Committee on Finance. - Vote 28—Office of the Minister for Education (Resumed).

Wednesday, 16 June 1965

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 216 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 43 Next Page Last Page

Debate resumed on the following motion:

Go ndeonófar suim nach mó ná £732,500 chun slánaithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1966, le haghaidh Tuarastail agus Costais Oifig an Aire Oideachais (lena n-áirítear Forais Eolaíochta agus Ealaíon), le haghaidh Seirbhísí Ilghnéitheacha áirithe Oideachais agus Cultúir, agus Ildeontais-i-gCabhair—(Minister for Education).

Mr. P. Hogan: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  (South Tipperary): Before questions, I was dealing with capital expenditure on education, referred to by a previous speaker, and available in the published statistics of OECD and elsewhere. I was endeavouring to show that these statistics, at first sight, are likely to give a false impression of the actual expenditure on both secondary and university education in so far as parents provide a considerable part of school expenses, both secondary and university, out of their own pockets. There is, of course, a small number of scholarships. As well as that, there is education by the religious bodies provided at a very cheap rate. However, that does not gainsay the fact that what I said originally is true: education as such is under-capitalised. We will have to face the fact that, if we are to hold our position in a competitive world, more money will have to be invested in education.

If education is to be made available [1059] to all our people, irrespective of income, who would benefit by it, then a more liberal attitude will have to be adopted. It is the aim of this Party to provide education at all levels to all members of our society in so far as our economy will permit. That is the humanitarian approach. It is also an essentially economic approach in this highly competitive world. It is true that numbers from the point of view of higher education are, by and large, better in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland than they are here.

Two opinions were expressed here by two different speakers. Deputy Jones, by implication rather than specifically, is doubtful as to whether too much emphasis is not being placed upon science. Deputy O'Leary took the opposite view; he thinks insufficient emphasis is placed on science. I come down on the side of Deputy O'Leary. I believe mathematics and science—I have said this before— should be the cornerstones of our educational system. If we are to hold our place in the world as a national family, scientific education must receive ever-increasing attention. It was as a result of pressure from this side of the House, I choose to think, that the Minister's predecessor was constrained to give grants to secondary schools all over the country. I have not seen in his speech any reference to progress in that field.

I should have liked a little information as to the amount paid out in grants for the establishment of laboratories up and down the country. I should like to know the number of laboratories set up and what success has attended that particular measure. It is one of extreme importance. I agree wholeheartedly with Deputy O'Leary as regards the importance of science. By science, I mean physics and chemistry, and I would include in that mathematical physics and mathematics in general. These are the scientific subjects. They are so important that Britain has found it desirable in her economy to set up a Ministry of Science.

I mentioned here previously that a [1060] few years ago I happened to be at an international fair in Brussels where there was an exhibition. I was particularly interested in the Russian exhibit. This was shortly after the “sputnik” had been launched and of course they had a “sputnik” on exhibition. But they also had a side exhibit with an amount of statistical information comparing their educational endeavours with those of America, Italy, Great Britain and other countries. It was clear that the emphasis was very much upon the scientific aspect of education. In fact, they were convinced that predominance in the field of scientific endeavour would naturally be followed by predominance in the field of power politics. Whatever about that, the scientific pre-eminence of Russia cannot be disputed at the moment, and this exhibit showed they had devoted enormous resources and large numbers of people to scientific education. They were able to produce statistics—I presume correct—showing that a very large proportion of their people and resources were being devoted to those pursuits as compared with even America or Great Britain.

I mention these points to show that that is a world trend. Unless we try to keep pace with it, there is no use talking about the humanities and quoting Virgil. It will avail us little in the harsh world of realities. I would wholeheartedly come down in favour of the advocacy of scientific education. I do not think it is being overrated. In fact, I would suggest it is being actually underdone. If we are to expand education as I would like to see it expanded, attention must be paid to it.

Telefís Éireann has been mentioned here as an aid to education. Certainly, it is a most important medium. I was very pleased to hear the Minister announce he is going to have reception units in every secondary school. I do not see why, perhaps at a later stage, that should not be extended even to our larger national schools. A course in physics has already been given on Telefís Éireann. As Deputy Jones quite properly remarked, history and geography are probably subjects that could [1061] lend themselves to adequate treatment by such a medium. We all know from our early school days that in general history and geography were most boring subjects. My memory of history is nothing more than a memory of dates to be painfully kept until the next examination, and then promptly forgotten. History is a subject that could be treated in a far more exciting fashion. But I do not think it could be treated in that fashion with the ordinary resources available in the primary and secondary schools. It is a subject that could be very adequately dealt with through the visual medium of television. The same applies to geography.

I was also pleased to hear that the library service to our primary schools is going ahead. I would ask the Minister to consider also a library service for those of our secondary schools that have not already got one. As a child grows older a library service becomes more useful to him. He is at a stage of maturity when he is more capable of utilising it. If I had my choice as to where to place a library I would be inclined to go first for the older age group, who are able to appreciate and benefit by the library service, rather than the more junior pupils.

The question of one-teacher and two-teacher schools has been mentioned here. It is a subject in which Deputy Dillon was always very much interested. Being familiar with the conditions in the more thinly populated parts of western Ireland, it is a subject which probably bore in on him very much—trying to provide a national school service in thinly populated rural areas.

I put down a question to the Minister about school transport in a rural part of my own constituency. I elicited the information from him that he had no authority to provide or supplement transport by local services to secondary schools. The position arose in that instance because a local bus service happened to shut down. This meant extreme hardship to a number of of children living in a very isolated part of the country. Previously, [1062] they had a very suitable bus service which they availed of to go to the local technical schools and the secondary schools at Thurles. Many of them now have to terminate their secondary education or, alternatively, their parents will have to make more substantial sacrifices.

I know this is a very difficult matter. Once the Minister for Education accepts the principle of supplementing transport to schools, you must ask yourself: where is it going to end? Where is he going to get sufficient money, because we are going to open the flood gates. I could see the demand becoming virtually impossible. However, these difficulties have been met in other spheres of social dispensation by the Government. I feel it would not be impossible for the Minister to devise a scheme, however limited, for the more necessitous cases to help with the transport problem. Some of these small one- and two-teacher schools are no longer able to provide adequate teaching services and there will have to be certain integration and amalgamation at national school level. I do not know whether the Department have done any research work on this question of transport. Possibly they have. But I would ask the Minister to devote some attention to it from now on. I am sure it is a question that will arise on next year's Estimate, and eventually something will have to be done about it.

The question of vocational guidance, particularly career guidance, is important. One of our national newspapers, the Irish Independent, for years has been issuing an excellent little booklet called Guide to Careers. Apart from what information they could get by local inquiry, in past years parents in rural parts were often very untutored in regard to this matter. They have often been the worst guides in the world as regards their own children. Vocational guidance as regards the type of school to attend and the careers to be followed is something which merits more attention than it has got heretofore in our society. I would join with the other speakers in asking the Minister to give his attention to this matter.

[1063] The Minister mentions expenditure on scholarships and says that expenditure by local authorities in the financial year 1965-66 is estimated at about £500,000, towards which the State will contribute £300,000. My own county council has been, I must admit, reasonably liberal in matters of this sort. It is a county where rates are a problem, as they are in all counties. I consider the proportion contributed by the State is still too low. If you are to provide scholarships on the basis of pound for pound with local rates, you will not achieve, in the near future, that degree of expansion of scholarships which I feel is desirable.

Rates are an acute problem in most counties and will result in delaying the expansion of scholarship schemes. I admit the position is slightly better than it was a couple of years ago, as the Minister mentions, but I feel this is a matter in which the State must play a leading part. I feel they should not be looking to the already overburdened local rates to come to the rescue. If you base the expenditure on scholarships on some basis related to local rates, you are merely using that as an excuse to scale down expenditure.

I have noted, although I am not aware whether it still exists, that there has been a system in operation by which secondary scholarships and university scholarships have been correlated, that is, that the proportion of secondary to university scholarships must be kept in balance. That is a mistake. The local people should be allowed a more liberal interpretation of what is required in respect of secondary and university scholarships. Secondary scholarships may not be a great necessity in some areas. There may be an adequate supply of secondary schools in the area. Therefore, university scholarships may be the prime necessity of that community and in other parts of the country the situation might be the reverse.

We have, in my county, with residential colleges and secondary schools, reasonable provision for secondary education for people who are prepared to cycle a few miles unless there is some snobbery in their [1064] makeup and they want to go to some other school in a different area. There are sufficient secondary schools in the county within a few miles of any town to cater for everybody. Therefore, secondary scholarships are not so acute a problem as university scholarships. Here in Dublin pupils with university scholarships can live at home but those from the country have to pay substantial fees for their maintenance. If more latitude were given to local authorities, they would be better judges of what is needed.

As regards the amount of money given in scholarships, it has been observed, and the Department must have observed it also, that the amount of a scholarship, which seems perhaps fairly reasonable when first awarded, after two or three years, with the rise in the cost of living and books and fees in universities, becomes inadequate. A figure is fixed for these scholarships and then the people who get them are compelled to come back with their hats in their hands to ask the local authorities to intercede with the manager and the Minister to have a few pounds added to the amount.

It would be a better system if scholarships were awarded on a dual basis. They should be awarded on university fees, on the one hand, and then laboratory fees and fees for books that may be necessary, on the other. One part of the scholarship could be given first and then the other given for maintenance, which should vary with the cost of living index figure. They would have a hedge by that means against rising costs and it would not be necessary for them to come back seeking increases. This would give security to people who get scholarships. They would have a hedge to meet increases in the cost of living and they would be enabled to complete their university courses. I feel that if the Minister devises scholarships on these lines, it will provide greater financial protection for scholarship pupils, particularly those who come from families where every pound counts.

The Minister mentions that he hopes by 1970 we will have 20,000 scholarship pupils in our post-primary schools [1065] and 2,000 university scholarship holders. That is not bad, but we must not forget that will be 1970 and by that time in all probability our position vis-à-vis Northern Ireland will not have altered because they will probably have improved their educational facilities to a corresponding degree. Therefore, there will still be a considerable lag between the educational facilities obtaining there and here.

I admit at once that it is almost impossible to visualise that our educational facilities, particularly for the poorer section of the community, would be on the same basis as Northern Ireland and Great Britain where the provision for educational facilities is double what it is here, but I would say to the Minister that there is still considerable leeway to be made up. I do not consider the provision here for scholarships by any means adequate. He is really a little over-penurious in his attitude to scholarship education in general.

I have perhaps dwelt unduly on this point but I consider it is a very disheartening thing in society that there are a number of people going around who, through no fault of their own but because their parents were poor, are unable to realise their educational ambitions. It is socially unsound and socially unwise to foster a type of community which allows that particular type of circumstance to continue.

I am pleased to see that the educational bulge in secondary education continues and that we are now approaching the round figure of 100,000 pupils in our secondary schools. It is gratifying that in a decade our secondary school population has roughly doubled from a round figure of 50,000 to a round figure of 100,000. It is essential to our national well-being that that trend should continue and be encouraged.

The Minister mentioned that he intended to establish four comprehensive schools, one at Carraroe, one at Cootehill, one at Shannon and one in Glenties. I do not know where Carraroe is but I know where the other places are and as far as I am aware no other secondary schools are located in those areas. I have, therefore, nothing [1066] to say to the Minister on that score. He is providing secondary education at places where there is inadequate provision for that type of tuition.

A fear was expressed in many quarters that the comprehensive schools are intended to supplant existing educational facilities. That would be a great mistake. I do not think we should proceed with our educational development as, for a while, we proceeded with our health legislation and development, namely, by attempting to supplant rather than to supplement. I do not know whether the Minister has worked out in detail in his mind the function which these comprehensive schools will ultimately fill. All I gather from his brief is that there will be a big school servicing a big area, with a big curriculum and a big staff, and that there will be vocational guidance. Further than that, I have a feeling that, perhaps, he is in rather an exploratory mood as far as comprehensive schools are concerned. They are an importation from abroad and, perhaps, like a lot of importations, they will have to be adapted to the peculiar circumstances of our society.

I hope that if the comprehensive schools produce worthwhile new departures or new thinking in the field of secondary education our existing secondary schools will be alert and will adapt and modify, if necessary, the lessons to be learned from the comprehensive schools which the Minister is now setting up and that it will not be necessary to have a whole host of these schools dotted all over the country, perhaps, duplicating work which can easily be done by some of our existing schools.

In reference to these schools, the Minister has also mentioned the question of an extended year. On page 8 of his brief he says:

Even those who successfully complete the Leaving Certificate course could in many cases benefit by a further year of study before taking up employment or proceeding to a course of higher education.

I will make a suggestion in this respect to the Minister. This is a little country with only 2.8 million [1067] people. We have a high emigration rate. Unfortunately, many of our people who emigrated became hewers of wood and drawers of water. A number of people who do our Leaving Certificate examination will emigrate possibly to the neighbouring island which has over 50 million people. I do not know if many employers in Britain have ever heard of our Leaving Certificate but they are all very familiar with the General Certificate of Education which is their equivalent of our secondary school Leaving Certificate. I would ask the Minister to explore the possibility that some of these students who, he suggests, might stay on for an extra year, having got their Leaving Certificate, would take the General Certificate of Education examination. When these people emigrate and look for employment in Great Britain they can go to an employer and say: “I have taken your standard secondary educational examination” and their employment possibilities will be enhanced considerably. The average employer in Britain is acquainted just with his own educational system. He is accustomed to taking on apprentices and employees and the GCE is the certificate with which he is acquainted. It might be a very good idea if the Minister would examine that possibility with a view to equipping these lads who will emigrate with the type of certificate which will receive ready acceptance in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

There is little further in the Minister's brief that I feel I might refer to but there is a matter which I think I may mention and here I am expressing purely my personal views. It is a matter upon which there will be considerable difference of opinion. I realise that the Commission on Higher Education has not yet brought out its report although it is expected shortly. I do not know what will be in that report or how it will deal with our university situation. Deputy Jones mentioned the question of a university college for Limerick. That is good but there have been rumours at different times of break-away efforts, or thinking along those lines, as regards Cork and [1068] Galway. In Dublin, we have two universities—the National University, with its constituent colleges at Cork and Galway and Dublin University which is usually referred to as Trinity College. We must be one of the few cities in the world with two universities and they are part of our social and political heritage. When we speak in the field of industrialisation and economics, we speak of integration and rationalisation. Surely the same arguments could be brought to bear on the question of trying to run two universities in a relatively poor country. There must be some duplication in many fields where integration and rationalisation could lead to better results and, perhaps, better economy.

As I mentioned already, we have considerable emigration in this country. We also have considerable emigration of university graduates. It takes generations for a university to build up an international reputation. The employment possibility for a graduate is not associated with the university from which he may come. It would be a retrograde step if, for instance, Cork seceded and decided to establish itself as a university. You would have a position whereby graduates would classify themselves as B.A. Cork, M.B. Cork, and so on.

At present, we have two universities and it would be bad for the students of the future if there was disintegration in our university system. Rather, I would plead for integration. If the situation arose that we could have graduates who would write after their names M.B. Ireland or B.A. Ireland, after several decades with a large number of pupils coming from all university courses combined, such a qualification, from whatever college the students came, would have an international standard which never could obtain if we fragmented. The future international recognition of our university education would be enhanced by university integration and the reverse would be the case as a result of disintegration. These are purely personal views I am putting to the Minister. He will later on have to consider these when the Report of the Commission on Higher Education is presented to him. [1069] I wish to mention one final matter which again relates to university education on a more specialised line, medical education. I realise now that I am on the hinterland or twilight zone of the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health. We have, unfortunately, in this city too many small hospitals and the first people to recognise that, and are well aware of it, are the medical teachers and specialists in the city. Medical education here, I found from my experience elsewhere, is severely handicapped, firstly, by the number of small hospitals, and, secondly, by the poor liaison that exists between the universities and the hospitals. The degree of autonomy the hospitals enjoy here seems to be greater than obtains at other university centres. In other universities in providing group medical teaching the university educational authority has great influence and occupies a predominant position in devising and controlling the educational services provided in the hospitals.

Very often one will find there is what is called a university hospital, one large comprehensive hospital in which the specialist hospital staff holds a much more dominant position in their university hospitals than seems to obtain here. Our hospitals serve two functions. In our city hospitals one function is to treat the sick and the other is to educate. While the care of the sick patient has taken precedence over teaching and training of doctors, I think closer liaison should exist between our universities and our teaching hospitals. I fear that our universities have tended to become too much a mere examining body.

This lack of closer contact was adversely commented upon by the American medical group who came over here two years ago, and some improvements were made after that. Still, one cannot help feeling that the position could be further improved. It would mean a sacrifice of independence on the part of the governing bodies of some of our hospitals but I feel the overriding interest of good medical education must be served. I think our universities must be placed in the position that not alone may they test the standard of academic [1070] knowledge of prospective graduates but they must also be able to test, supervise and control the standard of training provided during the years these students are deemed to be undergraduates of a university.

I would, therefore, press these considerations on the Minister because they will, no doubt, come within his purview during his term of office. If we consider, for instance, our teaching hospitals as such, while teaching is requisite to university degrees here, if the teachers and lecturers attached to these hospitals were to provide teaching facilities within their hospitals, firstly, they would have no authority to do so, and secondly, they would have to provide the money out of their own pockets.

For example, have we provided in our teaching hospitals library facilities; have we provided lecture theatres; have we provided in these theatres, if there are such, the modern audio-visual help which we associate with teaching? Have we provided adequate residential facilities? Have we provided adequate laboratory facilities? Yet we have three medical schools in the city. Medical education cannot be given entirely by didactic lectures at the university. It must be provided partly by ward apprenticeships. After all, it is not an exact science; it is a combination of art and science. The favourite dictum of the late Professor McArdle was: “From the bedside to the study, and from the study to the bedside”. I believe that if we are to improve the educational facilities in the particular field with which I am dealing, we will have to improve the facilities available to our students in our teaching hospitals.

Our hospitals are subsidised out of the Hospitals Trust Fund, so they have lost, so to speak, the absolute autonomy or independence which they enjoyed many years ago. If their educational purposes are to be preserved and enhanced for the future, that will probably mean a further sacrifice of their autonomy and independence. These are changes which are inevitable, and the Minister will appreciate that they must take place. [1071] At present in Cork there are two teaching hospitals which by modern standards cannot provide the type of undergraduate teaching which would be supplied at a place like Guy's Hospital in London. At present agitation is afoot as regards a hospital for Cork.

Here is a field in which the Minister could collaborate with his colleague, the Minister for Health. It should be possible to amalgamate the existing services and the existing staffs, and to build one university hospital in Cork under the management of the university for educational aspects. That would considerably enhance the medical faculty at the Cork constituent college. The situation is more difficult here, because we have an already established set of circumstances, than it is where the situation is more fluid and where developments may be taking place in the future. I want to draw the attention of the Minister to that aspect of the problem and I hope he will consult with his colleague, the Minister for Health. It would be a permannent tribute to himself and the Minister for Health if he could secure that developments in Cork will proceed along the lines I have suggested to enhance the teaching facilities and prestige of one of our constituent colleges.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I should like to congratulate the Minister on his new appointment. Having had experience of the way he was able to administer the position he held before he came into this House, and recognising his ability and sense of fair play, I feel sure the Department of Education will benefit as a result of his taking it over.

There are a number of matters to which I should like to refer as briefly as possible. We are all aware that important examinations are taking place this week and, if I am allowed to say it, there is also a bus strike this week. In view of the terrible upset to the pupils taking the examinations, would it not have been possible to have deferred them, or made some alternative arrangement under which the examinations could have been conducted? I am sure the Minister is [1072] aware that quite a number of children simply will not be able to take the examinations. I am sure he is also aware that quite a number of them who have to take the examinations after walking five or six miles to the place of the examinations will not be able to give of their best, or do justice to themselves. Perhaps it is a bit late, but I would ask the Minister to ensure that when the papers are being finally dealt with, this point is remembered, if at all possible. We know that last year there were many things which seemed to be about to prevent the examinations from taking place. Eventually they took place and there were some rather peculiar results. We all know the famous case of a girl who got a pass in a subject she did not do. However, she passed her examination. Possibly some mistakes were made. I do not want to decry the people who carried out the examinations, but I have details of these cases if they are needed.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  Did she complain?

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  She thought she had got honours in another subject which she failed. Perhaps someone else passed as a result. Can the Minister give us any idea whether these examinations achieve their objective? I believe the merits of these examinations are very much overrated. I do not believe that a system whereby pupils are examined at certain stages of their lives—and their whole lives depend on the result of that examination, whether they are ill or well, and whether or not their brains are functioning properly—is the correct system. I believe some much fairer system could be evolved. There could be a report from their schools which would show whether a particular pupil had worked for the year and whether the pupil could make use of further education. All those things could and should be considered. The cost of the present examination system must be very high, and I wonder do the results warrant the cost. Perhaps the new Minister might have a look at these matters and decide in time if changes are needed. It might be very [1073] easy to make a change which would give a much better result.

Deputy Hogan referred to the type of pupil who is going to emigrate and should therefore, take the GCE examination. I wonder would he also put an eartag on him: “For export only”. I do not think we educate any of our children for export. Most parents have the fond idea that when their children get a certain amount of education, they will be able to find a job in this country. Unfortunately, the vast majority do not do so. That does not alter the situation. The dream is still there and we hope it will be possible to realise it.

That brings us to the question of higher education. On page 2 of his brief the Minister referred to university scholarships and stated that a further operation of the Scholarship Act of 1961 will entail additional expenditure of more than £30,000 by the Department this year. I commented on this a few weeks ago when the Minister was replying to that question in the Dáil and I hope the Minister will offer an opinion on it in his reply. Local authorities spend only the same amount on university scholarships as they do on secondary scholarships. Since the secondary scholarship in the jurisdiction of my local authority amounts to £50 or £60, only a proportion of one in every four of the winners of secondary scholarships, roughly, can be given university scholarships because a university scholarship is in the region of £200. The local authority cannot make available any more money for university scholarships, so, for every four children who get secondary school scholarships through the local authority schemes, only one can benefit by the university scholarship.

Can the Minister remedy this? I believe that every child who is able to avail of, or can make use of, secondary and university education should be entitled to it. We have gone long past the time where children are sent to secondary schools or universities simply because their parents can pay for them rather than because the children can benefit by such further education. The Minister refers to the level of his programme in 1970. I hope he will go [1074] much further than he says. He states that by 1970 the number of scholarships will be doubled. I hope he keeps in mind the moral conclusion that children who could benefit by higher education should be given a chance to do so.

I do not want to pass on without saying that I do not think the Department have been doing very well. The number of scholarships since 1961 has increased very much. I may appear impatient, but I think they should have increased still more—that an effort should be made to have the number of scholarships vastly increased because the whole future of the country depends on the education of our young people. If we are to get anywhere as a nation, we must have our young people educated.

I note that the farming community in particular are at present making an excellent effort to have all types of education made available for their children. It is an indication that we are getting away from the situation which existed for so many years in rural Ireland where the farmer sent two of his children into the professions and kept one on the farm. The two who went to the professions got all the education and the other, who stayed on the farm, got no education or very little. I am glad to see that we now have the Irish farmer growing up as a highly educated man and that the next generation of our farmers will be able to make use of the knowledge they obtained.

The ordinary worker's child as well as that of the farmer requires extra education. Reference is continually being made to those who leave the country. If we follow that up and go across to England, as I do sometimes, and take the children of people in my county or other counties who have gone over there, we shall always find that the boys and girls who got that little extra education have got the better jobs while those who did not get it trundle barrows at Euston or do other menial jobs Of course there are exceptions because where people, by sheer force of personality, have been able to get away from the disadvantages of a poor education, they have [1075] got promotion. That applies here and elsewhere. For those reasons, I have always held that any money expended on education is well spent.

At page 3 of his statement, the Minister referred to primary education and stated that in the school year which ended on 30th June, 1964, there were 14,297 teachers employed in national schools compared with 14,218 for the same date in 1963, a drop of 79. The number of pupils was 502,201, an increase of 220 over 1963. It makes peculiar reading.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  I suggest the Deputy is wrong. Were there not more teachers in the year ending 30th June, 1964, than in the previous year?

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Yes, there were 79 more. Still, it makes rather peculiar reading because further down the Minister refers to the number of pupils per teacher and, reading it, one would assume that the only places where changes have occurred are the bigger centres. Are we to assume that the one-teacher or two-teacher schools in the country, where up to four classes are being looked after by one teacher, each class comprising many more pupils than it should have, they have to wait in the queue until the bigger centres are looked after? Is that the idea of the Department and the Minister?

As far as the school building programme is concerned, we all agree there has been a very big improvement but it would be wrong to get the impression that that has resulted in the wiping out of blots all over the country—schools built over 100 years ago, badly built, badly kept, still in use. I do not suppose the Minister can wave a wand and have that changed overnight. It would be unfair to suggest he should, but when we are speaking of education, we must remember we cannot have it at primary level without decent schools.

I have said that money spent on education is well spent and I add now that money spent on school buildings should form a great proportion of expenditure on education. My Party [1076] and the House in general are only too anxious to vote any money the Minister requires for this very important job. The miracle evident to everybody is not that the children who come from some of those bad schools in the country are badly educated but that they have been educated at all, in view of the facilities available to them— some of the schools rat infested, with broken windows, broken doors. Something must be done about them.

The Minister might be prepared to suggest to school managers that the fact that a school is to be built in a certain area within five or six years should not mean that the old school should be allowed to collapse. If an appeal were made to managers to do their best to maintain the old school until such time as the new school is ready, it would improve the comfort of teachers and children. Some managers, and indeed, some teachers, are afraid that if they keep the old school in a good state of repair, a new one will not be built. That is shortsighted. An effort should be made to get the old schools painted and cleaned, windows repaired and doors replaced when broken. Children being children it is amazing how schools can deteriorate over a few years if proper attention is not given to their upkeep.

One thing which brands the old schools as being completely outdated is that in many of them no provision has been made for any type of toilet accommodation. It is very hard to understand why, when grants are being made available to private individuals to have bathrooms and so on added to their houses, the small sum of money necessary should not have been expended in the district to have toilet accommodation made available in these old schools. These may only last for six to ten years but they may still be the place in which certain children will spend the rest of their school years.

One thing which I cannot understand is that when some of these schools are built some of them are not kept up to standard. There is nothing more annoying than to go into a country district and see a school, which has been built for six, ten or 12 [1077] years, left unpainted and with a broken window or two. There is no reason why that should be so. The Minister should try to arrange that there will be some type of inspector who will examine all schools in turn and see that they are kept in fairly good condition. Those which have only been recently built should at least be kept clean and painted.

There is another point, that is, in regard to what happens the old school when the new school is built. In many cases a local committee will take over the old building and transform it into a hall. It is rather extraordinary that we sometimes find, after spending £500 or £600 on one of those old buildings which appeared to be tumbling down, that it can be turned into a finer building than the new school which perhaps cost £15,000 or £16,000. This happens occasionally. If it is properly looked after and turned into a parish hall, it is serving a useful function. I have one school in mind which is a teacher's residence with schoolrooms at each end. A new school was built about a quarter of a mile away which is a lovely school and is well kept. The teacher and his family live in the building and keep that portion of it, but apparently the old schoolrooms are nobody's responsibility and they are practically derelict. Is there any possibility that the Minister might have some arrangement made either to re-house the teacher or to do something with the old school which is an eyesore in a very nice village? I am sure it is a source of annoyance to the teacher who has no means of repairing the school or doing anything with it. I am quite sure that it could be turned into something else, such as a dispensary, and could at least be kept in a proper state of repair. It is getting worse over the years but somebody must still own it and I suspect that it still belongs to the Board of Works.

The Minister refers to the fact that the output of men teachers from St. Patrick's Training College will be increased considerably, following the completion of a scheme of reconstruction and enlargement which is estimated to cost £1,500,000. Unfortunately it will be a number of years before [1078] the effect of the extra pupils going in can be felt. One mistake which the Minister's predecessors made was that they did not attempt to have a system of extension for St. Patrick's Training College by using other than the training college itself as school buildings for the time being. Four years hence, many pupils at present in overcrowded schools will have passed out of them.

On that point I should like to comment on the Minister's reply a few weeks ago to a question about the requirements for primary teaching. He pointed out that singing was a “must”. Deputy Corish pointed out that singing is not something that you acquire: you either can sing or you cannot. I know that people who cannot sing are paid a lot of money to provide a type of entertainment which some of us do not like.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  Some get MBEs.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The trouble is that many people who would otherwise be excellent teachers are not allowed, according to the Minister's reply, to qualify, because they cannot sing. If that is the regulation, then the Minister, on reflection, might consider that there is some loophole which he did not mention at the time and if there is a way by which some of those people can become teachers without having to sing, then it should be availed of. It is just too bad that while we have a shortage of teachers, we are turning down people who might be excellent teachers because they cannot sing.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  We are not short; we have the full complement of people whom we can train.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  You are short of accommodation for training teachers.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  No, I am not saying that either.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  We could go on and on, but let us hope the Minister will be able to provide larger training establishments and that thereby singers or non-singers will be allowed to qualify as teachers. There would be [1079] just as much sense in stipulating a qualification that a person must be either blonde or brunette before becoming a teacher. It would be just as logical as expecting people to be able to sing.

There is a reference in the Minister's speech to the provision of reference libraries in national schools. The Minister says that this is being extended to a number of counties, and he includes Meath. I am a member of the Library Committee in Meath and we boast of the fact that we have libraries. Does this not merely mean reference libraries? If it does, I assume that some direction will be given to children on how to use reference libraries because to have a reference library without knowing how it can be used would be a waste of time. If this refers to reference libraries, it is not such an important matter as if it referred to new libraries for school children. Some of the previous speakers were under the impression that this referred to libraries and not just to reference libraries.

There is also a reference to the number of pupils on the rolls of recognised secondary schools and which now is almost 93,000 compared with 56,411 ten years ago. This bears out the statement I made a few minutes ago that the accent now is on more secondary education. The Minister said that there has been an increase of 65 per cent in that period. Further down, he said that the number of registered secondary teachers in receipt of incremental salary in the present school year is 3,964 compared with 2,478 ten years ago. That represents roughly 30 per cent for 65 per cent more pupils and I wonder if we are going to run short of secondary teachers also. If we are, the Minister should do something about it.

Reference is also made to the four comprehensive schools which have been mentioned previously, those at Carraroe, Cootehill, Shannon and Glenties. I should like one point to be cleared up here. We are aware of the controversy about comprehensive schools and it has been freely bandied about that the locating of some of these schools [1080] was to placate politicians. I have great respect for politicians but to allow them to decide where certain schools should be located is not the ideal. I assume there will be only four or five at the start but if we are to follow on, I trust these schools will not be placed just to please individuals rather than provide extra facilities. That would be a wrong way to do it, and this is particularly true of Cootehill because I understand a new technical school has been built within a short distance of it. I know the Minister says it is not intended to replace technical education but surely these two are complementary? Surely, if there is an up-to-date technical school in the area in which it is proposed to put one of these comprehensive schools, there will be overlapping? Does the Minister not consider that it might be much better, if possible, to have the comprehensive school sited where no technical schools are available?

Technical education is one branch of education for which I have the greatest respect. These schools do an excellent job and all the teachers I know are doing their very best, but those, in my opinion, showing the greatest results for money expended are the technical schools. The reason for that is that their approach is more down to earth than some other schools. The fact that young people in the country who go there, having finished in the primary schools, are able in a very short time to display an aptitude for certain types of work means that they can make the very best of their abilities later.

In reference to farmers and farm workers who, as things are at present will not be able to carry on unless they get a knowledge of machines and machinery, technical education gives them the necessary ground work. Again, the scarcity of places in some of these schools causes great inconvenience to quite a number of parents. We have, for instance, in places like Drogheda or Navan schools that are absolutely packed to the doors. A new school has been built in Navan and we still find a number of pupils anxious to avail of accommodation there but the facilities are not available for [1081] them. Drogheda had to close its doors to quite a number of people a few years ago, although there is a very big school there. It seems as if there is no immediate solution to this problem.

The question of children travelling to school over long distances has been raised with the Minister because of the supplemental provision for the payment of bus fares. There should be greater liaison between CIE and the Department of Education. Perhaps, CIE is a bad word to use today but in normal times there should be better co-ordination. It is too bad that one finds groups of children cycling five or six miles in order to get a bus service to take them to school when, by making a short detour, CIE could pick them up in their own village. One finds that happening far too often.

On one occasion I made representations to have a bus diverted from one road to another and I got an extraordinary reply from a local official of CIE who said that the reason why they would not do what I requested was that there would be too many children travelling on the bus. They had already got a bus full but the obvious answer was to put on a second bus. That never seemed to strike CIE and the bus was not put on. I do not know whether the school children grew smaller cycling from their homes to where they got the bus but in any case CIE was not able to take them from their own village.

The Minister referred to television programmes for schools and to the fact that the experiments tried out last year had been very successful and that the interest in school programmes was most encouraging but I should like to get from him even a rough idea of what percentage of schools are availing of television for teaching purposes.

To return to vocational schools, the Minister said that much was being done on the economic side by vocational schools in regard to the training of apprentices, the provision of courses in management administration and the supplying of technicians and technologists. As regards training apprentices, I mentioned a problem [1082] last year which I should like to mention again, because I think it is one of the flaws in the Apprenticeship Act which is administered in conjunction with the Department. It is the question of the boys—all of us, I suppose, know two or three of them—who are referred to in country districts as “naturals”, people whose fathers or relatives were tradesmen of one kind or another. Those children may not have been able to learn anything at school except, perhaps, the rudiments of education and yet they can do a job as a plasterer, carpenter or mason or even as a fitter which could not be done by somebody far more highly educated. No provision is made for that sort of person in the Apprenticeship Act and I think that is a mistake. Provision should be made for them. Some of them are knocking about simply because, due to their lack of education, they cannot become apprentices and, consequently, they remain just labourers. Possibly there is no solution for these people at present but if there is any way in which the Minister can help, I should be glad if he would give his mind to it.

I notice here also that the amount spent on children is roughly £3.10.0 in a reformatory and £3.7.6 in an industrial school. I do not know how the difference of 2/6 comes in. Does the costing include everything? If the rates or grants payable in respect of each child are as stated, does that represent the entire cost of running the establishment? Is the cost divided on a per capita basis, or is there something else included in this? That is something I should be glad to learn from the Minister.

I have already made clear that there is a bottleneck, I believe, in regard to university education for financial reasons but I believe there is also a bottleneck because of educational facilities. There are certain faculties where, unless the first year student passes an examination, he cannot continue his studies. I understand this provision was introduced in order to cut down on the number going through university and make provision for the more brilliant students. Anybody who [1083] has been to the university knows that the first year is not the best year on which to judge any student. It is a year in which they are settling in and many of them who might possibly have been brilliant if they had got through that first examination, have been prevented from going further because they did not succeed in the first year.

Would the Minister consider that there should be some system by which this could be avoided? It is purely a human problem. The boy in his first year will not give the same attention to his studies, having just left a school where there was strict supervision of studies and moved into university where there is absolutely no supervision and education is on a take-it-or-leave-it system and where if they do not take it the responsibility is entirely the students'. Boys do not appreciate that until they find at the end of the term that they have not succeeded in the examination and are, therefore, unable to proceed further. I should like the Minister to have a look at that because I believe it is something which requires attention.

To sum up, I believe that the Department are going in the right direction, that they are doing quite well in their efforts to improve the general education. It is important that as much money as possible should be made available for education.

Brief reference is made in the Minister's statement to the question of invalid children. I had a problem with one of my constituents who had two children who were not mentally retarded but who had such an illness that it was impossible for them to attend the local school. There was no other school to which they could be taken. There were no arrangements of any kind made by which these children could get the normal education. I inquired from a local doctor and his reply rather shocked me. He said that the disease these children were suffering from would gradually get worse and by the time they were 22 or 23 years of age they would die. I talked to the children and found that they were abnormally bright, that they were far in advance [1084] as far as reading or anything else was concerned, of normal children attending school. This was a result of the effort of their parents to keep them up to date. Some effort should be made to make provision for children of that type.

One question to which I have referred on a number of occasions is the system that people call compulsory Irish. The people who have introduced An Fáinne Nua are doing an excellent job. It is the first approach that has been made from outside the schools to encourage the use of Irish so that somebody who knows a little Irish will appreciate that he will not be snubbed by somebody wearing a fáinne when he addresses him in Irish. That has been the experience of far too many people, to my own knowledge. That does not mean that we should continue in the schools, particularly in the primary schools, to teach children subjects through the medium of a language which they do not understand. I cannot repeat that too often because, despite the fact that the Minister will tell me, when he is replying, that there is no such thing as compulsory Irish, that children in the national school do not have to learn through the medium of Irish, I am telling him what I know to be exactly the truth, that children in certain national schools are taught all subjects through the medium of Irish because the teacher feels that if he does not do that there will be a black mark against him in the Department. That is a matter of fact.

I also know that in secondary schools pupils are taught through the medium of Irish subjects which are far too complex to be grasped, except by very bright pupils, even in the language they understand well. Science has been referred to. It would be rather funny if it were not so tragic to find pupils being taught science, using English terms or made up Irish terms, through the medium of Irish and when the pupil gets a problem, he or she must first of all translate it into English, then find the solution and translate the solution into Irish in order to please the teacher. That is doing an injury to the pupil and to the language.

[1085] I honestly believe that the language would progress much more rapidly if it were dealt with in a more rational way. As I have said, the people who introduced the new fáinne are doing an excellent job. If the approach of the educational authorities to the teaching of the language were on the same basis, if, as the Minister suggested, the accent were on the oral rather than the written language, far more progress would be made. One of the biggest complaints at the moment is by parents who find that their children do not get the education which they should get simply because for one reason or another they were not able to get the grasp of the Irish language which they were expected to have and, as a result, missed out the fine points of subjects they were taught through the medium of that language.

Normally, when dealing with people who are anxious to do so, as a trade union official, I use the language. I have not got enough of it to carry on a debate in the House. I do not address my election meetings in Irish and for that reason I think it would not be right that I should address the House in Irish but I believe we can reach a stage where very many more people and very many more school-leaving children, boys and girls, will be able to speak the language and be anxious to speak the language if the accent is taken off compulsion, the idea that “You must do it this way: you must do an examination; you must pass certain subjects in Irish; you must get certain marks in Irish or you will not get the examination”. Take the badge for the job atmosphere out of it and you will foster the language.

I shall conclude by saying that I wish the Minister very well and I am quite sure that he will bring the same success to this Department as he brought to the activities in which he was engaged before he came here.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  May I join with previous speakers in complimenting the Minister, first of all, on his appointment and then on the report of this evening? I have known the Minister a long time and I do know that education is not a task to him but rather a labour of love and that he will be [1086] a very, very good Minister, that he regards the difficulties to be faced as challenges to be overcome and that he has the ability to overcome them.

In the Estimate this year there is an increase of over £2 million. We may be inclined to say that that is very good but we must ask is it enough. Then we must realise that the Minister would like to do very much more but is tied by the limits of the national finances and that we have got a goodly proportion towards education.

Each one of us is aware of the shortcomings in the system. Each member of the House strives after his own manner to help by criticism or by praise to effect an improvement in the system which is, of course, a very serious matter in the national life.

On primary education, which supplies the main part of the education of the mass of the people, I notice a small increase in the number of pupils attending primary schools. Yet, today, there is a tendency for parents not to send their children to primary schools but to seek secondary education for them. That is very good. Unkind critics say that this is a form of snobbery but I certainly never accept that because in the city of Dublin we find among many parents a determination to give their children that education which they themselves were not able to avail of. We should encourage this ambition and the way in which we can do it is by increasing the number of scholarships available for post-primary education.

The Minister has told us that by 1970 he will have doubled the number of scholarships. Dublin Corporation will, of course, play their part in increasing the number for Dublin. At the same time, I feel that scholarships should not be left to the Government and local authorities. Very many wealthy industrialists give money for all kinds of advertising gimmicks, for beer festivals and other flippant things but I do not think any of these people has given one penny towards a scholarship to enable a boy or girl to have some education in science by which they could add to the national wealth and by which they could with their labours in after years pay back [1087] to these companies the investment they had made in them.

I would appeal to Irish industrialists to be as generous as industrialists in other countries are in their respective countries, in providing money for scholarships, so that we can get over one of the bottlenecks in education. It is not every boy or girl whose parents want to educate him or her to university level but we must face the fact that many people cannot afford to provide these educational facilities. If industrialists are generous in contributing some of their profits to this worthy cause, the situation can be eased.

In many of the primary schools in the city of Dublin, the ratio of teachers to pupils is distorted. From dealings I have had with the Minister, I do know of his earnest efforts to make this ratio more equitable. When I was attending one of the Dublin primary schools there was no chance of a teacher having fewer than 30 or 40 pupils in his class and the unfortunate man had to make a superhuman effort to give each boy in the class some kind of basic education. I wish to pay tribute to the primary teachers in this city. Were they not as dedicated as they are, we would probably have had chaos in our educational system long ago. The vast majority of them are dedicated men who strive, in not the best buildings and with not the best equipment, to fit boys and girls for the future battle in life. I know the Minister has already met the teachers' organisations and we look forward to great things from the new Minister with his new approach to education generally. At the same time, I wish to pay tribute to his immediate predecessor who went out of his way to cater for primary and vocational education in the city of Dublin.

In regard to vocational education, Dublin has a very special case for a bigger subsidy towards the maintenance of the system. At the moment the Dublin City Vocational Education Committee is building a £1 million college of technology in Kevin Street, and an addition to Bolton Street which cost nearly £500,000 has just been completed. As well as that, [1088] there are several regional schools which have been either built or extended. Under the present law, the Dublin Corporation may contribute only the product of 2/- in the £ towards vocational education. Last year the then Minister, Deputy Dr. Hillery, had to give us a special subvention in order to overcome this legal obstacle. I do make the plea for the city of Dublin that the Minister take into consideration the fact that we cater for far more than those living in the city. Many of the pupils in these schools live in Kildare, Meath and Wicklow and they commute each day between the city and their native county. Yet Dublin must pay the full cost for these pupils. I make this plea not because Dublin is the capital city but because of the great problem there is here in relation to vocational education. I look forward to the Minister affording special treatment to the Dublin vocational schools in next year's budget.

On secondary schools, I suppose it is the ambition of most parents that their children should have a secondary education. There is perhaps a touch of class distinction or snobbery about this. With the present development in our economy, it would be much better that boys and girls, and particularly boys, should go to the vocational school rather than the secondary school. Deputy O'Leary referred earlier this evening to the need for the teaching of science, and most of us will agree with him on that point. Two years ago, when the international trades apprentices tests were held in Dublin, with students from 13 countries, including our own, the Irish students performed very well in the trade tests in the older crafts like bricklaying and carpentry, but on the metalwork side, the Irish boys were behind other countries. Some trades are dying out. With new techniques coming in, many of the old crafts will disappear but anything in the electronics or the science line will develop. We are far too poor a country not to need to develop a proper system whereby each boy who has a bent towards a trade will have an opportunity of pursuing it. A year ago [1089] there were over 600 students in Dublin who could not gain access to our vocational schools because there was no accommodation for them. The previous Minister took drastic steps to remedy that situation and this year the position will be vastly improved. With the co-operation of the building industry, we were able to have many buildings set up in order to relieve the strain on the existing schools.

There is one school in my own area which is one of the oldest in the city, and perhaps in the country, that is, Ringsend vocational school. It was built many years ago as a school for the teaching of navigation and other nautical subjects. At present the Department is using it as a regional school for teachers and there is not enough room there for all the boys who want to do the junior day course. This school is a hobbyhorse of mine and I do hope the Minister will expedite its extension as quickly as possible.

In the matter of reformatory schools, I notice that some of the Dublin boys who get into trouble are sent as far away as Letterfrack in County Galway. This is a great hardship on the parents who want to see their boy occasionally. They cannot afford to travel to Letterfrack or even to Daingean. The Minister might consider keeping them around Dublin, Wicklow or Kildare. I realise that such boys must be taught not to break the law again but it can be done [1090] just as well in County Dublin as in County Galway.

There are also in the city a number of old primary schools which need rebuilding. It is heartening to see the Minister's figures indicating the progress in this regard, but we can perhaps accelerate that rate because there is much leeway to be made up. We inherited many things from the previous regime, including the educational system which Pearse described as the murder machine. Successive Governments have striven to improve the system and we are making progress. It may be said we lag behind other countries in some respects. I heard one speaker say that we had no career guidance facilities. That is not true. The Dublin City Vocational Education Committee have such an officer and they also have an educational psychologist. Other bodies have similar officers. However, career guidance is of such importance that it must be greatly extended. The days are gone when the boy who came from a working class family took up a job as a messenger-boy until he was 17 or 18 years of age and then was sacked, having no qualifications for any other job. There is a big demand now for boys who are trained in our vocational schools.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 22nd June, 1965.

Last Updated: 15/09/2010 11:34:29 First Page Previous Page Page of 43 Next Page Last Page