Committee on Finance. - Vote 29—Office of the Minister for Education (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.—
(Deputy P. O'Donnell.)

Before Deputy Jones resumes, there is one matter, Sir, I should like to mention. In moving that the motion be referred back, I mentioned that the commencing salary of a secondary teacher was £950. That was a mistake. It should have been £670. I just want to correct it now for the record.

Speaking on the last occasion, I mentioned some points in regard to primary education upon which I felt comment ought to be made. The Minister has announced the project for comprehensive schools and, according to his statement, these comprehensive schools will be sited in the beginning in the main along the western seaboard. I hope it is not intended to confine comprehensive schools solely to that area. In every constituency there are areas in which the people would welcome comprehensive schools.

Over the years there has been a great deal of talk with regard to the raising of the school-leaving age and the reason given as to why it is not practicable to raise the school-leaving age at the moment is that there are not sufficient teachers available to enable it to be done. In the comprehensive schools contemplated, and in the sphere of vocational education, there is immediate opportunity available for the education of girls and youths up to and including the age when they would normally part, as is intended under this comprehensive scheme. As I understand the scheme, the intention is to take the pupil from the primary past the intermediate stage. That stage would have a programme so adapted that the successful student could branch off either to vocational education or the ordinary secondary leaving certificate type of education, and thereafter either to higher technological or university education.

A number of graduates leaving the universities at the moment have to find opportunity abroad. I think we have a sufficient number of these people who would be able to educate a much larger number of children here at home. What we do need is a more rapid spread, in the first instance, of vocational schools. I cannot understand why vocational education has to be limited because vocational schools are not being built. I take it each committee has a programme of school building laid out for itself. Some years ago in Limerick, the vocational education committee picked out a number of places where it was felt vocational schools ought to be sited. I take it the schools were being sited in relation to the primary schools since these would feed the material to the vocational schools. Is there any reason why the Minister should not press the vocational committees to proceed more quickly with the erection of these schools?

The position at the moment is that one or two schools are built in the area under the jurisdiction of the committee. They may only be commenced and, in some cases, they are not even commenced in the year. Is there any good reason why towns of a reasonable size, or areas in which there is a large concentration of schools should have to wait for the provision of vocational schools? Everybody is agreed that it is most desirable that the education of our children should not end at 14 years of age. If the Minister would use his good offices and also obtain the necessary financial help to enable the schools to be built, the raising of the school leaving age need no longer be put on the long finger.

In these days there is continuation education as well as education leading to a trade or vocation. It is essential that we should expand vocational education now in order to have the necessary material to feed into the technological colleges at a later date. If we are really serious as to the importance of education, I cannot see any good reason why there should not be a spread of the smaller type of secondary schools in the smaller towns and larger villages. At a meeting in Limerick recently in connection with the university project, it was pointed out that there have grown up within the space of ten or 12 years no fewer than 29 schools providing full-time courses in secondary education up to leaving certificate standard.

Frankly, I am at a loss to understand why the grants should be confined to the larger type of school and I am disappointed that that should be the policy. If we want to encourage the spread of secondary education, I want to impress on the Minister that we shall not do it if we depend on purely residential schools. I would suggest that we should encourage the smaller type of school and I am sure the Minister's officials have informed him that these schools are doing excellent work. The results every year speak highly for the work done in these schools. These schools need not be confined to any region. They would provide an opportunity for groups of graduates to establish such schools. The reduction in the number of pupils necessary to qualify for the employment of another teacher is very welcome. It could be most helpful in the establishment of these smaller schools. People who invest their money, who may even have to seek accommodation for the establishment of such a school, are entitled, I think, to the same type of assistance in regard to the provision of secondary education in these scattered corners of the country. I do not now mean scattered in one particular region, but scattered in every region.

How many graduates leave our universities every year? What happens to them? A small number obtain employment in their own country. A large number seek employment abroad. At the same time there is a lack of educational facilities for numbers of prospective pupils. If we are in earnest, there is no reason why we should not foster this development, thereby providing an opportunity for more graduates to engage in the education of their own nationals, obtaining a modest return for their efforts. If the grants are confined in the main to residential schools, the result will be to deprive large numbers of children of secondary education. With regard to day schools in the larger centres of population, there is a tendency to centralise education and there is, therefore, a certain amount of cramming. The smaller school would play a very intrinsic part because of a much more personal link between teacher and pupil. I do not think we need pass an Act raising the school-leaving age. I think all we need do is encourage a more rapid spread of vocational schools and small secondary schools in the smaller centres of population.

The intention with regard to the comprehensive school is to have pupils advance on a common programme to an examination and then stream them off in different directions. I suggest to the Minister that there is an analogy here from his Department applicable to the case made many times for university training for teachers. Is there any good reason why primary teachers should not avail of university education in those subjects common to both types of teaching? Method instruction could be given separately. The fact that students can be kept in comprehensive schools for a number of years and then sent on their separate ways is a good analogy in the case of the two types of teaching. Students entering the training colleges are carefully screened. They are of a very high standard, requiring four or five honours, followed by an interview, before they are accepted in the training college. These should make excellent university material. They should have the opportunity of mixing with the other faculties in studies common to both types of teacher and methods of education could be dealt with, as they have been up to this, in the training colleges.

With regard to universities, I trust I shall be pardoned for mentioning Limerick in this connection. Limerick has a long history of seeking university status. Submissions were made to the Commission on Higher Education, all-compelling submissions. I am sure the Minister is aware of them. In the environs of Limerick, and within 30 miles of it, there are large numbers of secondary pupils leaving the secondary schools each year. Only a minute fraction can proceed to university education. At the same time, there is a wealth of goodwill for university education, if such were available to them closer to home.

It is nationally known that the universities in Dublin, Cork and Galway are overcrowded. The present building programme which is proceeding in Dublin, the extension to the college in Cork, and the extension to the college in Galway, are not sufficient to meet the needs of university education in those centres. Indeed, very often in some faculties it is found that the overcrowding which exists is a constant hindrance to people who wish to pursue the different courses. Therefore, the authorities, both the universities and at Government level, have been giving thought to the question of an extension in the university facilities.

Why should there not be a foundation in Limerick? There are more than 7,000 pupils in the secondary schools within 30 miles of Limerick. If you extend that radius slightly, there are over a further 4,500 pupils available from which to draw for a university. If we have now reached the stage that in Dublin the student body numbers more than 7,000, in Cork, 2,000, and over, and in Galway somewhere in the region of 1,800, that indicates the rapid growth of the desire for university education. That, combined with the rapid growth in secondary education and the desire for secondary education, immediately puts the problem to the Minister of the necessity for an extension in the university facilities.

Surely Limerick has a claim for the establishment of a constituent college? Numbers of proposals have been made, but numbers of reasons have been given as to why Limerick cannot have one. I am sure the Minister is aware of the submission made by the Limerick University Project Committee in which the various objections were dealt with step by step. This is not a foible on the part of the people of that area. It is not something they thought up for the lack of something to do. It is a real desire on the part of thinking people within that area. If the Shannon area is to become the centre of expansion which it seems to be becoming, then I suggest that Limerick is a logical centre for the establishment of a university.

To link that up with the point I made in regard to teachers, in Limerick there is one of the largest training colleges for ladies in the country. A few years ago, that college had to be extended in a very large way to accommodate the extra number of students who were admitted to its halls. That is a foundation on which a university might be built, even if, at the beginning, with only limited academic facilities. There are between 300 and 400 students there. I do not know the exact figure. There are also approximately 7,500 secondary school pupils within a radius of 30 miles, and a further 4,500 pupils if you extend the perimeter.

I want to suggest that there are excellent grounds for the demand from Limerick for the establishment of a university. Here, and in the other colleges, an expensive and extensive building programme is going on because of overcrowding. Can the Minister say absolutely that even this new building programme will provide for all the needs for university education in either Dublin or Cork. If there is to be a further extension of university building, I want to suggest quite seriously to the House, to the Minister, and, indeed, to the Commission on Higher Education that there is an unanswerable case for a university in Limerick.

The graduates in that area who have established secondary schools there to the extent of 29, have shown that they realise first and foremost the importance of providing secondary school facilities for the pupils. The pupils in those schools have shown in their numbers, and in their attainments at examinations, that they are of a calibre to benefit by higher education. Consequently, there is an obligation on those who guide policy to take serious heed of this fact, and bring to the notice of whoever is responsible the need for a fourth constituent college of National University, and for its being sited in Limerick.

We are all aware that the faculty of Agriculture in Dublin has had to move outside the city for practical reasons. I want to suggest that the people in the southern part of the country, which is certainly a large agricultural area with a vast dairying potential, as is instanced by the facilities which have been made available in Cork and very widely availed of over the years, and also the college at Copsewood, have indicated that they are alive and awake to the importance of this type of education.

I am sure the Minister has no desire to oppose the expressed wishes of the people for a university in that area. It would be available to North Kerry, Limerick, North Tipperary and Clare and bring to those areas a greater impetus to the spread of education. Everybody admits at present that education is one of the vital forces in any country and I hope the Minister and, under the Minister's guidance, the Department will successfully move ahead with the expansion of education of all types. The need at present is particularly great in regard to the spread of vocational education and the greater spread of secondary education and the use of the grant system to encourage the formation of the smaller types of schools where successful secondary education can be obtained.

If we desire to face the problem, we must realise it is a question of investing in education. It is perhaps one of those types of investment where the return is not seen so readily or so rapidly in the mere material sense, but the vast majority of the young people who attend the primary schools in such large numbers and who are leaving them year after year are entitled to facilities for higher education and to higher education without any compulsion. I do not think it will be any great solution to raise the school-leaving age and make it compulsory to attend school beyond the present age. There is no necessity to do so because wherever the facilities have been available, they have been availed of by the schoolgoing population.

I wish the Minister well in his attempts to do this. I know he will have to fight his own battle with the Department of Finance for the necessary moneys but I know he is keenly interested in the spread of education and I feel he will not be found wanting in this matter. I appeal to him to use whatever influence he may have, whatever powers of persuasion he may have, with the authorities in regard to this matter of the final capping of the educational effort of people in the southern area which I represent, comprised of four county areas continguous to Limerick, and that the decision will be taken to give to the fourth city in the country the university to which it is entitled and which it has long sought.

Is ceart breis airgid a chaitheamh ar oideachas. Mura ndeintear é sin ní bheidh aon dul chun cinn ann maidir le cúrsaí oideachais ar bith. Le blianta anuas, tá feabhas mór tagtha ar scéal an oideachais ach ba cheart go mbeadh idirdhealú idir gach brainse oideachais — bun-oideachas, meán-oideachas agus oideachas iolscoile—i dtreo is ná beadh aon chur amú airgid nó aimsire ann.

Go dtí seo ní raibh sin ann. Chítear dom go bhfuil an tAire agus an Roinn ag iarraidh an scéal sin a leigheas. Is minic roimhe seo nuair a bheadh caighdeán maith ag páiste sa bhunscoil agus ansin dul ar aghaidh go dtí an meánscoil agus as sin go dtí an iolscoil ná beadh aon leanúnachas san gcóras oideachais. Is cailliúint mhór í sin don mhúinteoir, don pháiste agus don tír fosta.

Maidir le bun-oideachas is dóigh liom go bhfuil dul chun cinn déanta thar mar a deineadh sna blianta roimhe seo—go háirithe le déanaí. Do tógadh a lán scoileanna nua agus feabhsaíodh na sean-scoileanna chomh maith. Nuair a bheidh siad go léir deisithe beidh seans níos fearr ag na páistí deagh-oideachas d'fháil mar tá sé ró-dheacair do pháistí obair fhónta a dhéanamh i scoileanna nach bhfuil slacht maith orthu agus nach bhfuil uisce reatha, aibhléis, faichí imeartha agus mar sin de iontu. Tá súil againn nach fada uainn an lá nuair a bheidh ár mbunscoileanna go léir mar sin. Tá an tAire ag déanamh a dhíchill chun an scéal a dhéanamh amhlaidh.

Tá biseach mór tagtha ar an gcóimheas idir líon na ndaltaí scoile agus líon na múinteoirí. Do hoileadh 664 múinteoirí sa bhreis anuraidh chun an cheist sin a réiteach. Tá coláiste oiliúna nua á thógáil i nDrom Connrach agus ceann nua de chuid Eaglais na hÉireann á chur ar fáil fosta. Is mór an dul chun cinn é sin agus tá súil agam nach fada uainn an lá nuair a bheidh cóimheas níos fearr idir an méid daltaí agus múinteoirí ionnas go mbeidh oideachas níos fearr le fáil ag na páistí uilig. Go dtí seo i gcuid des na ranganna ins na cathracha móra, go mór mhór, bhí suas le 70 nó 80 páiste le teagasc ag múinteoir amháin, agus amuigh ins na scoileanna beaga ar fud na tíre bhí seacht nó ocht ranganna le teagasc ag múinteoir amháin fosta. Idir an dá rud sin, sílim nach raibh an t-oideachas is fearr á chur ar fáil do na daltaí scoile sin.

Is áthas liom a fheiceál go bhfuil an Roinn ag iarraidh rud éigin a dhéanamh mar gheall ar na páistí lagintinneacha. Go dtí seo níor bhac na tuismitheoirí ná na múinteoirí leo mar ní raibh aon spás ná aon córas tréineála acu dóibh. Anois le cúig bliana anuas, do réir óráid an Aire, tá scoileanna curtha ar bun chun freastail ar pháistí den chineál sin. Tá 37 scoileanna bunaithe do pháistí go bhfuil galair nó aicíd nó machall meabhrach ag cur isteach ortha. Is mór an chéim ar aghaidh é sin.

Maidir leis an clár oibre ins na bunscoileanna, measaim go bhfuil sé ceart go leor. Bhí an Teachta Ó Domhnaill ag moladh ábhair breise a chur ar siúl mar ghleacaíocht nó eolas ar nádúir. Is fuirist do mhúinteoirí é sin a dhéanamh. Go minic múineann siad gleacaíocht do na páisti agus iad ag siúl isteach ón clós, cionnus máirseáil a dhéanamh, agus mar sin de. Mar gheall ar eolas nádúir, gheibheann siad téacs leabhra mar ábhar léitheoireachta chun é sin a dhéanamh.

Ba chóir go mbeadh an Roinn in ann córas níos fearr a ghlacadh maidir le téacs leabhra a cheapadh. Uaireanta bíonn téacs leabhar orduithe do bhliain amháin agus ceann eile ag teastáil don bhliain in a dhiaidh sin. Ba cheart go mbeadh leabhar caighdeánach ar fáil ionnus nach mbeadh gá le leabhra a athrú ró-mhinic.

Maidir le cúis na Gaeilge, sílim go bhfuil teagasc na Gaeilge ag dul ar aghaidh go breá ins na bunscoileanna. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil gearán ar bith ag na tuismitheoirí ná ag na páistí faoi sin. Tá's agam go ndeineann cuid des na meánscoileanna a ndícheall i dtaobh labhairt na Gaeilge agus go múineann a lán aca na hábhair go léir i nGaeilge, agus sé mo bharúil gurb iad sin na scoileanna is fearr in Éirinn. Ní hé amháin gurb é mo bharúil é ach tá an méid sin le feiceál i dtorthaí na scrúdú. Gheibheann siad na scoláireachtaí gach bliain beagnach. Pé scéal é, is fíor le rá i dtaobh cuid eile des na meánscoileanna, nach bhfuil an meas ceart aca ar an nGaeilg.

Nuair a theipeann ar daltaí ins na meánscoileanna scrúdú a shárú, cuirtear an milleán go minic ar an nGaeilg. An bhliain seo caite níor theip ach a dó fén gcéad i nGaeilg ins na scrúdaithe. Theip a sé fén gcéad i mBéarla agus a deich fén gcéad i bhFraincis. Cruthaíonn sé sin nach í an Ghaeilg an chúis gur theip ar a lán daltaí ins na scrúdaithe sin. Is dóigh liom go ndeineann cuid des na tuismitheoirí leithscéal de sin nuair a theipeann ar a bpáistí féin. B'fhéidir nach ceart do na pháistí sin bheith i meánscoil mar nach bhfuil caighdéán oideachais árd go leor aca chun an cúrsa sin a leanúint mar sin, agus go mbeadh sé níos fearr dóibh bheith ag obair ins na páirceanna nó áit éigin eile. Ar aon chaoi, ní ceart an milleán a chur ar an nGaeilg.

Is áthas liom go gcaithfidh micléinn dul fé scrúdú i labhairt na Gaeilge chun an mean teastas nó an árd teastas a bhaint amach. Níor thuigeas riamh an chiall le hárd teastas a thabhairt do dhuine gurb éigean dó admháil nach raibh sé ábalta an Ghaeilge a labhairt.

Maidir leis na hábair a múintear ins na meánscoileanna, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil go leor ábhair á múineadh ionta. Go minic nuair a freastalaíonn macléinn ar an meánscoil go dteastaíonn uaidh, cur i gcás, dul le múinteoireacht, nuair a thagann sé don árd tisméireachta ní bhíonn na hábair déanta aige a theastaíonn uaidh agus ní bhíonn ar a chumas dul le múinteoireacht mar sin.

Dul chun cinn mór na hábhair atá á léiriú ar Telefís Éireann i láthair na huaire agus atá le feiceál ins na meánscoileanna. Tá súil agam go leathnófar na cláracha ar Telefís Éireann ionus go mbeidh siad le feiceál ní amháin ins na meánscoileanna ach ins na ceardscoileanna agus na bunscoileanna. Os rud é go bhfuil tionchur mór ag Telefís Éireann, tá súil agam go mbainfidh na múinteoirí ar na cláracha a craoltar úsáid as Gaeilg san teagasc a bhíonn ar siúl acu.

Mar gheall ar na ceardscoileanna, roimhe seo bhí sort éirí in áirde ag na meánscoileanna thar na ceardscoileanna. Bhí sort riail ann nach bhféadfadh an páiste dul ón bunscoil don cheardscoil go dtí gur raibh 13 bliana slánuithe aige, ach níl riail den tsort sin ag baint leis na meánscoileanna. Ba cheart go mbeadh cead ag na tuismitheoirí dalta a chur isteach sa cheardscoil pé am is mian leo, go mbíonn an cúrsa críochnaithe acu sa bhunscoil. Ní hionann sin agus a rá go bhfuilimíd ag iarraidh na páisti a thabhairt amach as na bunscoileanna. ró-luath nó ag iarraidh a chur i gcéill go bhfuil meánscoileanna níos tábhachtaí ná na ceárdscoileanna.

Tá moladh mór ag dul don Aire as ucht adubhairt sé mar gheall ar an meánteistiméireacht agus an árdteistiméireacht sna ceárdscoileanna. Dul chun cinn an-mhór é sin chun deireadh a chur le h-éirí in áirde.

Maidir leis na coláistí teicniciúla ar a labhair an tAire le déanaí, ní dubhairt sé rud ar bith mar gheall ar cheann a bhunú ins an chontae seo againne. Táim ag iarraidh air é sin a scrúdú anois. Táimíd ag súil go mbeidh sé ar chumas an Aire ceann amháin dena coláistí sin a bheith againn mar níl ceann idir an contae seo againne agus Sligeach nó Dún Dealgan.

Tá an-spéis agam ins na scoileanna coimseacha. Tá an-ghá leo siúd, go mór mhór im chontae féin. Is doilig liom a rá nuair a d'fhiafraigh mé cúpla bliain ó shoin cé mhéid meánscoileanna a bhí in gach contae in Éirinn gurb é mo chontae féin an contae is gainne ar fad orthu. Tá scoláirí ógá mo pharóiste féin suas le 36 míle ó mheánscoil ar bith. Tá cuid den chontae lán de locha agus sléibhte agus tá sé an-dheacair dona páistí dul go meánscoil. Ar an ábhar sin, táim ag súil nach fada go mbeidh ceann dena scoileanna coimseacha im chontae féin. Tá anmheas againn ar oideachas agus ní ceart go mbeadh 29 scoileanna i gContae Luimní agus gan ach cúpla ceann againn i gCabhán.

Níl a fhios agam an mbeadh sé ar chumas an Aire rud éigin a dhéanamh mar gheall ar chóras taistil a sholatháir dona meánscoileanna agus na ceardscoileanna. Sílim gur ceart go mbeadh córas taistil againn chun go mbeadh na páistí ábalta freastal ar na scoileanna anois.

Tá rud eile ann gur mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh dó. Maidir le scoláireachtaí, sílim gur ceart go mbeadh ar chumas na bpáistí glacadh leis na scoláireachtaí sin i scoil ar bith ins an tír. Ní ceart iachall a chur ar thuismitheoirí nó ar pháistí freastal ar scoil ar bith ach ar an gceann a oireann dóibh féin.

Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh don scéim a bhí againn i gContae an Chábháin an bhliain seo caite. Do chuireamar scéim ar bun chun cabhrú le tuismitheoirí nó le dáltaí meánscoileanna nó ceardscoileanna dul go dtí ollscoil agus céim a bhaint amach dóibh féin, agus go gcuirfí an t-airgead ar fáil dóibh tré iasacht ón gcomhairle chontae. Rinne an tAire tagairt do seo an bhliain seo caite agus ón méid adubhairt sé tuigeadh dom gur mhol sé an scéim. Ar aon chuma, bhí an chomhairle chontae lán-tsásta leis, mar dob eol dóibh go léir gur beag an caoi atá againn i gContae an Chábháin dul go dtí an ollscoil. Bheadh a lán tuismitheoirí sásta a gcuid páistí a chur chun na h-ollscoile ach an t-airgead a bheith acu. Ba mhaith liom dá ndéanfadh an tAire scrúdú ar an scéim atá againn i gContae an Chábháin arís agus más féidir leis glacadh lei.

Tá sár-obair déanta ag an Aire ó ceapadh é mar Aire Oideachais. Tá árd-mheas ag na múinteoirí agus ag na tuismitheoirí air. Tá caighdeán an oideachais sa tír seo ar fheabhas. Tá a fhios agam fosta go dtuigeann an tAire nach féidir leis an dtír dul chun cinn a dhéanamh gan oideachas fónta a bheith le fáil ag na páistí. Sin é an fáth go bhfuil sé beartaithe aige aois fhágáil na scoile a árdú go dtí 15 bliana. Cheanna féin, tá nios mó páistí ós cionn 14 bliana ag freastal ar na meánscoileanna agus na ceárdscoileanna ná mar atá i dtír ar bith eile san Eoraip. Ní h-aon mhaith an aois a árdú muna bhfuil dóithin múinteoirí ann chun na ranganna a mhúineadh. Táimíd sásta leis an iarracht atá déanta ag an Aire chun múinteoirí oilte a sholáthair.

Mar a dubhairt mé i dtosach, tá feabhas mór tagtha ar an scéal le cúig bliain anuas. Is mór an tairbhe atá le baint ag an aos óg ar fud na tíre uilig as an méid atá déanta ag an Aire atá anois againn.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.