Tá leathchumha orainn i mbliana ag plé an Bhille seo toisc gan na Meastacháin ar fad a bheith pléite ag an Teach eile. Ar ndó, bhí caoi againn ar na Meastacháin a bhreithniú agus ár dtuairimí a chumadh in a dtaobh agus mar a chéile agus cuid mhaith eile de na daoine anseo, is ar Mheastachán an Roinn Oideachais is mó a thug mise m'aire agus b'údar áthais liom a fheiceáil go raibh méadú ar an Meastachán sin. Ach caithfidh mé a rádh go mba údar díomá liom a laghad a bhí an méadú sin.
Bhí an oiread sin cainte anuraidh ann faoin méid ba ghá an córas oideachais a fheabhsú agus a fhorbairt agus a chur ar chomh-chéim le tíorthaí eile, nárbh ionadh liom dá mbéadh an Rialtas nó an Roinn sin ag iarraidh £10 miliúin bhreise i mbliana ach ní mar sin atá. Níl méadú ann ach an méadú a thagann leis an bhfás nádúrtha atá faoin oideachas le blianta anuas.
Is mór an trua liomsa gan an ráiteas bliaintiúil a bheith tugtha ag an Aire Oideachais sar ar tháinig an Bille seo ós ár gcomhair. Tá sé taréis an oiread sin coiníní a tharraingt as an hata le cúpla ráithe anuas narbh ionadh liom cúpla ceann eile a theacht as dá mbeadh caoi aige a intinn a nochtadh don Dáil. Ba mhaith liom a fhios a bheith agam cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir lena pleananna agus an fhorbairt atá déanta maidir leis na pleananna atá fógartha aige cheana. Mar atá an scéal, táimid, mar a déarfá, ag tabhairt ar dtuairimí in vacuo.
Bhí de léir-mheas ar an Roinn Oideachais le blianta anuas go raibh sé ró-thámhach ró-fhaiteach ró-réidhchúiseach, ró-choimeádach, sean-bhean chríonna Shráid Mhaolbhríde gan beatha, gan beocht, ach caithfidh mé ar an ócáid seo a thréaslú leis an Aire gur léirigh sé i mbliana nach raibh an tsean-bhean críonna seargtha, calctha ar fad. Thionscnaigh sé scéimeanna i mbliana nár mhór misneach chuca, nár mhór dian-smaoineadh agus pleanáil chruinn. Níl bliain ó shoin baileach ó thug sé céim ar aghaidh ar mhaithe le teagaisc agus foghlaim na Gaeilge sna scoileanna agus ar mhaithe leis an dteanga a bheofhorbairt.
Táim ag tagairt don cheapachán a rinne sé tuairim is bliain ó shoin tré shagart oirearc céimiúil a cheapadh ina chómhairleoir don Roinn Oideachais. Nuair a bhéas an taighde agus an réiteach is gá déanta ag an sagart sároilte sin, tig linn bheith ag súil go dtosnófar ar deireadh thiar ar fheabhas cinnte a chur ar mhúineadh na Gaeilge agus ar mhódhanna nua teagaisc a thabhairt isteach sna scoileanna, agus go dtiocfaidh máistreacht ar an dteanga don aois scoile as seo amach. Ar ndóigh, ní rud é sin a thiocfaidh ar an bpointe. Caithfimíd fanacht leis ach is cruthú dúinne é go bhfuil an intinn ceart ag an Aire chun a ghnótha fhéin, agus go bhfuil tuiscint aige don laige a bhí sa scéal agus gur thug sé caol díreach ar an laige sin a leigheas.
Bhí caint inné ar an gcló Romhánach a thabhairt isteach agus ar an aibitir nua. Is dóigh gur ar chómhairle an Athar Colmáin Ó hUallacháin, a thug sé an fógra sin amach do na scoileanna tosnú ar an gcló Rómhánach agus an "h-alphabet", mar tugtar air, a usáid ins na scoileanna. Ar aon chuma, guímíd rath agus séan ar an iarracht atá dhá déanamh.
This move to improve the position of Irish language teaching in the schools is only one of the signs of a rejuvenation of outlook in Marlborough Street. Since then, we have what has become, possibly, to be known as the Hillery Plan. Now the Hillery Plan came in for quite a lot of criticism yesterday. Senator Quinlan criticised it rather severely, I thought. I would not go as far as Senator Quinlan did in his criticism of it. I see a lot more merit than he seems to see in it. Granted it is not a panacea for all the ills of education and it was not designed to be.
The Minister took note of the most glaring weaknesses in the post-primary educational structure and he set himself the objective of remedying these weaknesses. Now, he has brought about, therefore, two major changes and the one I consider the most important was not adverted to very much at all yesterday. It is the fact that he has opened up the cul-de-sac that was vocational education and has made an exit from it to higher education. Heretofore, there was no outlet from the vocational school. Now, by integrating the two systems at the intermediate stage and leaving the vocational pupil free to do the Intermediate at the end of a three-year course, he has given him equal opportunity with the secondary school pupil.
Senator Quinlan seemed to think that the imposition of that examination on the vocational pupil was foolish, that it was impracticable, that it could not work. Of course, there is nothing compulsory about it. No pupil in the school need take it but it offers the opportunity to anyone who is capable of taking it and who is capable of doing the three-course subjects, of taking these subjects to that standard. It gives him the opportunity of going forward to a future which was not previously there for him. I will say, of course, that probably a majority of the pupils who attend vocational schools will not be taking it up for various reasons. Normally a person who is good on the practical side is not so good on the academic side and you have at least two subjects of an academic nature which have to be taken at the Intermediate level. I welcome, at any rate, the opportunity which has been given and I consider it is a tremendous up-grading of the vocational schools.
Now, the other aspect of education which was discussed at length here yesterday was the comprehensive school, the new type of school. As you all know, this is intended to cater for areas that have had no educational facility of a post-primary nature up to now. The conditions under which these could be established were adverted to here yesterday. They serve an area within a radius of ten miles and for that reason they are going to be out of the reach of competition. They are going to be little educational kingdoms in themselves and I doubt if there are going to be many of them, in view of the conditions laid down for their establishment.
The main thing about them is that they are a departure in principle from the attitude of the State up to now in the matter of post-primary education. It is one field in which the Minister has displayed tremendous courage because he is really setting into the field of private enterprise. Again, I would take Senator Quinlan to task on his views on this yesterday. He said that he welcomed the attitude of the Minister in bringing education to places where it would not normally be brought by private enterprise. At the same time, he seemed to criticise the undue interference of the Government in education. I do not think this is undue interference because surely it is one of the principles we must accept that where private enterprise cannot do the job, then it is the function of the State to step in and do it if the social conditions demand it.
These schools will not interfere in any way with the existing secondary or vocational schools. They will be comprehensive in every sense of the word. They will have a very wide curriculum, covering both academic and practical subjects. The buildings, salaries and so on will be provided by the State. I would venture to think that when these schools are established, the per capita costs in them will be very much greater than our current costs in the ordinary secondary schools. Therefore, I welcome these schools because they will make an incontrovertible case for much higher subsidisation of the existing secondary schools. We will now have the position reversed. The depressed areas will have become the privileged areas as far as education is concerned. In order to reestablish some sort of balance, it will be imperative for the Government to make further investment in secondary education in the areas now served by private enterprise. That is one of the reactions I see coming from these new schools.
Much was said about equality of educational opportunity and that the Minister, by the establishment of these schools, was providing equality of educational opportunity. I do not think the establishment of these schools was really intended for that, because equality of educational opportunity does not consist merely in providing schools in every area. So long as people may be deprived of education because a fee must be paid, there is not equality of educational opportunity. In that way, these new areas have a further privilege over areas like Dublin where there is an abundance of secondary schools but where people are precluded from availing themselves of them because of the fee-paying system.
I am not one who believes that secondary education should be completely free, but there is a proposition to which we all must subscribe, that nobody should be precluded from secondary education because of means. I am afraid, even with the establishment of these new schools, unless there is very much greater subsidisation of secondary schools in the remaining areas of the country, there will still be inequality of educational opportunity.
There is another aspect of this development in education to which I might draw attention. Apart from the merits of this new plan as a plan, the idea of a comprehensive school has got people engaged in post-primary education thinking in terms of integration, co-ordination and co-operation. Where you had in the provincial towns secondary and vocational schools existing in a sort of cold war atmosphere, there is now the feeling abroad, as a result of this plan, that these schools should co-operate with one another, and I think that is actually in practice in a number of cases. There are technical difficulties to be overcome, because we will have to bring about the position where a teacher in one category can get recognition for service in either type of school. A great amount of overlapping which occurs, particularly in the smaller towns, could be eliminated with co-operation between the two types of schools in the same area.
I have in mind one case where there is a boys' small secondary school and a vocational school. The vocational teachers do the practical subjects in the secondary school and the secondary teachers, having done whatever is required of them in their own school, do academic subjects at night in the vocational school. There could be a lot more of that. It would bring the comprehensive school idea into a number of areas which would not qualify under the terms of the plan. The Minister, therefore, deserves our sincere thanks for pointing the way to this co-operation between the various types of schools.
So many aspects of the educational field are clamouring for attention— everything from the size of classes in kindergarten schools to the subsidisation of universities and the provision of schools of dentistry—that it is very difficult to make a selection of what should be discussed. The opportunity afforded here on the Appropriation Bill is hardly adequate for a full discussion of education. Especially in the end-of-term and eve-of-holiday atmosphere we have now, the education of the country does not get sufficient notice in this House. Would it be possible to have a motion on educational matters put down at a time of year when business is not so heavy and probably following the discussion of the Estimate in the Dáil? Could we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that such a motion would be taken with a view to discussing the various aspects of education and that there would be no political tinge to it at all? Many people here are interested in various aspects of education, both as members of vocational committees and, of course, as parents. They would be very anxious to have a general discussion on educational matters.
In the circumstances, and having regard to time limits, I should like to confine myself to one or two items relating specifically to secondary teachers—not really the most important ones but having a special relevancy at the present time. I want first to criticise the Minister for his failure to hold consultations with the teachers before imposing on the secondary schools the new mathematics syllabus and the new science syllabus last year. It came as a complete bombshell to the teachers who read, for the first time, in the newspapers last Easter that the new syllabus was to operate in the schools as from September, 1963. The official notice actually came on 4th April this year. The reaction of the teachers was that this was too precipitate and that time must be given to prepare because a considerable amount of new matter was involved. Teachers in the 50-60 years category are not too anxious for, and it is not too easy for them to accommodate themselves to new ideas without ample opportunity of preparing themselves.
In view of that, consultations were held with all the recognised bodies in secondary teaching and, as one body, they approached the Minister to have the application of these new courses postponed for one year so as to give everyone an opportunity to prepare for them. Despite the fact that that approach was unanimous, that was not done. I must deplore in the strongest terms the attitude of the Minister in that regard. Following that, and on demand, courses were arranged for teachers. One would think that having imposed this new burden on the teachers who were not prepared for it, the Department would certainly have helped the teachers in every way possible to acquire the necessary knowledge in the new matter and would, therefore, subsidise the courses.
Again the Minister has refused to subsidise these courses and again I must deplore that attitude. There is every reason why the courses should be subsidised and why the teachers should not be asked to come to a university centre from all over the country at their own expense and to pay tuition fees to the university as is happening. They had arranged a course to accommodate 70 or 80 people but the demand was so great that they had to extend the course to take three times that number and to open another course in Cork. That shows that the teachers are most willing and anxious to co-operate with the Minister even in the adverse circumstances of having to pay their own way through the courses and having to abandon their holiday plans in order to equip themselves for the task the Minister imposed on them. I think the Minister has treated the teachers shabbily in this matter.
Recently the Minister introduced a scheme whereby in future lay teachers of science, holding a degree in science, are to be given a salary in excess of that given to teachers of ordinary subjects. Again, it is characteristic of the Minister that he wanted to achieve an objective and went the most direct way about it but possibly he did not consider all the implications involved in doing so. He has done this in order to recruit science teachers for the schools. There is only one appeal that operates and that is the appeal of money. He has introduced therefore a new rule whereby a teacher of science, a lay teacher—he made a distinction between lay and religious—holding a university degree in science and teaching for a certain minimum number of hours per week, will be in receipt of £150 in excess of the salary payable to the teacher of ordinary subjects.
While we applaud the Minister's directness in going for this objective and his attitude towards recruiting teachers of science for the schools, I think this is really an acknowledgement of the inadequacy of the salaries paid to all teachers. The question of the recruitment of science teachers has been a problem for some time but the question of the recruitment of foreign language teachers is an emerging problem and may be even more acute than that of the science teachers. In a few years' time, we may have to make similar provision for that type of teacher and eventually wind up with a multiplicity of salary scales.
That is a bad thing and the proper way to cope with the problem is to make the teaching profession attractive enough by giving sufficient to all grades of teachers to induce people to go into that profession. It is imperative that that be done and it should be accompanied by an insistence that teachers will teach only subjects in which they have university qualifications. This is something that has been demanded by secondary teachers generally for a long time, that their teaching be confined to subjects they have studied at university level.
It is one of the marvels of our system here that a person with a degree in science only can teach English, Latin or French in the secondary school. He is held to be qualified and is recognised because he has a primary degree. That is one of the aspects of our secondary educational system that has evoked adverse comment on all sides. Now that changes are being made, now that certain subjects are coming into prominence and that qualifications are being examined, it is the proper time to make a move towards taking that type of anomaly out of the system.
I should like to support the plea made by Senator Brosnahan yesterday for the establishment of a research institution in education. The only research we have at the moment is that carried out by An tAthair Ó hUallacháin who is engaged on one aspect of research for the schools. It is highly important in any country which is taking education seriously that the Department of Education should be aware of what the educational needs are and should be able to meet them.
I should like also to join with Senator Ó Maoláin in criticising the amount of time given to Irish on Telefís Éireann. It was one of the matters I raised on this debate last year and no progress has been made since then. Some effort was made for a short time but it was given up and the position now is worse than it was 12 months ago. With regard to the criticism made yesterday, and which received prominence in today's papers, of the cutting off of programmes at the peak point, the reason, I am given to understand, is that there is a link up with Eurovision in these programmes. They are run to a split-second timing and irrespective of what is happening, they must be cut off at that time and the television authorities are not responsible.