earliest one is the Fine Gael Just Society policy document. It is not dated but its price at a shilling indicates something of its provenance. This talks about a number of changes in relation to educational policy making and reorganisation of the Department of Education. It does not specifically make any reference to adult education and seems to envisage a continuation in broad terms of the structure of schooling and formal education as it existed at that time.

In another document—the interview Deputy Collins gave to The Irish Times on 16 March 1978—there are more concrete proposals for changes of various kinds. To be fair to Deputy Collins, I would not necessarily regard this article as a total statement of his views on education, because as a former journalist I well know that the problems of selection often mean that some of the best bits are left out. I am forced to contrast this lack of an overall structural framework within which the Council for Adult Education in Ireland is to be inserted, with the policy of my party, which envisages, and has very clearly done for the past five years, the creation of a local education authority structure of which adult education and indeed all other forms of education would be dependent component parts. If I am right in assuming that the lack of any mention by the proposer of any new overall structure into which this council is to be fitted means that he basically intends the proposed new institution to be attached to the existing structure, then further problems arise.

The Bill as drafted exemplifies these problems in various areas. I was interested to note Deputy Collins' frank and cheerful admission that it owed something in its parentage to the NCEA Bill—not indeed all of it because, although I did not compare it line by line with the NCEA Bill, I detect in this particular Bill various structures, sentences, clauses and requirements which he and, on some occasions, I also sought vainly to introduce into the NCEA Bill and which the Minister and the other side stoutly rejected. It is probably putting it mildly to say that I am not convinced, as I feel more strongly about it than this, that the obvious need for co-ordination in the adult education sphere can best be served by the creation of this new institution.

It is a very understandable reaction, and one of which I have been guilty in the past and will no doubt be guilty of in the future, that if there is a problem you create a new structure to solve it. The British imperial equivalent of this response was to send the gunboat. Before we send any gunboats up the rivers of our educational system we have to be sure that they are needed and we have to be sure that they will be in a position to withdraw with crew intact when they have done their job. There is an enormous difficulty in that it is infinitely easier to create structures than to abolish them, much less to control them once one finds out that when they are set up they do not actually work the way one thought they would. While I have not been slow to criticise departmental inertia in the past there is a case to be made for caution. I would be happier about this if we had had an indication from the Minister that he was having structural thoughts at all.

The Murphy Report made it clear that the importance of adult education warranted the provision within the Department of Education of a special section devoted to the co-ordination and planning of the adult education network generally. With all their successes, God knows, they could do with a little bit of that. We have had no indication from the Minister that he is prepared to consider such an option. The history of special sections in the Department of Education is not exactly happy. The development section set up as a result of the only major policy recommendation of the Investment in Education report was later regrettably disbanded. I suspect that that is also a sort of tradition of generalism within the public service generally which implies that most people in the public service ought to be able to do most jobs reasonably well but given that higher education is the Cinderella area and is such a starved area the very least we should do in structural terms is to think of the possibility of implementing that recommendation of the Murphy Report. That of itself will not have major resource implications in the Department in terms of staff and so on, but it would help to focus ministerial, public or perhaps Cabinet attention on the importance of this long neglected area of education.

My problem with the proposed structure is that I find at the very least an ambiguity about the question of policy. Deputy Collins said very specifically that policy would remain the prerogative of the Department of Education. Section 3 calls on the council to plan adult education and to implement a national policy on education.

The Deputy has about five minutes.

I find it difficult to imagine that these do not involve at some level the policy aspect. The Bill says in one section that the institution would actually run courses. There is another ambiguity in that it implies that the new institution will recognise awards. Indeed, Deputy Collins in The Irish Times article which I quoted is mentioned as favouring a global body to monitor academic qualifications and degree standards including all universities and colleges, whereas this Bill, on the face of it, seems to set up another awarding body. We should be very slow to create further institutions for awarding or recognising degrees.

The Bill refers to the institution carrying on research. I am aware that there is far too little research going on at the moment, some of it is done in the universities, but I shudder to think that the research budget in adult education should be spread even more thinly. The Bill makes no reference except indirectly to the vocational education committees who are the major statutory bodies involved in adult education. The Bill refers to Aontas which is an essential part of our adult education structure but other than mentioning statutory bodies in general there is no specific reference to the vocational education committees or indeed to the county committees of agriculture which are among the other important areas where adult education is carried on. In 1972 and 1973 the then Minister for Education, Deputy Burke, issued an important discussion document on regionalisation. It was discussed at the annual conference of the Irish Vocational Education Association in 1975. The IVEA in their memorandum on the reorganisation of educational structures, submitted by their standard council for approval, noted specifically that they called for regional structure and in relation to adult education added:

We realise that an urgent need exists for a great exapansion of adult education and that all schools must play their part in meeting this need. We see the society of the future requiring programmes of permanent education in projects which will involve not only teachers of all traditions and disciplines, but also public leaders in business, industrial, social and other spheres. We advocate a structure of local educational government which will be flexible enough to work purposefully towards these objectives, and we believe that, with suitable modifications, the Minister's proposals can provide a starting point for the creation of this structure.

The fear that I have about this is that it will set up a structure parallel to the VEC structure also with its own regional and county committees instead of knitting the whole thing together in a way in which the IVEA and even more emphatically the Labour Party would like to see.

I compliment my colleague, Deputy Collins, on his industry and initiative in introducing this Bill. The Deputy has approached this in a very positive way and in his opening remarks he clearly gave us the reasons for the necessity for the immediate establishment of this council. I am disappointed that the Minister has summarily dismissed this as being totally unnecessary and I hope that it is not just because the Opposition spokesman on Education has gone to the trouble of initiating a Bill. I hope that it is not cast aside just for political reasons and without proper examination. I have a high regard for the Minister so I do not believe that he has taken this action purely for political motives. It would be a negation of democracy to dismiss a Bill for political reasons just because an Opposition spokesman had introduced it.

I am disappointed that the Minister has dismissed this without coming up with some alternative course. The Minister referred to the 1930 Vocational Educational Act. The Minister seems to be relying on a 50-year old Act to meet the needs of the eighties. The Minister must agree that the needs of the country have changed. The 1930 Act may in part be suitable to the eighties but the Minister must meet the obvious new needs that have been created over the years. To rely on a 50-year old Act is backward thinking and it does not do the Minister or his Department justice. It appears that they are not moving with the times and that they are not trying to anticipate the needs of the youth.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 April 1980.