Green Paper on Education: Statements.

Today's debate on education is historic not least because of the scope and depth of the issues involved but also for the reason that it is occurring simultaneously with a national debate on these same issues.

From the beginning I was determined to give the legislators the fullest possible opportunity to contribute to that debate.

I ensured that each Deputy and Senator was sent a copy of the Green Paper on its publication. Today's debate is as a result of my request that time be granted for a full day's discussion on the Green Paper by this House.

My priority today is to listen to the views of Deputies on the issues raised in the Green Paper and to take them away for further consideration in the process of preparing a White Paper.

I chose the title of the Green Paper, "Education for a Changing World", quite deliberately. I wanted it to convey a fundamental reality that has to be confronted by all of us. Ireland is undergoing some of the most rapid changes in its history and is doing so in a world of ever-accelerating change. The speed of change which will continue and even increase, is being caused largely by the creativity and enterprise of people in the developed countries.

In the industrialised countries, wealth is now mostly created from invention, innovation, brain power and knowledge. A nation's health is limited only by the imagination and enterprise of its people, and not by its natural resources.

In this context I make no apologies for wanting to provide balance and breadth in education by emphasising science, technology, enterprise and creative and critical thinking. I want the education system to play its full role in the development of the nation's people. I want the system to lead change into the next millennium, not simply to follow it. But I want to build on the education system's existing strengths and achievements. I have no desire whatever to narrow the focus of education to purely utilitarian aims. Education must continue to embrace the moral, spiritual, physical, aesthetic and intellectual development of students. If anybody has any doubt about my intentions all they need do is spend a few moments reading the educational aims set out in the Green Paper.

Let us glance for a moment at just what this education "system" is — almost a million students, over 40,000 teachers and lecturers, over 4,000 schools and colleges. It touches every home in the country. The current education budget is around £1,600 million, or £1 in every £5 of public spending. These few facts indicate the social and economic significance of the education system in the life of the country. The Irish people value education very highly and we will never have enough for education. However, we will continue to invest in our education system, a system that receives 50 per cent of our total take from income tax.

I want to acknowledge particularly today the investment made by the parents of Ireland and by the Churches in the education system. We could not have delivered such an excellent system without their marvellous contribution. I thank them.

I see the Green Paper as a first step in reforming the education system. But I am not interested in paper reform; I want to bring about real and tangible change where it matters. Unless what we do means improvement in quality and relevance of learning it will be pointless.

A key to achieving effective change has to be the involvement of all those concerned with education. They must play a part in determining the need for change, in agreeing the general thrust of the new directions and formulating the policies and plans to make reform a reality. The fact is that real change in education can only take place on the basis of the broadest possible consensus.

Since the publication of the Introduction to the Green Paper six months ago I have sought to establish the widest possible consultation process. I want this process to be a model of openness in action, a headline of how a mature society debates an issue with fundamental and far-reaching implications for its future.

To date I have been greatly heartened by the quality and quantity of the debate. It has been a debate rich in reason, devoid of rancour and low on rhetoric. May it so continue. The quality of the contributions reflects the sincerity and conviction of the participants — parents, teachers, school managers, Church leaders and politicians — in the debate and the significance they attach to it.

I emphasise that the Green Paper is a discussion document. Nothing in it is written on tablets of stone. I have set down what I and my Department consider to be the way forward in reforming the education system. I assure the House that if people think there are better ways they will not find anybody more open to good practical ideas. Consensus is the only path to real and enduring change. The achievement of consensus by definition requires a positive and dynamic contribution from all parties. It is not sufficient simply to knock proposals. All participants in education have a responsibility to propose positive alternative approaches. Consensus must be based on respect for, and recognition of the legitimate rights and responsibilities of all the partners. This is one of the reasons I am asking all those making submissions on the Green Paper to make them available to each other and to the public. In this way mutual understanding will be greatly enhanced. Furthermore, it will serve to deepen and broaden the multilateral nature of the debate. Discussions cannot simply be restricted to an exchange between me and my Department and the individual interests on a strictly bilateral basis.

I would like to address, briefly, a general concern about the time scale for submission of views and discussions on the Green Paper. I have to balance the need to allow the broadest possible debate of the issue in order to reach consensus, against the need to proceed as quickly as possible to the formulation of clear policy directions for change. All will not have to be decided before progress can be made. Consultation and consensus will also be needed when we get down to formulating detailed policies, after policy directions have been decided. We need to make progress in order to sustain the momentum and motivation for movement along the road to change.

The publication of a White Paper will be the next major signpost along that road. I want to avoid all unnecessary delay in reaching it. At the same time I assure everyone that I will allow adequate time to all parties to submit their views.

By way of introduction to our debate here today. I would like to touch on the six principles that underpin the approach to the Green Paper. Agreement on these will be fundamental to reaching consensus on reforms. Here I would like to acknowledge the widespread welcome on all sides for the six aims including, most recently, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Desmond Connell. The first aim is to establish greater equity in education — particularly for those who are disadvantaged socially, economically, physically or mentally. For me, the overall national strategy for education is to provide the opportunity for all to develop their educational potential to the full. I am proposing that this aim be adopted as a main priority in allocating resources in education. This proposal seeks to confirm and build on recent educational initiatives such as home-school liaison projects. The second aim is to broaden Irish education in order to equip students more effectively for life, for work in an enterprise culture and for citizenship of Europe. I need to emphasise that what I am proposing is that we broaden education, not that we change from one direction to another. I want education provision that will meet the needs of all students. I want a range of programmes that will serve the needs of each individual, programmes that will motivate them and that will allow them achieve success in the system.

The third aim is to make the best use of education resources by radically devolving administration, introducing the best management practice and strengthening policy-making. The school is the basic block of the education system. The principle underlying this aim is that everything that can be administered effectively at the individual school level should be done there.

Some people have voiced the fear that empowering schools might in practice result in centralisation and increased dependency. That is why the Green Paper contains a parallel principle for the development of services to support the work of individual schools and to plan and co-ordinate a range of educational provision. The Green Paper is not prescriptive about the nature of these support services or a framework for their provision. I expect that the type of services needed and the appropriate means for delivering them will be hotly debated. My challenge to all interested parties is that they should suggest practical proposals on the services needed and on sensible structures for their delivery.

The fourth aim is to train and develop teachers so as to equip them for a constantly changing environment. I want the Green Paper to be seen as a vote of confidence in teachers. I have been greatly encouraged by indications from the teachers that they are ready and willing to take on the challenges of change. My firm purpose is that they should have the support to enable them to do so as progressive professionals. The increased emphasis on their pre-service and in-career training is part of an overall strategy to develop the professionalism of teachers and empower them as innovators and agents of change in meeting the learning needs of their students.

The fifth aim is to create a system of effective quality assurance. A simple principle underlying assessment is the right and the need to know. Pupils and their parents have a right to know how they are progressing in learning. Teachers need to know how well pupils are progressing in order to teach them. The State needs to know in aggregate terms how students are progressing, to formulate plans and policies on curriculum and on the allocation on resources. Assessment is a developmental not a negative or punitive process. It is essentially pupil centred. It is not about increasing competition between pupils and schools. There is no hidden agenda of league tables of pupils' achievements or of their schools.

The sixth aim is to create great openness and accountability throughout the system, and maximise parent involvement and choice. I want to open the doors of the education world to the public. I want a real partnership in education built on openness and transparency. I have no doubt that the prospective partners have the competence and confidence to take on board the various proposals I have made for parent involvement, boards of management and annual reports in a spirit of co-operation and trust.

I look forward with interest to hearing Deputies' views on this Green Paper and I wish to assure the House that I will take into account all constructive comments. I am in listening mode.

I welcome the opportunity to debate the Green Paper on Education in the House. Not alone is this the proper Chamber in which to debate this document, but it is in this House that the document should have been launched in the first place, having regard to the fact that the ultimate culmination of debate and discussion on education will eventually find its way back into this House in the form of an education Bill which will then go to the Seanad. It should have started here. This was the proper place to launch the debate. Having been launched here and debated it should only then have gone out to the nation to allow the many eager interested groups to study it in detail and make their submissions.

Unfortunately the Green Paper was not constructively handled. Since the Leader of Fine Gael, Deputy John Bruton, diagnosed the vacuum in legislation on education and identified the clear need for a proper structure based on an education Act, we have had a series of leaks to the media. As a result the educational waters have been soured with various reactions being brought to public attention by the media as changes in emphasis occurred.

Instead of holding the document until the final product was ready, the Minister could not resist the temptation to indulge himself by issuing an introduction to the Green Paper last Easter just as the teacher unions and parent representatives were having their annual conferences. This exacerbated the situation and created a certain amount of furore because it cut across the already tightly scheduled and pre-determined agenda of these organisations.

I want to be as positive as I can in relation to the Green Paper which met with a variety of responses when it was published earlier this year. The exercise we are now engaged in is an important one. We are at a crossroads and this marks a watershed in Irish education. For the first time we are debating as a nation the aims, needs, deficiencies and principles of Irish education. We are looking at education in the context of a growing and expanding Europe and examining in detail the structures of primary, post-primary, third level and adult education. We are looking at curriculum content and, furthermore, at vocational training. We are looking at the role of the Irish language and the teaching profession, at the role of parents, the Department of Education and the inspectorate as well as issues such as gender equity, sports policy, health education and so on. We are dealing, as a nation, with the entire landscape of Irish education which has lain largely undebated for decades.

This document was launched last June at a time when the schools had closed, when teachers, parents and pupils were going on holidays and when, apart from the results of the leaving certificate, there was a generous switch off from education for a period of three months. As of now the deadline for submissions on the Green Paper is December. The Minister has said he will be receptive to details submitted but we still do not have any clear statement from him that that deadline will be extended. Even if the debate were to start in January and continue right through the school term until June, six months is extremely short in terms of providing adequate scope for a full debate. It is certainly not adequate when one takes into consideration that the months of June, July and August have been lost.

Deputies were given the document on its publication, but the vast majority of schools did not receive their eagerly sought two copies until September. The period within which submissions must be made is obviously not sufficient. There are many people who have legitimate submissions to make, who want to have an input and may feel that the deadline is too restrictive. I am swamped with pleas from people to make the point to the Minister today that this process of debate is only beginning and that the deadline cannot be met. Those people have a legitimate contribution to make. We recognise that the first division players, the heavyweights in education, will have a very good idea of where they are going, what they want and what their submissions will contain. However, other people who have a legitimate contribution to make are only beginning the process of debate. To rush the fences at this stage and bring the guillotine down on the process will do nothing but sour the educational waters, alienate the many people who want to be part of the process and terminate a very valuable discussion that has been awaited for decades. I urge the Minister to give a clear commitment this evening that he will extend the deadline for the receipt of submissions to 31 March.

The time is opportune for a debate on education because, in comparison with other areas of performance in Ireland, we can say with a certain amount of pride and justification that the Irish education system is a good one and, in some respects, quite outstanding. I have one reservation. It is a good system for those who can cope and who have access. However, never before has Irish education or the system come simultaneously under so many different pressures as at present. The recent OECD report estimates that our per capita spending on education is 40 per cent of the average in other member states. Our pupil-teacher ratio at primary level is double that of or EC counterparts and treble that of Belgium.

We cling to the concept of free education but the reality is that it is being whittled away as more, and in some cases, unsustainable pressures are brought to bear on parents right across the board to pay for what should be their children's basic and constitutional entitlements. In many cases they have to pay £40 a year for school games, £90 for tin whistle or recorder tuition, £72 for swimming, £80 for dancing classes, £150 for speech and drama and between £4.50 and £8 for every school tour. First year primary books cost on average £127 and school uniforms can cost up to £100. In the area of school transport 710 yellow buses, the traditional buses, are between 20 and 25 years old and cost between £5,000 and £6,000 per annum for maintenance. At present the Department of Education owes Bus Éireann £4.5 million for the scheme. While many modern school buildings have undoubtedly been built, the rate of replacement is much too slow and there are old, dilapidated and dangerous school buildings in many areas and many classes conducted in prefabricated buildings many of which are disintegrating. Even where we have provided new schools their quality and standard are frugal in comparison with those in other countries. We are still taking only tentative steps towards providing basic secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services which should be provided automatically.

While the numbers attending third level have grown dramatically, particularly in the eighties and early nineties, the real pressures of increasing mortgages, coupled with declining incomes and reduced access to ESF grants mean that there are extremely difficult choices to be made by parents as to whether they will send their children to third level institutions. At the present rate of financial pressure on the average family it will shortly be impossible for a considerable segment of middle income families to send their sons or daughters to third level education.

The quality of Irish education is good, despite being run on a shoestring, because that fact is compensated for by the fact that we have an extremely high level of commitment and motivation on the part of teachers, parents and pupils and education is held in such high esteem by the average person. I believe, therefore, that we have managed to hold the line and keep the lid on a collapsing education system, but that we are now at a crossroads, that unless vital and clear commitments are made the system will fray at the edges and that this will lead eventually to imminent disintegration.

As I said, this document is welcome in that, first, it is a diagnostic document; it is very strong on diagnosis. Indeed, it identifies on the first page, 13 needs, on the following page, 11 shortcomings and, finally, the six aims of education. Each of these in its own way is laudable but what is disconcerting is that at the top of the agenda of needs is the much debated concept and new philosophy, the enterprise culture. This is not accidental because if one examines the document in detail one finds it permeated by that concept. References to it are to be found on pages 4, 11, 13, 16, 35, 82, 85, 96 and 110.

A worthwhile debate is taking place on the question of what has been the constraining factor in the Irish economy, the reason we have not managed to achieve the level of economic development and growth required and whether education should be the whipping boy for this failure. I would have to acknowledge in analysing our economic performance that we should look at our education system to see if there is an attitude problem because it tends to breed within us a recognition of the status of the professional job, the safe and pensionable job as against the hunger to be an employer rather than an employee. That is one of the areas identified in the much vaunted Culliton report. I do not believe, however, that it should be the predominant consideration or that educational values or educationper se should be sacrificed on the high altar of enterprise, but there is a grave danger we will go down that road.

As I said, there is a body of opinion which would like to blame the education system for our economic failures but the real reason people tend to go for the professions is that they see jobs in that arena as being clean, secure, safe and providing a guaranteed income. Furthermore, this debate should be carried out in a temperate manner because it is all important at the end of the day that we strike a balance. If there are market opportunities available and if there are resources that are not being developed properly, we should look at our education system to see, apart from the dead weight of disincentives, blockages and the inherent failure of our industrial strategy, if there is anything we can do within the education system to cultivate the ability to see the market opportunities that are presenting themselves in the context of the growing European market. As I said, I do not want to see education sacrificed in that quest.

It is good idea to set down the six key aims of education, the first of which is to establish greater equity; in other words, equality of opportunity. The document goes on to identify six barriers to equity. Now that we have identified them we feel that we are on the right road to dismantling those barriers and that we are doing something for the disadvantaged student, the one at the back of the class, who, up until now, has been forgotten.

I should say, however, that I am disappointed with the terminology used because at best the commitment is rather watery. The document states that any extra resources that would be available would be devoted to increasing staffing. Possibly, there is scope for development in that area but we find when we move to page 151 that it is diluted further. We are told "the needs of disadvantaged groups require a degree of targeting of resources so that efforts can be made within existing resource limits to improve class sizes in areas of greatest need". I am somewhat surprised therefore at the receptive and welcoming tone of a number of the social organisations which seem to construe this diagnosis of the problem as a commitment to provide resources. If we are serious about doing something for the disadvantaged and about establishing equity we will have to enshrine in the clearest possible terminology a commitment that every child in every school is entitled to an appropriate level of education appropriate to his or her educational, physical and mental ability.

The second aim identified in the document is to broaden education so as to equip students more effectively for life, for work in an enterprise culture and for citizenship of Europe. The document then goes on to identify six weaknesses. It states that we do not have the necessary technical, communications or language skills. It also highlights the need to develop European citizenship. I put it to the Minister that we have not yet developed Irish citizenship, let alone European citizenship. Let us take the subject of civics as an example. This has now been relegated to the last class in the evening and is a non-exam subject. Indeed, very often it is not taught in the front of the classhall but rather at the back of the class if students have study to do. Citizenship is no longer a subject for third year or fifth year in any of our past-primary schools. Is it any wonder then that we have social problems in relation to the problems of vandalism, litter and what I would call poor or boorish behaviour in society? It is fine to talk about the need for a greater awareness of citizenship but how can this be achieved within the existing framework? Is the Minister prepared to give a commitment that the status of civics within education will be elevated onto a proper plain before we start talking about European citizenship?

I thumbed through the section to see if there was any reference to how we are going to develop this enterprise culture. Can this be developed by teaching history, geography, French and maths? I do not believe it can; yet, it is suggested that this can be done through the use of technology which is a relatively new innovation. It simply is not on to talk about technology as being the vehicle to deliver this new concept in education. We have been assured that this approach will produce a generation of young people who have basic literacy in technology and enterprise, the two central elements of economic growth. At last we have come to the magic formula — technology seems to be the key to unleashing enterprise within our education system.

The question of modern languages has again been fudged; all we have is a commitment to develop an awareness of European languages. We want a clear commitment that modern languages will be introduced in all post-primary schools, that teachers will be given confidence to meet this challenge and that there will be a greater mix and diversity of European languages. Last week the NCCA report highlighted the fact that we have over-emphasised the importance of French as against other languages within the Community.

I would be grateful if the Deputy would now bring his speech to a close.

Last but by no means least we want a commitment that all teachers, who will be expected to teach modern languages within the education system, will be given some opportunity during their teacher training to gain experience in those countries whose languages they will be expected to teach. I look forward to making contributions during the day on the various sectors.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael Higgins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

What strikes one about the document entitled "Education for a Changing World" is its size; it contains more than 240 pages. It reminds me of the Maastricht Treaty, a copy of which was supplied to Deputies and which was similar in size. In the debate which took place on the Maastricht Treaty people made up their own minds, by and large, on the position presented by those whom they trusted in political life. It would be tragic for this country if that were to happen on this occasion. I may seem to be starting my contribution by making some criticisms, but I compliment the Minister on the way he introduced the debate today. He informed the House that nothing in this discussion document is written in tablets of stone and that he will react to constructive and worth-while ideas.

The publication of this document costing £10 which was to be a basis for a nationwide debate embracing everybody not just the vested interests in education, was a retrograde initial step. As already alluded to, the fact that it was published at the end of June was another retrograde step because September, as the initially proposed in theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress for publication of this Green Paper, would have been a more appropriate time. In September, people are fresh in their minds after the summer break, and, therefore, would be more active in assessing the education system and examining their various concerns. Momentum was lost during the summer period, although I do not believe there was momentum, in any sense, before the summer recess. Therefore, the timing for the publication of this document was wrong.

There is a real need to extend the period of debate on this document. There is also a need to involve everybody in the community because the education system belongs to everybody. It costs the State £1.6 billion per year and everyone, whether retired, unemployed or whatever, has an absolute right to become involved in this debate and put forward their views. The question of how people feed those views back into the system is another matter, whether through their public representatives or otherwise. It is crucial that everybody is involved in this debate. It would be tragic if this turned into a debate between vested interests.

The title of the Green Paper "Education for a Changing World" describes a reactive rather than a pro-active role for the education system. The implication here is that the world is changing, changing on foot of forces which are not coming from the education system. Unfortunately, in today's Western economies, in many ways that is based on greed. The Green Paper makes great play of the idea that we should create an enterprise culture, but it is debatable whether that is achievable. Some time ago I put a parliamentary question to the Minister asking him to describe an enterprise culture. His reply described an education system that would inculcate values and abilities that are already very much part of the education system. To a great extent, one felt that this was an answer that was rediscovering the educational wheel, so to speak.

Unfortunately, business in this country and throughout the Western economies is highly questionable in terms of its ethos and ethic. It is often stated that the business of business is to make profit and, obviously, it must make a profit to survive. However, on a worldwide basis — and to a significant extent here — too few people handle too much of the world's resources. If our education system is to react to a changing world based on that type of business ethics, then we are starting from a very erroneous and weak base.

If emphasis was placed more on the work ethic we would be starting from a much sounder and more productive base. An honest day's work for an honest day's pay is fundamental to every economy. The incentive to work is based on a number of factors ranging from proper pay to job satisfaction. Fundamental to all this is the right to work which, regrettably, is a right denied to many here at present. Education, of course, has always been a route to escape the poverty trap. However, our system is gravely deficient in equity, and the full benefits of the education system are being bestowed increasingly on a much smaller group of society, a group who live in the easier side of the economy. This certainly does not apply to the disadvantaged.

We are dealing here with the general thrust of the Green Paper. In regard to educational disadvantage — and I would like to allude particularly to third level education — there are socio-economic factors which are a constraint on equity, but there are also geographic ones. Yesterday, Deputies from the south-east region had representations in relation to a group of people in that region who are seeking to have the project for a university in the south region moved forward. At present there are two ways in which a university can be provided, first, an existing third level institution may seek to be upgraded or, second, a green field project may be put in place.

If one examines the Green Paper carefully one will see it is intended that research and development consultancy will be put in the way of universities but applied research will be left to the regional technical colleges. In this regard the Green Paper proposes a restriction on regional growth in terms of wider provision for students in those areas. It is proposed to set up a new body called the CEVA to incorporate the new NCVA and the NCEA, but I would like some clarification on that. My understanding is that this body is being set up to deal with diplomas and certificates in education. How will this relate to local areas? If schools are virtually autonomous in terms of their boards of management, how is it proposed that the CEVA will operate? Will a local arm of such an organisation be set up?

If the education system is to be the catalyst in bringing about equity in society and contributing massively towards solutions to our economic problems, it must be a system which provides leadership and education, it should not react to market forces inspired by an agenda of greed. There are 12 broad aims summarised in the Green Paper based on an anticipated reasonable consensus. The first relates to fostering, understanding and critical appreciation of the values of home and society generally. This aim is acceptable so far as it goes but it points to the first and probably the major deficiency in the Green Paper — the absence of a clearly stated philosophy of education. A Green Paper on education, a White Paper on education and indeed an Education Bill must contain such a philosophy based on the values that we as a society cherish. The values that underpin our society are also the values that should underpin our education system. Among the values of which I speak are honesty, integrity, tolerance, justice, compassion, loyalty and courage. The aspirations of our society are the aspirations which the education system must, in the first instance, strive to inculcate. An important distinction must be made here: values are not taught, they are inculcated. They come from example and ethos. In the first instance, they come from the home.

Another major problem with the Green Paper is that on the one hand there is the Department of Education while on the other hand there are autonomous schools. I agree with autonomy within schools but in terms of the proper utilisation of resources there is need for local or regional administration. The vocational education committees have served the country very well for a long period and they know their business. There is need for the revamping of vocational education committees to bring about a body responsible for policy in education in local areas, be it at first, second or third level.

In the Barber report on second level education it is forecast that by the year 2006 there will be one second level institution in each town. If amalgamations, which will inevitably take place, are decided by localad hoc committees, as has been the position heretofore, we will not get the best return on resources. Demographic trends generally indicate that amalgamations will take place at first level also. The way forward is by planning, based on the understanding of an area and its needs, by people who are democratically responsible. There is a large void between the Department and the autonomous schools. I do not propose to undermine in any way autonomy but to ensure the proper use of resources, thereby maximising the return.

The second aim stated in the Green paper relates to the promotion of self-esteem and self-worth. This is an admirable aim as most children who fail to benefit fully from the education system have a basic problem with self-image. The system must place the supreme value on the individual as an individual and separate person who must be nurtured to the full realisation of his or her potential. In the Irish context the Irish language in our education system is central to national and individual self-image. It is a symbol of our unique and distinctive culture.

This leads to a definition of Irishness being something that is paramount to self-image. The question must be honestly faced as to whether we as a people want to restore the Irish language. As part of the debate on the Green Paper we must honestly decide whether we want to revive the Irish language, why we want to revive it and how we intend doing so. Standards in schools have been very high. Public perception of the Irish language has been, at best, indifferent and quite often hostile. I say this as a person who is committed to the restoration of the language. In order to ensure that there is a commitment and an effort by the whole community to the restoration of the Irish language rather than just leaving it to the schools, this matter must be debated honestly and fully by the whole community.

In the few minutes available to me I would like to address the general principles in the Green Paper. There is an expected rhetoric when people speak on the Green Paper; they usually say there are many good things in it, they list these and then go on to list other things that are not in it. In the Green Paper there are some useful references to disadvantage, that it builds on experience that has come from research in the Department on the importance of gender equality. It is quite expansive in its reference to the rights of travellers.

The publication of the Green Paper is one of the greatest lost opportunities of modern politics. No attempt has been made to address the fundamental constitutional flaw which creates the paradox of putting the State in a position to provide for education but not to deliver it. The Green Paper simply brings together a string of directives, many illegal and some quasi-legal by way of introducing some kind of education Bill. The greatest failure of the Green Paper lies in the absence of a philosophy. This is evident in the failure to establish education as a right, and from fudging the issue of establishing education as a right, comes a subterfuge of suggesting equity as a replacement for equality. One notes that the connection between the economy, society and education is not debated in terms of the assumptions upon which the initial assertions, which will later become long sections in the enterprise culture, are based. Why is there no philosophy chapter in the Green Paper? Unions and others have spoken about the missing resources chapter, but much more important is the missing philosophy chapter.

Education is seen as something that can be adjusted or made fit into forces external to it. It is entirely determined, yet there is an impertinent use in the document of critical thinking. You cannot begin to speak of critical thinking if there is no connection between education, the economy and society. Many people will find it ironic that the word "culture" always appears in the document after the word "enterprise". This document refers to none of the reports on arts and education such as the Benson report of 1979. It does not refer to what I believe will be the greatest need in the next several decades, the need for a participatory citizenship. It narrows our citizenship to a national sense. When we are international we can only speak of Europe. There is no reference to any of the values that informed the UNCED conference, to ecological responsibility, interdependency, aid, trade, debt, the contribution of feminist theory of the new work on equality.

The Green Paper refers to Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, but there is no reference to the Third World apart from one reference to the southern 80 per cent of the planet. It says that we will target certain second countries for the export of educational services. In an article inThe Irish Times of today Brother Hederman refers to reports that suggested that creativity is social, that creativity involves the use of symbols and that the arts are central to education, not something that should be purchased as units of child improvement. The arts are scarcely referred to in the Green Paper. Therefore it fudges the issue of education as a right. It ignores the current philosophical debate on education. It does nothing to prepare us for participation in education. It neglects totally the arts in terms of education. It refers to access but it dodges the issue of control. It offers people an even more confusing and limiting concept as it moves away from the 19th century legacy of the patron system and replaces it with ownership. Instead of offering parents participation, it offers them involvement, whatever that might be. What it offers the taxpayer is far short of control.

Sadly, the curriculum is so narrow in the way it is discussed that the Green Paper does not prepare us for flexibility. It does not address any of the dilemmas which have haunted education for so long, it is short on commitment to resources and, in the honest spirit which prevails this morning, in which the Minister announced he is talking about a much longer timeframe, the document should be reintroduced with a new philosophical expanded charter. We will all participate in a greater educational debate.

I have been allocated ten minutes to make a general response on behalf of Democratic Left on the Green Paper on Education, which is hardly sufficient time. Therefore, I will restrict my remarks to some of the more important areas raised or omitted in the Green Paper.

The Democratic Left Party have already welcomed the publication of the Green Paper and expressed their support for many of its aims and objectives. Who could argue against the six aims proposed for our education system? However, like Deputy Higgins, I argue that they are incomplete; nevertheless they provide a welcome addition to the 1916 Proclamation about cherishing all the children of the nation equally as a target against which educational provision can be measured.

In the national debate so far there have been calls for a modest time extension to the six months originally proposed for consultation and discussion. Given that the Minister took almost six months to revise the work of his predecessors, the request for an extension is not unreasonable but it should be accompanied by a clear commitment to carry through on educational reform with the White Paper and educational legislation. The general secretary of the ASTI spoke eloquently last week about his bookshelves being loaded down with the fading copies of unimplemented educational reports. His burden should not be increased and the educational community should not be taken up the hill on a national debate which will probably be interrupted by a general election, only to find they will be led down again when there is no follow through.

Arising from this debate, there should be cross-party agreement that, irrespective of the outcome of the general election and the formation of a new Government, the process of the educational debate on reform should be continued so that the work which the education partners are now putting into this Green Paper will not have been in vain. It is clear from the seminars held to date and submissions made that there is an emerging consensus about many aspects of the Green Paper. There is general support for the six aims for promoting greater equity in education, promoting gender equity, adopting a holistic approach to education for life and for management structures which represent, on an equal footing, the partners in education. There is also a general wish for a democratic structure at local level to give overall coherence to local education and to fill the void which the Green Paper leaves between the Department and the individual school. A local structure can be provided by reforming the vocational education committee system to produce new local education authorities which are representative of local authorities, boards of management, parents, teachers and the social partners.

The big issue arising from the Green Paper, however, to which every submission and seminar referred, is what is known as the "missing chapter", the question of resources. The Green Paper does not contain any statement of Government policy on resources but almost every policy proposal and every idea is qualified by the phrase, "as soon as available resources permit". What does that mean? We can only draw conclusions from our experience of the education system; we know that education is seriously underfunded, many teachers and pupils are accommodated in school buildings which should be condemned, classes are still too large, there is virtually no in-service training for teachers, children from poor backgrounds tend to fare worse in the educational system and the means-tested system of student support at third level discriminates against the PAYE sector whose taxes paid for it in the first place.

The recently published OECD report onper capita expenditure on education shows Ireland at the bottom of the league. This will not surprise any teacher in a leaking prefab but it does give the lie to the grandiose claim in the Green Paper that “Ireland compares favourably with most European countries on the funding of education”. If we are to have a worth-while debate on education, and if the laudable objectives in the Green Paper are ever to be realised, we must at least have an honest approach to the issue of funding. As one of the 80 per cent of school principals who teach said: “the terminology of the Green Paper about the principal being the chief executive rings very hollow in a rat infested prefab”.

Last week I invited the Minister to open this debate by making a clear statement about Government policy and funding. I regret that in his otherwise uninspiring contribution today he has not done so and I now invite him to prepare a supplement to the Green Paper setting out Government policy on the funding of education. The Green Paper is essentially about policy; resourcing is a policy issue which has been ignored. I always understood that we had a policy for free education, at least at first and second level. Was not the principle of free education the cornerstone of the Donogh O'Malley reforms? What has become of it? Have the Government abandoned free education? The term is not used even once in the 200 pages of the Green Paper. It is a relevant question for parents who now have to fork out up to £250 per annum for a child in primary school for books, uniforms, extra curricular activities and transport. It is also relevant for boards of management of schools whose capitation grants amount to about one quarter of the amount needed to run the school. It is relevant for the third level student, the daughter of a bus driver, who has been denied an ESF grant this year because of the new means-testing. Who will pay for the education system?

Will the Government put more resources into education? If so, how much, over what period and from what source? If, as implied in the Green Paper and as is happening in practice, the Government intend to only partially fund the education system who will pay for the rest? Will the Minister indirectly ask parents to pay more for the education of their children? Will he return to a fee paying system? Is the Green Paper quietly burying the legacy of the late Donogh O'Malley? Is Fianna Fáil revisionism finally and formally dismantling free education? Have the new boards of management of schools less to do with education or democracy than with economic responsibility? Are they, like in Baker's Britain, from where the idea of testing seven and 11-year-olds has come, to be handed the poisoned chalice of educational funding? Will they end up, like the UK boards, being unable to obtain sufficient parents or teachers to take on the financial headache of running a school? Until we know Government policy on funding education, we cannot have a meaningful discussion on the Green Paper. Until there are sufficient resources, many of the objectives will remain aspirational and, in the years to come, the Green Paper will be little more than a reference manual for education lobbyists in search of a paragraph to support their case.

We all know that there is a problem in regard to resources. The Green Paper talks occasionally about the targeting of resources but there is not a mention anywhere of the need to conserve resources. "Educate Together", in their submission, made a suggestion that arrangements should be made to transfer unused denominational buildings to the multidenominational sector where they are needed, an idea which should be developed. At a time when resources are scarce in education no building or resource should be allowed to escape from educational use. However, all over the country school buildings and property are being sold or underused. I can list several schools in my constituency which have been sold over the past few years and houses built in their place. This should not happen at a time when there is a need for educational resources in the formal education system and in the wider community educational system.

The term "enterprise" appears repeatedly in the Green Paper. It seems that the Minister is addicted to the tiresome notion that there are entrepreneurs in society who have all the answers to every area of policy. What is the idea of putting a business person on the board of management of every school? Do we really want in every town in Ireland an aspiring Michael Smurfit waiting to do a Telecom on the local school? What, in a country with 300,000 out of work, do our schools have to learn from the world of business? Surely Irish business could learn some lessons about enterprise from the staffs and boards of schools who have produced such a high standard of education among our population with such limited resources?

Finally, I should like to refer to the objectives which our education system should have and which should be enshrined in the Green Paper. We need a system of education which is open to all, where every child has a fair opportunity of participating fully in the education system, which is not hampered by lack of resources.

We need a clear statement from the Government that there will be a return to the policy of free education. We need to provide choice in the education system; choice for parents and students. For example, there has to be choice for parents and pupils from minority religions in order to ensure that their position will not be undermined in the education system. There must be choice for parents who want to exercise the right to pursue multidenominational education for their children. Our education system needs structures of management that are genuinely democratic and that reflect on an equal basis the partnership on education. I do not support the proposal in the Green Paper that would give weighted representation for the traditional patron or owners of the schools. If there is to be genuine participation and democracy in education all of the partners in education, and they include teachers and parents, will have to have the right to participate equally and fully in the various boards of management.

Finally, it will be necessary to establish a structure between the Department of Education and the individual schools that will provide co-ordination and an umbrella role for the education system at local level. Such a concept is missing in the Green Paper. The Minister for Education should examine the vocational education committee system with a view to reforming and expanding it and to using that model, perhaps, to establish new local education authorities which will provide an overall democratic framework at local level.

I welcome the opportunity to debate the Green Paper on Education. The paper is a valuable document that gives us an opportunity to probe the thinking of the Government and to make our contributions, at least some of which I hope will be taken into account in the eventual White Paper and legislation.

I am glad that the aims of the Green paper include the concept introduced by us in 1984 at the time of the establishment of the Curriculum Examinations Board, that is the idea of fostering a constructively critical appreciation of our inherited values, in contrast to the previous concentration on transmitting them only, a policy which in my view, tended to be counterproductive in its impact on young people. I welcome the emphasis on promoting respect for the rights and beliefs of others with a view to moulding tolerant, caring and politically aware members of society. Also welcome is the emphasis on the need to develop a spirit of inquiry and to foster intellectual development in the attainment of students' full educational potential. These are not merely pious platitudes. If they are incorporated in legislation they will be taken into account by those who have the task of running the system thereafter.

I am concerned about the degree of emphasis on enterprise, business and technology. That emphasis runs through the Green Paper — it is found on pages 4, 13, 16, 34, 85, 96 and 110; nothing else appears so frequently. In this regard, I agree with the last part of what the previous speaker has just said. This is a highly dangerous misconceived development for our educational system. The emphasis is wrong.

I note that while it has, fortunately, been decided to pull back from the idea of streaming senior cycle, the Green Paper concludes that there is a strong possibility that to seek to introduce an improved vocational and technical orientation with strengthened links to the business world through a separate non-academic vocational stream would be regarded as providing only for less able children and that therefore it has been decided instead to build on and expand the range of vocational options within the existing programme. I am glad that has happened and that the previous debate in the House on the Culliton report, to which I had a chance to contribute, helped to bring the Minister back to a better view on that issue.

While enterprise and technology studies are to be compulsory in junior cycle, the same attitude does not extend to environmental and social studies. They are to be an option only. That tells us something about the value system that lies behind what is proposed. Though a number of the aims of that value system are positive, as I have mentioned before, I find these aspects of the value system disturbing. Incidentally, I fear there is to be some downgrading of history in that history, and geography too, is now to be an option to environmental and social studies. History already holds a very low priority in our system, with very few students studying it at senior cycle level. It is sad that the subject may be downgraded further. Especially in a country in which civics is not taught, the teaching of history is important. The fact that so many students will not have the advantage of being able to study history is a matter of concern.

There is confusion throughout the Culliton report and, to some degree, the Green Paper between education and training. Education and training are distinct. That is not to say that some elements of training cannot be linked to the educational system and the system used in some way to assist that. However, if we confuse the two and start to train people for specific tasks at too early a stage instead of educating them we may turn out students who will make good accountants or who will be good at some particular technical job but when the world changes and jobs change those students will not have the flexibility to do other jobs and will be less likely to have the opportunity and the capacity to develop themselves to a higher level of management because they do not have the necessary basic education. That is the basic weakness of the thrust of thinking in Irish education at Civil Service and political level. In that regard, I would have to add that I do not consider that such thinking is confined to the other side of the House. There are people on this side of the House who at times seem to fall into that trap also, but not to the same extent as happens on the Government side. It is my hope that there will be a rethink and that this fashionable business about enterprise — which is not what education is solely about — will be given less priority. While it is important to develop people's initiative and intellectual awareness we do not need to copy Thatcherite Britain. However, we always copy the British some ten years later, and we are now introducting this kind of "Thatcherism". My daughter was teaching English literature in England and at her college there was a course run by the business and commerce people for those teaching that subject. There was instruction on how to teach Milton in a way that would encourage enterprise. I hope we do not reach that level of lunacy, but we seem to be going in that direction. We should think twice about it. We do not have to follow Mrs. Thatcher — she has gone and even in Britain things are changing a little.


Let us pursue our own ethos in this country. I am concerned that there is no commitment to introduce continental languages to the primary curriculum. Once again there is a pulling back from the teaching of continental languages. I was on the international advisory committee for the French national plan two years ago and there I was able to influence the French towards the inclusion of two foreign languages in their primary curriculum. The French were not willing to teach one foreign language at primary level because that language would always be English but when it was suggested that they could teach two foreign languages at primary level they perked up and realised that it would not be only the English language that was taught. That suggestion was accepted and incorporated in the French national plan. I find it frustrating that I can have things included in the French national plan but not in any Irish educational plan. I hope that the Minister will reconsider this aspect. I know that there are difficulties involved. For example, there is the problem of training teachers. However, if we do not start the process of orientating people towards modern continental languages at primary level we will be far behind other European countries that do so and are doing so increasingly.

We must face this issue and not be put off by any vested interests who may be reluctant to take on additional tasks, if that is the problem and I am not sure that it is. In this context, I found in Brussels in July that the German language is now being used increasingly in the Commission. There is even talk of making both German and French compulsory for employment in the Commission. In this country we have just reached the stage we had reached in 1913-14. At that time in this country, as is shown by the reports of the then Department of Education — the Minister might examine them if he does not believe me — 93 per cent of girls and 63 per cent of boys studied French at school while 50 per cent of girls and 60 per cent of boys took German. Admittedly, that educational system was elitist and involved very small numbers, a tiny fraction of those in the educational system today. With independence all of that was lost. Latin and Irish replaced French and German, Latin played a bigger role in this change than most people realised. It was not only Irish that was introduced. By 1953 the teaching of continental languages had almost disappeared. After 40 years we have got back to where we were in 1913. It is my opinion that we should make fast progress and that more attention should be devoted to German — a language which, unhappily, I have not acquired myself but one which will be of increasing importance in the years ahead.

The Green Paper addresses some problems that are sensitive yet have to be faced. On the rationalisation of small schools I am not in agreement with other views that have been expressed on this side of the House. The intense localism which tends to impose on the educational system and the health system an inefficient pattern that does not produce as good results because of local interests is a particular Irish weakness. It was well established in the sixties that the educational standard of children in smaller schools was certainly behind — I think it was about a year and a half behind — that of children in larger schools and that it was essential that, as far as possible, each grade would have its own teacher rather than have one teacher or two teachers teaching all grades or teachers teaching a mixture of grades.

Thinking of school I must recall to memory that little phrase: Tá an t-am istigh.

That is very sad. In secondary schools we have a somewhat similar problem but I will not detain the House further on that point. There are many worrying aspects about the third level section and perhaps it will be possible to contribute on that later. I will not raise it now. I hope this debate will help towards a re-orientation of some of the thinking which has gone askew under external influences which are not particularly helpful to the education and culture of this State.

Níl agam ach deich nóiméad de réir scéala. In the brief time at my disposal I should like to make a few brief points. I should say at the outset that I enthusiastically welcome the Green Paper. It is a document of great potential but that potential can only be realised if the main provisions are adequately funded and fully implemented within a reasonable timescale. I welcome also the opportunity that the publication of the Green Paper presents to generate a widescale debate on education. I appeal to the Minister to allow extra time between discussion of the Green Paper and the publication of the White Paper to allow for the widest possible public debate. This is an opportunity for us in Ireland to put in place an overall philosophy of education in order to provide a coherant framework for policies and priorities; in other words to enable us to adopt a vision of Irish education that will take young Ireland up to the turn of the century and beyond.

In this respect I should like to refer briefly to the multiple references to enterprise. I fully accept that a spirit of enterprise must be instilled in young people during the formative years. If we are to advance the social, economic and moral wellbeing of the people of our country we need people who have acquired the skills of thinking strategically, who have acquired the capacity for problem solving and who are capable of working in a team. These are the skills that follow from a broad liberal type of education. By all means take the enterprise argument on board as a component of a much wider and broader ethos of education when putting in place a philosophy for education to inform us for the years ahead.

I would like also to point out that education should foster richness and diversity of culture and tradition. Therefore, the Green Paper should seek to promote a pluralist and tolerant society. Accordingly, I call for the adequate protection for the small number of Protestant schools in this country — 200 primary schools out of a total of 3,200 and 26 post-primary schools — and I would ask that these schools be properly accommodated within the overall spectrum. I also call for the right of choice for parents to send their children to multidenominational schools so that all strands would be treated equally within our school system whether in the majority of Catholic schools, in the minority of Protestant schools or in the small but burgeoning number of non-denominational schools in this country. That is of crucial importance if we are to foster the kind of society in which we would like all our children to live.

More than anything else in the Green Paper I welcome the emphasis put on equality. I should like to speak particularly about equality of opportunity within the system for all our children. This brings me to primary education which is the cornerstone of all education. Unless young people have equality of opportunity within the primary system they are not likely to make up for the deficit when they go on to secondary level or if they go on to further education. If the aspiration of equality is to be realised vast amounts of additional funding will have to be put into primary education, by way of smaller classes, access by pupils to vastly improved remedial services and guidance services. There ought to be put in place a proper foundation structure at infant level for a three year cycle — junior infants, middle infants and senior infants. All our children would benefit greatly from an additional year in the child centred caring creative environment of primary education. An extra year at that point would be of benefit to all our children.

In this context I am extremely disappointed at the omission of any real reference to arts and crafts, music, civics, social and environmental education in the primary and post-primary curriculum. How could that happen when everybody acknowledges that you kill the wealth of a nation if you fail to foster the imagination and the creativity of its children. I call for an immediate reinstatement of those subjects as an integral part of all education. I should like to refer to the omission of any real reference to the public library service as a vital support for all education. I would ask that proper recognition be given to the place of the public library service in the Green Paper and that that omission be rectified here.

In regard to second level education the time has now come to do a proper analysis on the effectiveness of the points system as a mechanism for rationing scarce places in third level. It is time we evaluated the impact the points system is having on all education. The points system is distorting the true aims of all education and is breeding greed and excessive competitiveness among students at a time when we should be teaching them to co-operate. It is time a proper analysis was carried out to see whether we could produce a system which would be more sympathetic to the real and true aims of education. In this respect and in the context of second level I strongly advocate that extra year, whether a transition year or a VPT year, at second level. I am in favour of slowing down our children and keeping them as long as possible within the primary and post-primary sectors so that every child under 16 will receive a fair foundation in education.

I agree with what has been said in relation to the overriding need for inservice education for all teachers within the system. I should like to see a broader and more fleshed out debate on the issue of initial and inservice training for all our teachers. It is the key to bringing about all the changes envisaged in this document. Unless teachers get the requisite training in the correct manner the changes envisaged will not be achieved. We will have to budget from now on on an annual basis for proper provision for ongoing inservice training for all our teachers. I want to see that topic fleshed out before we close the debate here this evening.

I am particularly upset about the truancy problem and the non-attendance of young people at school. I fear this problem is not being tackled effectively particularly in Dublin city and in other city areas and I would ask the Minister to take that point on board and put in place a proper mechanism to deal with it. If that is not done we will be making a nonsense of the idea of equality. What chances do young people who do not attend school have of being treated equally? What hope do they have? In the context of adult education, I appeal to the Minister to make proper provision for education for parents. Parents and teachers, working in unison and harmony on agreed aims, are the key to bringing about many of the aspirations in the Green Paper.

Unemployment is undoubtedly the single biggest problem confronting us today. Therefore, it is only right and proper that every aspect of legislation should be scrutinised from an employment perspective. Given the established links between educational attainment and employment prospects, a comprehensive analysis of the Green Paper is all the more essential.

We have heard much in public debates on unemployment and education about the necessity to establish an enterprise culture in Ireland. In the context of the debate on the Green Paper, and the Minister's pronouncements on it, one could be forgiven for believing that to date our education system had, so to speak, sought and striven at every opportunity to strangle and suffocate enterprise wherever it surfaced. It is almost as if the Green Paper was to be the new departure, the Messiah delivering us from the dark ages into a new dawn. This is not so.

There could be no more dangerous a starting point in this debate than the introduction of a Green Paper merely for the sake of it — a Green Paper which fails to acknowledge that our educational system, our teachers, have laboured diligently over the years to produce a system which is envied by many countries and that many of those who have passed through that educational system have achieved distinction in many walks of life. One could be forgiven for believing that change for change sake is about the only vision and philosophy the Minister brings to this debate. We must strive to ensure that we do not introduce change for change sake, that we recognise the areas in our educational system which have served us well and that we hold on to and cherish these aspects. The clamour of the Minister about the need to be modern and fashionable may result in throwing out the baby with the bath water. The Culliton report must not be allowed to monopolise this debate. Rather at the end of the day it must lend itself to a holistic approach which best serves the students who will pass through our educational system in the coming years.

The Green Paper is fatally flawed in one respect — the reluctance of the Minister to add a chapter which deals with resources for education in the future. Such a chapter could give us an interesting insight into the Government's thinking on and commitment, in financial terms, to education. The absence of this chapter and the Minister's reluctance to address this issue renders this debate meaningless in many ways. Our honest analysis and appraisal of the document will be futile and our contributions wasted unless we know what resources will be made available and what priority education is given in the order of things by the Government. Indeed there are many indicators in the Green Paper that this could well be a vehicle for restricting the amount of resources available for education with frequent references to rationalisation, the need to pool resources, chief executives, etc. As a Deputy from rural Ireland, I believe rural Ireland has much to fear from the contents of the Green Paper.

I wish to refer to an essential aspect of education structures which is sadly lacking in the Green Paper, that is, the need for local democracy in education. The Green Paper envisages the destruction of the only existing vehicle with a semblence of democracy, the vocational education committees, and proposes direct contact between the Department of Education and individual schools. This is a recipe for disaster. We need regional educational bodies which draw their membership from educational interests in primary, secondary and third level schools, as well as locally elected representatives and parent representatives. These bodies would essentially act as a buffer between schools and the Department of Education, determine local educational issues and ensure that the enterprise culture is not allowed to be the driving force in the future.

It is imperative that all those interested in education — teachers, students, parents and politicians — are given an appropriate forum through which they can process their combined views on what they believe is in the best long term interests of education for their region and that these views can then be presented to the Department of Education. The spectre of every school pursuing its individual demands with the Department of Education has all the hallmarks of empire building and all the ingredients for inefficiency and discontent. If the enterprise culture prevails and merges with the destruction of democracy in education, God help people in disadvantaged areas, slow learners, children of the travelling community and the handicapped. In the race for success in the new era these are the people who will be the biggest losers.

In recent times the Minister for Health launched to great applause a patients' charter. It is high time we gave serious consideration to the establishment of a students' charter. If the patient is the centre of our health services then the pupil must be the primary focus in our educational system and in this debate. Such a charter would serve to eliminate many of the injustices afflicting the Irish educational system today. Primary education is of the utmost priority. Yet class sizes are outrageous, with 20,000 pupils in classes with 40 plus students. Is it right that in 1992 the Departments of Education and Health are very often involved in unseemly squabbles over the educational and care rights of handicapped children? Is it right that remedial education should be the exception rather than the rule? Is it right that children of the travelling community should be so shabbily treated, as is the case today? A charter with teeth, a legally enforceable charter, would eliminate these unacceptable situations. Such a charter would be costly, but in the event of a new departure in education — which this Green Paper is supposed to herald — we should ensure that we do not inflict on the new dawn our past failures. A statement of intent on these issues as well as on the pupil-teacher ratio, coupled with the necessary resources, is sadly lacking. Unfortunately, I suspect that this is not a new dawn but rather a cosmetic charade. The Minister's silence on these issues todate is deafening.

There is considerable hostility to the concept of compulsory teacher assessment by an external agency. This is perfectly understandable. The spectre of "big brother" stalking through school corridors terminating teachers' employment is completely unacceptable. However, the necessity for the highest standards in the teaching profession has to be accepted and some sort of regulatory process established. This issue must be tackled on two fronts. The Department of Education must realise that teaching is a highly stressful profession and that burn-out among teachers is a common occurrence. Attractive early retirement and job-sharing initiatives must be introduced. On the other hand, the teaching bodies must agree to put in place a professional system of assessment of their colleagues which offers help and support to teachers in need. Any State interference would be unworkable, unacceptable and damaging to a partnership in education between teachers, pupils and parents which has served us well in the past.

This leads me to the other form of assessment mentioned in the Green Paper, namely, pupil assessment. This proposal which reverts to the Culliton report and the enterprise culture syndrome, will destabilise the educational system if persisted with — parents will push their children into schools with an achievement record while other schools will suffer, the non-academic pupil's sense of self-esteem and self-worth will be undermined and the holistic approach to education will disappear out the window. This proposal must be dropped.

The consequences for rural Ireland if the Green Paper becomes a reality are also unacceptable. The proposals to eliminate all schools with three teachers or less in the primary sector are totally unacceptable. Four teacher schools are understandably the preferred option of the gurus in the Department of Education. Under this proposal, chief executives — the title given to principals in the new four teacher schools — will be loaded with extra duties with no additional resources, forced to teach all day and administer after school hours. This is not going to be tolerated. The principals in such schools have had enough. Needless to say this is also unacceptable from a social point of view. What rural Ireland has at present, rural Ireland wants to hold on to. The Minister should keep his hands off our small schools. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Minister has spent all his life living within the Pale.

There is much reference in the Green Paper to the pooling of resources in education and this presents a dilemma for those people from rural areas who cannot and will not stand over duplication. Therefore, in this regard the educational infrastructure and teaching staff must be managed in a manner that avails of these resources to the maximum simultaneously preserving the existing number of schools. In many towns where there is more than one second level school if this approach were adopted a greater curriculum choice could be offered. However, pooling resources will only go some way towards dealing with this matter, additional resources are necessary, and that is a fundamental issue in this debate which the Minister has failed to address.

I also welcome the Green Paper and this opportunity for debate. The debate provides Deputies with an opportunity and a responsibility to lay the plans for education for the next 30 years. The Green Paper is not, as Members know, a firm Government position, rather it presents us with proposals and facilitates consultation and concensus. I agree with Deputy Quill in urging the Minister to allow further time for discussion on the Green Paper. This would be welcomed by everyone in educational circles. They would like to have further time for reflection and consideration. I hope the Minister will be able to comply with that request.

The first thing that struck me about the Green Paper was the use of the term "preparing our pupils for the enterprise culture". Frankly, I found this industrial model abhorrent. It immediately conjured up in my mind a situation where the pupil was a product being prepared for the market. We must beware of turning the broad balanced educational ideal into mere training for a specific job. This, in fact, has never been my understanding of education. We must instead guard against such a narrow focus which refers to aims, objectives, targets and reporting. We are dealing with human beings. Our educational strength has always been in the broad based approach which our system has offered. In the past number of years a greater emphasis has been put, at primary level, on art and music and this must be encouraged to continue. To do anything else would amount to regression as opposed to progression.

In the Green Paper reference has been made to the introduction of a new subject at second level called enterprise and technology studies. It is proposed that this subject will be taken by all students. In other words, I take it that this will be a compulsory subject. I do not believe that making any subject compulsory promotes the subject, in fact, it can often have the opposite effect. We need to be very careful how we approach the proposed assessments at primary level. There has been no national testing of pupils of seven and 11 for some time. I am aware that the INTO were very much against national testing, a position with which I would concur. There is, however, a feeling that more money must be made available for research in diagnostic tests so that these may be updated and the emphasis should then be on providing appropriate remediation for those in need.

The pupil-teacher ratio is an issue which must also obviously be addressed. I was disappointed that firmer references to reducing the pupil-teacher ratio were not included in the Green Paper.

There is much concern in educational circles that there is not a far greater commitment to the area of remedial teaching. In my constituency of County Clare there are 123 primary schools and yet 100 of those primary schools have no access to remedial education. There would seem to be a very definite bias in this regard against the rural and village primary schools. I have found some of the references to small numbers in some of the primary schools throughout the country in the Green Paper worrying. This is a matter that my colleague, Deputy Creed, has referred to. The view expressed in the Green Paper would seem to advocate closing the smaller rural schools and replacing them with larger institutions. There is no evidence that the four teacher schools are any more efficient than the smaller schools. It must be remembered that rural schools, however small, are the basis and the life blood of any community and nothing must threaten this. It may be tempting to look for ideal norms in terms of enrolments but in so doing the social consequences are in danger of being ignored. We do this at our peril.

I want to refer to psychological services at primary level. I would like to see these extended as there is a great need for such services in our primary and indeed our second level schools. I am glad to have been able, in some small way, to promote the language development and learning difficulties unit in the mid-west. We are fortunate enough to have two, one in Ennis and the other in Limerick. That is certainly a progression for education in the mid-west.

Practical problems with proposals for physical education also arise in this document. There is obviously a need for physical education but one would need to look at the very practical situation and recognise that not all primary schools have PE rooms. In recent years, for example, in Clare, the number of GP rooms have decreased because they have had to be pressed into service as classrooms.

The idea of principal as chief executive is one I would question. In Clare, and I am sure it is no different to other parts of the country, many if not all the principals are teaching within the schools as well as dealing with administration. If they were to be given this new title there would have to be much greater relief given for dealing with the administration and, therefore, greater consideration is needed in this regard.

The question of funding in primary education needs to be examined. It is next to impossible for primary schools to continue operating on the basis of the current funding of £28 per capita. We are all aware that if parents are not prepared to hold fund raising events, for example, coffee mornings and so on it would be extremely difficult to find the money to finance the general running of primary schools.

I wish to refer briefly to second level education. Again, the concept of equity must be the cornerstone of our educational philosophy. Both gender equity and equity in access for disadvantaged pupils, whether physically, mentally or socially has to be underlined and we have to achieve that. I support the extension of remedial services to both primary and second level schools. It is important that we now face up to the fact that immediate funding is needed for such remedial services for both primary and second level schools.

Guidance teaching and counselling are two areas that must also be addressed. It is important that they are recognised and provided for in terms of funding. Guidance counsellors should be afforded an opportunity to play their dual role, not only in guidance teaching but also taking into account the counselling element which is equally important.

The ASTI are particularly interested in ensuring that the legislation that will follow the publication of the White Paper on Education will be enabling. That view is shared by all elements of our educational system. We want to see a flexibility in our new developments. We must set out the principles on which the education system operates and the roles and functions of the bodies within it. An education Act must not create legislative obstructions which will inhibit development in education as the 1989 Education Reform Act in Britain has done. This point was made recently by the General Secretary of the ASTI and it is a very valid one.

The question of devolution is something, in principle, we would all agree with. It is an important concept for all elements of our education system. With particular reference to the vocational education committees, there is a need for new powers to be provided for the boards of management. I would like to see a greater freedom being provided for the vocational education committees to manage their own budget. An opportunity to work on an individual school plan would also give more impetus to the system. It would certainly be more satisfying for the pupils and teachers who are working within the system. We need much greater autonomy for our vocational schools. It is, however, noted that the present proposals would mean that individual strong management boards would increase competition between schools and the weaker units would suffer. The Minister should look at this genuine fear very seriously. Those working in the vocational sector point to the absence of any form of co-ordination at county level. That view has been expressed in County Clare. We need a system which can provide flexibility in the delivery, planning and management of educational services.

I agree with other speakers who have stressed the need for teachers to be provided with in-service training. I am disappointed that the Green Paper contains no reference to funding in this regard or in relation to the broad spectrum of education. We must have very firm proposals in this area.

I welcome the fact that parents are and will continue to be involved in the system and I hope they will be further involved when these proposals are enacted. I urge the Minister to give further time for the consideration of this Green Paper, which will affect every young person. It is only just that we should give those who have educational interests at heart the opportunity to consider the proposals put forward.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate on education, which gives the House an opportunity to discuss not only the contents of the Green Paper but the future direction and philosophy of education. We have not had such a debate since the early seventies. We are preparing young people for the next century and the European challenge. It is important to review our educational philosophy, to seek new directions, to remedy certain deficiencies in the education system and to try to gear it to the demands of a rapidly changing society. I welcome the opportunity to debate these vital issues.

One phrase which runs through this document is "enterprise culture". I agree that there should be a progressive development of an enterprise culture at post-primary and third level but the creation of an enterprise culture at primary level is somewhat optimistic. At that level we must instil the basics. People must be equipped to adapt to new circumstances in life. They may, for instance, have to change to different jobs in the course of their working life. Unless they have the basics of education — literacy and numeracy — they will find it very hard to adapt. The emphasis in primary education should be an inculcating the basic skills. The enterprise culture can be developed as young people progress through the system.

On reading this document one would think it was produced by somebody from a commercial rather than an educational background. It will be very difficult to identify the post of chief executive with that of principal of a primary school in the wilds of the west. Such an individual has the object of keeping a school going, not running a business. The idea of trying to create a business culture in the running of the education system is wrong. We need structures where teachers will feel happy and will be enabled to impart knowledge to their pupils in a learning environment. That is more important than emphasising the enterprise culture at primary level. Our education system plays a major part in shaping society. In implementing changes in that system we will be shaping the society of the next century.

Will the national debate resulting from the Green Paper and the promised White Paper, followed by an education Act, lead to the radical changes that will revitalise education services to prepare young people for the twenty-first century and the European challenge? My answer is that we need change, but without increased investment in education we are merely being aspirational and Utopian in our objectives. There are major flows in this Green Paper. There is a total lack of commitment to increased funding, while at the same time the Green Paper demands more from a hard-pressed, overworked and in some cases burned-out teaching profession who are working at the chalk face.

There is no mention in the Green Paper of any local democratic body between individual schools and the Department of Education. The theme running through this Green Paper is decentralisation, taking decision-making and authority from the Department of Education and giving it to schools. This could lead to centralisation rather than decentralisation. We need a local regulatory body between the Department of Education and individual schools. That is vitally important. Deputy de Valera mentioned the need for in-service training, a need which is not properly recognised in this document.

I question the removal of vocational education committees from any meaningful role in the running of schools. Vocational education committees have served this country well since 1931 when they were set up by my fellow countyman, Professor O'Sullivan. They have been great innovators and have served education well. I am worried about their diminishing role.

The proposal that each school should publish an annual report is questionable and fraught with danger. It could lead to comparisons between schools and could promote further class distinction. In some cases it may highlight social class differences as between disadvantaged areas and areas better endowed with facilities. Comparisons between schools will be made. The Minister favours the publication by each school of its examination results. The schools with good results will be considered to be in the fast lane, while the remainder will be regarded as being in division 2 and condemned to second-class status. Someone has said there will be a "premier league" and "division 1".

There are two aspirations at which I would like to look.

I am taking the opportunity to remind you that I will be blowing the whistle shortly.

With regard to health promotion in schools, the Minister referred to physical education programmes beginning at the early stages of primary education linked to education, hygiene and nutrition. That is just an aspiration in present circumstances as 80 per cent of our schools have neither the facilities or expertise to put physical education programmes in place. Physical education is becoming marginalised in our post-primary schools, where it was strong. The Minister would need to address that problem before these aspirations can be realised.

There is a commitment to European languages in primary schools. At the moment 40 per cent of school time is spent on language teaching in primary schools. The Irish language must be taught to all classes and the English language is now the mother tongue for 90 per cent of our people. Where can we get the time and resources to enable us to introduce a foreign language to the primary schools unless the Minister does something about the existing time demands for other languages?

How does the Minister propose to realise all these aspirations? This country must see education as an investment rather than as a cost.

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and compliment him on the very sincere effort made in formulating an excellent document. I hope all sections of the community will contribute to this debate. The aim behind the document is to get contributions from every section of the community.

I welcome the Minister's statement in Cork recently on the Green Paper, that this is not just a matter for the Department. The Minister has attempted to ensure that all sections can contribute to the debate. During his speech in Cork he said that this debate is not just a dialogue between the individual interests and the Department but that it is also a dialogue between the interests themselves and that the more open and comprehensive the dialogue is, the better will be the end result.

The tenor of the Green Paper in relation to third level education is welcome. It has raised the level of debate with regard to the connection between economic development, employment and the third level sector. The Culliton Report and the European Community Memorandum on Higher Education in the European Community along with the Green Paper have established that third level education, and the research activity that goes with it, is perhaps the most important issue facing Ireland in relation to our future prosperity and economic survival in the Single Market.

Attention in the south-east of Ireland is focussed on the provision of third level education because its cities are the only cities in the State which do not have universities. It is important that the House should reflect on that significant point. The increasing range of funding directed into educational programmes from the European Community is a demonstration of the fundamental importance of our workforce, our skills, our training and research and our cultural development to our economic base.

The south east with its tradition of manufacturing skills, highly efficient agriculture, its rich cultural life, is historic past and its excellent location in relation to mainland Europe should have a significant role to play in the national economy in the future. Over the past decade in Wexford, and the neighbouring counties, we have become increasingly aware that without third level provision equal to that in other regions we will be continuously handicapped in relation to employment creation and research and because we will lose new generations of highly motivated academically able young people. If the Green Paper is to be successful, we must ensure that all regions are equally treated.

Evidence of the disadvantage suffered in our region is available. The 1991 report, "South East Region Economy Review", by LA Consultants stated that the lack of a degree level college in the region was a major deficiency in the south-east. Without a university we have low participation by students in third level education, low graduate entry into industry and the region is generally unattractive to industry, particularly high technology firms, and the service sector. This is the most crucial issue facing each area I represent and its resolution will determine the type of region that will evolve in the next century.

Since this report, unemployment has increased not only in numbers but also as a proportion of the national total. The lack of university and research facilities is acting as a barrier to incoming firms who are experiencing difficulty in attracting and keeping highly skilled staff and researchers. A recent letter from Kieran McGowan of the IDA to Waterford Corporation stated that it was pointless to support a technological park for the area as a nearby university was essential for the viability of such a project. It is hardly surprising that in the south-east the high tech sector and service industry are lagging drastically behind in comparison with adjacent areas in the east and southwest and that emigration is higher than the national norm.

The low level of graduate employment in the region has been pointed out repeatedly. While 11 per cent of the national population lives in that region only 3.5 per cent of graduates are taking up work in the south-east region. In the region's strongest sector, engineering, only 4 per cent of graduates enter the workforce in the south-east area. In 1988 the Tansey report on who goes to college confirmed that distance from university leads to educational disadvantage. The six counties of the south-east account for 12.5 per cent of national population but only 9.7 per cent of students numbers at all degree colleges come from this area. In terms of attendance from the region at degree courses, the region in seventh lowest nationally.

Other groups who are hit hard are women and mature students, cited in the Green Paper as needing additional support. Attendance from women in the region is at an unacceptably low level.

The excellent regional technical college sector in the south-east has attempted to fill the gap with an expanded range of degree courses and other initiatives. The regional technical college have now found themselves being accused of academic drift, and their latest applications for more degree courses have been refused by the Department. The role of the regional technical college is vital in the provision of vocational and applied training. They should not be obliged to fill in for the lack of universities with academic and theory based courses, but should develop along the lines set out in the Green Paper. The prospect held out in the Green Paper is for clearly differentiated but closely co-operating regional technical college and university institutions working through a new programme of linkages.

Is the south-east's share in the benefits of third level expansion to be the continued loss of its young people to other areas? While various significant advances have been made in third level provision here we are still lagging substantially behind other European countries, particularly Germany. The current focus within the European Community on the future provision of higher educational facilities stems from a growing awareness of how seriously Europe is lagging behind the USA and Japan in this sector.

The current memorandum on higher education in the European Community has forecast a growing requirement for a European labour force with even higher levels of knowledge and skills and sees an increasingly important role for the higher education institutions in meeting these needs. There is every indication that the project that we in the south-east have put forward for European funding can be funded from a wide range of inter related programmes. A submission will be made shortly from the south-east region for structural funding to initiate the founding of a university in the context of the coming round of CSF funding. Widespread and growing support is being given to this campaign in the south-east for a university institution from local authorities, parents, teachers, industrialists and young people. I welcome the commitment in the Green Paper to continued expansion of third level education both in the interest of the south-east and of national development. This expansion programme should include the foundation of a university in the south-east.

I would like to thank everyone in the House for co-operating in allowing me a small time slot. On behalf of the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, I extend a guarded welcome to this Green Paper on Education. However, I do have several critical comments to make.

For example, several observations in chapter 10 dealing with the current state of education research and development drew our attention.

It seems that there has been a growth in educational research during recent decades, but the OECD review, in 1991, found, and I quote, "a dearth of policy-related research, as opposed to policy-discussion literature, and that policy-makers appeared to have little direct access to the findings of research and development studies".

The Primary Education Review Body (1990) called for co-ordination of research and evaluation of existing research, while the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment recently found a need for urgent measures in this direction.

Under 10.2 we read that

A number of significant initiatives have already been undertaken within the Department of Education, the statistics section has been redefined, the reporting procedures of the inspectorate will be updated. A research and development committee has been set up, to which external advisers will be appointed.

The chapter ends with the mysterious sentence: "The proposals in this chapter are intended to ensure that educational research and development in Ireland will act as a stimulus and support for the new policy directions proposed in this paper".

I hope that this does not mean the Minister intends to charge ahead like a bulldozer, wiping out small schools and cutting away the roots of the vocational education committee and intends that the research and development committee shall tell him he was right. The Green Party are opposed to the closure of small schools and support the continuance of the vocational education committee in its present form.

This chapter does not present itself as the most persuasive ending to a "Discussion Paper" brought out in the summer when schools were closing and requiring submissions from interested bodies by the end of November. The more reasonable procedure, given that it is about 70 years since the last policy document, might have been to wait a little longer, until the research co-ordination was available to policy makers and to all those who might wish to make submissions.

In contrast, the Green Party education policy, which was widely distributed a year and a half ago, having been discussed within the party for seven or eight years, during which time key proposals were submitted to a former Minister for Education, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, is based in the main on long established research.

The introduction to the Green Paper lists "shortcomings which immediately present themselves". It says: "Many disadvantaged children fail to enjoy the full benefits of education. A significant minority of children encounter basic literacy and numeracy problems, which handicap them in the education system and, more importantly, for life."

The Green Party, on education policy, reads that, with this as a base and with children meeting teachers in quite small groups, it should be possible for primary schools to ensure that every child who is not mentally handicapped should be fully competent in reading, writing and elementary mathematics and have a foundation in musical literacy, and that every child would have a good idea of what kinds of information there are, and how to get at and use them: how to use a book, an index, a library, a newspaper, a databank, find out about State and voluntary services. We also favour the setting of realistic objectives in the acquisition of Irish, with emphasis on personal insight, relevance and pleasure. These are limited aims, but our schools at present are not able to fulfil them.

The research on which we base this section can be found in Glass and Smith, dealing with class size and attainment, available since 1988 and listed in texts for the Higher Diploma in Education in two universities. The significant finding is that, once class numbers are below 20, attainment, and teacher satisfaction, rise according as the numbers decrease. In other words, a child tutored in a smaller class is likely to be more advanced than one taught in a class of 50, or 25.

A dozen or half a dozen children can rather easily be well taught — especially if they have the benefit of information technology. We insist that support for small local schools is, making use of modern non-polluting technology, psychologically as well as environmentally and economically preferable to transporting exhausted children over long distances in buses.

All children and teachers could have the advantages of small numbers if schools were flexible in regard to attendance. The "school day" is not sacred; what matters is learning how to learn. The Green Paper at page 152 says "at certain critical stages of a young person's schooling, smaller class sizes are more important than at other times". We show how they can be achieved.

We also note parents' constitutional right to educate their children at home; we suggest that such children should be enroled in the nearest primary school, without any obligation of attendance, so that the school's capitation grants would be maintained.

Page 11 of the Green Paper says that the education system needs to develop in the student an ability to manage oneself and to make the most use of personal resources, an ability to express one's own viewpoint rationally and to relate effectively to other people. These abilities can be best achieved in flexible classes of appropriate size.

Schools should not be used as child-minding institutions; where class size interferes with competence, the children who are waiting their turn, so to speak, could remain at home and be cared for by other supervisors. This flexibility might solve some of the problems that relate to non-denominational versus denominational schools.

The Green Paper, recognises also that parents are the primary educators of their children, and speaks well of the National Parents' Council and of the need for home-school liaison and close consultation with parents. We see these as real advances but the Green Party policy extends further downward and wants to take various means to encourage parents to be active in their children's education in the earliest years. The proposals relate to findings of the Harvard Pre-School Project, which reported in 1972 that any mother can teach her child to read better than can any teacher.

Long before the Culliton report, we proposed that apprenticeships be given third level status, equivalent to degrees. I know that many other representations will object to the emphasis on enterprise, implying competition and devotion to business above all. We do not believe that this is the way to prepare for a better world tomorrow.

I join with other speakers in congratulating the Minister on introducing the document which gives rise to this unfortunately limited debate. In the few minutes available to me I hope to present one or two disjointed but nevertheless appropriate comments on the purpose of our statements.

First, what is education? Is it what it is assumed or supposed to be? It is not. Is it equal? Again, it is not; how could it be? Are we treating all children equally? We are not and should not because all children are not equal. They are equal in what they can aspire to but as all children are unique they therefore cannot be equal.

Is it right that we should perpetuate the system that we have inherited where children of a similar age are grouped together and subjected to a pre-arranged curriculum with a certain objective in the attainment of which I, as a teacher and parent, will tell the children that what they are about is in their interest, no matter how unprepared they are for it, and the end product — this should be a sobering thought for us all — is that the State or we who have prescribed this course will presently certify that they are failures. Is that a good system? Does it serve the needs of humanity in children? Is that equal, fair or just? It is illogical, a nonsense, illusory and it is a deception to tell the children and their parents that it is in their interest, even though it should be.

I am glad the Minister accepts that education is not about technology and science and a scheme of negative selectivity at the end of which we have two groups, as I see it — those of us who are taken to be educated in different professions and those of us who have been certified as failures educationally. As I look around me in my country, those who would be regarded as failures educationally are the very people who are propping up the community in giving generously of their time in matters cultural and social, while many of us who have been a success within our education system are accountants or financiers who today, in the practice of capitalism, have the world in a state of chaos. I suggest that we are educating for capitalism. Are we to accept this great successful product of what we call education in the legal profession — lawyers who claimed that because they are more educated than the rest of us they can command a fee of £2,000, £2,500 or £3,000 per day on exercises which do not seem to produce any great result? Unfortunately, that is the impression we have given and that is the situation that some people would wish to perpetuate in what they call education.

If I had more time I would like to argue the point that the more irrelevant one makes education in common terminology the more important it becomes. What is relevant about educating a boy or girl for this great thing called technology and telling them that it will be relevant to their lifestyle forever, when we know that one technological invention destroys the other overnight? How can we say it is relevant to something which is transient when we know that the only subject that is externally relevant is connected with the humanities, that great sense of values which is of equal importance? I am not over-native or a fool and know that we must exist and apply our talents to the enjoyment of life in material and social terms, but we must also remember that for eight hours every day we have another life, a leisure life, a time when we must fulfil whatever urges, responsibilities and feelings we have within us.

I do not want to be accused of saying that education is about unemployment but it is certainly about the time during which we are unemployed. It is very important that we recognise this and that the basis of education should centre around what the ancient Greeks and Romans and all great philosophers down through the ages have told us about what life is about and, more importantly, what we know it is about.

My first concern is for the student and my second would be for the parents. There is then a hierarchy of interests on the way up but we all know that that hierarchy has developed the means and the capacity to protect themselves. I spent some years in a school fighting with the regulations which bound me from doing what I felt would better serve the interests of the child. I was obligated as a teacher to impose a 30 hour week in the classroom on students. I carried out a survey and found that each teacher, because of his or her concern to reach this prescribed objective, would require the students to work for up to 14 hours a week at home.

The Deputy has one minute left.

We kept arguing, as teachers, in our maturity and knowledge of the system, that we should work only 20 hours a week. How can a student accept that the present system is right, proper or fair or that it is the reflection of educated people?

I regret, Acting Chairman, that I must accede to your request and reminder in the same fashion as at other times I expect those who are here to respond to mine.

Acting Chairman

As it is now 1 p.m., in accordance with the Order of the House of yesterday, I must call on the Minister for Education to make a 15-minute statement on primary and secondary education.

I wish to make it clear that I am also quite prepared to respond to questions. I am not sure if provision has been made for this but during the course of the day I will be quite happy to engage in a discussion across the floor on that matter.

May I take it, therefore, that questions on the general principles of the Green Paper can be taken later or do we have to put those questions now? Will we be confined to asking questions about primary, secondary and third level education at the times stipulated on the Order Paper?

Unless we resolve this issue we will lose the time for questions on the general purposes of the Green Paper.

Acting Chairman

The order which I have before me states that at 2.20 p.m. ten minutes will be allowed for spokes-persons to seek clarification on specific issues and, again, at 3.50 p.m. ten minutes will be allowed for spokes-persons to seek clarification.

In order to make progress on this matter it is clearly understood that those two question slots will not exclude questions on the general principles or the introduction to the paper.

Acting Chairman

Certainly, that will be with the agreement of the House.

I am anxious to respond to these questions and I will try to deal with some of them in this part of the debate. We are moving on now to deal with the primary and post-primary education system.

Schools are the basic building blocks of the education system. Their primary purpose must be to provide pupils with core competencies for life long learning. If pupils fail to develop basic numeracy and literacy skills they are at a severe disadvantage in seeking success not only at school but also in later life.

My concern is to meet the needs of all pupils, to level the playing pitch and to give every individual an equal chance of developing to his or her full potential. This principle underlies the various changes I have proposed for primary and post-primary schools.

The school is the focal point for education in any community. It is a key resource for improving the quality of life for all those in the local community. However, there is little point in talking about the relevance of the school to the community and its learning needs if that relevance is not self-evident from the school's structures and programmes. Otherwise such talk is merely empty rhetoric.

The community's role in education must be given tangible effect in the management of school. This is what I am seeking to achieve by requiring all schools to have boards of management representative of local community interests.

We need to build on the undoubted success of boards of management introduced nationwide at primary level in the seventies and increasingly since in post-primary schools. In order to be fully effective and to win the commitment of competent people boards need to be given real powers and responsibilities. A board of management has to become much more than what the Primary Education Review Body Report described as "a minor maintenance committee".

One of the key aims of the Green Paper is the radical devolution of decision making and responsibility throughout the education system. Responsibility and relevant authority will be devolved to boards of management with the intention of creating strong and committed boards exercising a high degree of autonomy throughout the system.

Boards are to have highly important responsibilities. These will include quality of student learning, appointment of suitable staff, quality of teaching and school planning and review.

I am anxious that boards of management be representative of all relevant local community interests. I have proposed that boards include representatives of the parents, of the pupils, their teachers, the trustees or owners of the school and of the local community, including the business community. The principal will also be a member.

I want to remind people that my proposals in the Green Paper in relation to the composition of the boards are proposals for discussion. I am more than willing to listen to alternative constructive proposals but I do not want this issue to be a two-way dialogue between me and the various interest groups. We must all talk to one another.

The Green Paper deals in detail with the functions of boards of management. Chief among these is the task of ensuring that the environment of the schools is such that a high quality education is provided for all students. To achieve this task the concept of partnership between all those involved — the board, the teachers, the pupils and their parents — must become a reality.

The principal teacher, as a member of the board, and the professional leader of the school itself occupies a pivotal role. Together with the vice-principal and in the larger schools the other senior teachers she or he provides the core professional management structure for the day-to-day running of the school. Acting under the general direction of the board, this team has the responsibility for determining the school's educational aims and formulating the strategies to achieve them.

I am aware that some fears have been expressed in regard to the responsibilities which must be carried by the principal teacher and the teaching body in general. Nobody would dispute, however, that as the professional practitioners in the classroom the teachers are the main agents of educational change. Equally, I accept that the teachers must be given every support and encouragement to carry into practice the tasks which are being set out for them. I am also aware that very many teachers are already well versed in carrying out these tasks.

In its review of education policies in Ireland, the OECD report published last year laid great stress on the concept of teaching as a life-long career involving pre-service training and in-career development as a continuum. I fully subscribe to this concept.

I have proposed that there be a common model of pre-service training involving an initial university degree, a post-graduate teaching diploma and a probationary year involving teaching in schools while maintaining links with the teacher education institution.

Common initial training would provide greater interaction and understanding between prospective teachers at the different levels. It would also contribute to efforts to align curricula, would narrow the gap between teaching methodologies in senior primary and junior secondary classes and would provide greater career flexibility and opportunities for teachers themselves. I know that there are differing views on this issue and I would welcome the considered comments of all interested parties on my proposals.

In-career training is essential in improving the quality of teaching by helping teachers to develop their professional competence and up-dating their knowledge and skills. Personal and professional development is also very important in sustaining and enhancing teachers' motivation and in helping them to respond positively to the changing role of the school.

Tá sé i gceist agam polasaí dearfa cinnte a chur i bhfeidhm i leith na Gaeilge. Tugann an Rialtas seo, mar a rinne gach Rialtas eile ó bunaíodh an Stát, tacaíocht láidir d'fhorbairt na Gaeilge i measc an phobail i gcoitinne. Ní leor, áfach, tacaíocht ó bhéal a thabhairt; caithfimid na bealaí is éifeachtaí a aimsiú chun sin a dhéanamh. Tá beartas dear-fach leagtha amach i leith na Gaeilge sa Pháipéar Uaithne, beartas a bhfuil fáilte fhorleathan curtha roimhe. Tá an beartas bunaithe ar fhorbairt na Gaeilge ag leibhéil difriúla, mar shampla, i múineadh na Gaeilge sna ranganna, áit a mbeidh béim speisialta ar chumas labhartha agus tuisceana; i dtimpeallacht na scoile i gcoitinne, áit a mbeidh dualgas ar scoil polasaí sainiúil a fhorbairt chun an Ghaeilge a chur in úsáid; freisin, i measc an phobail lasmuigh den scoil, go háirithe tuismitheoirí, chun deis a thabhairt do dhaltaí an Ghaeilge a úsáid sa chomhphobal.

Ní féidir leis an chóras oideachais amháin an polasaí seo a thabhairt chun críche. Tá sé i gceist agam, mar sin, i gcomhar le hAire na Gaeltachta agus le Bord na Gaeilge beartas a chur ar siúl a chothóidh úsáid na Gaeilge i measc an phobail i gcoitinne agus i measc tuismitheoirí go háirithe. Mar is eol don Teach, tá plean speisialta ina leith sin go léir sa Pháipéar Uaithne agus tá súil agam go mbeidh lántacaíocht le fáil againn don bheartas sin.

The priority areas for an expanded and strengthened staff development programme include more effective management within the education system and the early identification of pupils with learning difficulties. It will also focus on supporting teachers in school based assessment and up-grading their knowledge and skills for new programmes.

Ideally each school will identify its own staff development needs. Resources will be strengthened progressively to provide the necessary range of training programmes. My intention is that in-career development should be locally based and should draw on local capabilities to the maximum extent possible.

On the curriculum generally I have proposed a number of important initiatives. At primary level, I am anxious that our younger students are taught the rudiments of science and are introduced to a modern continental language. At post-primary level, I have suggested that we turn the existing system upside down and encourage students to excel in the spoken language. I have recommended that 60 per cent of marks for languages, Irish and continental languages, be awarded for oral and aural competency. This will, I am convinced, not only give a major boost to the speaking of Irish but equally as importantly prepare our young people to be more closely integrated with their fellow citizens in the new Europe.

Specially targeted programmes will also be provided in post-primary schools for the small minority of pupils whose special needs cannot be met effectively within the mainstream programmes.

One of the important shifts I have suggested is a mandatory technology subject. I want our young people to be computer literate and to develop their problem solving and analytical skills to the fullest. I am particularly keen on the concept of technology centres which could serve a group of schools from a single campus. I will be pushing our case for special assistance from the EC for this idea.

At senior cycle, I intend the policy of providing a broad well balanced curriculum. There are aspects of the present arrangements, however, which need to be improved and these are addressed in the Green Paper. An essential feature of curriculum reform is to provide programmes suitable for a wider range of ability levels and for this reason I intend that there be a greater range of subjects at differing levels, particularly in the core subjects.

I intend also to broaden the curriculum at senior cycle through the provision of vocational modules linked to work experience and through expanding the range of options within the leaving certificate vocational programme.

I intend also to provide a series of modules in some subjects, particularly in modern languages, technology and political and social studies. Students can take advantage of the three-year senior cycle to develop their knowledge and skills in these areas without taking full examination subjects.

I must stress here that my intentions are to broaden and to introduce more balance into the curriculum rather than to focus narrowly on any one type of educational provision. The first, and I might suggest the most important, of the six key aims of the Green Paper is to establish greater equity in education, particularly for those who are disadvantaged socially, economically, physically or mentally. The implementation of this aim calls for action on a number of fronts. First a higher proportion of the available resources will be targeted at the problem of disadvantaged pupils. Through the home-school-community liaison project positive attitudes to education by both pupils and parents will be fostered. Pupils with learning difficulties will be identified as early as possible so that remedial action can be taken.

Other measures to be taken include initiatives to improve the participation rate of traveller children in education, particularly in second-level education, the integration of the handicapped in ordinary schools and classes, where this is beneficial to them, with a back-up of a range of facilities which children can draw on as necessary and the initiation of a special comprehensive programme to advance gender equity. I look forward to hearing the views of Deputies on this important sector of education, and I am anxious to respond, as soon as the procedure allows me to do so, to a whole range of issues raised in the earlier part of the debate. It was an excellent, open and honest debate and I thank Deputies for their frankness. On one or two occasions I felt that the Green Paper had not been studied because items called for by a number of Deputies are laid out in full in the Green Paper. I will refer to these matters in detail when I have an opportunity. I am very anxious that the debate be open, honest and frank. I would remind Deputies that the Green Paper is not cast in stone. It proposes that we set down educational aims, the first time such a formal proposal has been made. There are many areas that need to be dealt with as resources, philosophy, small schools and so on, issues that are substantially dealt with in the Green Paper, and I can refer Deputies to them.

In one or two cases Deputies had perhaps followed some of the reports on the Green Paper rather than studying the text of the Green Paper. That is natural and I regularly fall into that trap in other areas. However, this matter is too important and we should not fall into the trap of assuming that what is stated in reports of the Green Paper is a correct interpretation of the Green Paper. I encourage Deputies to study the Green Paper carefully because much of what has been raised this morning is very well covered in the document.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): I must ask the Cathaoirleach a very embarrassing question: will she ask the House to agree that I share my time with her when she vacates the Chair?

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Os rud é gur chaith an Rialtas ceithre bliana ag ullmhú an Pháipéir Ghlais seo, cuireann sé ionadh orm go dteastaíonn ón Aire anois go mbeadh na moltaí atá le teacht isteach anseo taobh istigh de chúpla seachtain. Tháinig an Páipéar amach nuair a bhí na múinteoirí ar laethanta saoire, agus nuair a tháinig siad ar ais ar scoil i mí Meán Fómhair bhí siad gnóthach le páistí nua agus cúrsaí nua agus bliain nua. Níl bun ná barr leis an deifir atá air agus tá súil agam, ón méid atá ráite aige cheana, go bhfuil sé ag éisteacht agus go gcuirfidh sé siar an dáta deireanach chun moltaí a chur isteach chuige.

San óráid a thug an tAire nach bhfuil cóip de agam — ach is cuma faoi sin — dúirt sé go raibh tacaíocht le fáil ag an Rialtas seo don Ghaeilge, mar a bhí le fáil ag gach Rialtas eile, ach ní aontaím leis ar chor ar bith mar ní raibh ach dallamullóg á cur ar na daoine i rith na mblianta fada, ó thaobh na Gaeilge agus shuim an Rialtais de. Os rud é go bhfuil athbheochan na Gaeilge mar phríomhaidhm ag a pháirtí féin, níl ansin ach ráiméis freisin, mar tá daoine anseo sa Rialtas nach bhfuil focal Gaeilge acu, ná suim acu sa Ghaeilge agus téann siad timpeall na tíre ag ligean orthu go bhfuil Fianna Fáil ag athbheochan na Gaeilge. Tá an t-am tagtha anois deireadh a chur leis an ráiméis seo mar, má tá suim ag muintir Fhianna Fáil sa Ghaeilge, agus más féidir leo bheith tofa mar Theachtaí Dála, ba chóir go mbeadh Gaeilge le cloisteáil uathu sa Dáil.

Tá an tAire sa Pháipéar seo, ag cur brú fós ar mhúinteoirí na tíre faoi mar a cuireadh orthu fadó nuair a fuair cuid acu bás de dheasca an bhrú a chuir cigirí orthu, ag iarraidh caighdeán bheith ag na páistí, gan suim bheith ag na gnáthdhaoine sa Ghaeilge, agus a dtuarastail ag brath ar an chaighdeán Gaeilge. Tá súil agam go mbeidh dea-shampla ag teacht ón Rialtas, ach, mura mbeidh, ní bheidh na múinteoirí ar fud na tíre fonnmhar leis an Ghaeilge a chur ar aghaidh. Tagann siad isteach i rith an tsamhraidh le scoláirí agus ní bhíonn focal Gaeilge le cloisteáil acu, de ghnáth, thart timpeall orthu. Ní dea-shampla é sin. Ba chóir bheith dáiríre faoin gceist seo.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an athrú atá beartaithe maidir leis an Ardteist, 60 faoin gcéad de na marcanna bheith ar fáil sa scrúdú cainte Gaeilge. Beidh seans ann go mbeidh dul chun cinn i labhairt na Gaeilge má chuirtear sin i bhfeidhm.

I welcome the emphasis placed by the Minister on the role of teachers. This matter is dealt with in the seventh chapter of the Green Paper but it should have followed the first chapter on the aims of education. If you lose the status of teachers you have lost everything. Primary schools play a foundation role in education and therefore it is time they were shown that the Department believe in the importance of primary schools. It costs £28 to keep a child in primary school whereas it costs £132 to keep a child in second level school. As a former principal, it has always aggrieved me that the principal of a secondary school is paid much more per pupil by way of capitation grants than a principal of a primary school, even though there is a greater danger than a four year old would fall down a toilet bowl than would an 18 year old. I do not understand why a teacher in charge of 280 pupils at second level is paid almost twice as much as a teacher in charge of 280 pupils at primary level. Perhaps the Minister would consider that matter in case he reverts to being a principal teacher.

It should not be taken for granted that teachers at primary level, who have been the Jacks and Jacquelines of all trades and masters of most, will continue to give this kind of service if they do not see that the Department take primary education seriously. Goldsmith, when writing about the village schoolmaster who carried so much information in his head, said about him when he died: "But passed is all his fame; the very spot/Where many a time he triumphed is forgot". Similarly, the standard of teaching will be lowered if primary teachers find that nobody considers their work important. Remedial teachers should be appointed for those who need such teaching. There should be proper heating and lighting in classrooms and there should not be too many pupils per class. The present scandal whereby more than 20,000 children are crammed into classes of 40 or more is indefensible. If I had more time I would explain that matter in greater detail.

In regard to primary teachers, I pay special tribute to the teachers of infant classes who are often presumed to have the easiest job in the school. However, these teachers are the real leaders in the school, the people who introduce the children to the school surroundings. If there is a place in heaven for teachers, those who teach infants will be on a pedestal, with the angels playing music and singing to them. Those teachers must act not only as teacher but as nurse and loving mother. They must also be a psychologist to persuade a mother who is upset at leaving her child to go. Teachers of junior infants deserve special treatment.

I thank Deputy Browne for sharing his time with me, he has been very generous. I will use it as constructively as possible. As the Minister said, we need to study the Green Paper but this is an opportunity to highlight certain areas and emphasise how important they are. I welcome the fact that the Minister places such importance on initiatives within the curriculum and that he is anxious that younger pupils are taught the rudiments of science and introduced to a modern continental language.

The Minister said that the problem of disadvantaged pupils must be a priority when talking about equality in education. He referred to the home-school community liaison project and said it engendered positive attitudes to education by pupils and parents. Of course this is welcome but if we introduce initiatives and expand the curriculum — which we all wish to do — by introducing a continental language and preparing and giving the proper skills to teachers to deal with a great number of modern problems, particularly the whole area of child sexual abuse and sex education, we must all take on board the fact that a proper budget must be allocated. We cannot ask teachers to take on extra and very demanding — not just physically but psychologically — skills without investing in in-service training. The Minister will be reminded again and again of the importance of refresher courses and training in all areas. There is also a huge need for continuous in-service training — apart from modules being inserted in future training programmes — in the whole area of gender equality. I welcome the Minister's commitment to gender equality and it being seen as basic to the Green Paper and the future of education.

I also welcome the Minister's recognition of an educational report published this year by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women's Rights. It should be studied carefully and its recommendations implemented in the education Bill which will follow the Green Paper. I welcome the Minister's commitment because the issue of gender equality had not been addressed by the primary education review body or the primary curriculum review body, although the latter were requested by the then Minister to do so. It is very important to take it on board now. One of our primary recommendations was to ensure that this would not just be an initiative, but a continuum. Our committee recommended that the progress of the Department of Education in relation to gender equality should be monitored annually by an outside agency and a monitoring report published.

One of the outstanding areas on which our committee focused by the position of women teachers. It is well known that two thirds of teachers are women and, historically, women have played a tremendous part in teaching and have been in the majority in the teaching profession. However, they have had a very low profile. Deputy Browne talked about taking into consideration the particular skills and demands of teaching junior classes, which up to now have been allocated on the whole to women teachers. The special demands on teachers at that level — and their skills — have not been valued and acknowledged to the extent that principalships and the teaching of higher classes were allocated on a pecking order to male teachers. It is also very important to have men teaching junior classes and women seen in high profile roles such as principals because very young children should not be exposed to stereotyping. I appreciate what is being done by the Department of Education in relation to the removal of sex stereotyping and sexism from text books. However, the whole area of the high profile and value of women teachers must be taken into consideration. For instance, between 1986-88, according to an ASTI survey, men were nearly three times more likely than women to get permanent teaching jobs; only 16 per cent of the Department's inspectors are women in such a women dominated profession; with one exception they are all working at recruitment level.

At third level women form a low percentage of total full-time academic staff, they are poorly represented in senior lecturing and concentrated in the humanities. There should be constant monitoring of the position and all advertisements for posts in education should state that the employer is an equal opportunities employer, research should be conducted into the constitution of interview panels and management bodies by gender and all interview panels should be trained in the whole area of gender equity. The issue of sexual orientation should be taken seriously in regard to our sex education programme and the employment of teachers. They should be considered in all future developments regarding sex stereotyping because it is a dimension which has been ignored or hidden for too long. In the interests of equal opportunity it must be taken on board.

I very much appreciate that I have had the opportunity to make this contribution and I hope to return to the subject later.

I should like to share some of my time with Deputy Michael Higgins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Minister sought response on the issue of common initial training which would provide greater interaction and understanding between prospective teachers at different levels. As he said, there are differing views regarding this in the teaching profession but I am very much in favour of it. In general the system is far too rigid and there is room for greater flexibility in the primary and secondary systems which would benefit children. For instance, if a teacher is particularly gifted in relation to one subject in a primary school it would make sense for the children to have the benefit of his or her ability. In general, I agree with the concept of common initial training.

The Green Paper contains a great deal of aspirational material and I think we can lose the run of ourselves a little here. The reality is that it costs money to implement much of what is contained in the Green Paper.

There is no getting away from the fact that primary teaching is labour intensive. At present our primary schools have a total enrolment of 544,000 pupils. Statistics show a pupil/teacher ratio of 25:1 but the more important figure is the average class size, which is 31.3 pupils. As the Minister knows, there are many classes of 38, 39 or 40 pupils. The statistical 25:1 pupil/teacher ratio is a long way from giving the full picture. The demographic projection for the year 1996 is 460,000 pupils.

A fallacy promoted by the Department for quite a long time is that on demographic trends if we were to succeed in holding the present funding for education in real terms major improvements and advances could be made. That is not true. An extra 1,000 teachers would be required by 1996, in terms of the demographic projection given, in order to improve the pupil/teacher ratio from 25:1 down to 22.5:1. At present two-thirds of our schools do not have remedial teachers. An extra 1,000 remedial teachers would be needed to solve that problem. In order to make improvements at special education level we would need another 2,000 teachers. Therefore, when we talk about improvements without applying ourselves to resources we are in cloud-cuckoo-land.

The lack of application to resources is a big omission in the Green Paper. There is no effective analysis of the financial resources that need to be committed to the educational system. I should like the Minister to tell the House how he will realise the objective of the Green Paper. It is nonsense to hold this debate if there is not a clear commitment to provide resources for first and second level education. The Green Paper states "as resources allow", a statement that could mean just about anything. If we are serious about education we must have a programme for providing resources for the proposed improvements in education. As an example of the ground that Ireland has to make up at second level, I point out that average OECD countries spend £1,259 more per student per year than we do. The gap is immense. Statistics show that 87 per cent of the unemployed have not completed senior cycle education. We talk about equity, a very desirable objective, the achievement of which the Labour Party are committed to, but we will not achieve equity without resources.

Three areas in which the Labour Party are particularly interested at this stage of the debate are pre-school education, disadvantage and special education. In relation to educational disadvantage, there is a crying need to set up a pre-school structure that is part of the primary education system. The new structure would need to be conducted by trained teachers and to have a curriculum with real objectives. Many Irish children go into the primary system without adequate verbal or social skills. That deficiency must be made up before children go to school so that when they enter the school system they are able to operate and benefit in line with other pupils. Pre-school education is utterly necessary in disadvantaged areas. Indeed, there is a very strong educational argument to extend it much further.

So far in the debate we have not alluded to any extent to the discipline problem in our schools. As I have done on many occasions in the House, I shall instance those children whom we could loosely describe as being emotionally disturbed. At the moment we do not cater for those children. Many of them can be quite bright, so they do not come under the category who would benefit from remedial education. When one considers the pupil/teacher ratio in many of our schools one realises that the school system cannot cater for those children.

I have put it to the Minister that there should be a school welfare officer in each area. That officer should be mandated to identify children who require special attention, those who become disruptive, who are anti-social in their expression and so on. The problems of emotionally disturbed children should be addressed in a family context, they cannot be solved in a school context alone.

I welcome the strides that have been made in the provision of school-home link teachers but there is too little happening and what there is is happening too slowly. We need to put into immediate effect a comprehensive plan that will cater for those children and will work with families. Parents who are not in control of their own lives cannot, in my view, inculcate standards of discipline, good self-image and good social habits in their children. Even though in some ways my proposal reaches beyond the eductional system I believe that the primary responsibility lies with it.

The House has been invited to respond to the Minister's comments on primary education. I find it extraordinary that the reference to the arts is coming home to roost. The arts should be at the centre of the primary education curriculum. From the experience of being ten years the chairperson of the Galway-Mayo Regional Arts Committee and being involved with setting up projects outside of schools and otherwise, I point out that there is a very simple choice. We can either purchase inadequate highly costed units of child improvement in relation to all of the arts outside of the school or place the arts central in the school curriculum, making the arts available as a principle of creativity. I cannot accept that there is any suggestion towards flexibility or broadening if that creativity is not present in the curriculum. In that regard I am supported by every report published on the arts, from the Benson report on. Those reports have been uniformally ignored. I repeat that point because there is no evading it.

I have some specific questions to ask in relation to other issues. There are four references to the arts: they are described as something that it is good to be exposed to, like a lamp. There is a difference between that philistinism and arts in education. I should like to ask a specific question in relation to a very important constitutional and legal matter. When replying can the Minister explain how he has gone from patrons to owner trustees and how he proposes to operate this mechanism? It is of first importance. For example, under the old scheme when multi-denominational schools were being established they were able to constitute themselves a patron. In many cases they do not own the site, nor are they trustees of it, they rent or lease it. How will they manage under the new operation? Has their position not been made worse? The Minister talks about the democratic control of education. Who has chosen the owner trustees? Is it not a case of handing education formally to them from a previously vague arrangement in relation to the role of the patron? If they nominate people onto the board of management one can see how they are represented. I should like to have these matters clarified.

On page 144 of the report there is reference to five or more teacher schools and when it is stated that a representative is co-opted from the local community, preferably a representative of the local business community. In relation to secondary schools the word "preferably" is not used, it states simply "co-opted from the local business community". One may well ask, what about representative organisations, such as local trades councils, women's groups or other groups who may have representative and elected status in the community. On what basis can you take a representation from a non-elected source, give it priority over all others and exclude it. These questions are worth asking and are ones on which I would like a reply.

I support everything that is being said in relation to resources because if resources are put in at primary level you take away disadvantages that will arise later. I should like to remind the Minister of something else which I say with generosity. I feel there is a misconstruction of "disadvantage" in the Green Paper. Again and again the phrase is used that people do not feel the benefit of particular kinds of education and so on. The fact is they are excluded. I use the word "excluded" because there is a tendency, in the absence of any philosophical chapter in the beginning, to explain disadvantage in terms of characteristics of the disadvantaged and to ignore the social basis of that disadvantage and of the exclusion to which I refer.

Later I hope we will have time to look at the whole question of special resources for the disadvantaged. Certainly many schools are playing their part in this respect. It is important that we realise what the publication of results in schools will be. A similar proposal in England came not from those who wanted equality of resource distribution but those who wanted to avoid certain schools. They would know then the schools to avoid and those to which they could send their own upwardly socially mobile aspirational children.

Acting Chairman

I would ask the Deputy to bring his remarks to a close.

I support entirely the statements made about the outrageous exclusion of women from the inspectorate and senior positions in the Department of Education. It is grossly offensive. While there have been moves in relation to the removal of sexism in school textbooks I have not seen it in the application in all senses.

Finally, when the Minister comes to reply to the role of the patron and others he can combine it with the complicated issue of local contributions. Is it not extraordinary that when he puts in his Department's contribution and the local contribution, which is a citizen's contribution, we cannot see that reflected in the control mechanism?

Deputy Gilmore, the Democratic Left spokesman on education, has written into the record the formal position of Democratic Left. This Green Paper is very welcome. It is of tremendous importance. I would argue that more time could be allowed, not only today, but in the future whereby the House could debate the matter in greater detail, perhaps at a special sub-committee level, and pick up the threads from today's debate. Extra time should be made available to allow teachers and parents to involve the general public in this most important issue. Before the White Paper is published we should satisfy ourselves that the particular constituents involved have fully analysed, debated and discussed the issues in the Green Paper.

I do not envisage any difficulty with the organised professional bodies such as school managers, various religious orders, teachers unions etc. in debating the Green Paper among themselves and being prepared to respond and lobby. But, having attended a number of annual general meetings of local schools, one of which was in Crumlin, I detected a sense of bewilderment by parents at the prospect of preparing themselves to respond to the complexities contained in the Green Paper. The religious order in charge at the assembled audience of approximately 150 people expressed exasperation that this was a document we would all have to read. Quite frankly the average working class mother and father were intimidated by it although I acknowledge an abbreviated document accompanies the Green Paper. My argument is that we should allow parents the right to express themselves and to respond by giving them encouragement and assistance. After all the parents are the most important element in the debate. I fear from that the debate will be above the head of the ordinary man or woman. Such a scenario does nothing for the democratisation of the education process.

One of the most important issues that must be addressed is the question of equity in and access to education. Everyone who knows the position in Dublin must agree that a virtual industry has sprung up centring around the transporting of children to school by private bus. This allows parents to by-pass the local school in favour of a school that is deemed to provide better educational opportunities for their children. In addition to the vast numbers of school children being transported privately, thousands of children are travelling long distances to school by public transport. Those parents who are sufficiently well off to own a car can drive their children to school.

On the one hand this represents a very healthy awareness by parents of the value of education and their desire to give their children the best start possible in life. However, the huge movement of children by private bus, public transport and private car must be seriously examined and addressed. Unfortunately the Green Paper does not analyse the cause and effect of this position. It is worth pointing out that this huge movement of children occurs at both primary and second level. That so many children are moving in such vast numbers indicates a huge degree of dissatisfaction with the quality of education being offered at local level. In America it is the policy of some states to transport the disadvantaged to "better schools outside the ghettos". My question to the Minister is: how is it hoped to address the plight of the marginalised — the poor children in our Irish ghettos — whose parents cannot afford to pay bus fares or who cannot drive their children to schools of their first choice if these schools are outside the areas in which they live? The mobility of parents can and does give an added advantage to their children in education. It is noteworthy that increasing numbers of schools are deemed to be serving disadvantaged areas. Unfortunately, though this matter is not covered adequately on page 48, under the heading "Support for Schools Serving Disadvantaged Areas". The appointment of an extra remedial teacher in some schools and reducing class sizes slightly will not redress the balance.

The Minister addresses this issue under the heading "Equity and Access", in which he acknowledges that a complex set of factors — social, economic and cultural as well as educational — influence the extent to which young people and adults can and will participate in education. He also says that tackling the problem requires integrated action and collaboration between the Departments of Education, Health, Social Welfare, Labour and training agencies and, equally, co-operation between schools, parents and the wider community. What action has the Minister taken to solve the problems in marginalised communities? What integrated action have the Departments of Education, Health, Social Welfare and Labour taken to translate equality of access into equality of participation? This document is fundamentally flawed in that it does not adequately address how to break the cycle of poverty in which many people, especially in Dublin, are trapped. Our educational system is the most important tool at our disposal to break this cycle. If people can be taken out of this vicious cycle of poverty they will be able to avail of more opportunities in the wider arena.

I wish to refer to a local example which is worth putting on the record. Years ago St. James's Hospital in Dublin used to be feared and despised by the poor who could remember when it was the South Dublin Union, the poorhouse. Many people by-passed this hospital to go to hospital elsewhere in the city. As a result of decisions taken by various Governments to inject large sums of money in updating, upgrading and modernising St. James's Hospital, people's attitudes have changed — it is now the first choice of many people.

Consideration must be given to tackling the problem of schools which are regarded as "not desirable". These schools must be upgraded and quality new schools built in disadvantaged areas with professional staff and equipment which will not only satisfy the needs of the local areas but which will make them attractive to parents who heretofore sent their children to schools in other areas. There can be no degree of compulsion in terms of the schools to which parents send their children. The necessary resources must be spend on local schools to make them attractive to parents who send their children to school in other areas.

The Green Paper proposes the publication of the results of standard tests in aggregated form in the interests of achieving so-called higher standards which will lead to competition between schools. Recently a Sunday newspaper did its best to get the leaving certificate results in all the schools in the city with a view to publishing them. The publication of any results will only lead to divisions in society. As the Conference of Major Religious Superiors said——

Acting Chairman

The Deputy has gone over his time.

——the creation of competition between schools through publishing examination results will have a devastating effect on the educational needs of communities. The Chair knows that I could have continued for another half hour.

Acting Chairman

I know the Deputy could have, but he cannot.

I do not intend to refer to specific issues in the Green Paper, which is very extensive, but I hope the Minister allows sufficient time for consultation between his Department and the people at the coalface, the eductionists. As previous speakers said, even though progress is needed it might be introduced too speedily, at the expense of that important consultation which must take place between the Department of Education and school managers.

I wish to refer to a few specific issues. Much has been said about the general education system during the course of the debate. I wish to refer to trends I have seen emerging over the past few years. It appears that "big" has become beautiful in that time; in other words, bigger schools have become more attractive because they are more economically desirable. It is more economical to run a very large school with a single heating system and one or two principals than several small schools. It is believed that a very large school reduces costs. Obviously unit costs are very important in education. However, this is a very short sighted policy. From my observation of large and small schools, the bias which has developed against small schools during the past few years is not in the best interests of the educational system or pupils.

There are a number of reasons I say this. Small two and three teacher schools in very remote parts of the country have given people life skills which they have continued to use after they leave school. The same can be said of some of our modern schools. However, these small schools provide these skills with the very minimum of facilities. Some schools in rural Ireland today have virtually the same facilities they had 100 years ago. It is a disgrace that this should be so. Unfortunately, it seems that the response is that these schools should be closed down and buses provided to bring the children to so-called better schools. This is undesirable for many reasons. For example, social problems can be generated by overcrowding in classrooms and playgrounds. A concentration of pupils in a particular area, whether it be urban or rural, will render it virtually impossible for teachers to maintain any worth-while degree of discipline. I hope the Minister will steer clear of any proposals to eliminate, downgrade or rationalise any of our small schools which have made such a major contribution to the education system and provided students with a basic grounding in education.

I strongly oppose such a move for another reason. It appears that there is now a tendency to depopulate rural Ireland. This may well be desirable from the point of view of somebody who sits in an ivory tower — I am not suggesting for one moment that the Minister sits in such a place — and the people who assess these issues primarily from an economic point of view. Rural Ireland is suffering in many respects already and the elimination of two and three teacher schools will remove the basic fabric of that society. Despite the explanations given for these proposals, I feel that there is a hidden agenda behind them, that they may be a means to an end and that some of these schools will be removed from the arena in a few years' time. One of the reasons I believe this is that conditions in a number of these schools in terms of upkeep and maintenance are disgraceful. I am not going to become parochial and mention schools in my constituency — the Minister knows these schools quite well. Recently I visited a school which was built about 1887 and, with the exception of some painting work it has not changed much since. The central heating system is out of date also. I am not criticising the Minister for this, it is not his responsibility. It is a flaw in the system that needs to be urgently addressed. I hope that the poor condition of those schools in isolated areas will not be used as an excuse to close them down with buses being provided to send children to larger centres because that just does not work for all the reasons I mentioned earlier in relation to discipline and overcrowding.

Several speakers this afternoon mentioned the problem of overcrowded classes and the difficulty it creates for the teachers and the pupils. I do not believe it is possible for a child to obtain a worth-while start in their educational career if they are in a classroom with 35 or 40 other pupils. It is not possible unless they are exceptionally good. What about the average or slow pupils? They have no chance and it is a sad reflection on our society that we have so many overcrowded classes as to make it impossible for (a) the teachers to give worth-while attention and achieve their objectives in those areas and (b) the unfortunate pupils to be able to expect a reasonable degree of attention and to go on to achieve what is expected of them.

I have very little time left and I ask the Minister to accept that the points raised by Deputies today have been highlighted by constituents. Many Deputies are educationalists who have spent their time at the coalface and, therefore, they know what they are talking about. I am not suggesting that the Minister does not know what he is talking about but the time for consultation between now and the implementation of any of the proposals is important because following a long period of speculation — it is recognised that change is needed — the worst possible outcome would be a change for the worse. Let us ensure that the chance will be for the better and that can only come about after consultation has taken place.

The disadvantaged were referred to by Deputy Byrne, and rightly so. There are disadvantaged people, certainly in urban areas, and there are also disadvantaged in rural areas. The Minister must recognise the problems caused by lack of facilities, isolation and lack of investment in small rural schools, and the overcrowding and the problems caused by lack of facilities, isolation and lack of investment in small * intensification of pressures on students in large urban schools. Those areas need to be addressed independently and the Minister must not switch from one to the other to alleviate the difficulties that have arisen in one particular area.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate on the Green Paper. I welcome the Minister's speech and the tone in which it was delivered. The Minister has emphasised that this is a discussion document, a marker that he, and his Department, are setting down as to how they consider our educational process should continue. The Minister stated that his door would be open to Deputies who felt they had something to contribute. I am not directly related to the education system but I would like the Minister to consider a number of points I feel strongly about.

It is time that the education system was given the priority it deserves. It was startling for me to discover that 45 per cent of today's long term unemployed are people who did not go beyond primary education. During the last general election the Irish people placed more emphasis on matters such as rod licences, for example, rather than on the educational system. Prior to the British general election a MORI poll indicated that for the British electorate, education was the single most important issue they had to consider. That was not the case with us and it is time to put our educational system to the forefront.

I thank God that we have come a long way from the time when we were young and this is the first point I would like to emphasise concerning assessment. As a young boy I remember a saying of the Jesuits, "show me the boy and I will give you the man". I will give them the benefit of the doubt — although with hindsight I disagree with much of what the Jesuits said at that time — and say they believed that the basics of education and of our lives today are what we learn in those first formative years. There was emphasis then on what they used describe as the three R's, reading, writing and arithmetic. If we do not have those three basics in the initial stage of our educational system, which is the primary stage that we are discussing now, we will get it all wrong.

I felt very annoyed at the time the Minister introduced this assessment issue to hear him described by one person as introducing a Thatcherite policy to be dumped on the Irish market. If that was a Thatcherite policy — and I disagreed with practically every one of the Thatcherite policies — then I would have to agree with her on this particular matter. It is common scientific knowledge that a one year-old baby will learn and retain more information in its first year of life than he or she will retain in any of the next 40, 50 or 60 years.

It is extremely important, therefore, that an assessment policy is introduced and assessing children at the ages of seven and eleven is very appropriate. The child is assessed shortly after entering the primary system and just before leaving it. With regard to the assessment shortly before leaving that system, it is vitally important that parents should know that this is purely an assessment in literacy and numeracy and that it is not an examination which will put the child under any form of pressure. The assessment at the age of eleven will enable parents to discuss the capabilities of their child with teachers and whether the child should continue on in education.

With regard to the statistics I mentioned earlier, 45 per cent of the long term unemployed having only a primary education, these assessments are important because these children will leave primary school unprepared for second level. They reach the age of 15 with this institutionalised idea that in a few more year's they will be eligible for the dole. I encourage the Minister to proceed with the assessment policy. Parents should be assured that these assessments will not place their children under any form of stress.

The second point I ask the Minister to take into consideration is an issue that I have been vehemently opposed to for a long time, that during his ministerial term he will dismantle the points system. This will not be easy and I say that for two reasons. First, parents have a great fear that their children will come under stress. We are all aware of the stress factor that exists today in children who are doing their leaving certificate and who wish to go on to university. It is a fact that young people, because of the stress factor associated with education, have committed suicide. This is connected to the points system and the pressure that is placed on our teenagers today to achieve the necessary points.

The second reason I disagree with the points system is that it does not allow for certain people to enter professions. It is a deliberate interference with their vocation. I see children striving to acquire a certain number of points in order to be permitted to follow their vocation, but they are unable to achieve those points. I also see people who, unfortunately for them, achieve points far in excess of those required to do what they really want. They suddenly find that they can study medicine or law because they have achieved the necessary points. It is a deliberate interference with the vocations of young people and I trust something can be done to dismantle that system in the coming years and introduce a better method of assessment.

I agree with the point made by Deputy Higgins and Deputy Barnes that women are not recognised in the upper echelons of the education system. The Green Paper contains very little mention of music and the arts. These are subjects to which more emphasis should be given. This country has a tremendous history in these fields.

Young people aged 17 or 18 are often not mature enough to make up their minds what they want to do in life. Many of them go to vocational colleges on completion of their leaving certificate and get honours diplomas and so on which are accepted by the universities. Despite that, they are not eligible for grants. Although at this stage they may be aged 22 or 23, it is the result of their leaving certificate which counts. A relatively small number of people are affected by this anomaly but it is something the Minister might consider.

I have every trust in our teachers and in the competence, professionalism and expertise which they are using to educate our children. By becoming involved in this debate they can help to bring about a meaningful future.

The general development of Irish education has been in phases. The sixties and seventies saw a huge expansion in post-primary education. After the introduction of free secondary education by Donogh O'Malley, there was a huge influx into secondary and vocational schools. Technical subjects were taken on board at second level and there was a switch from Latin to French. The intermediate and the leaving certificates were introduced into vocational schools.

The eighties was the era of third level education. Driven by ESF grants, there was the development of regional technical colleges, the blossoming of the Dublin colleges of technology and the development of new universities. Appropriate courses were developed within the various colleges.

The nineties should see a swing back to primary education. The whole challenge of education is to help the child to acquire the basic tools to develop as an individual within society. Development is cultured, nurtured and fostered at primary level. Between 10 and 12 per cent of students at primary schools simply cannot cope. Class sizes are much too big and there is a marked absence of remedial teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio is theoretically 25:1 but 600 classes have over 40 pupils. In classes of that size one is not talking about education but about crowd control and damage limitation.

I disagree totally with the theorists and economists who would seek to do down small primary schools on the basis of some ill-conceived, unproven economic theories and prejudices about small schools, particularly small primary schools. I am totally opposed to the creation of larger, impersonal, and supposedly more cost-effective, factory-type schools. Education cannot be obtained on a conveyour belt. It is a deeply personal interaction between the student and the teacher. One of the unique strengths of our system has been the intimate relationship that has developed in the small school where the teacher not only knows the student but knows that student's parents, background and environment. There is a special warmth in that personal interaction between the teacher and the student that is absent in other school systems which we are trying to ape. It would be a disaster educationally if we were to dismantle something that is unique and successful because somebody somewhere produced some proof of a preconceived argument to hammer home a favourite theory or a point he wanted to make.

Education both at primary and post-primary level is funded on aper capita basis. Some kind of slide rule must be used, but education is supposed to be about partnership and co-operation. It is quite obvious that shrinking populations of many catchment areas are bringing us to the brink of an unseemly civil war in the post-primary sector. If one did not have the shrinkage of population, the need for co-operation, partnership and interaction between various schools would make a lot of sense educationally. There is huge duplication and triplication of scarce resources. Subject choices are limited because very often three schools very close together are doing parallel subjects. Individual physical resources can be very depleted, whereas a collective pooling and sharing would allow much enhanced access to resources in particular areas.

Many people shy away from talk about rationalisation because of the sad experience of rationalisation in the industrial sector but educationally it makes good sense. This is particularly the case if we are to avoid bloody conflict at the end of the day when the number of students will determine whether a school will survive or be eliminated. I would urge on the Minister and the Department to enshrine in this document a very pro-active rationalisation commitment. It is there but it is vague and nebulous; it is not a clear commitment. We should be setting up a special section within the Department of Education to anticipate the kind of civil war that is happening today and will happen on an accelerated basis, in rural Ireland in particular, within the next five to ten years. I welcome the debate on it but we should not be unduly influenced by economic factors. We should see it as a necessary education development. We are not going to cut back or introduce economic expedients but we will pool, interact, share and co-operate in order to give a much better service to the consumer, who is the student.

I would ask the Minister in a spirit of helpfulness why he did not choose to opt for elementary science rather than technology at primary level. Part of the criticism of the Green Paper is on a very straight basis. All of us are in favour of the development of the economy but we realise that enterprise is a combination of skills and talents rather than a single, narrow skill. This thinking about technology has been dealt with in international reports and discarded.

It is tragic that when speaking about citizenship, and I agree that he means that in a participatory sense, the Minister is talking about, for example, political and social studies as a module. We are in the great danger that something that could introduce the great themes of our civilisation and our times in a proper way to the schools, would be reduced to something like an unexamined module junior cert or whatever. There is a great case to be made for social and political studies.

Deputy Higgins rightly laid stress on arts in the primary school curriculum. I will try to give additional emphasis to what the Deputy has said at the next stage of this process. Listed under the aims of the primary curriculum is an aim to enable students to, among other things, acquire an appreciation of the arts and participation in and enjoyment of creative activity. I appreciate that we need to flesh out that aim.

The Deputy also asked why a business person should be on the board. This is just a suggested composition, we are not tied to it: "businessman" should not be taken to mean a pinstriped Michael Smurfit. It includes agricultural interests, tourism, and professional and other interests. Ten members will be actively involved in the school process and the idea was to have at least one who was not actively involved in order to bring an outside view and to ensure a bought in management expertise to help manage the school finances, seeing that we will be giving more powers to the boards of management.

With regard to the Deputy's query on the patron system, the idea is that the churches would not automatically be in the chair of the new boards of management. They would have to win elections in the ordinary way. I have not put a majority on the board of management for any particular church or religious interest. I have made it clear that if the Minister for Education cedes power to boards of management so too must the churches and the vocational education committees. That dissolves the patron issue.

The owner trustee in the multi-denominationals, for example?

That is the title we settled on in the Green Paper, rather than adhere to the title "patron". That is the legal position and I have had to adopt the legal position in the paper.

But it is exclusive.

Acting Chairman

Could we have brief questions and brief answers, please?

The Minister must have had a good deal of contact from parents, parents' councils, boards of management and so on about the timescale for submissions on the Green Paper. Is he willing to extend the closing date for those submissions? There is a feeling that the White Paper is already well prepared and that any submission that may be made will be a waste of time. Will the Minister confirm that the White Paper has not got into print yet?

It is a change in Irish politics when Ministers are being accused of being too efficient. I am repeating my public commitment that I will not write the White Paper until I have received submissions from all interested parties and have had them discussed. It is not necessary to pin down a date but I want to keep moving on this, to keep the momentum going. My pushing has had some effect. We have had seminars throughout the country and meetings and we are having a Dáil and a Seanad debate. If I was to give the impression that this could go on indefinitely the process would slow down and I do not want it to do that.

With regard to assessment, while I appreciate that confidentiality between the schools and the parents would be maintained regarding those who had been assessed, is it the Minister's intention to make the aggregate results of the testing in primary schools public? The Minister suggests that the assessments would provide valuable public data on which to base remedial efforts.

The Green Paper suggests that we would make data public but not in an embarrassing or personal way. I would be totally opposed to league table ideas which would embarrass individuals, schools, or pupils. I have regarded the educational system as being too secretive. It is important to introduce more openness. That is an important new approach in education. Last week, for example, I published a document which showed that only 12 per cent of students at second level took higher level maths. Years ago I would have been accused of embarrassing somebody if that happened. That was the first time we published that kind of figure. They are the kind of fugures that I see us publishing increasingly in order to show the need to change policy.

Devolution is one of the buzz words in the document. The Green Paper talks about devolving powers of administration. Has the Minister any proposal in relation to local education councils, county education committees or vocational education committees? Will there be any intermediary structure between the Department of Education who will be divested of power, and the local administration, the board of management?

I deliberately did not suggest an intermediary structure as I want to ensure that any funds available can go directly to the people without being tied up in bureaucracy. Deputies can draw their own conclusions as to whether our health board system is one which they will start again if they can. I have an open mind on this case and I have asked that this be debated. In the White Paper I will propose an intermediary structure if I am convinced during the debate that we cannot deliver the services without it or that schools will be too exposed in a stand alone system.

On the boards of management at first and second level there is a place for a business person, so why not for a trade union person, as the work-place is a two way street? With regard to the Irish language, would the Minister not agree that if the resources that have been applied to the teaching of Irish in our schools and which will be applied in the future are to have the optimum effect in reviving the Irish language, the Ministers needs to initiate a national debate to make clear the value of the language and why we want to revive it. In other words we must create a supportive atmosphere outside the school environment.

The term "business person" would include a trade unionist. It is intended in the broadest possible sense. I will make that clear at the next stage. I said that we must do something dramatic about the Irish language. It is a scandal that we have spent so many hours and millions of pounds on it and still there are too few Irish citizens who can hold a simple conversation in Irish. We need to tackle that. I suggested that we give 60 per cent marks for oral and aural Irish. It is crude but it is necessary at this time.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Everything is very brief today. I got seven minutes to contribute on the Green Paper and that was another farce. Will there be scope for another debate on this issue? The Taoiseach half promised the other day to consider it so that we would not go through the kind of farce we are going through now on the Green Paper. In preparing the White Paper will the Minister consider increasing the capitation grant for primary school children from £28 to £130? It costs the same to heat primary schools as it does to heat secondary schools.

I would welcome a further debate on this in the Dáil and Seanad if possible. I will have to discuss that with the Whips to see whether the time can be made available. In principle I would be happy to do it but I am not sure if the Dáil schedule permits that. I cannot give a definite commitment.

On the increase in the capitation fees, that is a budgetary and Estimates matter.

Acting Chairman

I call on the Minister now to contribute on third level education.

I will now deal with third level, continuing and other education. Higher education has expanded and changed quite dramatically in the past generation. In the sixties access to colleges of third-level education was restricted to a privileged elite. And the institutions themselves, while always striving towards excellence, tended to pursue this objective in a limited range of disciplines and within the cloistered wall of academe. All this is changing.

Progression to a third-level college is now the expectation of a majority of our young people and a realisable ambition for an ever increasing number of them. This very year in fact the Government made historic improvements to the higher education grant scheme by raising by almost half the income limits to qualify. At the same time support for mature students was greatly enhanced.

The number of students in third-level education has more than trebled — from 21,000 in 1965 to almost 75,000 in 1991-92. Current projections indicate that there will be more than 100,000 students by the turn of the century. This increase in absolute numbers is reflected in the increasing proportion of the age group proceeding to third level: 20 per cent in 1980, 40 per cent last year and heading towards 50 per cent by the turn of the century. This increase in student numbers is obviously dramatic. It brings with it challenges related to how institutions can increase their responsiveness to differing needs of a more diverse student body.

There is the question of access; how accessible, responsive, receptive, is the system for the new and more diverse student body which it must cater for in the future. The sector will be very conscious of the efforts required of it in recent years to cater for rapid growth within available resources; all concerned deserve great credit. In another sense, however, the past decade has been, if I may say it with poetic licence, a golden era in terms of the standards of the intake. The levels of demand and competition have meant that academic standards on entry have been extraordinarily high, far above those traditional seen as necessary for admission for the various faculties.

This will undoubtedly change, as the percentage of the age-group participating in third-level continues to increase and the supply of places continues to improve. We may see a return of academic standards on entry, at least for most faculties, to those which obtained in the sixties and early seventies for a body of students requiring more support and initiation.

A group whose needs we must address with vigour and understanding is that represented mainly by those from areas which are socially and economically deprived. The problems to be overcome are formidable. Recent data from other countries indicates that, despite available financial support, numbers participating in higher education from the lower socio-economic groups have shown no relative increase over the past 20 years. In Germany, for instance, the participation from higher socio-economic groups has increased from 43 per cent to 57 per cent over the past ten years. However, the participation from the lower socio-economic groups has declined from 23 per cent to 15 per cent.

I refer to those statistics merely, to emphasise the well-focused effort which will be required to address the problem of under-achievement and under-motivation, among those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are encouraging signs in the very fine efforts being made by a number of third-level institutions in forging links with schools in deprived areas. Indeed the main hope of progress must lie in well-structured outreach activities.

Still on this issue of responding to changing student needs third-level institutions must become increasingly more flexible. It is encouraging to note the degree to which modularisation is now accepted by many institutions. The need for urgent efforts to ensure a uniform approach towards modularisation was recently agreed at a meeting with university representatives.

Modularisation, will facilitate mix and match of courses, credit accumulation and transfer within and between institutions, and similar transfer to European institutions.

An effective approach to quality assurance, is particularly crucial in a context of major expansion. The Green Paper refers to an approach to quality assurance in higher education which "will be a combination of the development of performance indicators and of internal quality review procedures within the colleges, together with appropriate external monitoring and assistance through a proposed academic audit unit within the Higher Education Authority".

The needs of a more diverse student body will challenge our higher education institutions to develop new and improved teaching methods and approaches. The institutions will be required to ensure that procedures are in place to identify and meet the needs of staff in improving the quality of their teaching.

Of equal significance to the growth in numbers is the development in the range and diversity of programmes, the development of the technological sector of higher education and the increasing interaction of higher education with industry.

As we move forward into an increasingly knowledge-based economy, the role of the higher education sector is critical in providing the leadership and leaders required to enable our country to cope with and benefit from continuous social, economic and technological change.

Clearly, given the nature of many of the problems now facing us, radical new approaches are needed to resolve them. We look particularly to the contribution which higher education can make in finding new pathways, new approaches. We look to it also increasingly to produce graduates who will become generators of economic and social development and employment creators, in addition to the highly trained professional employees which are, of course, also crucial.

In addition to the provision of highly educated, enterprising manpower the institutions also of course contribute critically to economic and social development in many other ways, including, research and development support to industry, ongoing re-training and education of the workforce to cope with rapid technological change, and the direct development by institutions of enterprises, for example through campus companies, to exploit the commercial potential of projects.

It is in this context that we need to address issues such as the overall management of the research and development function within institutions and appropriate supportive funding policies at national level, and the development of positive policies on interaction with industry. The Green Paper sets a framework for the development of these policies within the higher education sector.

The capacity of the regional and technological colleges in this regard will be greatly enhanced by the provision in the two Bills enacted before the summer recess which will allow these institutions to fully exploit their capacity to carry out research, consultancy and development work for industry. As I have already stated, my objective is to bring both Acts into effect on 1 January 1993, following completion of essential preparatory work.

Links will be developed on a regional basis between the universities and the regional technical colleges in the joint development of appropriate degree programmes and in research, while preserving and enhancing the distinctive mission of both types of institutions. Research and development work and the provision of services to industry would take place on a co-operative basis which would utilise, build on and enhance the particular expertise and experience of the individual institutions in a regional network.

These proposals are designed to maximise the very important contribution which these institutions can make to the development of their particular regions and thus to employment creation.

The nature of these challenges clearly requires that the present legislative framework for our universities be examined critically. I believe there is a general acceptance of the need for new legislation to reflect the radically changed roles and responsibilities of the colleges.

My intention would be that comprehensive consolidating and amending legislation will be introduced for the universities in consultation with the authorities of these institutions which will be more in keeping with the role, functions and operation of universities in modern society. Naturally the specific details of such legislation will take into account the views of all concerned interests. However, I would see particular importance in providing for new governing body structures and more fully developing the role of the president as chief executive of a multimillion pound undertaking. The legislation would not pose any threat to the well established values of academic autonomy and independence.

I would like to refer to a particularly important area of our education and training system, that is, vocational education and training outside the third level sector. A critical requirement in this area is a comprehensive, authoritative certification system for all such programmes, including apprenticeship. Such a system would give national status to the achievements of students and facilitate their mobility, through appropriate credit transfer arrangements, into other areas of the education system. I am working in close collaboration with my colleague the Minister for Labour to develop this certification system and to clarify the respective roles of the education sector and FÁS in the delivery of education and training services.

Titeann an dualgas ar an chóras oideachais an timpeallacht cheart agus na háiseanna cuí a chur ar fáil chun go mbeidh ar chumas na ndaltaí an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim. Chuige sin tá cúrsaí nuaaimseartha á n-ullmhú ag an gComhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnaithe don bhunscoil agus do na scoileanna iarbhunoideachais. Leagfar béim ar leith ar chothú tuisceana agus cumas cainte. Chuige sin bronnfar 60 faoin gcéad de na marcanna don Ghaeilge sa Teastas Sóisearach agus san Ardteistiméireacht ar chumas tuisceana agus ar chumas labhartha. Is cúis mhór sásaimh domsa an méid tacaíochta atá le sonrú cheana féin don pholasaí seo ó na heagrais Ghaeilge agus ó na múinteoirí.

I would now like to touch very briefly on the important areas of youth work services and of adult education. The Green Paper recognises youth work as a process of informal education contributing to the personal, social and political development of young people. The proposals in the Green Paper provide an agenda for developing a plan for the future development of youth work in this country. The co-operation of all interested agencies involved is being sought in this ambitious task in a spirit of co-operation and partnership. I regard adult education as one of the key areas in education in the future and it is been given a central position in the Green Paper. It is estimated that over 200,000 adults participate in courses each year.

Education is a lifelong process. I consider it is even more important to emphasise this in these times of rapid change in the social, economic and technological fields. Young people need to be given a strong interest in pursuing their education into their adult years. This is particularly so in the case of those who did not benefit adequately from their initial school experience.

The Department of Education recognise the problem of illiteracy in our adult population and the need for action to address it. Extensive measures are proposed in the Green Paper to prevent the problem arising and to remedy the problem which exists, including identifying the incidence of illiteracy in the country's adult population.

The vocational training opportunities scheme has been a great success in helping people who are long term unemployed. I have approved 1,000 additional places in the scheme for 1992-1993 and a further substantial increase in the number of places is under consideration.

I look forward now to hearing what Deputies have to say on these important sectors of the education system.

I welcome the Minister's contribution and in particular the emphasis he has placed on third level education grants. We welcomed wholeheartedly the improvements in the higher education grants scheme this year and hope that in the future further improvements will be made.

The Minister used the word "flexibility". I wish to point out to him, in relation to the higher education grants scheme, that there is a number of regulations which are the source of difficulty and appeal to him to be flexible in implementing them. In recent days I have met a number of students who are anxious to enter third level education and to improve their lot, but because of some technicalities they are unable to do so.

I have also met many students attending regional technical colleges, particularly the college in my own area, Athlone Regional Technical College, who are disappointed that they do not quality for ESF grants. I ask the Minister to review this matter; indeed, there should be an ongoing review, because if this decision can be reversed I call on the Minister to do so.

Our primary education sector is admired all around the world and we are very proud of the service we provide. I would like for a few minutes to refer to this sector as I did not get an opportunity earlier today to do so. We admire much of what the Minister has to say in the Green Paper about primary education, in particular his commitment to achieve sexual equality and his commitment to travellers and the disadvantaged. I also welcome the changes in the structure of the management boards.

Each one of us and every child has experience of primary education; indeed it marks a child's first encounter with formal education. This experience is crucial to the future educational development of that child. Yet we have 20,000 children today in primary schools in classes of over 40 children. This is totally unacceptable. How can those children be expected to adequately attain the basic literacy and numeracy skills necessary for the future, not just to enter third level education but to cope with life? How can their teachers possibly provide the quality of education that we have come to expect?

If one divides the total of 540,000 primary school pupils by 20,400 teachers in primary schools one would get a ratio of 25:1, but the real pupil-teacher ratio is the number of pupils in each class. At the moment that number is approaching 32. This level is unacceptable as a pupil-teacher ratio in the modern world.

To supplement these enormous class sizes we need to provide a comprehensive remedial service in our primary schools. However, when we examine the remedial service provided at present, we find that there are major disparties and inequalities around the country, from school to school and county to county. It is accepted that approximately 10 per cent of our pupils need the services of a remedial teacher. Using this as our yardstick we find that the ratio in some counties — for example, County Cavan — is 125 necessitous pupils per remedial teacher. However in County Carlow the ratio is 58 necessitous pupils per remedial teacher. Why is there this inequality spread across the country? Do we have a clearly defined system whereby one school is entitled to a remedial teacher while another is not? I contend that one will find educational and social deprivation not just in urban areas but equally, and perhaps more so, in some small rural areas. We have approximately 2,000 mainly rural schools which do not have the services of a remedial teacher.

There is one excellent school in my own area which has approximately 190 pupils and an excellent principal and staff. They were concerned about some of their pupils who did not seem to be attaining the level of excellence that they desired. They carried out a thorough investigation into all their pupils in March and April of last year and this assessment revealed that while many pupils were well above the national average, a significant number, approximately 35 pupils, needed specific remedial help. They forwarded this detailed information to the Department of Education but they did not even receive an acknowledgment or a response to say that their application has been received and they still have not been allocated a remedial teacher. It is unacceptable in this day and age that such a large number of pupils should be deprived of the little extra that is needed to allow them attain a place within the community.

The rural school and its teachers are the focus for any community and they provide leadership in a locality. The Minister's proposal, as contained in the Green Paper, to close rural schools with less than four teachers — 43 per cent of our schools have less than four teachers — is totally unacceptable. The loss of the national school would sound the death knell for any rural community and the bussing of young children to large units elsewhere cannot be tolerated.

The funding of primary schools is another vexed question. The capitation allowance——

The Chair would not wish to give the Deputy an intellectual or educational trip, but I heard what he said about his unfortunate absence earlier. An té a bhíonn amuigh fuarann a chuid; I would ask the Deputy to acknowledge that order would require that we seem at least to be referring to third level and other educational matters and that he might part with his great interest in the primary sector and graduate, we hope, to third level.

Like you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I represent primary school teachers and, unfortunately, because of the congestion here today I did not get an opportunity, as you did, to contribute before now. Perhaps we, on this side of the House, are more interested in education.

I do not wish to waste any more of the Deputy's time. I know the Deputy has the capacity to relate his comments on the primary and secondary levels to the third level sector.

I will endeavour to do that. The Minister referred extensively to the question of testing in the Green Paper and also mentioned testing in primary schools. I would point out to the Minister that testing already exists at all school levels. The Minister stated that he wishes to introduce testing at primary school level but that is being done. Various tests are carried out during the year by the teachers who assess their pupils on an ongoing basis. Therefore, it would be unhelpful and unworthy of the Minister to introduce testing for seven to 11 year old pupils. That would add nothing to what is already in place in our schools.

The Minister stated that the VTOS would be extensively developed. That is an excellent idea; it should be extended much further than the 1,000 places mentioned by the Minister. For people who cannot find work it would provide tremendous scope for educating themselves and hence improving their chances of obtaining work. I hope the Minister will extend that system even further than he has proposed.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael Higgins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

In relation to access to education and third level grants, I want to refer to second chance education — I am talking specifically in regard to second chance at third level — where, for various social or other reasons, students begin a particular course of study but do not complete it or succeed in their examinations and wish to repeat a year. I have heard of a number of cases this year where flexibility in relation to the awarding of grants would have been both fair and just. I understand that the 1967 Act precludes meeting these cases and, therefore, I ask the Minister to examine that issue in the context of the Green Paper.

There is a need for a regional tier, particularly at third level. The Minister spoke of interaction between universities and regional technical colleges on a regional basis. In the region I represent, the nearest universities are those in Cork and Limerick and, geographically, interaction between those two universities would be quite difficult. The Minister also spoke about new legislation in relation to universities and referred to an enterprise culture, with which I do not agree. The Minister sees the education system as a motivator and an initiator in the economy of an area. He should be flexible and allow for the development of other third level institutions in areas where that is merited. I am parochial in this regard, but I concede that it also applies to other areas. When there is not a third level institution in a region students must attend colleges elsewhere and people do not wish to invest in towns and cities where there is not a wide range of courses, particularly degree courses, for their children. This is crucial in addressing employment and raising economic activity in particular regions. In this regard, I specifically seek the establishment of university in the south-east region.

In regard to the CEVA and regional colleges, it is not clear from the Green Paper exactly what is envisaged in terms of the Higher Education Authority. My understanding is that, if these proposals are adopted, the Higher Education Authority will deal with the funding of the regional technical colleges as well as the universities. Will the Minister clarify if that is his intention? That would be a regressive step because, of their nature, the Higher Education Authority are university-orientated and, consequently, regional colleges and education in particular regions would suffer.

Will the Minister also clarify why it is necessary to set up a new body, namely, the CEVA when the NCEA are already in place, have international standing, and are held in very high regard worldwide. Why is there a need for this new body? The awarding of PLC qualifications has developed to a sophisticated level in the vocational education committee sector. Why can the institutions or the vocational education committees not be the awarding body? For example, city and guilds and other international qualifications are already part of the system. Why interfere with a system which is working well?

The administration of grants is an absolute scandal and I am sure we would all agree on that. The delay in issuing such grants can cause many problems for students, particularly in current times. Registrars of universities would welcome clarification of the exact position in regard to the payment of fees, to enable people who return to education from the world of work, the unemployed and so on, get their grants on time.

I will refer now to third level in a more general sense, drawing on more than 20 years' experience as a university teacher, and I call myself a university teacher deliberately. In order to be consistent with what I said already, I see the initial flaw — which I accept may be corrected in the White Paper — as the absence of a philosophical dimension or, more accurately, a very tight, narrow ideological set of assumptions flowing into the third level system. There is a reference in the first paragraph to the fact that it is intended to pursue this objective in a limited range of disciplines and within the cloistured walls of academia. It is time we had a little straight talking. A great deal of the technological innovation in this economy—not what people waffle about, but jobs that can be identified, products that have been developed, new companies and so on — is built on the experience of scientists and engineers from the university system. These people received good training in universities which enabled them to acquire other skills in order to be innovative, productive and so on.

Returning again to the initial set of assumptions which guide the Green Paper, there is a crazy bankrupted notion internationally of technology. It reminds me of the business council for sustainable development in Rio some time ago. It tries to suggest that a form of technology exists which is now changing. Technology is based on science and good scientists introduce new technologies and interactions between them. They create various forms of creativity and innovation, and innovation comes from the well educated, well equipped person.

I want to raise some serious questions to support the case for greater access to education, because I would certainly welcome that. I would like to say something about this fashionable notion of modularisation. While my view might shock many people it is quite conservative. Modulisaration in some respects within disciplines has improved the position of those at the lower achievement levels. However, by shortening courses it has wiped out the top 10 per cent of achievement in many subjects — I say this as a teacher. I see nothing in the Green Paper to address the other balance that must be struck within the university sector, that is, the balance between teaching, research and administration, which most people hate, although some are very good at it. Teaching is what we are there to do. We are in touch with our subjects and we have to carry out research — and it can be done creatively. Rather than have shortened courses and bits and pieces of modules, I would prefer to see an interaction between science and humanities, as existed previously, I support the Minister in the suggestion that there should be mobility between institutions.

In his speech the Minister said that our country should be able to cope with and benefit from continuous social, economic and technological change. He should also have included scientific change. The scientific mind is a formation around which the third level institutions have established excellence, and it would be very wrong of them to start apologising now because their contribution in this regard has been immense. The Minister referred to finding new pathways and new approaches, yet the thrust of the Green Paper has been to exclude third level institutions from interaction with the wider world.

I spoke earlier about Rio. There are many first class minds in our institutions who have contributions to make at world level and who are morally inspired as well as being scientifically competent, and who want to deal with the new inter-dependency that will be the new international economic order, the relations between South and North, ecological responsibility and new and exciting fields of feminism and egaliterianism. This is what we saw in relation to the celebration of imagination and intelligence. The idea that there is unchanging technology afloat in Europe which can be floated back into third level institutions is a limited one.

In the Minister's speech he states that it is particularly important to provide for new governing body structures — the best of good luck to him — and to more fully develop the role of the president as chief executive of a multi-million pound undertaking. I should like to see presidents of universities as people leading teams of teachers who do research and interact that research with teaching. When all the foam is wiped away, there are exciting challenges facing universities, as referred to in the Minister's speech. I have taught in universities in three countries and know there will be excitement if facilities are provided by way of books, proper staff ratios and research support. I struggled for 30 years against the Department of Education and related bodies who were so narrow in their definition that they refused, for example, to define social science as a science and post-graduate students could not qualify for a few hundreds pounds a year because social science, political science and other sciences were not regarded as real sciences.

I welcome the suggestion to talk with heads of universities. I see universities not just as a collection of individuals who are under continual pressure from some kind of external audit to be measured by publications which are largely derivative and refer to each other's work but as communities. There can be excitement in universities if they are allowed to develop and are given resources. I found it exciting that the National University of Somalia, in exile in several refugee camps, asked me to convey a request to the National University of Ireland to help in its reconstruction.

We live in a wider world, a world of imagination. As a university teacher, I have witnessed neo-utilitarian ideas of narrowness gradually seeping excellence away. I have witnessed the finest inquiring minds who did not want boundaries put around their interests but wanted to deal with a wide range of subjects. I talked to colleagues on the train and in UCG who are carrying out first class research into the brain and other work. I see presidents of universities as part of a community of teachers and researchers rather than as the Minister said, the chief executive of a multi-million pound project. God help his delusions, that poor man, or woman should we ever have a woman as president.

In this sense there is need for a little sanity. I repeat an empirical statement with which I began: when all the guff is over, the Minister should look at the new products and new companies and he will find that the people who are trained in engineering, science, social science and so on, are creating jobs; but who are the people who have wrecked our economy? They are the people who did not pick up the skills of speculation in universities but from coteries of the greedy — for example, people who have half qualified, flash harry degrees and some of them had none, and they decided to construct the whole future of our economy, resulting in a failed economy, with 300,000 people unemployed. Then, when they want to apologise for that part of their activities which are legal, they say: there is something wrong with the products we are getting from third level institutions and universities. I urge caution in going down that road.

There are people coming into the universities at present who are very exciting to work with. For example, many women are coming back to university, and I support the Minister's proposals relating to continuing education. These people create new challenges for us. For example, they have particular tutotial needs. We know that if students get past the first year they are well on their way to qualifying. What is needed is a different kind of support, the release of resources within an imaginative policy. It would be interesting if an international business council was set up, similar to the trilateral commission, where the chief executives of multi-million businesses meet to talk about the global budget. Education, particularly at third level, has a higher moral content than that.

When people who have taught in countries such as Africa, India, Latin America and Asia, who established medical faculties in countries with very little resources return, they create great excitement among students. If you make the head of a university the chief executive of a multi-million budget, you are removing the head from the system. The president should be part of the teaching community of the university. When presidents support professors and professors encourage lecturers and young post-graduate students, you can discern the sense of excitement and leadership. I never knew a graduate who was not interested in India, Africa, Latin America, etc.

A very vulgar and dangerous anti-university feeling has spread abroad. It is true that these institutions have been elitist in intake — and I have criticised that — undemocratic in structure and not giving proper recognition to women, and all these things have to be changed. However, it is also important to say that universities are very important institutions, where an alternative concept of scholarship can be established to bring us into the next century. That should be supported, and I support it very strongly.

Under the old system I taught a 24-lecture course on crime and deviant behaviour and a parallel course on law and society. Professor Kevin Boyle shared time with me and we discussed jurisprudence between the two courses. Now under narrow modules, I have to teach a course in 12 lectures and the interaction with law has been eliminated. Courses were jointly taught by the department of industrial engineering and myself on science and technology in society. There were over 48 lectures using multi-media sources, the Open University, films, sound and so on. However, they have all gone because of this shrinking. You can certainly have some kind of modularisation and you must have mobility between the different locations of learning but we should not have something which places a narrow agenda over what has made a great contribution to the system and which has the capacity to be very exciting in our international contribution long after we have got over our petty obsession with——

Tá an t-am istigh.

Many years ago, when the world was young, the Minister, Deputy Higgins and I debated such subjects in another environment. At that time I always wanted to speak after the Minister so that I could attack him and before Deputy Higgins so that I would not be compared to him. It is particularly unfortunate that the pieces should have fallen this way today because the new system we have devised since we came back gives Members who are not spokes-persons on the subject an opportunity to contribute. Even those of us for whom education is not our area of expertise, recognise the importance of this Green Paper as a milestone in the history of the development of education.

There are many good things in the paper but in the few minutes available, I will concentrate on one or two areas. The figures in terms of numbers and facilities — or, more specifically, the target which the Minister has set in the paper — are, I concede, reasonably impressive by any yardstick. From memory I think it suggests on page 36 of the report that it is proposed to have facilities for 30,000 additional students as well as for the existing 70,000 students. I accept that is a major step forward. However, there is a lack of clarity in the paper as to precisely how it can be implemented. There is a major question of funding if one is to avoid foisting — whatever additional number of third level students it is — on inadequate facilities. To impose them on the existing structure threatens to diminish the quality of education and will, inevitably, lead to an increase in the failure rate which, therefore, undermines the purpose of the expansion. This question will have to be addressed during the course of the debate and in preparation of legislation. For example, I cannot see a plan in regard to the provision of buildings. Far from the aspired to ratio of one to four users of the library the ratio is something like one to ten. There does not seem to be a plan to tackle that problem; in my constituency the most modern and progressive library facility anywhere in Western Europe is planned, it has been on the drawing board for about five years. However, it has not proceeded because of the financial situation and there is no reason for not enmeshing it with the development of the regional technical college in Tallaght.

On the wider question of buildings and participation levels, it appears that the plan to develop four additional regional technical colleges is all but dead. The commitment to Tallaght is the only one which has been partially agreed to; the first phase has been built but we have been unable to get a commitment in relation to phase two. Castlebar, despite the manifest local demand, seems to have been put on the back burner. The Clancy Report showed that participation levels in Dublin — I am not aware of any later figures — in third level education were the second lowest in the 32 counties. The development of a regional technical college in Dún Laoghaire is a priority in that respect.

I am deliberately addressing this in terms of participation rates instead of in terms of access because, theoretically, access is there in the same way as there is access to the Ritz Hotel, provided you can pay for it. The participation level is still very low and very discriminatory. The Green Paper is deficient in seeming to identify education as the only barrier to progress to third level education, there are other barriers which prevent access to such education. There is no doubt that education is still the main source of transmission of privilege in society and in that situation the focus of the paper on something like the home-school community liaison scheme is inadequate. That scheme, as I understand it, is only operative on a pilot basis in certain disadvantaged areas and the whole question of barriers is much wider than the transmission in education terms. For example, in large tracts of my constituency — and in many constituencies in this city and elsewhere — there is the whole question of housing and employment. The circular issued by the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, will have a profound impact on whether people have even the remotest prospect of progressing to third level education. That circular strikes at the most vulnerable in society and, therefore, there is a necessity for some form of inter-departmental committee to be set up which would address this wider question and agree an emergency programme.

Deputy Michael Higgins referred to the fact that the administration of the grants system is chaotic, we are all aware of that. However, there is a more fundamental injustice in the grants system which the recent changes by the Minister have not corrected. There is a fundamental inequity and injustice in the higher education grants scheme whereby people who are wealthy and own property seem, magically, to be able to get grants for their children's participation in third level education while those who do not own any property and who must declare their full income to the PAYE authorities do not receive grants. It is crazy — and manifestly unjust — that this concept of reckonable income which enables so many in our society to conceal their real income is tolerated.

Those on the PAYE system cannot conceal their income and it means that an unfortunate bus driver who earns a few pounds overtime does not qualify for a higher education grant whereas the person who owns a private bus fleet does. Wealthy farmers buy houses in Ranelagh because it is a prudent way of looking after their offspring at UCD or other colleges whereas the farm worker's children do not have any prospect of access to education. That fundamental inequity remains in the scheme and it will have to be addressed if we are talking about enhancing participation rates.

The question of setting minimum entry standards for third level participation is very frustrating because even students who qualify are not guaranteed a place. It is very unfair that people have achieved the required standards but cannot secure a place in college.

I am still unclear on the question of regional technical colleges uniformly offering degree status courses. It is an issue that is live at the moment — for example, in respect of the Tallaght Regional Technical College and its future. It is unconscionable to even contemplate the prospect of a two-speed regional technical college system and on my reading of the report it is far from clear that that is not still the position.

It is my understanding that the existing teacher training colleges operate at about one third of their capacity. That is extraordinary when on any given day there are about 200 untrained, unqualified primary teachers in our classrooms.

I notice that I am beginning to weary you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. If time had allowed I should have liked to address the question referred to by Deputy M. Higgins on the wider role of the universities. I am satisfied that in any revamp of industrial policy, which is of fundamental significance to the development of this society, education has a major role. I disagree with Deputy Higgins on very little and I am not sure whether there is some difference between us on this issue. The Deputy has more immediate knowledge of most things, particularly of the third level educational system, than I do. I would take issue with some of the comments made by Deputy Higgins. I am sure that Deputy Garret FitzGerald will back up the Deputy very strongly but I do believe——

I am sorry, Deputy, I must advise that you will have to live with and ponder further your unexpressed thoughts. You have had a two-minute tilly that nobody else got.


It is most unfortunate that I cannot unburden myself fully. However, I acknowledge the rules.

In the brief time at my disposal I wish to refer to three issues. I should like to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny), if the House is agreeable.

Is that proposal agreed to? Agreed.

First, I should like to refer to the extent to which the Green Paper treats the higher educational sector as if it were a business and only a business. The Green Paper has extensive references to rationalisation, modularisation, the efficient use of resources, cost efficiency, full cost recovery from commissioned research assignments, an academic audit unit and updated unit cost analysis. In relation to the regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology there are references to a strong applied practical orientation in programmes, quantification and monitoring of desired levels of progression and output between diploma and degree level programmes, teaching hours per annum per student as a cost-effectiveness measure and the gearing of programmes towards industrial development needs.

The degree of concentration on those aspects is far removed from the idea of higher education as it has been conceived for the past thousand years or so, since its inception. One does not need to be a devotee of Newman to feel a sense of claustraphobia at the cumulative impact of this phraseology. The emphasis on cost control is indeed quite threatening. The claim that there is a need for reductions in some course lengths is justified by flatly asserting — without any evidence and without making any reference to the experience of other countries — that in general the duration of courses in Ireland is reasonable, that there are courses of varying length in faculties with similar objectives with no apparent difference in standards and that a common basis of funding for similar courses should be adopted, and that means cutting four year courses back to a duration of three years. No reference is made to other countries or possible effects on standards, and in this regard one must remember that Irish students go to college at a younger age than students elsewhere.

In the Netherlands 20 years ago even the typical time taken by a university graduate was eight years — that is to go through a primary degree, a master's degree and then a doctorate. Although we do not have the same facility here in Ireland, a very high proportion of students overseas do that. We are in danger of cutting our system back to a level at which the high standards it has, which have enabled so many tens of thousands of our graduates to work effectively and to do very well and elsewhere, will be damaged. I am concerned about that negative and business orientated approach to a sector, which certainly could do with an improvement in efficiency in many areas but which is not wisely to be treated in the manner proposed.

I find puzzling a particular reference in both the Green Paper and the Minister's speech: the insistence on strengthening the executive role of college presidents. Having spent many years fighting the domination of a particular college by the president of the college at that time and having, with the help of three Fianna Fáil Government nominees who joined me in this effort, managed to gradually achieve some degree of democratisation of the college, I find the idea of going back to a system of presidential dictatorship highly unattractive. We are not talking about a business with a managing director who sacks and fires people but an academic institution of people working together in a community of learning to research and to teach. If the Minister seriously intends to implement this proposal, I hope that he will think twice about it.

As in the rest of the Green Paper, there is an extraordinary emphasis on enterprise and business culture. Obviously much of this is justified. How far is it to be pushed? In the Minister's speech he talked of graduates who become generators of economic and social development and employment creation. Some of them will, but in any country at any time they will be a minority. There is talk of provision of enterprising manpower and of direct development by institutions of enterprises to exploit the commercial potential of projects. It seems that a university's job is to be centred on businesses. There will be occasions on which that will be appropriate. Reference is made to the development of positive policies on interaction with industry and the provision of services to industry. That idea of higher education is one that is highly dangerous to its quality. It is very worrying, in a country in which the shift towards the business-economic side in higher education is so disturbing, that the Government would want to push that further. At the moment three out of every eight in the higher education sector are studying business or commerce courses of one kind or another. Those courses have their place, but it is very improbable that three out of every eight Irish students will have maximised their intellectual development at that stage of their lives by concentrating on business studies. Business does not want that and business knows that the premature narrowing down of interest by people who are not primarily interested in commerce is an unwise development. There will always be 10 or 15 per cent of students who do have those interests and who should develop themselves in that way, but it is wrong to have so many people pushed by the points system, competition and lack of employment into a distortion of their real interests, which narrows their horizons at too early a stage and prevents them from attaining the intellectual development that would enable them to play an important part in the life, culture and economy of the country later. For the Minister to encourage that is retrogressive.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Nuair a bhí mé i mo phríomhoide i mbunscoil i gCeatharlach cúpla bliain ó shin bhí sé beartaithe agam dul ar ais go Gaillimh chun bheith i mo uachtarán ansin, ach ón méid a dúirt an Teachta Higgins agus an Teachta FitzGerald tá sé sin imithe ar strae ar fad agus fanfaidh mé mar atá mé.

B'fhéidir go mbeadh seans ag an Teachta.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): B'fhéidir. Deputy Rabbitte said that he was unfortunate to be following Deputy Michael Higgins in the debate. How lucky am I to be speaking about third level education after Deputy Garret FitzGerald. I think I will be glic —“An té nach bhfuil láidir ní mór dó bheith glic”— and will attempt to deal with the practical side of third level education, about which I know a little.

I want to say how important the regional technical colleges are, and we are lucky to have one in Carlow. In planning the regional technical colleges the Department of Education must have felt that there was no need for research to be carried out at the colleges. As far as I can gather, library facilities at most of the colleges are almost non-existent. The Carlow college plans originally provided for the 70 seats in the library of a college of 2,000 students. The present Minister for Education is lucky that he is not responsible for that. At the moment for fire safety reasons there is a cutback in the seating in the library, which at present accommodates about 40 students. That is an absurdity that should not be tolerated. Although this is perhaps more a policy decision, the Minister might consider pressing for the provision of proper college facilities for students in Carlow. When I walk into the library in St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, or in Dublin City University I realise the lack of facilities in the regional colleges.

Reference has been made to the points system. If a better system could be found I would abolish the points system overnight. I do not know how it can be replaced but certainly it is a disaster. People are being pushed into occupations which they would never enter if they had a choice, but simply because they have sufficient points they do medicine, pharmacy etc. My daughter opted for teaching — she was lucky in that she had good marks. People asked me why she took teaching and I gave the very simple answer: "because she wanted to be a teacher". The danger is that we have people who want to be whatever the status occupation is at the time. We may end up with the doctors who will have no bedside manner and pharmacists — although it is less important — who would be equally unsuited. The student's natural talent has to be considered.

I do not want to speak about the injustice of third level grants. However, I would suggest, now that we have a maintenance grant and assessment of income for ESF funding, there is no reason to wait until August or September to apply for these grants. They should be applied for in June because they have nothing to do with the leaving certificate results, they are concerned solely with the income of parents. There is no reason to wait until September and have a huge pile-up then.

In his contribution the Minister informed the House that we will have 100,000 students by the end of the century, at present the figure is 75,000. If we do not anticipate what will happen this will cause a backlog. There is a problem at the moment. Sometimes when parents are asked for details of tax they have to contact the tax office where there may be a hold-up. In the meantime students are in college with no income and cannot get their payments. At third level the same can happen. Even if they switch the only different will be a higher fee. The parents' income is the determining factor in 98 per cent of third level grants. The number with two Cs, who do not qualify, will be limited.

There ought to be a system whereby if a parent applies to the county council, who administer the Minister's scheme, they should not have to apply to the vocational education committee. A ruling from either the county council or the vocational education committee should be accepted across the board because both are administering the same scheme. This is the type of thing that holds up administration and has people working for nothing.

Ba mhaith liom dá gcloisfinn na focail sin uait, "in conclusion".

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Tá mé críochnaithe.

Tá sé sin níos fearr.

Is oth liom nach bhfuil níos mó ama againn chun an cheist an-tábhachtach seo a phlé, ní amháin ó thaobh chúrsaí oideachais de ach ó thaobh chúrsaí na tíre faoi láthair agus san blianta atá romhainn.

I welcome the opportunity to have a debate on this very important issue. Like so many others who have contributed I regret that we are confined in terms of time. However, I hope this is only the beginning of a constant discussion on this vitally important issue. I welcome the debate for a variety of reasons. First, this is the first actual debate to my recollection that we have had on this very important issue since 1970. Over 20 years ago I was in my first job in Government as parliamentary secretary at the Department of Education. For me the relevance of education then, or indeed, at any time, was to explore and exploit the opportunities that were possible through the education system. At that time we were about to join the European Community. I would like to think that what we did in the early seventies has been proved by the return we have got since. We have had toradh ár saothair. The regional technical colleges are a creature of that period. What was then called the National Institute of Higher Education in Limerick was launched at that time. I refused to be part of a campaign in my home town, 24 miles from Limerick, which was seeking a law faculty in Limerick, a conventional university status for Limerick. I played a vigorous role then and subsequently in saying that if it would be meaningful for Ireland and its pupils in the European Community, I would support it. I was privileged in my first job to be part, not only of supporting, but of launching the concept of an institute in Limerick which, I am now glad to say, has become a university. The same relevance applies now.

If we look back over the history of the European Community since then, and I have had some experience of it, we find there was no common policy in education — long may that continue because our roots and cultures are so different — but there are constant common priorities. Over the years, and this was true while I was on the Commission though we redirected it in our mandate policies, it was clear that what education could achieve — this is a vitally important part of education — in enhancing the mind to applying knowledge and competence throughout life and in enhancing the skills for employment was being ignored. The Social Fund moneys were being allocated outside of the education stream. I do not wish to take issue with the matter of the moneys that have been applied here through the various schemes and agencies down through the years. I was in the then Department of Labour for a short period and I saw it as a priority on my part to co-ordinate directly with the Minister's predecessor in the preparation of this Green Paper because education at every level is the key not just to improving the quality of life, the quality of mind and intellect but also to output in a very competitive enterprise. I am glad that what I tried to put in place 20 years ago, as a member of the Commission, has now been adopted in a Commission report — the IRDAC report — which deals with skill shortages in Europe. The report states:

The output of Education and Training systems (including, in particular, Higher Education) in terms of both quantity and quality of skills at all levels is the prime determinant of a country's level of industrial productivity and hence competitiveness.

At long last that is being recognised and I hope it will be recognised in the resources, allocation and transfers through the Minister for Education and through the third level institutes and universities.

In the allocation of Structural Funds the criterion for education must be different from the criterion applied for industrial policy. There will not be an immediate return in jobs for the moneys being funded through the Department of Education. The Department of Finance cannot apply the same criterion to education as they would apply to industrial policy or industrial programmes of one form or another. I cannot dwell or elaborate on that but I think it is self evident.

The growth in education at third level is staggering but this must not be seen as a problem. In 1987 there were about 57,000 students in third level education. That number has increased to 77,000. By the year 2,000 it will be at least 100,000. That represents potential, not a problem. We have the potential for knowledge and the application of that knowledge through the skills and professional expertise that exist is the key to our future. It is fair to say that the budget figures since 1988, and I was involved in the preparation of that programme, too, with the Minister who is present, demonstrate the Government's commitment in that direction. The budget has increased 46 per cent in the meantime to £334 million. The higher education grants have been revised and I welcome that.

When I was Minister for Agriculture and Food I used to say to farmers: "Do not make too much noise because if you put the full picture up front you will find that, perhaps, there is a level of discrimination either in favour of the farming community or against the PAYE sector which you would not want to advertise too much." I am glad to say, however, that there has been a 50 per cent increase in income eligibility. We are now looking at a situation, as a consequence of that, where probably 3,000 extra families will qualify for third level grants. A very important element will be the challenge of increasing numbers of students attending third level. There will be a huge increase in the number of mature students over 23 years of age attending third level education as they will not have to have the same academic qualifications as ordinary students. This move is to be welcomed.

I wish to make a number of other points. As I do not have enough time I will refer briefly to these points in the hope that I can develop them during future debates. Priority must be given to the disadvantaged. Access courses for the disadvantaged must be provided at second level education. I am a product of the fifties and I was one of three students in north Tipperary who was lucky enough to gain a scholarship to third level education. In those days the only people privileged enough to go to university were those whose parents had money in their pockets. Those days are gone. The disadvantaged in our society must be given special priority at second level and third level education; there must be positive discrimination in terms of providing places for them. I know that that proposal will be advanced by all Members. This proposal should be vigorously pursued so as to help the disadvantaged obtain the second level qualifications necessary to gain places in third level institutions. The third level educational system must be adapted to meet the needs of all students.

I wish to refer to mobility. We are living in a changing world; even as we talk, Europe is changing. I had something to say on this point last week, and I have something further to say about the crushing burdens the lack of leadership in Europe have imposed on the citizens of this and many other countries. I hope they give some signal today which shows that they have woken up. I am glad the Commission have belatedly recognised their responsibility to fund educational programmes at all levels. There needs to be a credit transfer facility throughout the European Community. People cannot be educated in a cage. The Greeks were the first to recognise this during the classical period. There must be a credit transfer facility both here and abroad. There has been a growth in the number of private colleges. I am sure that, like me, existing universities welcome this growth. We cannot build barriers against change. We must ensure that private colleges, who have a major role to play in the educational area have a certification and quality symbol, so to speak, in terms of the standards required.

When I was a member of the Cabinet in 1987, difficult decisions had to be taken. I welcomed the decision to give universities the opportunity to adopt a vigorous enterprise approach whereby they told students: "Do not keep looking to big brother, us, to say how things should be done, do it yourself". This approach proved very successful in the areas of research and development where people got a certain amount of money from outside sources. I see the Leas-Cheann Comhairle looking at me and I am sure he will understand that I could not finish without making two further points.

The Deputy has got the speechless message.

I got the message, and you will sense the urgency in my remarks. I have great faith in what can be achieved by a local community. My constituency is an example of what can be achieved not by demanding huge resources from the Minister but rather by asking for support for what is being done. I am talking about our concept of third level education for Thurles. We have programmes in mind which will be supported by the community without demanding huge funding from the Minister. I ask the Minister — I know he has a sensitive ear — to give us the opportunity of proving how successful this can be.

Twenty years ago I met a group called the Language Freedom Movement. If anyone ever irritated me it was that group. They constantly referred to the time being wasted on teaching Irish and said that this time could more usefully be used teaching French or some other languages. As it happened, not one of them had one word of any language other than English. At that time I was privileged to have flúirseacht Gaeilge. Being bilingual, speaking Irish and English, was of great benefit to me in learning French, Italian and, may I say modestly, some German.


Je voudrais parler en Francais.


Vorrei parlare per gualche minuti in Italiano.

What about double Dutch?

I should like to say to those who do not——

Sorry, Deputy, linguistic achievement does not entitle you to any more time.

I was going to refer to the Minister's ability to speak sometimes in double Dutch. I thank the Minister for being present for this debate. The motion in regard to the allocation of time has been reasonably useful in that it has given speakers an opportunity to zone in on specific areas. Arising from a comment made by the Taoiseach in the House yesterday morning, I believe it is appropriate that we should consider devoting one or two days to a further debate on the Green Paper. I realise that the schedule of work for this session may not allow for this. It is very obvious that Members have a great deal of interest in education, particularly primary and second level education. Consideration should be given to my suggestion. I am sure the Minister will receive an enormous volume of recommendations, comments and criticisms on the Green Paper. As legislators we should give serious consideration to my suggestion. The Minister's primary responsibility is to fulfil his obligations under the Constitution — ensure that all the children of the nation are cherished equally. Obviously education should never be a burden to young children and it is up to us to create the proper environment and provide the facilities necessary.

In regard to third level education, we should concentrate to a greater extent on attracting research and development facilities into Ireland. It is obvious that the managing directors and top level management people of major international industries prefer to locate in areas where there are third level educational institutions where research is carried out. At a time of mass communications — in two or three year's time approximately 100 television channels will be beaming satellite television into this country — it is absolutely imperative that we open up all our third level institutions, take down the barriers which have existed and give young people who have initiative and ability an opportunity to prosper and flourish in that environment. I hope I will have the opportunity to expand further on some of these points in future debates on this issue.

We now enter the last ten minutes provided for questions and answers. Rather than one Deputy asking a question which is so long that it requires the Minister to reply at length which is so long that nobody can ask a question, perhaps we could agree that each spokesperson would ask a question and the Minister would reply globally to the lot. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

May I ask the Minister how serious he is about the proposed model for teacher training? It is proposed on a three phase basis (1) a university degree in which education could be a subject, (2) a one year full-time training programme and (3) a probationary year. Would the Minister reconsider this proposal? One of the major success stories of Irish education has been the training of primary teachers and specialist teachers for woodwork, metalwork and home economics. I ask the Minister not to go down the road of cut price training of teachers as they have done in the United Kingdom.

In the context of the regional development of education, will the Minister include in the White Paper a provision to provide and fund the development of new universities in regions that do not have a university, in particular the south-east region? Why is the Green Paper so deficient in relation to costings and will the Minister make good this deficiency during the Green Paper debate?

In regard to second chance education and youth and sport education, which are referred to in the Green Paper, does the Minister envisage applying any additional resources to those areas?

In regard to Deputy Higgins's question about teacher training and how serious I view it, I made this proposal in the belief that this is the correct way to proceed. It is an area that requires substantial debate and discussion before we make a final decision in regard to it. I look forward to discussing it particularly with the teachers involved. It is not cast in stone, but at present I believe the proposed training is the correct road forward.

In regard to Deputy O'Shea's question relating to new structures for the south-east region, I have no new plans for new institutions at this time. The Deputy inquired, in particular, about third level and university institutions; I have no plans for any such institutions at this time. We will have to monitor how the demand and the demographics develop.

One of them is to go to the west.

In regard to Deputy Gilmore's question relating to second chance education and youth and sport education, resources are required in this area. There are substantial resources in this area but more will be required.

In regard to Deputy O'Shea's question in relation to costings, I have not put a price tag on the Green Paper. That would not be correct. The area of costings is a fundamental part of this debate; resources and costings are also an important part of it, but we need, as is apparent from today's debate, to discuss the future of education in a broader context.

The question of the enterprise culture was raised during the debate and I briefly want to state that I am not proposing a different direction. I am not proposing that we suddenly turn the whole education system over to the enterpreneurs —far from it. Throughout the document I have indicated that is not the case. There is no danger in this document to the good sound liberal arts education we have, and what I propose is a broadening of our educational system to redress the balance.

It must be remembered that approximately 60 per cent or 70 per cent of the leaving certificate subjects, on the long list of 33 or more subjects available, are still what one might call broadly liberal arts subjects. The system is heavily liberal arts-orientated. I am suggesting in the Green Paper that we redress that balance, not that we throw the baby out with the bath water; in fact, I am suggesting quite the opposite, that we retain both. We should not be afraid of the word "enterprise". I believe people conjure up images of pin-stripped suited entrepreneurs with cheque books, but that is not what is envisaged. Enterprise is not just about business, it is about enterprise in the public service, in employment, in the home, in the school——

And in the Department of Education.

——and in the Department of Education. Enterprise is relevant, it enhances life. I do not use the word, "enterprise" in a narrow industrial context.

In the event that I do not have an opportunity in the next few minutes, I wish to state that this debate has been of a very high standard, one of the highest I have had the honour to take part in and I look forward to further such debates.

I ask the Minister that if we agree to this proposals he will give serious consideration to going back and setting out the philosophical assumptions and discarding the paper so that we can move on from that. More specifically, would he consider putting in a new dimension to take account of what has been said all day about the idea of education for living in the wider world and a world of inter-dependency which goes beyond Europe and take into account the North/South issues, education for development and so on?

If the Minister is agreeable we will take brief questions from one or two more Deputies.

The subject of resources has punctuated this debate through the day. I made a suggestion earlier and asked the Minister if he would publish a supplement to the Green Paper setting out the Government's policy on the resourcing of the education system. Will the Minister consider providing such a supplement which would be very helpful?

Regarding my question relating to funding for universities, and the White Paper referred to this, I am proposing that there would be a statutory framework so that a project could be moved along the lines that are laid out in the legislation that will follow the White Paper. Regions must be encouraged to go in this direction. Obviously there will be problems with demographic trends and so on at present, but with the projected intake, by the year 2000 I believe the situation will change fairly rapidly and groups who want an area developed by means of a university project, should have a clear road to follow.

Over the next number of years the Minister will be faced with an enormously increased expenditure in this area. With specific reference to facilities at third level, grants versus loans or subsidies, I suggest that the Minister should publish new proposals in this area based on the information available in the Department and in other countries. Surely there is some means of lessening the hardship on a great number of parents at this time every year. I know that reports were prepared by the Department over the last 15 years and it might be worthwhile when preparing the White Paper to examine these, as increasing limits and decreasing limits cause problems for everyone involved.

Deputy Higgins referred to the wider world and asked that it be included in the White Paper. I will ensure that it is reflected and I would draw the Deputy's attention to page 108 of the Green Paper which states that the university have a leadership role in the wider world. They may not be the exact words but that is the idea that is portrayed. Those words, perhaps, do not grasp the Deputy's interest, but I understand the Deputy's comments in relation to the Third World, the North-South axis and the university being a community. I will try to reflect those in the Green Paper and I agree that they should be adopted. On that point Deputy FitzGerald referred to the business dominance in the language. There is no proposal in the Green Paper to push universities into providing business or technology courses. There is no proposal to push students into any course at university level. The present proposals are of a different nature. In regard to philosophy, I want to refer the Deputy to pages that have been read out to me during the course of the last five hours pages, 32, 35, 38, 86, 87, 93, 97, 109, 129, 173 which all deal with fostering moral, spiritual, and cultural values, creating intellectual development, cultural heritage, developing potential to the full, all these values which maybe in my innocence, I call philosophy.

It needs context.

Included in those pages of the Green Paper are references to what I regard as philosophy. If the Deputy wishes to suggest others to me I will take them on board. I reject the point that the document contains no philosophy. It does contain in all of those pages a particular philosophy, not necessarily the philosophy that would receive widespread agreement, but there is philosophy in this document. The basic philosophy in it is that we approach the question of disadvantage and equity and we put that at the heart of the education system.

In regard to Deputy Gilmore's question relating to the publication of a supplement on resources. I will give some thought to how I might include the area of resources, bearing in mind that it should not dominate in the discussion. I would be agreeable to having a debate on education spending and estimates. We have had such a debate every year for the past 20 years, as Deputy Kennedy said since the seventies, but it is seldom that we have an opportunity to discuss the broader issues in education which are important. There are very substantial taxpayers' resources in education and they have increased by 33 per cent since 1988. At primary level costs have increased from £447 million to £575 million, a 28 per cent increase; post-primary costs now stand at £609 million, an increase of 27 per cent; and third level costs stand at £334 million, an increase of 46 per cent. Education spending has increased by 33 per cent in four years.

I have tried not to spend too much time addressing the question of resources, but I will be happy to do so in future debates on education, if it is considered necessary. We must be aware that there are very heavy resources in education, they are growing every year. There has hardly been a year in the past decade when resources have not grown very substantially, far ahead of the resources we have available. As Minister for Education, I will never have enough money, nobody in the House will ever have enough money to do all that we would like to do in education. We will have to try to keep the pressure on resources in so far as we can.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl do gach Teachta a labhair inniú. Bhí caighdeán an-ard sa díospóireacht seo, ar gach taobh den Teach, agus tá mé thar a bheith buíoch de na Comhaltaí go léir.

This was an excellent debate and I have learned an enormous amount in the last five hours. I look forward to an opportunity to debate the issue again if the Dáil schedule permits.

The Dáil adjourned at 4 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 October 1992.