Committee on Finance. - Vote 45—Office of the Minister for Education (Resumed).

Tuesday, 2 June 1942

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 87 No. 7

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Minister for Education (Mr. Derrig): Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I think that if the House bears in mind that the object of this policy of Irish in the schools is to make Irish the living language of the people of this country it will be recognised that sufficient progress will never be made along the lines of treating Irish merely as a school subject. Even, however, if we were to treat it as a school subject, most teachers and educationists would agree that, like every other subject, its acquisition entails a certain amount of toil and mental effort on the part of pupils. The great fault that I find with the report of the Teachers' Inquiry is that, instead of examining how best the purpose we have in mind can be achieved, the speediest and most efficient way in which Irish can be made the living language of this country through the agency of the schools, it gives a rather [752] false picture—I think I can term it an unbalanced one—of the actual conditions in our schools. Had we, in this report, more information as to the linguistic equipment of individual teachers, more illustrations of actual cases, and some account of the circumstances of individual teachers and the conditions under which they work, the report would have been more valuable than it is. I referred last night to the references, which were many, to the boredom, repression and strain which children are alleged to suffer, particularly in the infant schools. An effort is actually made to connect that condition, which we do not, in fact, know exists, because no evidence is given, with teaching through Irish. The casual reader of the report might, on the mere ipse dixit of the teachers, take it that all the defects which, for example, children in the infant schools in the City of Dublin suffer from and which are dealt with in the medical officers' reports are attribut able in some way to the teaching of Irish. Of course obviously that is a matter, as I have said, that would require to be examined very carefully indeed.

When the Irish programme in the infant classes was instituted, I think I am correct in saying that what the originators of the programme had in mind was that, so far as possible, the conditions of a nursery in a good home would be approximated to. We know that that may be, perhaps, only an ideal. But, if we visit an infant class, no matter how inexperienced we may be in educational matters, if we bear in mind that a fairly good criterion of whether the work is being done properly or not is whether the teacher is teaching the class as a family, as a mother would teach her children, we shall, I think, not be far wrong if we take that as an indication of whether the work is likely to have value.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  She would have a nice job with 111 children on the roll.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Obviously a great deal depends on the teacher. The teacher [753] has to be a specialist. She has to be able to teach kindergarten, to teach language, to teach handwork, to teach drill, to teach singing, and she has to participate with the children in their games. She has to be their companion and friend, so to speak, as well as their teacher and mother. So that it is not incorrect to say that a skilled teacher of infants must be a specialist. In addition to that, tremendous inroads are made on her physical and vital energy. It is not easy to get a teacher of infants who will fulfil the ideal qualifications. Nevertheless, we have to strive for the necessary conditions in this matter of Irish. I referred to some of the conditions last night: the teacher's ability to instruct children in Irish or to train them, in the case of infants, and the children's capacity to benefit by the training. The whole question of the teacher's qualifications and the methods she adopts is obviously of the greatest importance.

It is stated in the report, for example, that the atmosphere of the school is unreal, artificial, and even unnatural. If that is so in particular cases that the teachers have in mind, I can only say, as I said last night, that the teaching is being carried on under a false conception of what is required by the Department's programme. It might even be that in these cases the teaching itself is not competent or efficient because, as is pointed out in one part of the report, for a short time after an infant goes to school, as those who have children themselves will easily recognise, no matter how family-like the atmosphere may be, the child, having for the first time to circumscribe himself or herself, to subject himself or herself to some form of loose discipline, some form of social activity, is bound to feel the change. The atmosphere is bound to be rather novel. It is well described by a particular teacher who is referred to here as being perhaps an atmosphere of “puzzledom”. I think that happens to infants first going to school.

I do not think a correct picture is given of the actual situation in our schools when it is suggested that, in [754] fact, the children are living in conditions of “repression” that they are not allowed to speak, that they are “harangued” by the teachers, that the “eagle eye” of the teacher is constantly upon them, and that “sustained and conscious” effort has to be made by the child to participate in the activities of the class. When we consider that the only object in fact of the infants' class is language training, that there are no formal subjects as such, that whatever elementary idea of number is taught is entirely subordinate to the teaching of language, and that the whole aim is to build up a vocabulary based on the child's actual interests and experiences, we shall see that, if the teaching is carried on according to the programme, and if the teacher is skilful and competent, these conditions of strain and repression could not possibly exist.

We have to assume that the teacher is an understanding person, that she treats the child as he wishes to be treated, as a separate personality, that in her teaching of the language she has regard to the amount of Irish that the child has on first coming to school, or, if he comes without any, that it will take a certain amount of time for the child to familiarise himself, even in the best circumstances, with the atmosphere and the conditions of the school, and that the teacher can only proceed very gradually. Where the child is in the senior infant class and has already been in the school for some time, he will have acquired some vocabulary, and if the teaching is to be as efficient as we would wish, the whole aim and object of the teacher—I should like to stress this point—should be to base the language teaching, so far as possible, on the actual experiences and interests of the child, the actual things which the child understands and with which he is familiar.

That is the reason that play is so important in the infant school. I think play is only mentioned once or twice very casually in this report, and it is mentioned as a physical activity. But play can be creative, for example, in the development of handwork, artistic work and drawing, or it can be [755] used as a medium of instruction. For example, if the children do shopping, if they do bus man, if they do going to the seaside, or any of these things which are familiar to them, they can be taught language in that way. If teachers bear these things in mind, I have no doubt they will get results, particularly if they view the training of the infants from the point of view of building up a vocabulary, gradually replacing the English words which the child uses by the corresponding Irish words, and systematically using the vocabulary which is being built up, all the time having regard to the fact that this vocabulary must have the closest possible connection with the actual things with which the child is familiar.

It is extraordinary, as I have said, that we have had so little reference to this matter of play which modern educationists regard as being a most important part of the curriculum in infant schools. Although the programme in our schools at present makes ample provision for play, and not alone for play, but, as I have said, for kindergarten, handwork, drill, singing, playing games, story telling and so on, these things find no reference whatever in this report, of which such a large part is given up to the question of work in the infant schools.

The Notes for Teachers, dealing with the question of Irish in the schools, deal with Irish generally and further notes are being issued dealing with the teaching of infants. If Deputies will look at page 5 of the Notes for Teachers they will see that what I have just mentioned has been stressed by the Department as being necessary for the successful teaching of infants:—

“Since the aim of his instruction is to make Irish speakers of his pupils, it follows that he must supply them with the vocabulary most practical and immediate to their needs. If they are to use Irish freely in school, in the playground, on their way to and from school, at home, they must have a body of speech-moulds and a vocabulary adequate to express the ideas they at present [756] possess. Therefore, their own lives as they live them, their interests and occupations, their work and their play, the normal and abnormal occurrences of their home and school-life, dictate the choice and range of these subjects. Later on, topics remote from their experiences must be taken.”

That is denied in this report. It is denied that the experiences of the child can be utilised in this way and it is argued that in the teaching of Irish one is confined to the actual school experiences. Why on earth, if one is teaching English and one can use the out of school experiences to extend the child's vocabulary and grasp of the language, can it be contended by persons who presume to have knowledge of the matter that in the case of Irish you are confined absolutely to school experiences?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  That is a complete misrepresentation of the report.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  

“Later on, topics remote from their experiences may be taken because it is the aim of education to broaden as well as to develop the mind and its interests; but the language in which these remoter topics will be discussed is based on that learnt in connection with the more urgent personal range of thought. The teacher should, therefore, consciously set himself to study the children's world of ideas and interests and supply them, first, with a language in which to express themselves freely on these subjects.”

In other words, the aim in the infant school should be to give the child a foundation, if nothing more is possible, of Irish, to enable him later on to get actual instruction through Irish.

Deputy McGilligan says I am giving a false idea of what this report says. At the bottom of page 20 it is pointed out:—

“All language development is closely related to experiences and, as school experiences are limited, [757] opportunities for any development in school are limited. There must be close language relationship between home and school. The home and school must supplement each other in this regard.”

The meaning I take from that is that it is denied, or at any rate one may deduce from it a denial, that the out of school experiences can be used. I do not say that if the children are not sufficiently advanced it may be possible to use them. All depends on the individual teacher and the circumstances. I say that, in the circumstances, where infants' training is carried on successfully in Irish, there is no reason why out of school experiences should not be brought in, and it has been found that the out of school experiences, such as the experiences in shopping—poor children frequently have a good deal of knowledge of shopping—are useful and pennies and half-pennies can be used to a very great extent to give them those elementary ideas of numbers that are considered necessary to build up a vocabulary.

If the teacher is a person of understanding, in addition to being competent to teach the infants in Irish, then I have no doubt that she will accommodate herself as far as is possible. We cannot have the ideal conditions, perhaps, of the nursery or of the family, but we have to keep in mind constantly that our aim ought to be to approximate to them as far as we can. I have no doubt whatever that a competent teacher, fluent in Irish, who understands what the programme asks her to do, who examines the notes and tries to find out what the Department has in view, ought, with her qualifications as teacher, to be able to carry out the ideas of the programme and to ensure that, at the end of the infant class period, the children leave her with a vocabulary which has been built up and which enables them to carry on conversation on simple topics and show a certain familiarity and fluency with the Irish language.

I refer to the actual programme. It will be seen on page 22:

“Conversation. Junior Infants. [758] Language. Conversation, object and picture lessons, story-telling and recitation, all used for the purpose of training the children to understand Irish and to speak it distinctly and correctly as their natural language.”

Senior infants are dealt with on page 23:

“Language. Pupils to be taught to understand Irish, and to speak it correctly and distinctly as their natural language; this to be done by means of conversation-lessons about persons, objects, pictures and actions, alternated with rhymes, dialogues, and short stories such as can be wholly or very largely illustrated by actions or pictures.”

It is stated also on page 14:

“We may mention here that when drawing up our list of obligatory subjects we placed first and foremost before our minds the schools in which two teachers have to deal with children ranging from infants to those of 14 years of age. We have, therefore, formed our programmes primarily for schools of this type, some 71 per cent. of the total number.”

It is unnecessary for me to stress again what I have already emphasised in this House, when this matter has been under discussion, that the conference strongly emphasised the importance of teaching infant classes through the medium of Irish and the use of the direct method in that connection. As I have said, a certain effort is required to acquire the ordinary school subjects, but we are not treating Irish as a school subject and if we do treat it merely as a school subject, we will be getting an entirely wrong perspective in this matter. I do not know whether, through the amount of propaganda that has been going on about this matter, whether well-founded or ill-founded, even the best-intentioned of us have not done a certain amount of harm to the policy of teaching through Irish. I maintain that in order that Irish should be made a living speech in this country, Irish will have to be used as a medium for other subjects. I cannot understand [759] how, having regard to our situation, anybody can believe that merely teaching Irish for an hour a day—which is the position in schools where no subjects are taught through Irish—can ever get us anywhere in making Irish the spoken language in this country. We have a unique task in this country. Perhaps no other country has undertaken such a task. We have thrown a heavy burden on our teachers but let us not try to run away with the idea that we are doing something simple. We are doing, or attempting to do, something very great indeed, something which few nations have undertaken, and it is not for me to say how many of those who may have undertaken such a task have succeeded. In this matter we are depending largely on the moral support of our people and on the fact that they believe that our aim is right, that the goal is a worthy one and that we ought to do everything possible to achieve it.

Let us remember that the child spends only four or five hours a day receiving secular instruction in the national school. Out of the 14 or 15 waking hours of his day, only a comparatively small number is spent in school. For the rest of the period he is quite free; he is released from the discipline and burden of the school work and he is living entirely, as a rule, in an English atmosphere where everything possible is being done to anglicise him. If, out of the four or five hours at school only one hour is going to be devoted to Irish, what chance will Irish have? I think that, whatever difference of opinion we may have about individual cases or as to methods, we must admit that the fundamental policy of using the school as a medium through which Irish will be gradually extended, through the subjects and through the standards, until eventually all the subjects in all the standards will be taught through Irish, was the only way in which to tackle this problem. It was recognised that the elementary schools were the key to the whole situation.

I gave some figures last night showing that we have not advanced very far [760] on the road. I have shown that in 1934 we had only a small percentage of schools doing the work through Irish. In 1942 it is doubtful whether it could not be argued that we have been only marking time, if we have not retrogressed, in the interval because the number of schools has declined and it is a moot question—I would be very satisfied in my mind if I were certain of it—whether in this particular matter, where we have lost in quantity we have made up in quality. I am very, very doubtful whether, in view of the war situation, with the lower tempo generally, with the fact that people are worried and anxious about the situation, we have not in fact gone back somewhat in our general policy for the revival of the language. I doubt very much whether we have made the same progress as we would have made if times were normal and if people were not worried by matters arising out of this unfortunate war situation. But, even before the war, the progress that was made was not such, I think, that anyone could say undue pressure was being put upon the teachers.

I read last night some extracts from evidence given to the Vocational Organisation Commission and I would like to say that it is quite clear from the figures that from the fourth standard up, very little instruction through Irish is being done. An important point that has to be borne in mind in that connection is that, apart from the three R's, only a little singing is taught up to the fourth standard. English is taught through English. Irish is taught through Irish, and the question then is to what extent you are teaching arithmetic, or trying to teach arithmetic through Irish. The arithmetic, even in the third standard, is rather elementary, but I would like the House to bear in mind that it boils down to a question of the amount of arithmetic, apart from singing, that is being taught or that is sought to be taught through Irish.

I explained to the House that in 1934 we thought we had gone to the absolute limit in reducing the content of the programme in order to enable Irish to be dealt with adequately and [761] instruction through the medium of Irish to be carried on somewhat more vigorously. At no time did we try to impose the teaching of Irish upon teachers who had not the necessary qualifications. So, I have yet to learn what exactly is meant by the official pressure that it is suggested was put upon the teachers, when they themselves admit that they knew they were doing something, or trying to do something, that was in fact opposed to the official instructions of the Department.

Unless we can envisage the situation where each school in the country will be a little Gaeltacht, in which practically all the children and the teachers will be constantly speaking Irish, there is very little hope that we will in any reasonable time achieve the position that these children will be able to conduct their ordinary business of life through Irish. If Irish is simply to be taught for an hour a day as a school subject—I would like to see it tried; I would like to see experiments to prove otherwise, if it is possible—it is my belief that you cannot in the nature of things, by treating it as a school subject, enable the pupils to regard it as a language in which their ordinary business can be done, whereas, if it is treated as the language of the school and a language through which subjects are taught to them, it will be quite easy for the children to understand that Irish is not merely a school subject but a language that they are intended to use in their play, in their work and in their lives after school.

Having regard to the way in which we in this country are threatened to be engulfed by the seas of English speech, washing our shores, so to speak, not alone from one side, but from the other, not alone through the newspapers, but through films and through the radio, I do not know how anybody can maintain that that unequal struggle can be maintained by the protagonists of Irish, unless we try to regard this as a matter in which we must have wholehearted effort, a matter which must be taken completely out of the realm in which it is sought to place it, as being merely a school subject. It has been described by prominent men [762] of the present and past generations as a matter of life and death for the country that the language should survive, and, for more than 20 years, we have been trying, under an Irish Government, to bring back Irish as a living speech. Let us look around us and see, outside the schools, what has been the extent of our success, and if we are satisfied that success has been achieved to a great extent outside the schools— in the courts, in the Dáil and elsewhere —then we may say that we are not completely dependent on the schools; but I am afraid that if we be realistic in this matter, we shall have to agree that up to the present and for some time to come the revival of Irish has depended and will depend almost entirely on the efforts of the teachers.

As I see it, we are in the position that we have this flood of English beating around us and threatening to overwhelm us. We are trying to set up these embankments of Irish, these dykes, in order to keep out the tide of anglicisation, and it is a very urgent matter indeed that we should get these embankments up. They may not be perfect from the engineering point of view, but the urgent thing and the immediately necessary thing, in my view, is to get as many of them as possible built, and built as strongly as possible. The test of our effectiveness in the matter is, I think, the will and resolution we show in building these embankments to keep out this opposing speech, because let it be remembered that this is not a matter like the building of industries or such things. It is a living, vital, spiritual matter and if we do not succeed with Irish, then the opposing speech succeeds. To the extent that we do not succeed in making Irish the speech of this country, English must continue to be the speech of this country. Are those of us who think English is necessary not satisfied with the strong position that English holds in the life of the country that we should try to force back the clock to the position of 20 years ago, and adopt the retrograde step of sacrificing all that work, all that toil and all that labour, and, on the case made in this report, of going back to the teaching of Irish as a mere school subject? [763] If we do that, well and good, but let us give up the pretence that we are trying to make this country Irish-speaking.

It is admitted in this report that the older teachers do not in fact teach through Irish to any great extent and it is scarcely necessary for me to emphasise the matter. I should like to say that we have still in the service large numbers of teachers who were over the age of 30 in 1922 and who were excused from securing any qualifications in Irish. These are still there and they have not been dismissed for incompetence in Irish or failure to teach Irish. They have been given every allowance by the inspectors. Every fair play has been given to them, although we all know that if the schools had been manned since 1922 with the type of teacher we are now getting out of the preparatory colleges, teachers who are themselves not alone competent Irish speakers, able to discuss every subject through Irish, but who have a higher standard of education, and who are able to teach the subjects in the primary school programme through Irish, the situation would be far advanced indeed compared with what it is to-day.

Even at the present time, according to the latest figures, only 64 per cent. of the teachers have the bilingual or higher qualifications and could be described, even on a modest estimate of their ability, as being capable of teaching subjects through Irish, but, in fact, as the figures I have given show, very little indeed is being done in the higher standards. I should like to have an inquiry as to how we would achieve this goal of making Irish the living speech of the schools, and, not alone that, but the medium of instruction in the schools, in the speediest and most efficient manner. I should like to have examples given to us of what has been done in the schools which we know have been successful in this matter, and, if anybody doubts my word, let him look at the list of secondary schools where he will see the gradual growth of Irish and extension of Irish as the medium of instruction and compare [764] it with the growth, or lack of growth, in the primary schools.

Does anybody contend that the secondary schools, though they may have some advantages, have not had a great burden placed upon them also? But they have taken up the patriotic attitude that this is a national duty, a national task, which has to be carried through, no matter what the obstacles or the difficulties may be. The beginnings have been weak, perhaps. There have been transitions gradually from English to Irish, but, after a period of years, by constant effort, the teachers in those schools have equipped themselves to teach the entire secondary programme through Irish. I say that those who have undertaken that task have been successful and it is a proof that the same thing can be done in the primary schools. I am not saying that the teaching of infants, as I said at the beginning, is not a very highly specialised and arduous type of work which calls for great exertions, even from the most highly-skilled teacher.

The approach to the whole problem in this report is not constructive and not made in a manner which, I think, our experience and our successes so far would have led us to expect would have influenced the teachers in their judgments and their views on this matter. On page 27, they practically deny that teaching through Irish can be carried on successfully, or that children from English-speaking homes can acquire the power necessary to do their work through Irish. The actual words are:—

“The sum of these phrases is being constantly increased by their out-of-school environment, and it is a fairly correct assertion that children drawn from an English-speaking home and living in an all-English-speaking environment will never acquire the power to think otherwise than in the language of their home and of their natural environment.”

It seems to me that that is a very pessimistic view, and if we were all of that view, if our teaching and our policy were animated by that view, we might as well throw up our hands and [765] give up the idea of restoring Irish. I maintain, however, that it has been proved successfully, not alone in secondary schools but in primary schools, which are here to be seen in the City of Dublin, if Deputies wish to see them, that children from English-speaking homes, and poor homes, too, can be given a good knowledge of Irish, can become familiar with the language, and, even at the end of the infants' course, can be said to have got such a grasp of Irish as to be able to speak it fairly fluently and naturally. From the report itself there is a certain confirmation of what I have been arguing, I think. Pages 15 to 25—almost ten pages—are given up to the question of the medium of instruction in infant schools. I contend that there is no instruction in infant schools: that there is merely language training of infants, or at any rate training with the idea of enabling a vocabulary to be built up to be of further use, but pages 15 to 25 of this document are filled with long statements of the suggested ill-effects of Irish, as shown by the medical officers of health, and references to instruction which, I maintain, is not being given, or should not be given, if the programme was being followed and the teaching efficient. On page 25, however, I find that the important matter of the whole national attitude towards this problem and its fundamental nature, apart altogether from its importance as a school subject, is brought into the report, and I only regret that the contents of the two small paragraphs, which give the views of a minority of infant teachers, have not got the same amount of consideration, argument and discussion, and have not been presented with the same care as the attitude of the 60 per cent. has been stated in the preceding nine pages. Even the “60 per cent., however, believe that Irish should be used as the school language and that instructions, orders, and, as far as possible, incidental conversations with the children, should be in the Irish language. It is held by the 60.5 per cent. that if this were done, and short English lessons introduced at intervals, progress in the Irish language itself would be more advanced.”

[766] I am informed by the inspectors that in a great many schools—and the matter is referred to in the Notes for Teachers—no effort is made, in fact, to use Irish as the school language, as the medium for giving orders and instructions to the pupils, and that, in fact, one would imagine that to use Irish in that way as the medium of intercourse between teachers and pupils was rather more difficult than actually teaching subjects through Irish. We have here long lists of numbers of teachers who have tried, apparently, often against official instructions, according to themselves, to teach subjects through Irish, but we have no account given of those who have tried the other line, the line that, it is suggested here, would be beneficial, of using Irish as far as possible as the school language. If teachers believe that that can be done, it is extraordinary that we have no evidence or no cases brought before us to show what the good results were, because if there are other methods by which Irish can be made the language of the schools, if it can be shown that through these the pupils will eventually be able to speak Irish, to do their business in Irish later on, and to benefit by instruction through Irish in the secondary schools, let us by all means have all the evidence that we can get about these alternative methods. Unfortunately, we have merely the bare statement that the 60.5 per cent. think that, by giving the instructions and orders in Irish, progress would be more advanced.

The fact is, however, that we have been at this work for 20 years, and why is it that there are schools in the country where this has not been done during that generation? Why is it, when we have laid it down in the 1926 programme, in the Notes for Teachers and the other instructions that we have given, that Irish has not now, at least, reached the stage when it is used as the school language? It is simply because Irish is not regarded as it ought to be—as something vital to the life and the soul of this nation. It is regarded merely as a school subject, and even in that light, it is very [767] often not viewed with any great understanding. It is not considered as a medium, it is not built up gradually as a medium of speech, first as a training in language and, eventually, as a medium of instruction. It is regarded merely as an end in itself, but I fear that not enough attention is given to it as the method and the means by which the best results can be got for the extension of Irish in the school.

I was going to say that the 39.5 per cent. held that:

“if proficiency in the Irish language is the aim, the instruction during the infant years should be in Irish, and English should be rigidly excluded. The vast majority of children in the Galltacht have no outside opportunity of hearing Irish spoken, and the very most should be made of the comparatively short school-day period. The children will learn the language only by speaking it, and the natural impulse to speak will result in the child's striving to acquire forms of expression in the new language when those of his home language are denied him. In this way the continuous use of Irish gives a tremendous impetus to the language.”

I think that if the whole of that section, dealing with infant training, and indeed the whole of the inquiry, had been based on that approach, that the task of reviving Irish is one that we have to face with courage and determination, that we are not to allow ourselves to be set back by obstacles or difficulties but are to proceed with determination and earnestness—if the whole inquiry had been on that constructive basis, and if it had been taken as axiomatic that the programme of the Department, and the circulars and instructions that were issued, were to be the basis of the examination, and that the real question on which the country as well as the Department of Education would like to have information would be how we could secure the best results from this programme or what better methods the teachers ought to adopt, what procedure they should [768] follow in dealing with the different classes, how they should undertake the teaching of subjects through Irish and give us practical examples of what it has been possible to achieve, we might look on this in a different way. Unfortunately, however, as I said last night, we have no indication of that in the report, apart from the two paragraphs I have read, which would seem to suggest that a large minority, at any rate, of infant teachers believe in the programme of teaching through Irish in their case, and they believe it because they see no other way of accomplishing the purpose of making Irish the living speech.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the Minister to this report. I think it is a matter of importance that ought to be discussed with the general part of his Estimate. When I remember some of the phrases he used when perorating ten or 15 minutes ago, and then I heard him about two minutes ago, I feel a certain amount of disturbance. He talked about the embankments and barriers we must erect against the inflow of English in the schools: that we must go ahead in a more determined way against those barriers and obstacles. He referred to the propaganda in the report. Is that to be his attitude towards buttressing the weakness and the difficulties that have been evidenced if not entirely proved by the report? With a view to drawing up this report a questionnaire was sent out for examples and suggestions. No doubt the group appointed got these together. Supposing these were produced to the Minister and showed any evidence that, while it was possible to get Irish made the living speech in the country through the continuance of present methods but that that would be accompanied by two or three other things: that there would be a lack of further training, that certain things would be defective in the make-up of the children coming from the primary schools, and that making Irish the living speech could be better brought about in other ways, would the Minister still stick to his phrases and impediments and barriers and say it was [769] all propaganda? There is quite an amount of historical matter in the early part of the report indicating why it was necessary to have an investigation at all. Certain school teachers came to certain conclusions after having had examples before their eyes. They found that they were not alone in those views. The result was that certain resolutions were passed and a committee was set up which has got together quite a valuable body of evidence. This report brings out something which, I think, ought to merit the attention of the Minister and not merely a sort of bad-tempered reaction.

The Minister referred to page 25 of the report, in which it is pointed out that incidental conversations with the children, instructions and orders should, as far as possible, be in Irish. It is said that “the view held by 60.5 per cent. was that if this were done, and short English lessons introduced at intervals, progress in the Irish language would advance.” With this view, it is stated, 39.5 per cent. disagreed. So that of the 40 per cent. who advocated the sole use of Irish, approximately half held that, while the language itself would benefit, other things would suffer. If we neglect the 60 per cent., and take merely the 40 per cent., we find that on the question of Irish as a medium of instruction in infant schools the 40 per cent. is divided, one-half holding that Irish will benefit, and the other half holding that other things will suffer. Supposing that was the conclusion of the whole report, that the teachers were evenly divided, I wonder what view the Minister would take of one-half of the teachers saying, “Carry on as you are”, and the other half saying, “If you do that, certain other things are going to suffer”? How would the Minister's propaganda phrases meet that situation? Would he still hold that it was going to disrupt the work done over the last 20 years?

A fair number of pages in the report are given to the historical part, and to the situation which existed prior to the setting up of the committee and the production of the report. We are told what happened in 1922 when [770] orders were issued that the work in the infant standards was to be entirely in Irish. It is suggested that a beginning should be made in the teaching of history and geography. Within a couple of years it was recognised that that went too far. The second programme conference, established in 1924 at the request of the National Teachers' Organisation, in its report, says: “It cannot but be convinced by the unanimous expression of opinion which it had received on that point.” Since then there has been a fair amount of trial and error on this matter, and undoubtedly definite progress on certain lines. On page 12 one finds towards the end of this historical part this view:—

“Concurrent with this growing faith of the official mind that the use of Irish as a teaching medium for children from non-Irish speaking homes was not alone feasible but educationally desirable, was a growing doubt in the minds of teachers of the educational progress likely to follow from it.”

Eventually the Irish National Teachers' Organisation in 1930 passed a resolution stating:—

“That this congress considers that the time is now ripe for an educational assessment of the use of Irish as a teaching medium in schools in English-speaking districts.”

This was followed by a request by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation for a stock-taking. A conference was held with leading officials of the Department in the early spring of 1934. It is stated here that in the memorandum presented to that conference the Irish National Teachers' Organisation representatives stated:—

“The continuous teaching of a new language throughout the school-day imposes an undue strain on children of tender years. They tend to become weary and listless during the latter portion of the day and the teacher's energy is largely wasted.”

I stress that because it has been questioned whether the teachers are [771] good judges of the strain brought about by giving instruction in certain ways to infants.

That was the time I suggest for the Department to give their viewpoint, if they had a viewpoint, on the question as to whether the teachers were capable of giving a judgment on this matter of strain. Apparently, that view was not put forward by the officials but it is the viewpoint held by the teachers. Eventually, the congress held in Killarney in 1936 passed the resolution which formed the terms of reference of the inquiry.

The committee was asked to report on

“whether a certain teaching practice which had come into being as a result of Departmental instruction and pressure was educationally sound or not.”

Then there was a request that there should be a full examination and report. In any event we have this situation: that in 1922 it was decided to go full blast on this matter, in 1924 there was a sort of withdrawal, in 1926 the second programme conference issued a report in which the original instruction was somewhat modified. There was the point of view held by the official mind and the opposite viewpoint held by the teachers who saw the machine working. In between the conference with officials of the Department, the teachers expressed their view with regard to the physical strain.

The Minister makes a great deal of another point and that is how it comes about that certain of these teachers have taught subjects through the medium of Irish when the conditions set out by the Department were not fulfilled, namely, teacher qualified and pupil competent to benefit by the instruction. They say this twice, they put it in the end of the report and they put it in the forefront of page 12 in order to put it in a certain context; that 525 out of 857 state that they did this contrary to their own opinion and that they did it as a result of official suggestion. If the Minister reads that paragraph in its context he will see that it refers to two circulars [772] issued by the Department. In 1931 a circular was issued, as given on the top of page 12:

“The circular having drawn attention to the fact that although some 5,000 of the teachers had the bilingual or higher qualifications in Irish, commented as follows:—‘The number of schools in which considerable and progressive work through Irish is being done is comparatively small. The Department, therefore, desires teachers to address themselves earnestly and courageously to the accomplishment of this important duty of extending instruction through the medium of Irish.’”

That was followed by a further circular in February, 1934, which repeated the instructions of the November, 1922, circular and said further:—

“These instructions indicate the desirability of the use of Irish as a medium of instruction as far as possible according to the capacity of the teacher in speaking the language.”

Immediately after that follows this paragraph in the report:—

“It may be noted in this connection that out of 857 teachers replying to query 24 of the questionnaire, 525 stated that as a result of official suggestion and contrary to their own opinion, they taught subjects through the medium of Irish when the conditions set out by the Department were not fulfilled—namely, teacher qualified and pupil competent to benefit by instruction.”

I take that to mean in that context that there was a bit of a push made by the Department and that that is why the teachers use this phrase that official suggestion moved them to do this contrary to their own view.

However, that is the background to this report, a viewpoint that I think can be held by good patriotic people and by people who are concerned with this matter of making Irish a living language; but that the method which is being attempted now is not a proper method, that if it does achieve the aim [773] of getting Irish a little bit further on rapidly, it will do it at a certain cost. These people have sacrificed their own leisure and in a very intelligent way set about finding out what is the situation and report in a matter-of-fact type of way, attempting to find out whether what is now being attempted will have the desired aim, and if the aim could not be accomplished with less suffering in other respects. It is embarrassing on an important Vote like this to have the Minister treating this in a wholly inadequate way and showing, not merely an amount of antagonism, but also a certain amount of bad temper in regard to the suggestion that any comment could be made on this matter; apparently taking the view that simply because the Department has had a particular point of view for many years and there has been some progress made on the lines of that point of view, it is impolitic and imprudent, if not unnational, for people to say that the same objective can be achieved with less sacrifice.

Before I come to the inquiry itself I might say that in any inquiry of this sort there are three things in which there is a possibility of error. The people to whom the result of the inquiry is given may be incapable of reporting. They may not be the sort of people who can collate information of a particular type or set a test sufficiently wide to get the information on which a judgment can be based. The second type of error might be that they did not get a big enough sample from the schools or, if the inquiry was a biased one, it may be that the inquiries were directed only to one section of the schools and their opinion would be definitely misleading. The third way would be that, supposing the proper people were addressed by those competent to collate the results, those at the end of the line, who are giving evidence of their own and the special things they observe, might not be competent observers or might report in a biased way.

I am going to rule out bias from this matter. If the questionnaire was directed in a widespread way to the schools set out in the forefront of the paragraph, I think the names that [774] appear in the report indicate clearly that the people who were given the task of directing the inquiry were not biased against the use of Irish. With regard to competence, I can only say this. I have no personal experience of the work of primary schools, but I think anyone reading the report, particularly that section which deals with the teaching of infants, must be struck with one thing, and that is that the people who put this report together knew a good deal about child psychology, know all that is required about the approach to a child's mind, and the way in which a child's interest ought to be excited if proper results are to be obtained. I think there is internal evidence in that report from the way in which it is put together to indicate that the gentlemen who did compose it were fully qualified, provided they got the correct information, to draw up a report which would be of use to the Department, to this House and to the country generally.

The Minister has questioned the weight of the evidence and possibly he has questioned whether the people who brought the evidence forward were competent observers. I did not know when the Minister was speaking whether he had read the report itself or whether he had contented himself with reading a report on the report. At certain times I thought that he did not seem to be picking even the best passages from the report to fortify the arguments adduced. There were times even when he seemed to distort the report. He said that one might take it from the report that the bad physique of the children and the malnutrition could be ascribed to the teaching of Irish. There is nothing so clearly distinguished in the report. Those who make the report say clearly that there are quite a number of things which add difficulty to the educational process in the infant schools, and on page 14 they talk about children who are undernourished and insufficiently clad, and quote figures from the reports of the Department itself which they describe as illuminating. They talk of the number medically examined and of the defects they were suffering from. They talk about malnutrition, under-nourishment, [775] and bad housing conditions, and they say that that is the material that has to be worked on. But they carefully distinguished that which is the product of outside influences from the effects that they find in trying to give these children some part of their instruction through the medium of Irish, when Irish is not the home language. I do not think it can be said by anybody who has read this report that there is the slightest possibility of confusion between those two things. The report carefully segregates them. When physical conditions are referred to, they are very careful to say that they do recognise that the children coming to a number of schools are not in a high state of physical development. Having said that, they talk of what they find as to the extra burden that follows from the teaching of Irish in a particular way.

As to the question of instruction in infant schools, on page 18 it is stated in this particular connection that 422 teachers replied. They say that of the 422 who replied, nine were discarded for reasons of lack of experience. Of the rest of them they say:—

“The teachers who comprised the balance were all giving satisfactory service, 115 of them being rated highly efficient and 298 efficient.”

If the Minister were to conduct an inquiry on his own into this matter on whom would he rely for his information, if not on the teachers who are actively engaged day by day in the schools? If he is going to rely upon the teachers, will he get any better selection than these 422, 115 of whom are rated as highly efficient and 298 as efficient?

The first thing they mention is the question of the physical results. They say it is bad. The way they come to that conclusion is, they talk about the lack of energy and the listlessness which is observed in the school at the end of a period of instruction in this way. They say that it means that the child is stiffened with boredom, listless and inert, and the teacher's efforts are wasted. The Minister [776] seemed to indicate that that was a matter for a doctor to examine into. I should imagine a doctor might possibly give instructions to the teachers as to what they were to observe and that they might take observations over particular periods of the day, something amounting to a measurement of fatigue. Fatigue as an outcome of school work has been measured over and over again and the results have been related in many text books. The evidence has appeared for what it is worth. These people who reached their conclusions in a particular way say that they found the children dull and listless and, at the end of the day, the teacher's efforts were merely a waste of time.

They had previously said that to the Department in 1934. They referred to the undue strain on the children, and said that the children tended to become wearied and listless towards the end of the day, and the teacher's energy was wasted. They were not reproved on that occasion. They were not told that they were not competent to come to a conclusion on that matter. I suggest that they are entirely competent, and the Minister, if he is going to exclude them, is going to abandon any proper research into this question of fatigue.

The Minister also commented upon this, that the teachers, either the body who drew up the report or the teachers who recorded their observations in that questionnaire, seemed to think that the experience was confined to school experience. There is an entirely different statement made in the report.

On page 20 of the report this appears:

“The first subject on the programme for infant schools and infant departments is language, thereby emphasising the pride of place which language occupies in the education of infants. All language development is closely related to experiences, and as school experiences are limited, opportunities for language development in school are limited.”

[777] There is a very definite statement there.

“There must be close language relationship between home and school—the home and school must supplement each other in this regard—if the child is to acquire the power to express adequately his experiences in clearly articulated speech. It must be remembered that the educative process, particularly in so far as language and power of speech expression are concerned, begins in the home. That process has been going on for almost six years before the child enters the school. While the power to form the sounds that make up speech is inherent in all children, the speech itself is learned from the parents or in the family circle. The vast majority of children are able before coming to school to give expression to their feelings, their desires, and their imaginations, through the speech education they have got prior to coming to school. That faculty which has been acquired is completely lost as an educative force if and when the child is placed in an environment where there is used, what is to him, a foreign language. In such circumstances the spontaneous chatter for which the child longs is denied to him, and he cannot, therefore, give a living description of his experiences——”

That is clearly his outside experiences—

“because his newly-acquired and very limited vocabulary does not admit of his doing so in the free and easy manner of the home language. His attempts at expression are feeble, if he does not take refuge in silence altogether.”

It goes on to say that this curbing of the child retards his progress, as it destroys his natural spontaneity, stifles his attempts at expression, and makes him timid and undecided. What the Minister said is completely the reverse of the facts as set out in the report. These people say that you must build on experience if there is to be any progress at all, even in language, and they say when the child has had his experiences [778] outside the home and comes there with a certain amount of experience, and language in which to clothe his experience at six years, and an attempt is made to extend this experience through the medium of another language, he is thrown back and becomes inarticulate and so his spontaneity is gone.

On the general matter of the medium of instruction on the mental side, I cannot understand the Minister's attitude, which apparently is that it is the wrong thing to entitle this chapter “The Medium of Instruction in Infant Schools.” I observe that on page 15, where that heading is put, there is reference to the note of the Department, and the note says:—

“The work of the infant classes is to be entirely in Irish....”

If the teachers are wrong in speaking of “instruction,” the Department must still be in error to a greater or lesser degree when they put in the harsher term “work.” On the general attitude, these people report on page 18:—

“On the question of the comparative benefits to be derived by the pupils from instruction through the medium of Irish, and through the medium of English, 345 stated that their pupils did not derive benefit from instruction through the medium of Irish equal to that which they would derive were English the medium used. The contrary view was held by 45.”

That is analysed at length in the succeeding pages. Then, on page 19, there is a broken paragraph which says:

“The first obvious fact that emerges from this inquiry is that the majority of infant teachers are opposed to using Irish as the sole medium of instruction when English is the home language, but this must not be taken to mean that they are against teaching Irish as a subject to their young charges.”

There are three pages which follow before one comes to the application of Irish to number-teaching, and I cannot understand how the Minister says that the people who wrote this report [779] forgot that the greater part of the educative process in the earlier years is through play. That is spoken of at least a dozen times in the pages that follow here, and it is one of the points on which I lean. I say that the people who wrote the report are very definitely good child psychologists, and are very proficient in the proper approach to the mind of the infant. The Minister apparently did not see that that was the foundation of their remarks. So far as the rest of the matter with regard to the infant school is concerned, it is dealt with under separate headings.

I come finally to the use of Irish and the language revival. The report is, of course, one-sided in the sense that the majority of the replies to the questionnaire make the people who produce this report right, that the benefit is not being got through the attempt to teach through Irish that might be got otherwise. Even such benefit as is got is being got at a certain cost to the people who are made undergo this method of learning. If the Minister wants a final look at the attitude of the committee on this question of teaching through play, he might look at page 24, where it is stated: “Children must be entertained to be enthused.” In other words, it is by enthusiasm through entertainment that children in the earlier stages will be brought to the acquisition of any information.

The report is so detailed, so well put together and so full of information, that it is hard to get the appropriate quotations from it, on the points that really occur to one as important, but it may be said in general that the report then travels through the teaching of various subjects, through the medium of Irish. Not having ever had any experience in connection with primary schools, reading it as a complete outsider as far as that branch of education is concerned, I must say that the point of view that developed in me through this was that it is only in what are called the subjects in which “doing” plays the more important part that there is any proficiency [780] at all or that there is equal proficiency when the subject is taught through the medium of Irish.

I think that in these matters the report says that a majority of the people who were addressed expressed the view that instruction can be done with greater benefit through the medium of Irish than in any other way. That applies to such things as singing and sewing. They also say that the school instruction, that is to say, the formal instruction given to the children about the enforcement of discipline in the school, can be done through the medium of Irish because it is a mere matter of phrases used which implant themselves and get themselves into the children's memory and arrest attention immediately. As far as the other things are concerned, this report says that the majority of the people addressed have come to certain conclusions.

A very amazing matter is referred to on page 60 of the report, where they say:

“There is a constant theme running through all the replies, which points to the fact that parents generally are opposed to a method for the Irish revival which would tend to lower the educational standard of the children, according to their values. Infant teachers have stated that it is a common practice for parents to ask that infant children be provided with English primers so that they may be given in the home the instruction in English reading denied to them in the school.”

That is thrown in in a chapter headed “Conclusions.”

There emerges from this report, in any event, this, that a competent body of people were asked by two congresses to get certain material together and to advise, through the medium of a report, the I.N.T.O. on this matter of teaching through Irish where Irish was not the home language. The report indicates that there has been a growing feeling amongst teachers involved in this educational process in the schools that the matter was not [781] being correctly handled. This competent body of people got together what must be regarded as a good sample of replies in answer to their questionnaire. There emerges from their report that it is the considered opinion of the people collating these replies that this particular matter, handled in the way in which it is, is not giving the maximum benefit to the children. I think the people who brought up this report would say it is not even giving the maximum benefit to this matter of making Irish a living language, and they certainly do raise this question as to whether better progress towards both objectives, that is to say, good all-round education and the making of Irish more a living language, could not be obtained by another means. They give reasons; they give facts. I am quite certain that the replies which this committee has would probably give more facts and allow a better pamphlet to be produced if the evidence was not regarded as confidential. I suggest there is something there to be inquired into.

Last night I heard a Deputy from this Party ask the Minister could he give, even from the angle of his Department, a summary of the views that are expressed there, so that we could see on net points what are the issues as between, say, his Department, which has taken up a certain line, and the people who wrote this report. He was asked to state if there was any conflict over policy or was there a conflict merely over the means to achieve certain ends. I think it would not have taken any great trouble to give that information. One does not know just to what points attention should be directed. One does not know what conflict there is between the Department and its present practice and what is written here. I think it is a matter that could easily be attempted by the officials of his Department, to set out here, in a very brief way, with reference to the report, what are the points to which attention has been called by this report. It is worth inquiring into, even for the purpose of disproving them. The Minister knows the value of the old adage that it is the exception that proves the rule. Perhaps this whole report could be classified in that [782] way, but it does at first sight present a body of opinion which is apparently contrary to, one might say, even the policy, certainly contrary to the method of achieving the end that the Department has before it. If the Minister wants to do it, let him put beside the experience referred to in this report the experience of those other good schools he refers to, so that the public can get a proper view of what is the policy of the Department and what it is striving towards and what are the difficulties in their way.

I suggest that the Minister should have been grateful, and his Department should have been grateful, to the people who went to this amount of work to get out this report. They should be particularly grateful to the group that have collated the replies and have given us the views, which they do not express as their views on policy, but simply as something that they have skimmed off from the replies that came in to the questionnaire. I think the Minister would certainly very definitely relieve the feelings of quite a number of people who are disturbed if he were to do what I suggest. I would say the people that are disturbed are in two classes. There are people who have for a long time thought that this attempt to force Irish was wrong and who feel that in this report they have got some backing for that view, and there are the completely opposing group who are very anxious to have Irish advanced, but who believe that this report indicates that the wrong methods are being chosen. The Minister would do a service to both these classes of people and would relieve a certain amount of anxiety if he would adopt the particular line of approach to this pamphlet that I have spoken of. I think it is one of the most valuable pamphlets produced by an independent body of people. If there is something wrong in the nature of the information they asked for, or in the collection of the information, or the way in which it is presented, the Minister has a right and a duty here to tell us where they have gone wrong.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  May I ask a few questions, Sir?

[783]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Yes.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Does the Minister not recognise, even though he thoroughly disagrees with the report, that these are the people on whom the success of the whole experiment depends? I agree with him that if Irish is to be successful the schools will have to be the main medium. We have to depend on the teachers. Does he not recognise then that if the teachers on whom he depends present a report of this kind, there is at least a case for investigation? I think there is. Does he not recognise that he is doing great damage to the whole cause by not adopting that attitude to the report? It is not what one or two ideal teachers or ideal schools can do. There are such. I know them through personal experience. It is what the average body of teachers can do, being ordinary human beings. I wonder whether I might relate an experience of my own in a different country. I was in Germany in 1928 and met a number of competent heads of the various departments in industrial education, primary and secondary education. At that time they had there an experiment called the Arbeit Schule, which meant really that the children conducted the school and, more or less, the teacher remained in the background. I met a few men who were quite enthusiasts of that experiment but I put them a very simple question— Does that not require an extraordinarily able teacher?—and they said that it did. I asked: “Do you think that out of the 200,000 teachers you have here in Germany, you will get all these teaching geniuses?” They simply shrugged and said: “That is the trouble.”

I put it to the Minister that it is not what one or two teachers, or one or two good schools, can do; it is what the average teacher can do. It is on that we have to depend, and it is a rather serious matter when these men make a report of this kind, with which the Minister is quite entitled thoroughly to disagree. I do not think he is justified in saying that a case has not been made out for thorough investigation [784] and, by saying so, I think he is damaging the cause both of the language and of education. So far as I could gather from his speech, there seems to be an extraordinary muddle. We have the inspectors, the Department and the teachers all apparently acting at sixes and sevens as to what can be done by children, and the sole defence of the Minister seems to be that, after all these years, the teachers apparently do not know what the Department wants from them so far as infants are concerned. They are apparently under the complete delusion that they should give instruction. That is the value of Departmental instructions and of the very elaborate system of inspection we have. It is not a very convincing explanation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  As I said yesterday, on only two cases in 20 years have Deputies intervened after the Minister's reply to the discussion of an Estimate. On the present occasion, Deputy Mulcahy intimated that he might desire to say something further on a particular matter, the matter with which Deputy McGilligan and Deputy O'Sullivan have now dealt—namely, a report printed by the national teachers. However, I would like Deputies to consider calmly in connection with the general procedure, what would be the results on ordered debate if, on any Estimate on which the Minister had concluded, the debate should be reopened on the plea that some Deputy expressed dissatisfaction with the Minister's reply. It would be very difficult to imagine unanimous satisfaction with the Ministerial reply on any Estimate. Therefore the convention which has obtained—and to which technical objection has been expressed by Deputy O'Sullivan—that when a Minister, no other Deputy offering, has been called on to conclude, he does conclude, subject to Deputies' rights to ask questions at the discretion of the Chair, should continue to operate. On this occasion, the two Deputies who have just spoken have confined themselves to the matters specifically indicated by Deputy Mulcahy. The continuance of what I may style established procedure is conducive to, if not essential for, orderly debate.

[785]Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I put a number of questions to the Minister, which he, in the natural attention he paid to the main matter, has overlooked. I want to say, however, that though I do not intend to make any further general speech on this Estimate, I still hold to the right of Deputies to discuss this matter in committee, if they wish. Could the Minister give me any information as to when he expects the panel system to come to an end?

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  No.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  That means that the managerial system in its essence has gone. The answer he gave the other day was clear evidence of that and I think he is preparing trouble for this country, no matter what are the financial commitments involved. I do not know how the body of managers ever agreed to that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  It was they started it, I understand.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I am interested in the problem and not in whether certain people did it or not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The point is that it cannot be said by them that the State came along and did it.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I am not taking the blame off their shoulders, but I am sorry that there is no indication that the managerial system is going to be restored. Secondly, I asked the Minister what progress had been made in regard to county histories and what use had been made of the histories that have appeared. I also raised a question as to whether he would not seriously tackle again the question of raising the school-leaving age and consult other Departments closely concerned. I put to him, further, the matter of teachers in secondary schools teaching subjects which they met practically for the first time when they were called on to teach them. As I understand the situation, that is possible. I should like to know whether he considers the inspection system in secondary schools sufficient [786] to overcome difficulties of that kind. I gave him an instance in that connection which came under my own notice. Finally, I asked about school buildings. Does he think that £200,000 a year does more than make good the wastage? I can tell him that some 14 years ago it was the view that it did no more than that, and will he give further consideration to that matter?

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I hope the Minister will go further than he has gone in his statement in relation to this report. There are two things involved in it. Firstly, the whole morale of the country, I think, is involved. So many people have pinned their faith to the idea that you cannot have an Irish nation without an Irish language, that if we do not get the language restored and if we do not get away from the hypocrisy in relation to the Irish language which takes the place of love and work for the Irish language in the case of many people who call themselves very strong nationalists, we shall reach a point some day when our national prestige and national morale will get a terrible shock, because we shall wake up to the fact that we have allowed the opportunity of saving the language to pass. Secondly, unless we clear out of our educational arena generally all this talk, all the doubts and all that fog over the educational situation which is caused by people who object to, criticise, misunderstand or fail properly to evaluate what is being done for the language, we shall utterly and completely neglect the whole of our education—that which people have to get through their schools whether their language is French, German, English or Irish.

I speak as one who wants to see the language restored and as one who has watched very closely and with a particular advantage, because of a close connection with the formation of some of the schools, the work that has been done for the last 20 years. I saw a whole series of families passing from the infant school, through the primary school, the secondary school and into the universities, through schools which [787] were all Irish, and I have seen the results of it. I cannot see any grounds for complaining that the work was not properly done and that people who have gone through all-Irish schools were not able to take full advantage of a university education afterwards. There are those who would like to ask what is the position with regard to the language as the spoken language in the home and in the street, but that is another matter and it has nothing to do with the position in regard to the primary schools. What I want to know is this—and I think that a lot of people like myself, as well as a lot of ordinary intelligent people who are concerned with the life of the country generally, and with no particular interest in education, would like to be assured on these points also—who are the people who are dictating the technical processes operating in our primary schools for the use of the Irish language and its spread; who are the people that are dictating these processes; what do they represent; from what professions or from what rank of Departmental work or school work, or any other kind of work, do they come?

We want to get a picture of who these people are. We want to know what they want done. We want to have a picture of what has been their experience in the past, in education or any other branch of work associated with education. We want to know what experience in the past has enabled them to come to their decisions as to what they want done now: for what objects, for what immediate objects in the schools, they are seeking, and then, what are they doing, what will they do or what is their plan, from month to month and from year to year, to review what is being done and what the results of that work are both in relation to the immediate object of what they require in the schools and the final results of that in the capacity of the children leaving the primary schools, to talk and to use Irish. Now, could we get a picture of that? If we could get a picture of that, then we will restore confidence in ourselves, we will have a general idea of what is being done, [788] who is directing it, and what is expected from it, and we will feel that these are the best people to approach that work. We will feel that it is being systematically dealt with, and we will be able to stand with confidence and, at any rate, patience, outside and add our own view and our own appreciation of the situation, and if a public opinion should be formed around it, no doubt supporting what is being done, then, in that way, our minds will be at peace so far as concerns that aspect of the matter, and we will be able to concentrate our minds on the more general side of our educational policy and our educational problems.

My object in raising the treatment of this report, up to the present, by the Minister for Education, has been to plead with him that he cannot stand, with the responsibilities and with the power for action, opportunity, and good that he possesses, in the middle of that machinery and act in the way in which he is acting towards the people who in the past have been bearing, and who are going to bear in the future, the real burden of the work of restoring the language to this country through the medium of the school. When the Minister speaks of the way in which the language movement is depending on the primary schools by reason of the fact that nobody else outside seems to be doing very much, he will have much more reason for feeling that much more depends upon the schools if, as a result of his treatment of this report, there is supposed to be a conflict between himself, the Department, and the teachers. If the result of that treatment should be the suggestion of a conflict of that particular kind, people are going to have doubts raised in their minds that this is a report against the use of Irish in the schools. If the issuing of that report brings the Minister to the point of systematically reviewing the situation, a tremendous lot will have been done, and the national school teachers will have added to the debt which the country owes to them already.

Deputy O'Sullivan asked for an inquiry into the situation. I am not [789] quite clear as to the type of inquiry he wants, but as a preliminary to any inquiry such as Deputy O'Sullivan seems to want, I want an answer to the questions I am putting here. If any inquiry were to be set up, I think it ought to be a preliminary inquiry that would tell us, for our information here and for the information of people generally, who are the people who are dictating the technical processes in our schools for using and restoring the Irish language; what do they represent; what do they want; what is the past experience upon which they base their claim to assert that certain things should be done; what is the immediate object and what is the ultimate object of what they want done; and what are they doing now and proposing to do in the future to see that the work is kept systematically under review and that we will not wake up in another 20 years with the same kind of unsatisfactory position in which we are to-day, when we have the most important teaching body, as far as the restoration of Irish is concerned, making a report, and the Minister appearing to be completely at variance with it and yet taking no steps to grapple with the situation or to indicate any way in which people can clearly understand whether there is a particular line of policy suggested in the report and in what way it conflicts with his policy. I think that we cannot allow the present situation to pass without some very definite action on the part of the Ministry, and without bringing the Minister, the inspectors and the primary teachers closer together, getting a better understanding of the situation from these in the beginning and then, somewhat on the lines I suggested, a better understanding here and a better understanding by the people generally of what is being done.

Question put and agreed to.

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