This Government are committed to encouraging all our youth to benefit to the maximum from the opportunities that are open to them in our schools and colleges. We are proud of our success in this regard. Out of a population of some 3.5 million, there are almost one million participants in full time education. This represents the highest proportion in education among the OECD group of countries.
Ireland, along with other countries in the European Community, has been undergoing rapid change due to scientific and technological progress, advances in telecommunications and international competitive trading in goods and services. Indeed the rapid rate of advance made in science and technology in all areas is bringing about a complete transformation in the conditions of modern life and affects every individual in society. We live in an age of continuing generation of new knowledge and of scientific discoveries. The discoveries of yesterday are closely followed by innovations which have significant impact on industry, business and education.
During the last decade we have witnessed many significant changes and developments in the Irish education system and our society in general, the pace of change has transformed in many ways the living patterns and expectations that society had at the beginning of the eighties. The rapid pace of contemporary change due to advancement of scientific knowledge and technological progress during the nineties will provide us with a greater and more complex range of challenges and opportunities.
Pervasive technological developments will continue to have a dominant impact and will influence greatly economic growth and social progress. Educators and trainers will need to constantly question and define relevant knowledge, skills and competencies and make appropriate changes in the curricula of the various programmes.
In the context of the Maastricht Treaty, with its political, economic and educational dimensions, it is imperative that our young people be given the appropriate knowledge, skills and information values in our schools and colleges. They must develop their critical analytical capacities and be encouraged to participate fully in a world of rapidly evolving interdependence which has major environmental, social and health problems to tackle and resolve.
The education system in Ireland must ensure by a process of continuing review, reform and curriculum innovation that individuals during their period of compulsory schooling are equipped not only with basic knowledge and competencies but are also equipped with learning skills to enable them to update themselves and acquire new knowledge and skills during their adult life.
While Irish people can be proud of their education system which has served this country so well, no education system can remain static. If it is to continue to deliver relevant programmes, it must be dynamic, adaptive and responsive to changing educational needs and to changes in the world it serves.
The Green Paper on Education, which will be published in the near future, will put forward a radical new vision for our education system. It will be a comprehensive document and will invite all concerned interests to engage in a major national debate with a view to establishing a framework within which educational developments will take place into the next century.
Many individual changes are envisaged in the Green Paper — changes in the curriculum area, changes in how we manage the considerable national resources devoted to education, changes in how we train teachers, changes in how we approach education at second level and so on. I sincerely hope, however, that this debate will not just be about picking and choosing from a menu of detailed proposals. We need a coherent philosophy to underpin our education system, not a rag-bag of miscellaneous changes. The Green Paper puts forward such a philosophy and I hope that the ensuing debate will produce a consensus.
The central aims of the Green Paper, which I believe should be the cornerstone of our approach, will be: (1) to establish greater equity in education, particularly for those who are disadvantaged socially and economically; (2) to broaden Irish education so as to equip students more effectively for life, for work in an enterprise culture and for citizenship of Europe; (3) to make the best use of education resources by radically devolving administration, introducing the best management practice and strengthening policy making; (4) to train and develop teachers so as to equip them for a constantly-changing environment; (5) to create a system of effective quality assurance; (6) to ensure greater openness and accountability throughout the system and maximise parent involement and choice.
These are the six national aims that I am suggesting we adopt. Detailed proposals that will be in the Green Paper are geared towards them. Finding out whether we all agree on them will be the objective in the debate. Only after we have reached a clear view of what we are trying to achieve will it make any sense to discuss the detail of how we are going to achieve it.
The total gross provision for the four Education Votes is nearly £1,600 million, which includes almost £174 million as appropriations in aid. The comparable gross outturn figure in 1991 is £1,484 million approximately. The amount being provided in 1992 represents an increase of over £114 million or 7.7 per cent over the 1991 provisional outturn.
This £1,600 million is a very substantial outlay on education. It is the highest ever provided by the State and at 6.4 per cent of GNP is one of the highest in the EC. This provision will help me to continue the vital work of promoting and implementing various educational reform measures and strategies which will ensure that the programmes provided in our schools and colleges are not only of relevance to the immediate needs of pupils today but also will prepare them for living in the world beyond the year 2000.
The net provision by the State for all Non-Capital Supply Services for 1992 is approximately £6,855 million and of this amount some £1,343 million is being allocated to fund services in the education sector. This amount represents almost 20 per cent of Exchequer current expenditure on the supply services. Such a significant provision for the education sector is a clear and unequivocal indication by this Government of their commitment to maintain and develop the nature and quality of the Irish education system.
The education process is of its very nature a labour intensive one, and this is reflected in the Estimates. The provision for pay and pensions is £1,254 million approximately, which represents 83 per cent of the gross non-capital provision. The overall provision also includes over £81 million for capital expenditure, an increase of nearly £13 million or 18 per cent on the 1991 outturn.
The 1992 allocation provides an additional £2.735 million for improvements in the pupil/teacher ratio at primary and post-primary levels. At primary level, teaching posts which would otherwise decline in number by 300 in the 1992/93 school year, due to falling rolls, will be retained at existing numbers. This will improve the pupil/teacher ratio to 25.2/1. At post primary level the ratio will be improved to 19.25 for appointment purposes in the 1992/93 school year. This will involve an increase of 143 in the number of existing posts.
A phased programme, starting in 1992/93, will be introduced to provide for the recognition of vice principals and guidance teachers on an ex-quota basis as outlined in the Programme for Economic and Social Progess. This will mean that from September next 87 vice principals will be recognised as ex-quota, thereby giving rise to a similar number of new teaching posts, and 62 schools will benefit directly from an increase in the number of approved guidance teacher posts.
An extra £500,000 is being provided for the introduction in the 1992/93 school year on a phased basis of a programme to expand the provision for caretaking and clerical services to all national schools with 100 pupils upwards and to second level schools with 200 pupils upwards. The phasing of the programme will be on the basis of school size, starting with the larger schools.
The 1992 provision for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is being increased by 31 per cent to £425,000. This very significant increase will enable the council to proceed with their tasks in relation to the primary and post primary curricula. Given the wide range of ability levels and aptitudes of students who now proceed to post compulsory education, it is necessary to ensure that provision at this level is relevant and suited to the needs of those students. In their work the NCCA will take into account the curriculum needs and requirements of all pupils and will give particular consideration to the needs of underachievers and low achievers.
I am also pleased to have been able to provide for a significant increase in the provision for publications in Irish. The 1992 provision of £771,000 represents an increase of £248,000, or 47 per cent on the 1991 outturn. This provision will enable An Gúm to provide Irish language text books for a range of Junior and Senior Certificate subjects for which there are no suitable texts available at the moment. This in turn will greatly facilitate all-Irish schools in their efforts to foster and promote the use of Irish.
A policy priority in the education area is the raising of the quality of basic schooling for all our children. In the past many young people, especially those from disadvantaged areas, left school ill equipped and poorly prepared to play their part in modern society. The Department of Education and I are fully committed to addressing social equity issues relating to education and are implementing and developing many strategies in this area. Indeed, as I have already stated, it is one of the six central aims of the Green Paper.
Resources are being, and will continue to be, targeted and initiatives developed which give special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged in our society, with the specific intent to promote their personal development. The provision for disadvantage was increased under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress by £1 million in 1991. The 1992 allocation provides a further increase of £250,000 to assist in various areas of disadvantage at all levels of the education system. These funds are additional to those being provided in other ways, including the £1.5 million ongoing provision for the primary area and the special funding arrangements for supplying extra teachers in schools in disadvantaged areas at post primary level.
I am particularly pleased to be able to make provision for the further expansion of the vocational training opportunities scheme in 1992. The establishment of a further 25 groups in September next will increase the total number of places provided on the programme by 500 to 1,560. VTOS provides second chance education and training to long term unemployed trainees over 21 years of age. A training allowance is paid in lieu of social welfare entitlements and trainees receive free books and travel and meal allowances. The programme has been expanded with support from the European Social Fund from a pilot project for three groups in 1989 to a planned total of 78 groups by the end of 1992.
The growth in the number of places provided under the vocational training opportunities scheme will be accompanied by a continuation of the scheme introduced by the Minister for Social Welfare whereby long term unemployed adults may avail of third level education while continuing their social welfare entitlements. A similar scheme operates to facilitate re-entry to education/training at second level. In order to ensure that there are no financial barrier to participation on these schemes, a special fund has been included for the first time in this year's Estimates to cover the cost of books, travel and meal allowances, registration fees etc. for long term unemployed trainees availing of education/training across a range of programmes outside the VTOS.
The 1992 Estimates include £503,000 for the running costs of the National Council for Vocational Awards (NCVA). The council was launched on an ad hoc basis on 29 October 1991 to initiate a comprehensive system of certification for students on vocational training programmes outside the third level sector. The objectives are to ensure that: trainees receive certification which is performance based; certification issued will have a national status which will have credibility in the labour market; courses conform to objective and common standards within an overall framework which sets out clearly the relationships between the various levels of qualification; course provision is relevant to labour market needs in terms both of the content and of the numbers of trainees in the different disciplines.
It is intended that all vocational training programmes will be developed and structured on a modular basis. National arrangements are being planned which will enhance the opportunities for young people to develop their vocational skills in a coherent and effective way. The Green Paper will contain proposals for future developments and initiatives in this area.
The allocation for the capital building programme in the 1992 Estimates is, as stated earlier, some £81 million, which represents an increase of nearly 19 per cent on the 1991 provisional outturn.
The national school capital allocation of £14 million will be used to fund a number of major school building projects and on school buildings, mainly in rural areas, which are in poor condition and in need of improvements, extensions or replacement.
A capital allocation of £2.5 million is being provided in 1992 to allow for further development of special facilities for young offenders. It includes £2.2 million towards the costs of a new development at Finglas. The remaining £300,000 is required to meet the ongoing maintenance and development costs of the existing facilities for young offenders.
The provision of £17.225 million for second level capital will be used to maintain the ongoing building programme, which has the following priority areas: areas where there is local agreement on rationalisation of existing resources and schools which are sole providers in their respective areas in need of accommodation.
The provision for third level capital projects in 1992 is nearly £42 million, an increase of £18.7 million or 81 per cent on the 1991 outturn. Some £33 million of this allocation will be provided to enhance the capability of the third level education sector to support industry in bridging the technological gap that exists between Ireland and the more advanced regions of the European Community. This expenditure will attract support from the European Regional Development Fund.
The Department of Education will continue in their implementation of a series of measures in key areas where serious deficiencies in equipment and accommodation have been identified in universities, regional technical colleges and colleges of technology.
The 1992 allocation for the Higher Education Authority sector includes provision for major building projects at Dublin City University, University College, Galway, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, and University College, Cork. It also includes £3 million for the creation of an additional 3,600 places in the universities in line with a Government undertaking to provide £15 million over a five-year period from 1990 for this purpose.
In the vocational education committee sector the 1992 allocation includes provision for the completion of phase 1 of Tallaght RTC which will assist in making third level education more accessible in an area noted for its low participation. Provision is also being made for phase 1 of a new college at Bishop Street, a major extension to the College of Catering, Cathal Brugha Street and new facilities and upgrading of laboratories in a number of RTCs.
In the third level education area there have been very significant developments in recent years. Over the last decade enrolments in this sector have dramatically increased by over 66 per cent with a consequential substantially increased output of well qualified graduates. At present there are some 75,000 students enrolled in higher education programmes and this corresponds to a transfer rate of almost 40 per cent for the relevant age cohort. This transfer rate is projected to increase still further as a result of the Government policy to encourage those who have the aptitudes and talents to pursue third level education programmes. Indeed total enrolment is projected to increase to 100,000 students approximately by the end of the nineties. Recent initiatives have also resulted in a greater degree of harmonisation and co-ordination in the entry procedures to third level colleges generally through the joint CAO/CAS system.
I mentioned earlier that the education system makes an important contribution to economic, social and cultural development. This is particularly so as regards the higher education sector. The achievement of economic and social advancement is dependent to a high degree on the availability of a pool of highly qualified personnel who possess the requisite technical and managerial knowledge, skills and competencies.
Of course the availability of suitable, skilled personnel is in itself totally dependent on the efficiency and effectiveness of the education and training system. The Government are committed to expanding the third level sector to meet increasing demand for places and to increase the competitive advantage which this country has by virtue of having a highly skilled, intelligent and flexible workforce.
The gross third level non-capital allocation in the 1992 Estimates is £309 million which corresponds to an increase of over 7 per cent on the 1991 provisional outturn of £288 million.
It is firmly intended to follow through on the Government's commitment to provide about 9,000 third level places over the next few years. In fact, considerable progress has been made already towards meeting this target. The arrangements initiated by the Government with the universities under the 1990 budget, whereby the universities will provide no fewer than an extra 3,600 undergraduate places over a three to four year period, is currently running above the annual target of 1,200 additional places.
As a result of the transfer of students to Carysfort College the UCD authorities have been able to make available an additional 1,200 undergraduate places at the Belfield campus. Carysfort itself will have a capacity of 1,500 places when fully operational.
A programme for the utilisation of spare capacity in the colleges of education is well under way. The amalgamation of Thomond College with the University of Limerick will provide an extra 600 places and the agreed institutional linkages between that University and Mary Immaculate College will provide a futher 600 undergraduate places. This agreement with Mary Immaculate College will result in the sharing of staff and resources between the two institutions. All programmes will be accredited and all awards will be made by the University of Limerick.
In this context too discussions are ongoing between the authorities of Dublin City University and St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, regarding similar institutional linkages between their two institutions and I look forward to a fruitful outcome.
The provision of the new RTC in Tallaght will provide 1,200 places and a new building to be provided at the University of Limerick with private sector financial participation will provide a further 1,000 places. Additional places, with the total numbers not yet fully determined, will also arise under the overall programme supported by EC Structural Funds.
The 1992 provision for higher education grants is over £32 million, an increase of 8 per cent, to provide for the increase in student numbers eligible for grant aid arising from the increased provision of third level places.
A range of major improvements in the higher education grants and related student support schemes will take effect in the autumn. The principal improvements being introduced for new entrants to third level this year are: (a) The income eligibility ceiling for families will be increased by £2,000 for each child after the first child attending third level education; (b) Income eligibility will be assessed on current income rather than as heretofore, on the income in the year in which the student sat the leaving certificate; (c) Mature students who secure a place in a third level institution will automatically be considered to meet the academic requirements for the award of a grant; (d) Mature students may be assessed on the basis of their own incomes (and, if married, their spouses' incomes) rather than on their parents' income which has been the case up to now; (e) Lone parent's welfare payments under the lone parent's allowance scheme will be excluded from the assessment of income for grant eligibility; and (f) Income limits and maintenance grants will be index-linked in 1992.
The Minister for Education also has initiated a full review of all aspects of third-level student support schemes with the overall aim of ensuring equity within and between the different schemes. The review includes examining the income eligibility limits generally and the income assessment criteria and procedures with a view to: removing any outstanding barriers which may militate against students from disadvantaged backgrounds; and addressing, to the extent that it is practicable and affordable, the particular financial pressures on students from the lower to middle-income families. The review is now well advanced and the Minister expects to be in a position to bring proposals to Government shortly with a view to introducing major changes in student support schemes.
The 1992 provision for educational services is a clear indication of the importance that this Government place on the role of the education sector in our society. I commend these Estimates to the House.