Thursday, 11 June 1953
Dáil Éireann Debate
Major de Valera: In the debate last night I made specific reference to the secondary programme and I do not think it is necessary to go back on what I said. It might be better to take a more positive attitude towards it. I do believe that some of the  things of which I complained last night have been to some extent corrected, but I think that correction has not gone far enough. For instance, looking at the practical equipment that secondary education is supposed to give the child to face life, looking at some of the subjects involved from that point of view, I think we are really trying to do a bit too much and that we have got confused between the idea of general education, broad education —the ideal that perhaps we would all like to put before us—and the one imposed on us by life, that is, the practical fitting of the child for life. As I tried to point out, the net result was a certain confusion, a certain lack of clinching with the problem and a certain inefficiency.
Take the mathematical curriculum, for instance. Look at it soberly. If you leave aside the child who is going to specialise, say, in engineering, some of the physical sciences, whether applied or pure, including mathematics and those who are going to take an academic career in that subject, apart from the very limited number there, what does the average person need in mathematical knowledge even to-day? —mainly, a sound fundamental knowledge of arithmetic and the ordinary arithmetical operations. He needs to be able to reckon; he needs a simple but direct practical knowledge of weights and measures, mensuration, and a facility with ordinary figures. It is doubtful even whether he needs to go so far as to be acquainted with the use of a logarithm.
Let any of us ask the question: How many of us have wanted in ordinary life, apart from some specialised problem, to apply what has been taught to us in school in that particular line? We will find that it practically never turns up, even for an accountant. The mathematics needed for business are still very simple. What is needed is accuracy, facility and speed, which can only come from concentration and time given to these basic techniques.
I am taking logarithms as an example, as being perhaps the first stage where you just go beyond the limit. In order to exercise ourselves in these,  we got extravagant and very unreal problems in compound interest but we never meet them in ordinary life. The ordinary person does not meet them in ordinary life. Nowadays, perhaps, as well as the categories I mentioned, the economist wants some equipment of that nature and some statistical equipment but he again is very much a specialist.
So that, I would advocate in regard to the mathematical courses, particularly in the secondary schools—and I would say the same in principle for the primary schools—that the emphasis should be on the basic arithmetical techniques: adding, subtracting, dividing, reckoning money, simple mensuration, and so forth, and that more time should be given to developing a facility and a sureness in these techniques than we have been giving and which used to be given under the older system.
So too with geometry. In regard to geometry, again, an elementary knowledge is all that is needed. Let us look back. The First Book of Euclid or some definite system like Euclid has the advantage of being a definite logical system. There is a training in logic there which is valuable in the secondary school anyway and I would not minimise it but that training is all the more valuable if one concentrates on the earlier portions of it and makes sure that that is assimilated and that the methods are assimilated in the simpler cases.
Moving from that to practical results, what do we need afterwards? I have tried to think of where practical knowledge is needed. A few elementary properties, one in particular, the relation of the long side of a right-angle triangle to the other two sides, is probably a very important relation and one which will turn up but I think it is about the only one. If a person can reckon the long side of the triangle by getting the squares of the other two and take out the square root, it is as much as he wants of geometrical knowledge.
Major de Valera: Yes, but that is sometimes magnified into something more than it is. If one looks at it intuitively, it is nearly easier on a symmetrical basis which, with all our formalism we are far too apt to ignore. While we have been immersed in a lot of vague formula, with the child rushing too fast, we fail to develop that intuitive appreciation of a practical problem that is one of the most important trainings for life you can give the child. But that is an aside.
In regard to the secondary course then, you can apply the same type of remarks to trigonometry. An elementary knowledge and direct application of elementary trigonometrical tables is probably useful training, very closely related to the elementary geometry but I, for one, do not see the sense of then pushing that subject to the region of being something in the line of a mathematical puzzle. Take the examination papers and the manipulation of all sorts of combinations of the various elementary trigonometrical combinations to give you all sorts of odd combinations which you arrive at by nice little formal manipulations on paper, some requiring certain ingenuity. I think that is pressed a bit too far and, especially, I think I can say from some little experience, that the number of times that these queer puzzles ever come up for practical application, even if you are a specialist, is small. Again, the ones you need for use, even as a specialist, are the relatively simple ones, such as the functions of the sum of two angles, or something like that, but some of the queer things we were so familiar with on examination papers and that you got in the specialist text books, may be all right for the specialist as training for him but, to my mind, it is taking up valuable time in a secondary curriculum and doing damage, in so far as that time is being filched from time that could be more properly applied to basic techniques.
I could dismiss a lot of the stuff we do about the calculus and analytical geometry and such things introduced into the senior secondary programme. Personally, I think that a good elementary knowledge of graphs would  involve all the concepts that would be needed and give that intuitive approach that I think is much more valuable than a lot of formalism with d's scattered all over the place.
The net point boils down to this, that it would be better to restrict the field and insist on thoroughness and a detailed practical application of the knowledge involved so that it will become part of the child himself and so feel a confidence in the matter. One great danger about roaming over the field and a partial introduction to concepts is that you create a certain unsureness in the child. To the not-so-intelligent child the thing becomes a mystery. The intelligent child is not able to get at the whole basis of the thing and it becomes a problem with which he is never satisfied. In either case you create a certain unsureness, a certain fear, if you like, a certain uncertainty, and you do psychological damage. In the case, for instance, of say integration, to the non-intelligent child the thing becomes a mystery, and the intelligent child who is interested, immediately comes up against problems and sees certain things that require to be proved, because questions here arise which are by no means self-evident when you examine them, and which could not possibly be covered in a secondary course.
Take the very simple case of showing that it does not matter how you divide the interval of the independent variable when evaluating a definite integral. That is well beyond what could be tackled in the elementary course. That problem will strike the intelligent child. The whole approach tends to stimulate doubt. A simple practical use of graphs and so forth, coupled with a kind of accidental use of calculus ideals in connection with it would be a better and safer approach than we have been taking.
An example of the thing, about which I can talk from practical experience, is that in the Army it was necessary to teach people how to read maps. My own personal experience was that the official textbooks opened out with descriptions of co-ordinates, locating a point in the map as against a point  in the ground, and an approach of that nature, which of course is the specialist approach, with a reference to scales, etc. I found that once you tried that with the ordinary soldiers the map was a mystery to them and some of them would never learn to read the map properly because you frightened the wits out of them when they started. I tried an experiment myself. I got a crowd of soldiers. Many of them had no education worth while.
I first started to draw sketches of the posts which they were in, rough freehand sketches, and gave them an idea of drawing the ground and making freehand sketches without bothering about scales or distances, and gradually from that brought them to the actual maps and took them out on the ground and never bothered about measurements or distances, until they got to associate the lines on the maps with roads and features and so forth. It became a very easy thing then to put to them the problem: “You are going to tell me over the telephone if I am in an office in Dublin, exactly where you are by that map”. They were introduced to the idea of measuring distance scales and co-ordinates through simple practical problems. With that type of approach I found that almost illiterate men could be expert map readers in the matter of a month.
There is something of the same kind of idea in the back of my mind when I criticise the approach to some of these mathematical matters. I urge on the Minister that he should restrict the field and insist on straightforward thoroughness and attention to detail. I think we would be doing at the same time two good jobs. We would be equipping the child so that he would not have the fear of figures which has often troubled people in taking jobs, especially for doing clerical work. It is a good equipment for the average child and corrects the other weakness in our national character which has developed—I am going so far as to say that our educational system has contributed to that particular weakness to which I have referred—a certain inattention to detail and a deficiency in sustained application.
 Before I leave that perhaps I had better refer to the position of the specialist. I can anticipate somebody saying: “That is all very well, but some people want to go further.” I can answer by recalling a certain physics professor who would, at the beginning of a first term in University College, ask who had done physics before and who had not. He preferred the people who had not. It is better if you are going to go on to have that basic technique. You are then able to take up the threads and go on whether you want to be an engineer, a chemist, a specialist in pure mathematics or an economist. You can meet the case of the economist by giving some supplementary course in specialist mathematics. That will be infinitely easier if the basic techniques have been perfected. Those of us who have gone through the secondary school and then have specialised in some subjects of that nature have always found that lack of efficiency was due to a weakness in that basic technique.
I have urged that point on previous occasions and I think I have urged it sufficiently now and will move on to another subject. Again I must confess I have not been keeping very closely in touch with the details for some time past but I am sure my remarks apply to the situation as I knew it myself. I believe there has been some correction but has there been sufficient correction? Take the case of Latin. Here, again, the specialists run riot in their insistence on perfect classical form and classical Latin. Such things can be very fine and elegant and beautiful, like the higher structures of mathematics or any other subject, but they cannot be grasped unless you have the basis first. Again, I have often thought that there should be concentration upon the basic techniques and more insistence upon the elementary appreciation of the fact that fundamentally it is a language, and that the first requisite in the language is to understand it and be able to express oneself in it. If you are learning from scratch you have to start and be content with elementary expression and understanding.
Major de Valera: Some of the most beautiful thoughts and some of the most beautiful poetry is to be found in our liturgy as I mentioned last night. It is to be found not only in the liturgy but in some of the writings which are pretty close to it. In that so-called bog Latin—to use the Deputy's phrase—there is no sacrifice of accuracy.
Major de Valera: The language of the scholastics was of that type. Its outstanding characteristics are accuracy of expression and thought and that is its outstanding value. The child should be given a grasp of the more elementary fundamentals. We could have that as an immediate objective for our Catholic children because it would enable them to read with facility and to understand what they are meeting with week after week in their religious studies. I am not quite so sure that aspect should not be considered even from the point of view of what should be read or not.
Major de Valera: On the question of Irish, the emphasis there should, to my mind, be again upon simplicity and the spoken language. My comments on the other subjects that arise would not be quite so trenchant as on the others I have selected and which seem to me to be the cardinal points except, of course, the vernacular English. There, again, there is a need for accuracy of thought. If you are going to send a child loose over the field  pitching him at everything in turn without having the time to insist that he will use grammar properly, write concise sentences, express himself properly, say what he means to say and write legibly, you are not fitting him for life.
Many of us in my time went through the whole gamut of English literature. You philosophically analysed Shakespeare. I often felt that if poor old “Will” came back and listened to some of the punditry that goes on about him he would scratch his head and say: “Good Lord! was I not a great fellow and did not know about it?”
Major de Valera: The simple directness, the wonderful power and the true psychology of his works are lost in a lot of the pedantic analysis that goes on. I confess that is a matter of personal prejudice. With that and the verbal extravagances of Thompson and Shelley and many of the rest of them we did not know where we were. Nobody bothered to say: Look here, go and look at that. Describe what you saw accurately. Write down accurately in simple words what you think about that. Write a letter about something accurately to somebody else. These are all the primary things and first essentials of equipment but all that was forgotten and ignored in this floating around the place.
The training that can come from concentration to detail was sacrificed for this airy fairy roaming around the place. Both from the point of view of character and equipment, I can see that to be important. After all our thinking—and I am not going into a discussion on that—for effectiveness is very much tied up with our powers of expression. If we are made to be accurate, concrete and definite in our expression, our thinking will become less woolly and our ability to face facts and problems is increased. Therefore, in regard to the teaching in our schools, secondary and primary, of the vernacular language I think the emphasis should be upon accuracy, sound expression, accurate grammatical  expression, proper use of words and the expression of a succession of thoughts in logical order.
Major de Valera: I would not go that far. I do not want to reduce anything to a drill. That is another matter. In a simple way you want to encourage initiative and power of expression but I am talking about the technique that is to be employed in order to have that done. I could, perhaps, go on and expand but the net thing in all these subjects is to have regard to the point of view of equipping the children. I would appeal for more attention to detail. That in turn would have its reaction on the national character, particularly in regard to the points on which I have expressed myself as seeing it deficient. Also, in that way people can develop more easily a love of industry.
Amongst all the other drawbacks of that approach I have criticised is that in failing to get the child to apply himself for sufficient time to detail at a particular point we were failing to inculcate in him the habit of work. The fussiness, coupled with a certain mystery in learning the subjects he encountered, tended to engender in him a certain amount of escapism from the whole thing. That is my point to the Minister in that respect. More attention should be paid to detail and, perhaps, more prescription because, of course, you have got to face it from the practical point of view. No matter what we may say about cramming or examinations we had better face life as it is, human nature as it is and facts as they are.
The child, like the rest of us, will only work under a certain amount of compulsion of some sort or another, and you only apply that from of compulsion in the long run, especially for the older children in the secondary schools, through the compulsion of their having to account for the knowledge they have acquired. No matter what you say about the examination system there is no alternative. If you are  going to have examinations let them be examinations. If they are going to be effective they must be definite and they can only be definite if there is a definite system. That seems to indicate a certain fairly definite prescription for all the subjects. I am not dismissing the view points that have been expressed in the other way. Some correction of the old system was probably necessary. My point is that, certainly in 1925, the pendulum swung too far.
In all this, there comes up a practical problem in regard to our approach to education. The Minister and his Department are responsible for the control of education in this country. I am afraid, and I say it without malice and with great sympathy, that our tendency in determining the courses in any particular subject has been to fall back on the specialist —who is the wrong man for that purpose. The specialist in mathematics, for instance, will see only his own line; similarly with regard to the specialist in Latin, and so forth. What you want is a broad over-all view. If you are going to pick the specialist, you should pick him to fix the curriculum in a subject in which he is not a specialist. Though he may have very high qualifications, and so on, in specialised subjects, the specialist is— without adding undue force to the word—a menace from the point of view of general education. I am not so sure that the specialist in education itself has not become another type of menace. You can over-formulise in that. I wonder, coupled with all that, if the Department has in the past listened sufficiently to the teachers who are doing the practical work. Have the Department left enough to the teachers, who have the practical problem? I realise the need for control, the need for uniformity and the need for direction. However, when all is said and done, where you could get interested teachers who are setting themselves the task of doing their best for the children under their charge and who have got the best results, it is the teachers who come up against the practical problems and the local problems  and the individual problems. I sometimes feel that we have not taken the teachers enough into the problem of how best to put over education— and I am afraid we have not taken the unfortunate parents into account at all.
What does a parent want for a child? In the first place, the average parent wants a sound character education. The parents realise that there must be an ideal to which that character must be referred and that, of course, means a sound religious education and a sound basis there. After that, he wants a character that will cling to what is right and reject what is wrong irrespective of all other considerations, and who will have the industry to apply himself and make himself a useful citizen. But, after he has all that, he wants practical equipment for life and he is not very much concerned whether his son or daughter got a nodding acquaintance with the fact that an old josser called Horace existed or that certain mathematicians evolved a new way of calculating certain general results. He is not at all interested in that. What he is interested in is that the child will have the basic equipment for facing life no matter what field he goes into, and that approach can be reinforced from the character point of view. I may be wrong but I have a feeling that many parents would express themselves as I have expressed myself in this debate, so that I can finish by inviting the Minister—if I may—to let us know how far there has been a correction of that over-swing of the pendulum that occurred at the time to which I refer, how far there is need for further correction and how far we need to have our approach to this problem of the education of the ordinary citizen reconsidered. I think that a survey of that nature might, perhaps, lead us to action which might have beneficial repercussions, not only for the individual citizen but for the national character as a whole.
There are some other matters which I have in mind but as they are matters on which representations could be made in the ordinary way I do not think I should delay the House by  expatiating on them now. However, in all this, the teachers themselves are the most important force in perhaps one of the greatest social factors in this State. Much of our nationality, traditions and outlook were saved and preserved by teachers in the past. They can do more, perhaps, than any one other individual section to build up and maintain the national morale. They are in key positions and their importance to the community must be rated accordingly, but they will respond to their responsibilities only so far as they are, so to speak, invited to do so and the responsibility is placed on them.
I should like to see the teachers of this country grasping the fundamentals of things, taking upon themselves the great task of preserving the individuality of this nation, of preserving its outlook and of preserving all that is good in our traditions and outlook on life. I should like to see them build up a strong character in our citizens and give a lead generally in a direction that would build up our national morale and through that approach, enable us to build up the type of nation in this country that we have all, on various occasions, said we want to see and professed to desire.
Mr. Blowick: The few points I want to put before the Minister on this particular Vote will be of a much more prosaic nature than those put forward by the last speaker in the matter of secondary education.
The first point to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention is one which I raised in this House last year on this Vote and which I also raised on a number of occasions by way of parliamentary questions and that is the matter of the closing of schools in the Gaeltacht area. I fully appreciate the Minister's difficulties there. When the average falls, the Minister finds himself up against the pretty hard problem of what to do. There must be, within the Department, some fence or some regulation whereby, when the average falls to a certain figure, something must be done about the school in which it happens. Obviously it is uneconomic to pay a teacher or teachers to hold on  a school where the number of children falls below a certain point. The point which I made this time last year is that, particularly in the Gaeltacht areas, the school is very often away from the church or from the local community but is, nevertheless, a kind of centre. It is a village centre, so to speak. It is bad enough that the average number of children attending a school should fall below 15, thus causing the closing of the school, but I think it helps to put the last nail in the coffin-lid of the population of the area in which it happens.
Mr. Blowick: Naturally, the closing of the school will not induce a higher marriage rate in that particular area. Young people about to marry will think twice about settling down in an area in which that happens.
Mr. Blowick: Generally, it is a holding of land, in the areas in which that happens. Whatever about closing schools in an urban area when the number falls below a certain average, I appeal to the Minister to examine the whole position with regard to schools in Gaeltacht areas. I will not name the schools because I named them before.
Mr. Blowick: It is a good job there is somebody left. I want the Minister to do something about reopening some of the schools that have been closed, and not to close any other schools in areas where the child population is  falling. We hear a lot of talk about trying to preserve the Gaeltacht. There is every indication, all down through the years since we got native government, that the most we are doing to preserve the Gaeltacht is pouring out a lot of empty talk, lip-service, in this House. If we were serious, or if the problem had been tackled in the proper way, the shrinkage of the Gaeltacht would not have occurred in the way it has under home government.
One of the features of national school education away back in the British times was the inclusion in school readers of a certain amount of information with regard to agriculture. This feature gave valuable basic information to the children. They may not have appreciated it at the time they were learning it, but, later on, when the responsibility of managing a holding or a farm came to them, the things they then read and learned came back to them and proved of immense benefit to them. It seems strange that in this agricultural country there is not a single word about agriculture in any of the school readers prescribed since the State was formed. That is a very serious want, indicating a lack of interest in our principal industry, and the Minister should set about remedying the case.
He spoke at the opening of the debate about giving a half-day when the teacher could provide information about any particular subject he wished to deal with. That is all very well, but, without doing that at all, we could revert to the system operated under our oppressors, by which some little knowledge of agriculture was given in the schools, without taking from or impinging upon the general educational programme. Vocational schools are doing very well for trades and professions. They are of immense benefit, but they cannot do anything for agriculture in the way I suggest. It is a particular calling in itself, and, while a vocational school might be able to assist to some extent, it will never be able to do for agriculture what it can do for trades. I suggest that the Minister should have a talk with the higher officials of the Department and devise some means of providing some little  amount of agricultural education in these school books. Lessons on agriculture, particularly in country schools, would be most interesting, and, while not being out of place, would be of immense benefit to the children later.
I want to bring to the Minister's notice the position with regard to children who are mentally backward, who are retarded and who may suffer from some physical defect. It is high time that the State did something for these children. The ordinary national teacher cannot give the necessary attention to that type of child and so I am afraid that there is only one phrase by which to describe their position—neglected by the State.
Mr. Blowick: I am speaking of the education of these children and the suggestion I make is that in each county there should be at least one school where these children could be educated. The health aspect also arises and I can deal with that on another occasion. Parents in many cases are unable to meet the financial commitment involved in educating or looking after these children properly, and there should be some special school in each county for the education and bringing forward of such children. We all know that, in the national school in the country district or country town, the teachers have quite a big problem in educating ordinary children, but the type of child I refer to is a problem in himself, a child who requires practically whole-time attention. I think I am correct in saying also that such children require a different type of handling and education from that given to the normal healthy average child, and I go so far as to say that there should be at least one school in each county for the education of these children. The number of children involved might not be more than one or two in each parish and there might be national schools where none of these children attend.
 I for one do not blame the teachers if they cannot give the wholehearted attention they would like to give to the very few children of this type who may be attending the school. It is there the Minister could come to the rescue of the children and of the teachers by having a special school set apart for them until they reach the age of 12 or 14 years. They should be taken over completely, provided the parents agree. If the parents have the means of doing what is necessary for these children, well and good. I am not advocating any kind of compulsory system, but a system whereby the State would give assistance which would be availed of by the parents and the children.
In this regard, no words of mine could express the high opinion I have of the work of the voluntary institutions in the city who care for such children as these, who give them a trade and so on. The Deaf and Dumb Institute in Cabra is one such institution I have in mind. Unfortunately, there are not enough of such schools to cater for this particular type and I feel that if these children could get a better type of education, an education more suited to them in relation to the ailment or physical or mental disability from which they suffer, it would go a long way to prevent them being badly treated in later life and would leave them more independent. Unfortunately in many cases these children grow up and, as a result of lack of education or of learning a trade, do not get the care or attention we should like to see them getting.
With regard to the teaching of Irish, I have not changed my views since the debate of last year that compulsory Irish is the wrong way to try to re-establish the language. I have never yet heard a Deputy say that the Irish language should not be revived. We are all agreed on one thing, that we would like to see Irish spoken as much as possible and we would like to see it as the spoken language of the nation. However, we are going the wrong way about it. The present system of compulsory Irish should be completely gone into and changed. Let us all admit that it has not given the results we expected. For that reason, it does not  matter who started it, which Party or which Government started it. If a thing is tried and is found not to be giving the results expected, there is no shame or disgrace or political loss of face in examining the situation and saying: “It has been tried and it has not been up to our expectations; we will try some other scheme”. It is my opinion that the teaching of Irish compulsorily is resulting in a serious lack of ordinary education in the child. I am afraid some children leaving the national schools have just a vague knowledge of Irish on the one hand and no knowledge at all of other subjects which would be useful. They might be able to tell you in Irish that six multiplied by six make 36 but they do not understand that six multiplied by half a dozen means three dozen. They do not grasp it and that is one of the big handicaps coming against children who are forcibly fed with Irish during their national school period.
In the West of Ireland at least we cannot overlook the fact that the only possible means most of our boys and girls have of obtaining a livelihood is by emigrating. They find when they go to England, America, and other foreign countries that Irish is of no use. It is a dead loss, as the saying goes. The next thing they find is that by comparison the other side of their education has been neglected; they are not as well educated as their fathers and mothers were before the days of compulsory Irish, and they feel that loss very greatly.
I may be taking the Minister now into a type of problem with which he is not familiar because, perhaps, he did not grow up with that particular type of problem as I did. Nevertheless, let me say that in Connaught and on the western seaboard, that is a very real-life problem. It is a very serious matter if we are to waste the best years of those children's lives in the national schools teaching them Irish because we would like to see the Irish language reinstated, when it results in their having neither Irish nor any other type of education. That is not casting any reflection on the teachers. They are doing what they are compelled to do. It results from the policy emanating from this House and the  time has come when all that should be completely overhauled. I am afraid that we in this House are causing a certain amount of injustice and injury to the youngsters leaving school. While I do not by any means say that nothing should be done for the re-establishment of the Irish language, I do suggest that our present methods are wrong and should be reviewed at once.
Emigration is doing immense damage in the Gaeltacht and Breac-Ghaeltacht areas and until we find a satisfactory means of keeping our young people at home, it is useless talking about trying to preserve the Gaeltacht. The Gaeltacht is the last stronghold of pure Irish. There are some that will not like to hear me say that. There are some that are so narrow-minded that they are not prepared to acknowledge that. The only pure Irish is to be found in the Gaeltacht areas where it has been spoken down through the years. The intense pressure since Elizabethan times in trying to have English as the spoken language never got a grip there.
It is sad to have to say that since we established our native Government the Gaeltacht started to shrink, and has shrunk with alarming rapidity. I am afraid we are doing nothing about it. The Minister for Education should definitely take up that matter with some of his colleagues in the Government, if we are to stop the Gaeltacht from shrinking, if we are to kill that fungus disease and prevent it from destroying the remnants of our native speakers. The disease I am speaking of is the steadily-growing and steadily-penetrating idea that to be called a native Irish speaker is a kind of slur on that person. There is only one way to stop that and that is to give full employment to our youth in Gaeltacht areas and induce them by every possible means to stay at home. We cannot ask them to stay at home for the purpose of saving the language, and to live on potatoes and salt. If a genuine effort is to be made the Minister should take up with his colleagues the question of giving as much employment as possible.
Mr. Blowick: The preservation of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht is a matter for the Minister for Education. He cannot go down to the Gaeltacht with a stick or with guns to compel the people to speak Irish or to stay in the country, but he has at his disposal in the Cabinet his colleagues in whose hands lie the giving of employment, the starting of industries and other useful works. To go further into that would be definitely irrelevant, and I do not propose to do so. Nevertheless, I want to bring it home to the Minister for Education that it is the only way he will accomplish what I know he would like to accomplish, the preservation of the Irish speakers still left in the Gaeltacht.
In conclusion I wish to make a point which I should have included in my opening remarks in regard to schools in the Gaeltacht. In the Gaeltacht some of our schools are a positive disgrace. The burst of school building which started during the reign of the inter-Party Government has, I am glad to say, been carried on by the present Government but at big expense. Nevertheless, it is grand to see in many areas new schools, some of the finest in Europe, being built to replace the old hovels. But in the Gaeltacht I see many of the old schools not being attended to and they are liable to fall down. To the people in the Gaeltacht that is another indication that we love talking about them, we love saying grand things but we do damn all when it comes down to brass tacks. Most of these schools should be replaced by new ones. A few of them are structurally sound and major improvements would make them all right. However, some of them are a positive disgrace. When foreigners and tourists travel through the country and see these things we call schools, they must have a very poor opinion of our idea of developing the country and trying to help our population in those areas.
Mr. O'Donnell: I was not in the House last night to hear Deputy Major de Valera speaking on this Estimate, but I was here to-day from 1.30 p.m. when he was speaking, and I want to endorse everything he said. I am in complete agreement with him. Repetition  is one of the things which takes up far too much time in the House. Therefore, I do not intend to repeat the various arguments put forward by him, but I strongly recommend them to the Minister and his officials. There is a great deal to be said for the arguments put forward by Deputy Major de Valera on this Estimate.
We have had approximately 30 years of freedom in this country. Some few years after obtaining our freedom, we decided on a new system for reviving the Irish language—a system which in my opinion was completely foreign to our nature. That was the system of compulsion. There is an old but true saying that you may lead the Irish people but you will never drive them. That is what we are trying to do and unfortunately what we are continuing to do. I should like to see some Minister for Education review the entire principle on which we are trying to revive the Irish language. If we want an example, or a comparison, we have only to look across that artificial Border at our brethren in the Six Counties. I repeat that more Irish is spoken in the City of Belfast than in the City of Dublin. Why? Because there is no compulsion amongst the nationally-minded people of the Six Counties to learn Irish. At least 50 per cent. of the nationalists of the six Counties can speak Irish fluently. The reason they can do that is because they go down year after year, in their school-going years, to the Donegal Gaeltacht, and there voluntarily acquire the language of the people. While they are there there is no compulsion on them to attend school. There is no compulsion to learn the reading and the writing of the language. Goodness knows we know that the compulsion is the other way about while they are attending the primary schools in the Six Counties.
They do not become Irish scholars but they become Irish speakers, which is much more important in my opinion than the acquisition of this written knowledge of the language. We know that more is being done by Comhaltas Uladh for the revival of the Irish language than has been done by the Department of Education during the  past 30 years. The giving of scholarships to students to go down and acquire Irish by the Modh Díreach and to get their ear attuned to the language is much more beneficial than four, five or six years of compulsory Irish in a school to students, pupils and scholars who are waiting for the day when they will leave school and when they can cease to speak the language which they have grown to abhor on account of this compulsion.
To show how far and to what extremes we are carrying this compulsion, I was told the other day by a learned ecclesiastic that quite recently he was being shown through one of our domestic schools in the City of Dublin. He saw there youths of approximately 14 years of age who will become eventually chefs, being taught cooking. What were they being taught when this eminent ecclesiastic passed through the school? They were being taught the Irish for luxurious desserts, luxurious cakes, sweets and pastries. They were being taught to use words to describe dishes which an Irish speaker never had the privilege of seeing, never mind of tasting.
Mr. O'Donnell: I hope he will taste them some day. I am referring to the Irish speaker, for whom I have a considerable amount of thought and consideration but who, unfortunately, will never have the opportunity of seeing the dishes never mind of tasting them. That, in my opinion, was a waste of the child's time, valuable time in which he could be learning how to make these dishes.
I further am personally aware, as Deputy Blowick has said, that the Gaeltacht is dwindling day by day. We heard Deputy Vivion de Valera criticise the snobbery by which bog Latin is respected in this country. I agree with Deputy de Valera that bog Irish— and when I say bog Irish, I mean the Irish that springs from the bogs, the hills and the glens of Ireland; I think it was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach who asked what it meant—should be the fountain head  and the source from which we should procure the survival and the revival of the Irish language, the language that oozes from the bogs, not the language that oozes from Marlborough Street. If we want to make the people of this country readers and writers of Irish, by all means let Marlborough Street be the fountain head but if we want to make them Irish speakers, let the bogs, the hills and the dales of the west, south and north-west be the fountain head. I think it is agreed that the original idea behind this compulsory Irish was not to make scholars out of the Irish people, out of the working class, labourers and migrants. The idea was to make them Irish speakers and after 25 or 30 years of this compulsory Irish, I say to the Minister or to any member of the House, let him enter a bus in Dublin and listen to the language spoken by the people travelling in the bus. Will he hear .5 per cent. of these people speaking Irish? Let him travel in the trains, let him go to our Gaelic football matches or to any social gatherings in the Twenty-Six Counties. Will he hear .5 per cent. of the participants in these functions speaking the Irish language? Definitely no. But go up to such a gathering across the Border; go up to a Gaelic football match in the Six Counties; go up to any of the national social functions in the Six Counties and, strange as it may seem, where there is no compulsion, one will hear Irish spoken and spoken by at least 50 per cent. of the audience, spectators or participants in these functions. The Minister should in consultation with the Government and with all the Parties here seriously consider amending our present methods for the revival and survival of the Irish language. If we do not do that, Irish as a spoken language will be as dead 50 years from now as classical Greek and Latin are to-day.
I come now to scholarships in the Gaeltacht. The idea at the back of all that may have been a very good one. We give scholarships to clever students in the Gaeltacht to secondary schools and universities, but, so surely as we do, we drive another Irish speaker out of the Gaeltacht. A  student receives a Gaelic scholarship. He goes to a secondary school, eventually reaches the university and studies for one of the professions. Immediately he qualifies he either emigrates or takes up a position in the city. Some condition should be attached to these scholarships whereby the recipients of them would go back to live in either the Breac-Ghaeltacht or the Gaeltacht, thereby ensuring our sending back to that man's native health a professional man competent to speak Irish in the local dialect. In that way we would do some good towards keeping the language alive.
I join with Deputy Blowick in appealing to the Minister to do something in relation to the building of schools in the Gaeltacht. I know the Minister is most sympathetic. I have had occasion to approach him and he has received my complaints most sympathetically. I have in mind, however, one particular complaint. There is a school in the heart of the Rosses, Belcruit, which has no water supply. The public water supply passes within six yards of the schoolhouse door. I told the Minister it would be a good thing to have a water supply laid on, not for the purpose of sanitation, but in order to make water available for human consumption. I have been told on good authority that it would cost exactly £22 10s. to lay that water on. I got a most sympathetic hearing from the Minister. He told me he would have the matter investigated. The matter was investigated and the investigation consisted of four different inspectors calling to the school.
Mr. O'Donnell: They certainly would but I am not going into that. Some of those inspectors came from the Board of Works and some from the Department of Education. I am not blaming the Minister. I am blaming the system and the Department. At the end of 12 months I again wrote to the Minister and reminded him of his undertaking to have the matter investigated.  I got a personal letter from the Minister saying he would have the matter looked into. What was the net result? I received a letter from the Department informing me they had been advised by the Board of Works that a new schoolhouse would be required in that area and the expenditure of £22 on a pipe line to supply water to the existing school would not be justified pending the erection of the new school. As we know it takes approximately a minimum of ten years to have a school built. We must, therefore, wait for ten years before the children in this school will be able to get a drink of fresh water. That kind of red tape should be dispensed with. We should cut the cackle, as the Americans say, and get on with the job.
I would like to see a better liaision between the Board of Works and the Department of Education. Indeed, I would like to see an engineering staff attached to the Department of Education which, when told by the Minister or his advisers that a certain job must be done, would go out and do the job. We would not then have to go through all these various channels and wait for this slow-moving body to come to a decision and wait even longer for that body to put its decision into effect.
A great deal can be done to improve the position in relation to the building of schools in the Gaeltacht. A great deal can be done to improve the Irish textbooks used in the schools. Scholarships should be awarded to writers in Irish to encourage them to write textbooks for use in the schools. There is no reason why these textbooks should not be written in the appropriate dialects. If subjects are taught through the medium of Irish in the Donegal Gaeltacht, then the textbooks should be written in the Donegal dialect. That applies to Connemara, Ring and Kerry. The Minister should consider encouraging prospective authors to write textbooks in the dialects suitable to the particular schools.
I appeal to the Minister to continue the good work started by his predecessor in relation to vocational education. I said once, and I repeat it now,  that the university is the curse of this country. The salvation of the country will be found in the vocational schools. I would like to see such schools in every parish. Along the seaboard areas the principal subjects taught should be marine engineering, navigation and such other branches of seamanship. I know a start is being made in that direction in Killybegs, but I would like to see in every school along the Irish seaboard navigation and marine engineering taught.
There is no use in our asking the children in the migrant areas to attend schools in which marine engineering is taught, or any other vocational classes, unless we are prepared to give them some remuneration, by way of scholarships or otherwise, to encourage them to remain there during the time they are acquiring the knowledge which will be imparted to them in class. We, who come from the congested districts in the Gaeltacht, know that immediately the children reach school-leaving age they are off to the potato fields in England and Scotland. Therefore, if we want them to remain at home attending the vocational schools we must compensate them in some way for the financial loss they will suffer by remaining at home during these particular seasons. I think that the number of scholarships from the Gaeltacht to the university could be cut, and that many more scholarships could be granted to pupils attending the vocational schools. I believe that the money which is being spent on secondary and university education could very well be diverted to more beneficial channels in our vocational schools.
I shall finish on the point on which I opened my speech. The primary object of education in this country for the past quarter of a century has been the revival and the survival of the Irish language. For God's sake let us get together, admit failure and try something else to preserve the badge of our nationality—our language.
Mr. J. Brennan: I propose in the contribution which I intend to make on this Estimate, to refer to that particular aspect of it which relates  to vocational education. As a representative on a vocational committee, I want to say at the outset that we are particularly concerned with the difficulties we are up against in the provision of adequate facilities for vocational education in Donegal. It is one of the counties which, due to financial reasons, did not get going as early as others. The position at the moment is that we have not anything like adequate facilities. We have not the number of schools required and so placed as to be even within reach by transport of all the pupils who would like to avail of such facilities. Therefore, I am afraid we will have to appeal to the Minister and to the Department to get better facilities by way of an increased contribution. The contribution which we are getting from the Department is not sufficient. We believe it should be based not on a valuation but on a population basis. We are prepared to put up arguments in support of that point of view.
We believe that the areas in which valuations are high are those in which good facilities already exist in regard to secondary education. They are the areas where there are fewer people who cannot afford a secondary education. They are mainly the areas where the population is not at a great disadvantage if they have not adequate facilities for vocational and continuation education. As the previous speaker, my colleague, has pointed out, we in Donegal unfortunately have areas where the pupils after leaving the primary school cannot hope to continue their education in any other way except by self effort. I do not think it is fair that we should have such a position in 1953—that we should have children growing up in the Gaeltacht without any hope of being able to continue their education after leaving the primary school.
The committee, of which I am a member, has tried, as far as it is possible for it, by a scheme of its own to provide travelling scholarships. The pupils who qualify for these small scholarships are thereby enabled to meet the abnormal travelling expenses which they must incur in order to reach the technical school that is nearest to them. But that is not sufficient  to meet the problem in Donegal. We have areas where transport is not even within striking distance of any technical school. We have a gigantic programme for the building of a number of technical schools. If these could be provided they would go a long way towards solving our problem.
There is the other point. The contribution which we are given, generous as it may seem, is not by any means adequate to enable us to carry out our programme. Consequently, the operation of that programme has to be drastically curtailed. We can only proceed with a small portion of it. We have made repeated appeals to the Department and to the Minister for more generous subventions from the Central Fund. I have before me a few figures which would seem to indicate the unfairness of the present system under which contributions are made to the different counties. Let me take the South Riding of Tipperary, which has a population of 76,000. The contribution that it received from the Department towards the provision of vocational education during the year 1952-53 was £22,873, whereas Donegal, with a population of 142,000, as against the 76,000 in the South Riding of Tipperary, gets a contribution of £17,871. In other words, with more than double the population we get less than half the contribution.
We believe that is unfair, and that the contribution should be based on the figures of population rather than on valuations. We are, as I say, prepared to support that point of view by various arguments. As I have said, the counties with the higher valuations are usually the wealthier counties where parents are in a much better position to provide a secondary education for their children. They are also the counties which are better provided with secondary schools. In a county such as ours, with congested areas and low valuations, you have a great many more of the poorer type of parents who cannot afford to give their children a secondary education, nor are there as great facilities in it, in the way of secondary schools, as there are in the wealthier counties.
 I would appeal to the Minister seriously to consider adjusting the present scheme so as to enable counties like Donegal to proceed with its rather comprehensive programme of school building which as he himself will admit —indeed any person who glances at the situation will admit it—is absolutely essential if we are to meet the requirements of the county in so far as technical education is concerned.
The number of technical schools which we have in Donegal at the moment have proved to be of a very high standard. They are highly successful and are doing very good work. The few of them that we have here and there tend to expose to the other areas, that are without such schools, how essential it is that we should have more facilities of that type for our children.
My primary concern in intervening in this debate was to make this appeal again to the Minister. We have appealed to him by means of deputations in the past to consider giving a more generous contribution towards bringing our programme to completion in the shortest possible time.
The same thing applies in relation to the primary schools throughout the country. I think it is right that we should congratulate the Minister on making a serious effort towards improving more of our primary schools and in getting rid of the many unsuitable school buildings that we have. Despite all that he has done, there is still a great leeway to be made up. There is a long way yet to go if we are to catch up on the programme which would be necessary to completely eliminate all the unsuitable school buildings that there are in the country. I move to report progress.
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