(South Tipperary): We have had two Estimates under discussion here today, one for Defence and the present one for Education. I agree with the Minister's statement on page 1 of his address to the effect that we must regard education as an investment. It is an investment in the brains of Ireland and this is a Vote on which I would personally be inclined to be more generous than on most others.
I agree with him also as regards the treatment of backward children. While we must admit that the institutional facilities for the mentally handicapped are inadequate, at the same time, he is right in saying that in the borderline cases, we should try to have as many children as possible dealt with in the local schools, in their own home environment, rather than take them away and place a stigma of mental deficiency upon them by so doing.
The Minister mentioned the great increase in the number of secondary schools. He gave the figure for 1933-34 as 377 and for 1962-63 as 542. The enrolment in these schools has increased from 40,000 pupils in 1933/ 34 to 80,000 pupils in 1962/63, and he hopes to have 100,000 pupils by 1970. That is a desirable development, particularly in so far as it is bringing education more and more within the grasp of people in the more isolated parts of the country.
Looking over the report of the Council of Education I find on page 252, paragraph 429, that in 1924-25 there were 278 recognised secondary schools, with an enrolment of 22,897. In 1956-57 the number of schools had advanced to 480 and the enrolment was 62,429 pupils. However, it rather surprises me to find that, in spite of that advance, only 2,322 pupils, or four per cent., were in our secondary schools as a result of scholarships from public funds. That is too small a percentage in view of such an advance in pupil attendance. It would seem that we have been too penurious in the allocation of secondary scholarships in the past or that the standard of pupils in our primary schools has been too low.
I would agree with the conclusion reached in this report and would advocate the provision of increased grants and scholarships consistent with the principle of some parental contribution, where possible. That is socially desirable. I would never think it should be our aim to provide everybody with something for nothing. Where people are able to pay or to make some contribution in all walks of life, it is desirable they should do so.
Many remarks have been made about the small amount of money being spent on education in this country. If our educational standard were proportionate to the amount of money which has been spent on it, I believe that, en masse, we would be considerably more uneducated than we are. However, at this juncture, I wish to pay tribute to one body of men who by their efforts have succeeded in raising and keeping at a moderate level the standard of education in this country, namely, the Irish Christian Brothers. More than any other body of men they have contributed to the progress made in education. This is all the more praiseworthy when we consider that the average cost per child per year in these schools up to 1961 has been the small figure of £10 per year.
We are inclined, by virtue of our insular position, to think that educationally we are equal to, if not better than, most countries. I heard that proposition promulgated in the diningroom of this House about an hour ago. It is a fact that education has been brought more and more to the people not alone in Europe, in Britain and in America, but also in Russia. A few years ago, I happened to be at the World Fair in Brussels and like most people who went there, I thought I should like to see the Russian Pavilion. It displayed power and propaganda. One annexe was entirely devoted to education and various facets of education were photographically displayed. Attached to each photograph was a legend giving the percentage of people in Russia of school-going age in proportion to the entire population who were engaged in these various educational pursuits; underneath was the percentage similarly engaged in the United States. The purpose was to show the power of Russia and the inevitability of Communist triumph, that they were devoting so much of their resources to the ideological advancement and education of their people that the ultimate conquest by Communism was inevitable.
That has been a factor in broadening the approach to education in Great Britain. I should be very doubtful if it was for purely humanitarian purposes the old school tie was to a certain extent discarded on the other side of the water. Britain has come to realise, as America has come to realise, that if she is to survive as a nation, it is essential she should try to mobilise her entire talent, and not concentrate merely on educating a privileged section of the community. We are, I think, in an analogous position. If we are to survive, our survival will not lie with the Army, for which we voted moneys here this week, but largely with education, and the degree and quality of the education we can give our people. In considering that education, we must regard every member of our community, no matter from what walk of life he may come, as a potential asset to be used for national development purposes.
We are a small country and we cannot allow any good brain to lie fallow. If we do so, we deprive our community as a whole of some element of progress. In considering that, we must recognise that to-day the planning ahead in Europe, as in Britain, is directed towards ensuring that an ever-increasing number of people will secure both secondary and university education in the next decade. It is a fact that the enrolment here in our secondary schools is proportionately much lower than it is in European countries. Deputy Dillon gave the figures.
One speaker referred to the discrepancy in relation to secondary school facilities in the different counties. He instanced Donegal and he gave the figure for Donegal as 18.7 per cent. in the 12 to 18 age group. He picked the lowest enrolment rate in Ireland. If we take another county not very much different from Donegal, the Minister's county, we find the enrolment rate there is the highest in Ireland. I do not know whether that is due to the influence of the Minister, or to something else. There the figure is 38.1 per cent. It is difficult to understand why secondary education is so much appreciated in Clare and why there is such a lack of appreciation in Donegal.
Is the Minister, I wonder, satisfied that we are receiving value for money in relation to vocational education? From all sides of the House, at county council level, opinions have been expressed time and again that, in proportion to the money spent, we are not getting an adequate return. In the Department of Education Report for 1958-1959, the cost of secondary education is given as 8d. per hour. The cost of vocational education is given as 1/10 per hour. The difference is rather extreme and a little difficult to understand.
In my county, one of the most successful schools there is a private enterprise venture. The principal is co-author in the little pamphlet issued here yesterday by the Federation of Secondary Teachers. Here we have an example of a small capital outlay on a private house. That school, at a fraction of the cost, is far more successful to-day than anything put up with public money. That seems to establish the principle of private enterprise and voluntary effort as against the stultifying effect of State enterprise.
When we compare this country with Great Britain — such a comparison is desirable because we have such close contact with Britain and because so many of our people emigrate there— the position is not unreasonable from the point of view of national education and the point of view of our economic resources. The Irish people are keeping pretty close to Great Britain £ for £ with regard to their payments for national school education. The position is different in relation to secondary education. The disparity is even greater when we come to university education. The emphasis is entirely in favour of Great Britain from the point of view of expenditure on these two types of education.
If we take the average income of the Irishman as being half that of the Englishman — that is roughly the position — and if we accept that about double the number of people here in proportion to our population go to university as compared with the position in England — again, that is roughly the position — we should be expected on that basis to provide just about a quarter of the amount of money from public funds for university education. The point is that we do not. The amount provided in England from public funds per pupil per annum is £576; the figure here is £89.2. If we were to provide a sum similar to that provided in England, allowing for the higher percentage availing of university education here and for our proportionately lower income, we would be expected to subscribe £144 per pupil per annum. There would appear to be a considerable leeway to be made up here, if we are to maintain a standard and keep ourselves on a competitive basis with other countries, particularly Great Britain. The Minister may reply that we are spending a higher percentage here through our university grants and through grants to Trinity College in relation to students who are not citizens of this country. I am aware of that, and I think the grants are fairly balanced in that regard.
With regard to our educational end-product, particularly from our secondary schools and pre-university, I am informed that in Britain and in Northern Ireland, a much higher level is secured in the fields of mathematics, physics and modern languages. I believe that to be true. I know from my own experience in days gone by that I always found fellow students from these schools much better than I was at mathematics. These are important points. These are the subjects on which we must place increasing emphasis in the future. Even since I left school, applied mathematics and physics have become much more important subjects. We are now in the age of atomic physics. The importance of electronics and analogous subjects and how they have become important in the last decade does not need to be emphasised.
I did not know until recently, and indeed it arose in response to a Question by Deputy Patrick Byrne, that teachers who had been employed in England and who return here are disallowed the incremental additions to their salary which I always thought they were allowed. It seems extraordinary that a teacher who has spent six, seven or eight years, perhaps, in a first class English public school, and who would be an acquisition to this country as a teacher, based on his experience abroad, is in that respect almost debarred from returning to teach in his own country.
The present Minister for Education who is a medical doctor is well aware that to secure an appointment here it is almost necessary to have postgraduate experience outside this country — in Great Britain or elsewhere— and that experience gained there is a considerable asset, almost, as I say, a prerequisite in securing a post here. That redounds to the benefit of the Irish people, to the benefit of patients up and down the country. Is it not extraordinary that an analogous form of thinking does not prevail in the Department of Education?
The difficulty of securing science teachers has been mentioned already, and never were science teachers more necessary. Yet, these people receive no encouragement to come back to this country. The Minister may provide some extra money for laboratory services but these services cannot give of their true worth if first-class teachers are not available.
In a general way, too much emphasis has, in the past, in this country, been placed upon what I might call dead languages. Too few of our secondary schools are capable of giving pupils a worthwhile science course. The difficulty, of course, has largely been financial. It requires considerable outlay to equip and to maintain even a modest laboratory. I am glad to see the Minister at least making some small contribution to that end. I hope he will not think my criticism too carping but I cannot help saying that it seems like too late and too little. The importance of science in secondary education should have been appreciated many years ago. I should like the Minister to consider whether or not, particularly for the demonstration of certain laboratory work, the help of Telefís Éireann should be availed of.
Agricultural science as a subject was introduced here in 1943 and, as a subject, it has made very little progress. The enrolment, peculiarly enough in an agricultural country, has been disappointingly small. I do not exactly know the reason. One reason suggested is that land is necessary in order to give a proper course. Another reason suggested is that a degree in Agricultural Science, as laid down by the Department of Education, is necessary and that it is difficult to secure teachers for just that one small subject.
It may be, indeed, that in our secondary schools we are still afflicted with some kind of childish outlook like this: "Ah, the auld farmer; what about agriculture; that is not a decent job to be taught at all." Agriculture is the basic economy of our country. I would exhort the Minister to bring strong pressure to bear on our secondary schools in this connection and if there are any difficulties or regulations in the way to try to have them removed. Perhaps he could arrange for an occasional visit for instruction by local agricultural instructors. At least he could introduce rural science in all our national schools and, as Deputy Dillion suggested, he could introduce, for reading purposes, a farm manual.
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,