"That a sum not exceeding £69,750 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for Intermediate Education, including Teachers' Salaries Grant."
It may simplify the work of the Committee, in dealing with this Estimate, if I say a few explanatory words in advance. In the discussion yesterday, and previously, on the primary Estimate, I endeavoured to give a full and detailed account both of the policy and of the programmes that are being followed in the primary schools—that is to say, the policy and programmes that are already in operation in the primary schools. At the same time, I was seeking to emphasis that the primary system was not the be-all and end-all, but that it ought to have its continuation in the secondary system. I gave, in connection with the primary system, a certain amount of information with regard to the connection between that and the secondary system, and the general lines upon which the secondary system was working out. I endeavoured to give some account of the methods which were not merely proposed, but initiated, in order to bring the education in both types of schools more closely into touch with the realities and needs of Irish life. Now, I find it necessary to say some things which I had hoped it would not be necessary to say. I feel rather humbled in the face of certain comments which I have encountered and which teach me that my efforts to be explanatory fell very far short of being successful. I want to make it clear with regard to this Estimate that is before us now—the same would apply to the Estimate which was dealt with previously—that the statement I made was not a statement of what ought to be, of something that existed in my head, of something that existed in my dreams, or of something that was still to come into existence, but of a system which has been actually inaugurated, is in existence, and is operative. I have encountered the comment that I have "unfolded a scheme of reform which, on paper, is of an inspiring character." I am glad to hear the statement that it is of an "inspiring character," because this scheme of reform exists to a much more real extent than its existence on paper. Therefore, I assume that the inspiration is going to be real.
"A scheme of reform which provides on paper for the unification of all grades of teaching between the primary school and university, and for a system of teaching in the rural schools, which will train children to be intelligent tillers of the soil."
These excellent objects, I have been informed, are no nearer of accomplishment than they were a year ago.
"The splendid reforms which pos terity may link with Mr. MacNeill's Ministry are still unembodied."
I am glad to encounter comment of that kind. If those who make that comment had realised that the reforms that I indicated are not unembodied but are embodied, I am quite sure their generous testimony—perhaps their over-generous testimony—would still as ungrudgingly be given, and that I would be told that the objects which I was endeavouring to carry into effect were excellent objects, and that the reforms which this Department is engaged in furthering, so far as it can, are splendid reforms.
With regard to this scheme, I may describe it in the following words, which are not my own:—
The drstic reform of secondary education in the Saorstát is provided by the rules and programme that were published yesterday.
That was about a month ago.
The old machinery of grades disappears in favour of two periods of secondary education which will be terminated respectively by an intermediate certificate examination and a leaving certificate examination. The old system of payment by results is replaced by a system of capitation grants. The old programmes, narrow and formal, which encouraged merely mechanical teaching and fostered the vice of cramming, are superseded by a more elastic programme which ought to give full scope to the teachers' gifts and to the pupils' real tastes and faculties. An earnest effort has been made to satisfy the needs of the different classes of the people and to supply an educational ladder that will stretch, without gaps, from the primary school to the University. It is hoped that holders of the intermediate certificate who leave school at the age of 16 will be qualified to make their way in commerce and the trades, and that others who continue their studies will be led to the threshold of professional and scientific careers. Clever and ambitious pupils will be assisted to mount from one rung of the ladder to the other by means of scholarships.
To continue the same account, which is not mine nor inspired in any degree by me:
We believe that most of the schools and a majority of Irish parents will welcome the principle of the new system. Many of our national misfortunes—
These are not my words—
our insular arrogance and ignorance, our dearth of technical efficiency, the scarcity of moral courage and the lack of sound public opinion are the penalties of a machine-made system of education that has cramped the development of our people's natural capacities. These capacities ought to receive fair play under the reformed system which is planned on a basis of intellectual rather than financial. results.
That is an encouraging statement made a month ago of a programme then in existence—a programme which I have no doubt the schools made preparations for carrying into effect from the very moment of its publication. Therefore, I say with humility that I apologise for any shortcomings in my statement of yesterday which could have led the same excellent authority to have supposed that the same things existed only on paper, only in an imaginary way, only as hopes and aspirations, which were still completely unembodied. These programmes are actually before all the secondary schools in Ireland and have been before them for a month's time. They include programmes specially drawn up for those who are going in for an agricultural career, programmes for boys and girls who intend to follow a commercial career and programmes for boys and girls who aim at a professional career. They include programmes of subjects like history and geography and ought to lead to very deep changes in the method of treatment of these subjects as it existed in the school—not altogether I should say through the fault of the schools, but very largely through the fault of the programmes imposed on the schools. History, for example, as taught under the direction of these programmes will not consist of lists of reigns, dates, dynasties and battles and things of that kind. It will be history as concerned with the developments of peoples. As regards geography, I can remember the sort of geography I learned when I was undergoing primary education—I thing "undergoing" is the right word.
Those were the days which some of the Deputies still sigh after. I think I knew at that time the population of almost every town in the world. At least, I was expected to know it. That sort of thing this programme not only aims at changing but I think will succeed in changing if it lives. There is not in the new programme a subject that is not so arranged—and intentionally arranged—that an intelligent teacher will not be induced to teach it with a closer reference to the needs and the potentialities of Irish life, and with reference to the actual circumstances in which the pupils live.
I repeat this is not a dream. It is a bald statement of the contents and the character of the programme. This programme is based on the principle that up to the age of eighteen pupils of our schools should get a sound general education, based, as I have said, on Irish, English, mathematics, history, geography, and rural science, and that after that age they should be supplied with such a choice of programmes that each pupil will be able to combine his general education with a beginning of specialisation in the direction of a future career, whether that be agricultural, commercial, industrial, or what is called professional. I admit that there is one respect in which that programme is still open to the criticism of being unreal. I have said before how much education depends on personnel; it depends entirely on personnel, and it has been a very great satisfaction to me to find such complete unanimity as represented by the Deputies here, by members of another assembly united to this, by the Press of the country, and by the whole public opinion of the country so far as it is vocal, that with regard to personnel the state of the case was unsatisfactory, not so much as regards the qualifications of the personnel. I think that wonderful things have been done in Ireland by those engaged in secondary teaching in order to qualify themselves for the work in which they are engaged in the circumstances. I am not classifying them.
That applies practically to all those engaged in secondary teaching, but the drawback has been, and the thing on which public opinion has been unanimous, was that where the livelihood of the secondary teacher depended on that occupation, the provision which had been made up to the present was inadequate and unsatisfactory. I should feel in a very weak position indeed, if I were to come before you here to defend the programme, and the programme only, and if I were not in a position to say that the Government was prepared to do something to remedy the condition in which the profession of secondary teachers, as a profession providing men and women with a livelihood, had been left for this Assembly to remedy. Now I have had discussions on this point with the Minister for Finance, whose absence we all regret, and I may say on all occasions I found the Minister for Finance, notwithstanding the claims which you know surround him on every side, and the extremely difficult task with which he is faced—as great a task, I think, and as difficult a task as has ever faced a Ministry in the constructive work of any Government—most fully appreciative of the particular matter that I have just mentioned, and most anxious, so far as it was in his power, to provide the necessary improvements. The result of our colloquies has come to this: the Minister for Finance has agreed to two proposals which I put before him as vital. The first was that the salaries of secondary teachers should be put on a professional basis by the institution of a fixed minimum basic salary, to be paid to the teachers by the schools. I take as a representative figure in that case, £200 for a man.