Committee on Finance. - Vote 27—Office of the Minister for Education (Resumed).

Wednesday, 22 April 1970

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 245 No. 11

First Page Previous Page Page of 38 Next Page Last Page

Debate resumed on the following motion:—

That a sum not exceeding £5,899,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1971, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Education (including Institutions of Science and Art), for certain miscellaneous educational and cultural services and for payment of sundry grants-in-aid.

—(Minister for Education.)

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  Labhair an Teachta Herbert inné. I nGaeilge a labhair sé ach ní raibh a fhios agam ag an am gurbh í an chaint a rinne sé a chéad óráid sa Teach so. Óráid an-mhaith ab ea í agus dá bhrí sin deinim comhghairdeas leis. Tá súil agam gur minic a bheidh an Teachta Herbert le cloisteáil againn sa Teach seo.

I was not aware last night that the speech I heard from Deputy Herbert was his maiden speech. I should have complimented him on it. I apologise now for not doing so. It was an excellent speech. He spoke in Irish and I hope he will continue to speak in Irish in the future. His contribution was a worthwhile one.

Deputy FitzGerald will, I think, go on record as having said more than [1831] anybody else on this very important subject of education, but I was very impressed with what Deputy Tunney said. His father came from my own county and I think he must have passed on to his son a little of the Mayo touch. Deputy Tunney certainly showed a grasp of the problem. I understand he is a teacher. He pulled no punches. He was not afraid to tread on people's corns on such controversial items as salary and conditions. It would be worth the Minister's while and that of his officials to read Deputy Tunney's contribution because of its depth and the reasonableness of his approach. If we could achieve the objectives set forth by Deputy Tunney and Deputy FitzGerald we would have a worthwhile educational policy.

Last night I paid a well-deserved tribute to the older generation of teachers, both lay and clerical. Lest it might be thought that I was a bit more generous on the clerical side as against the lay, let no one run away with the idea that the lay teachers in the past did not make a very important contribution to education. They were out and about amongst the people. They laboured in the face of great obstacles and difficulties. Many of them had to walk long distances in the old days, sometimes five or six miles. Later they had bicycles and later still they got cars.

In the old days the teachers, and I have been a witness of this, cycled five or six miles to school on wet mornings, and stayed there until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., helping their pupils in every way. They had none of the modern aids like radio or television. It was all hard work and they merit a high place in Heaven. They were really wonderful people and I have personal experience of it. Out of meagre salaries and allowances they provided pencils, copybooks and on many occasions even food for the poor, and they could ill afford it. I am not trying to take from the present generation of teachers but today there are social benefits and other things. Maybe we protest too much.

The Minister, referring to primary education, said that £25,258,000 was being spend on education this year, an [1832] increase of £796,000. It is a slight increase but it is fortunate that it has been possible to provide it in this time of credit squeezes and financial difficulties. I should like to see the amount substantially greater but, of course, the Minister, like his colleagues, had to go to the Minister for Finance to bargain with him as hard as he could to get all he could for the various proposals put forward.

I think that in the national schools in recent years—I have a good knowledge of them because there are a number near me—the children are getting far better opportunities to learn than in times gone by. First of all, most of those schools in my area have central heating. One may ask what that has got to do with education. It has a lot to do with it. So have proper toilet facilities and other such amenities, because when children are comfortable at school, when they are not shivering from the cold, they can learn much better. Furthermore, electric lighting has been installed in practically all our schools and if the day is dark and a child has defective vision, the light can be turned on. These are all advantages from the children's point of view and I hope they will be continued and extended. However, as I have said, the increase of £796,000 does not seem sufficient. As I have said also, perhaps the Minister for Education was not able to persuade the Minister for Finance to give him more.

A controversial subject in many areas is the closing of small schools. A former Deputy of the House, Deputy Calleary, went around with me to try to iron out this problem and we found it a very delicate and difficult operation. Very often we found that what I might call troublemakers in an area got whispering campaigns going. They were people usually who had no children going to school themselves but, perhaps, they owned a local shop and had some vested interest. God bless the chemists, if ever you meet one of those fellows you are in real trouble. It seems the mother occasionally sent a note with the child going to school to get some odds and ends and, therefore, the chemists had a vested interest. [1833] Deputy Calleary and I worked in co-operation as best we could because we considered it was to the advantage of the people in the area to put aside sentimentality, the grá-mo-chroí attitude, because the fundamental objective was to try to get good education for the children. I am glad to say we were successful. For instance, a school was closed within a mile of me and I did not hear a word of protest. The school bus was provided and I was afraid the mothers would be out in front of it. Not a word was spoken.

I feel this is for the good of parents and children and far be it from me to lecture them on how they should educate their children. I never go beyond giving a word of advice when I think it is needed. According to the Minister's figures, which are useful because they show the way the pendulum is swinging, 724 schools were closed, 390 of them one-teacher schools and 307 two-teacher schools. I sincerely hope that some of the problems confronting parents, church authorities, teachers and so forth will be ironed out. This is progress and I have seen it work in my area.

It should be appreciated in this context that some of the older generation had greater ties with their national schools than may be the case today. Many of them may not have had the advantage of a good basic education. Many of them went to England and to America. They came back and there was a lot of sentiment attached to the old school. Now, however, many of them are getting around to the idea that in a central school there are more advantages to be gained for the children—more efficiency, better staffing arrangements, different teachers for different subjects. People are beginning to realise that a lot of the changes taking place are worthwhile and in the long term are in the interests of the people, particularly the children.

Recently there was to be a meeting with the Minister for Lands on the question of a local school. It so happened that he was absent and I dealt with the problem myself. It was a question of dealing with trivial problems. There was even a suggestion of closing the school.

[1834] I said that I could make a good political football out of this, and as a politician turn it to my advantage but I advised them that all this marching and protesting would not further their children's education. I advised them to take up the matter with the Department. This was done. I had only to throw a match to the powder and off it would have gone but instead they brought the matter to the notice of the Department and their reply was satisfactory. They were able to meet them and the expenditure involved was quite small. Therefore it would be a good thing if somebody with an even temper and some influence in the locality would get in on these things and instead of being concerned with the vested interests of, say, the chemist or the local shopkeeper, point out that the all important thing was the education of the children and that a lot of good would come from the proposal.

The idea of keeping record cards in respect of pupils in the fifth and sixth classes is very good. It helps to keep parents, and the teachers in the next school, informed as to the aptitudes of the children concerned which is a very important point. It is very important that at that stage “tabs” should be kept on a child when he goes to another school, whether it would be a vocational school or a secondary school, so that the teacher would have an idea of the child's capabilities. Anyone who rears a family will know that children, even in the same family, have different aptitudes. One girl may like needlework and baking while another girl would find them abhorrent. The same applies to boys. It is very important that their aptitudes should be channelled in the right directions. I know how unsatisfactory it can be if a young man finds himself in the wrong job. I had a relative who started as a teacher but is now a dentist. He spent four years teaching and he was glad to get out of it and, as I say, he is now practising dentistry. Those four years spent as a teacher were lost to him and this was because his father pushed him into this profession which he did not want to pursue. We have too much of that and the card system will do something to rectify the position. It will benefit the [1835] child, the parents and the teachers in the new school which the child attends.

No matter how good a school may be it is wellnigh impossible for a teacher, whether cleric or lay, to advance the child unless the parents are involved in education. It is sad if parents are not involved and lack of involvement cannot be readily or easily compensated for. Where parents are not really concerned or interested it is just too bad. The parents' interest should be encouraged to a very great degree. I hope that the Minister will be able to communicate this either on radio or on television to the parents and appeal to them to become involved for the benefit of all concerned.

The Minister also dealt with special courses for principal teachers in national schools and said that last year some 600 attended these courses and that he is optimistic that the figure will go up this year. I regard this as progress which is very necessary. The world is changing and we must change rapidly with it. But while we may take note of all the new developments around us there are a great many old things to which we should cling. I am referring in particular to our Gaelic culture and language and all such things. It would be sad if, while we are developing, any of these wonderful things were lost in the process. The question of compulsory or non-compulsory Irish has been raised. Neither I nor any member of my family ever experienced any difficulty in learning the language. It is a pity that parents in the main try to downgrade the language. If you visit Germany you hear the people speaking German. The people of every nation speak their own language. I suppose certain agents from abroad like to downgrade our language but whenever I meet that view I give them their answer. I am sure the Minister will do likewise.

The question of career guidance is of great importance. I have a first-class opportunity of observing this. I know the parents and the children in my area and as I told the Minister last night three buses pass by my door every school morning going in different directions. My children went to the [1836] local national school which is on the side of the Ox Mountains and in Foxford, the nearest town to me, there is a newly built secondary school; in Swinford a mile or two away there is another secondary school. The school in Foxford is run by the Sisters of Charity and the school in Swinford by the Sisters of Mercy. I am well aware that long before we got free education many of my neighbours paid the school fees of £10 or £12, which I suppose was a lot of money, and there was a sort of tradition that if the mother went to the Convent of Mercy in Swinford the daughter went there also. I suppose this would apply throughout the country. There are two first-class vocational schools, one in Swinford and one in Ballina, where according to my information you cannot get standing room. I do not want to be critical but I do want to protest about the delay in carrying out the extensions to the Ballina school where the position is serious and were it not for the reopening of Corballa school in county Sligo which was able to take some of the overflow from Ballina, we would probably be reading about the position in our newspapers. Many children could not be accommodated. I would ask the Minister to see what can be done about providing the necessary extensions in Ballina.

Swinford vocational school has made remarkable progress in recent years. I speak on behalf of all the children in the area and not because a member of my family attends the vocational school there. In this respect, I agree with Deputy Tunney's remarks. The children have made remarkable progress. My son, who is attending the vocational school, passed his examination with honours. That shows that if a child is given the opportunity of following his preference in respect of a school it can prove a great advantage because the child is happy when he goes to school in the morning. I hope my son will sit for his leaving certificate. Next year, I expect that there will be from 20 to 25. People have discovered that their thinking has in some cases been wrong. They now realise that the education available in the technical school is not second-rate [1837] or third-rate but is suited to the requirements of the pupils. Swinford has always been a centre in that respect.

Traditionally, there has been emigration and migration from that area to Britain. The majority of the people who went had no education beyond the primary school. It would be an invaluable help to such young people who emigrate if they could receive training in a technical school before leaving this country. They would be skilled workers, then, and would be able to take jobs other than digging, building construction and other unskilled occupations. When a child leaves the technical school, every effort is made by the teachers to secure a job for him or her in this country.

I do not wish my remarks to be construed as taking, in any way, from the magnificent work of the teaching orders. I merely wish to draw attention to the very real benefits available through technical education for children who partake of it. For instance, we are short of technicians. We must provide work for our own people rather than import people from abroad for certain jobs. I recall the appeal of a priest on television one night—I think he is at Shannon Airport—to those in charge of education to realise how necessary it is that our young people, before emigrating, should receive training in a technical or other school. He had noticed that, when workers were engaged on building sites, the Irish boys had the pickaxes and shovels. When the white-collar workers came along, his congregation at Sunday Mass began to change: at that stage, the foreigners came. He appealed to those responsible for education in Ireland to give our young people a new deal by changing the system. Incidentally, he expressed appreciation of what was being done.

Career guidance is very important. The choice of career is a decision which a person may have to live with for the rest of his or her days. This has been the cause of many young people turning to drink. They felt they were failures in life. If young people are well-equipped educationally they can face the world courageously.

[1838] On the question of vocational education I wish to say something about our young girls. This country earns over £90 million a year from tourism. More could be done to provide bettertrained personnel to staff hotels and guesthouses. Many young girls study French and Latin. That is all right, but these girls might be more suited to domestic economy training. That is where career guidance could help in a big way. Parents could also help because they understand their children. I am speaking from experience. One girl in my family followed a domestic science career which other members would find repugnant. In a family one girl may have a preference for domestic economy.

We have the finest food in the world in this country. Quite often in hotels one will find that due to bad handling the food is spoiled. Recently in a town of about 6,000 people I stopped for a meal. I had a steak which was not properly cooked or presented. It cost me 15s. I would not mind the price if the food had been handled properly. This kind of thing leaves a bad impression on people coming into our country. Girls with an aptitude for hotel work should be encouraged to pursue a career in that line. I am convinced there are jobs in hotels and guesthouses which would be better for the girls than having to emigrate. We must also keep up nursing and teaching staffs. If a girl wishes to become a nurse or a teacher she should be encouraged to do so.

More use could be made of television for educational programmes. There are some educational programmes in the middle of the day and some on Sundays. If it were possible after consultation with the Minister, the parents' organisations and the teaching organisations, I should like further programmes to be shown at suitable times. Children are very fond of watching television. It is a medium which could be used to their advantage. It could prove a very suitable medium for improving the education of our children.

I would like the Minister to take particular note of a little storm which is looming on the horizon. I know [1839] something about a little school at Behy near Ballina. The parents in the region have got together. People in and around this area near Ballina have traditionally sent their children to that school at Behy. They are determined to continue to send them to that school. When these people are determined they are used to digging their heels in. Some of them are civil servants while others are business people or members of the farming community. They had proposals at a rather advanced stage. The local engineer or architect of the Office of Public Works in Ballina was dealing with this case. I do not wish to mention the name of a reverend gentleman who is trying to press ahead for some action. I would be glad if, at the earliest possible date, the Minister and his staff would pay particular attention to this case. I gave the reverend gentleman an assurance that if I got an opportunity I would put down a Dáil question or raise the matter in the course of the discussion on this Estimate. I gave the parents an assurance that I would raise this matter.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  What is the name of the school?

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  Behy, near Ballina town. If the Minister moves pretty quickly a worse situation may be avoided. Behind all this, the people are pretty reasonable. That is as far as I can go at the moment. On Sunday night last I met the parents at a petrol filling station and I pleaded with them. I told them they would get nowhere with the Department and that problems are not solved by protests or window breaking. I told them they should take my advice. I would be glad if something could be done to prevent a nasty situation arising.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  As the Minister said in his opening remarks we are discussing the allocation of approximately £70 million towards the Estimate for his Department. Our function here is to comment on the manner in which that money is allocated and to recommend, where we feel there should be recommendation, the best channels [1840] for development in education. Normally—and it is particularly appropriate on Budget Day—one hears on every Estimate in this House and during every debate, demands for more money and in recent times we have had an indication from the Higher Education Authority of their estimate of the necessary expenditure in the universities over the next few years. There is always difficulty in reconciling the amount available with the demands which exist. One can appreciate, particularly in the field of education which is not immediately productive and where one cannot see immediately the benefit of the investment, that the money available is not necessarily as much as one would wish. Nonetheless, there is one thing on the figures alone which is very significant. In the last ten years the investment in education in this country has been quadrupled. Unless the money is being spent very foolishly and without any regard for positive planning and programming—and I do not think this is so—there has been an immense and complex development in the field of education. The signs are that this development will not be retarded but, if anything, will continue on its course of almost self-propulsion.

Our function, then, should be to ensure that we limit as little as possible the activities of those professionally involved in education. Deputy FitzGerald, who made a very exhaustive contribution and who did some thorough research into the Estimate, adopted the wrong approach from the beginning when, in doctrinaire fashion, he said there were five clear objectives in any educational programme. He said we must gear our plans to those five objectives, some of which at times cut across the others.

I do not know where he got those five clear objectives from, and secondly I do not think, looking at them, that they contain what any of us would want from any educational programme. An objective which comes immediately to my mind, one which Deputy FitzGerald did not include in his principal objectives, is the development of the human personality, what the Greeks [1841] called psyche. To my mind that is the basic thing.

The only reason I mention it is that I think we should not channel ourselves in education in the same way as we do in economics. In education we cannot expect to realise an objective immediately. It may take five or ten years. However, we can see what the general direction of the programme should be. We should try as far as possible to encourage those engaged in education to achieve the desired objective. The start may be small. In many spheres of education from inauspicious beginnings great progress has been made.

I am glad to see the Department of Education, in consultation with the national schools—and, I am sure, with the INTO who are concerned about it—introducing the system of record cards for pupils particularly in the fifth and sixth forms. We may talk about autonomy in the universities, but we can also talk about autonomy for national teachers. The answer, of course, is that none of them is entirely autonomous. However, when this step is introduced and when these report cards come to be issued, they will be of benefit to parents, to teachers and to the secondary schools which these children will ultimately attend. I regard this as a step of great importance.

Of course, what is of greatest importance is the effective utilisation of our resources, the main one being the children themselves. For too long, children after their primary education have gone to the wrong schools because of misconceptions on the part of their parents. Deputy O'Hara spoke very effectively on this. He said his son goes to a technical school, which is the kind of development we are trying to encourage, and the neighbours wonder if the family have come down in the world.

I have a view, which is not confirmed and in respect of which I have not got much experience, that the people best equipped to find the direction in which the child should go are the teachers, in consultation with the parents. The teachers are the people who spend most time with the children and they are the best fitted [1842] to advise both the parents and the children.

I should like to welcome the Minister's approach to career guidance both in the secondary and in the primary schools. Deputy FitzGerald suggested we should have fully qualified career guidance officers. My reply to that is that the people best equipped to give career guidance are the teachers. With a little extra training they can be competent in this field.

Career guidance did not exist as a science ten years ago yet, according to Deputy FitzGerald, we should now set up a special department to deal with it. I do not suggest, and I am sure the Minister does not, that three weeks' study of this subject is sufficient. However, it is a start. Let us hope it will be two months in the following year and so on until such time as the teachers, who are the people most fully versed in the business of education, will have the necessary training to give career guidance and, if necessary, take a special class in this subject twice a week. There should be no overlapping. The children should be guided by people whom they know, and whom their parents know, rather than having the children reticently tell a few facts to an outsider.

It is important that the money spent on education is used effectively. From my experience there has been too much bias towards what is called academic education. It is academic in the broad sense. Too many people are allowed to come out of the secondary schools with a pass leaving certificate and to wander about aimlessly —even in recent times when job opportunities were there.

This is the opposite of what the position should be. If anybody has to wander it should be the employers looking for suitable trainees, whether it be in the field of management or in the technician field. This trend has been arrested somewhat but not sufficiently. We must try to ensure that young men like Deputy O'Hara's son will be directed to the right schools. The old system must not be tolerated any longer.

One finds in a debate on education that it is hard to maintain a reasonably [1843] coherent and consistent line of thought. I began to speak on national schools, digressed for a moment to secondary schools and from that went on to career guidance. Now I wish to refer briefly to rationalisation in the national schools. I cringe when I hear people suggest that this is part of a strange idea of somebody in the Department who has a wish to kill rural Ireland.

What is important is that a school should be recognised for what it is, the centre of education. It may also be a community centre but that should be a secondary consideration. It is for that reason that so many people have looked on the school as they might look on their local creamery or the local garda station as being part of the community. There has been resentment in some instances but all that is changing. Who can deny that a child would be more comfortable in the bigger and better school, because some of the old ones are anything but comfortable? The conditions in some of these old schools were probably detrimental to the health of both teachers and children. I regret that some of these old schools are still in existence but they are very few. Such conditions are more likely to prevail in a small school where there may be an indolent manager or where extra expenditure may not be warranted, rather than in a big school where the extra expenditure will be warranted and where pressure from parents and teachers will ensure that work is carried out more expeditiously. The Minister and his Department must deal and will deal with these priorities and ensure that improvements are carried out where necessary so that we will not have a situation in which those who are fortunate will enjoy proper conditions and facilities while others will not. Teachers, and particularly women teachers, fall ill so we must aim at having a constant pattern.

On the question of rationalisation another factor in a three- or four-teacher school is that the teacher can do the job for which he was educated and trained, namely, the education of children rather than have to spend his [1844] time in controlling the children. On this question, I have sympathy for some national schoolteachers. While I do not accept the British ratio as being absolutely desirable, the ratio aimed at in universities there would appear to be one tutor to eight undergraduates, according to Deputy Dr. FitzGerald. This leaves one with a sense of awe on realising that some national schoolteachers here are probably teaching 30 children at a time. At least, I understand that the average is 30 children per class and this means that there may be even more. Of course, this imposes a restriction on any educational programme and it is for that reason that I am glad to see a change in the position. This change is being effected by the Minister and his Department. I hope that one of the results of this change will be that children, when they leave national schools in rural Ireland and commence their post-primary study, will not be retarded by comparison with their counterparts in urban or city areas as hitherto they have been. This, of course, did not stem from any fault of the teachers.

My own experience has been that children who came to us at the age of 13 or 14 from primary schools in rural Ireland took some little time to catch up with their counterparts in the town who were then 12½ or 13. It was obvious that there was no basic difference in their learning capacity. In fact, they probably had a greater intellectual capacity because of the environment in which they were brought up but their development was impeded to some extent and they did not reach the full flush of their educational promise for about three years after leaving the rural national school.

Deputy Dr. FitzGerald spoke at length on the question of age of entry to secondary schools. I share his views on this matter. Perhaps there are reasons for the age restrictions but the important thing is that if a child has the educational capacity and the personality to proceed to secondary school nothing should hold up his development in that regard. Is this restriction imposed because the child at 15 or 16 [1845] is too young to enter the Civil Service or because of the age of entry to the university? If the latter is the case, the minimum age for entry to the university should be reduced. What is so sacrosanct about age that it should concern us so much? It is not such a sacrosanct factor in most European countries. If we are fortunate enough to have some boys or girls who mature earlier than others we should ensure that their talents will be made available to the country with the least possible delay. It is for that reason that I support Deputy FitzGerald's view on this matter. It seems to me to be a rather officious restriction.

The school transport system ensures that children in rural Ireland are now going to school two years younger than used to be the case when children had to walk, maybe, three miles to school. They now start at four years instead of at six years. This will also help to compensate the children of rural Ireland for any lack of opportunity they might suffer by comparison with their city and town counterparts while, on the other hand, compensating for any lack of opportunity on the part of city children by comparison with their rural counterparts. For instance, biology, zoology and nature study should be taught to a greater extent. Children in the country get lectures of a very enlightened type on botany and perhaps it would be a good step to provide similarly for city children.

I am greatly encouraged by the changes that have occurred in schools, the practical things, the encouragement of observation in students of every level, from shells at the seashore to everything else. This must continue to be encouraged. What we shall be developing is the whole personality, the whole man.

There is another facility that did not exist very much in my time, that is, an adequate library, which should be available in primary schools, indeed in every school. In regard to the secondary schools I would recommend past pupils associations to follow the example given by some that I know and with whom I am associated, to donate some of their most suitable types of reading material —let others be the judge of what would [1846] be suitable—to the libraries in the various schools. In some ways this would effect a saving and would also help to ensure a positive association between these organisations and the schools themselves.

The same opportunity does not arise in national schools. There is some provision in the Estimate for libraries in national schools. As regards various types of committees, vocational committees and library committees, I have a suspicion, confirmed by experience, that there are people on these committees who have neither the interest nor the knowledge to act on them, apart from times when they are campaigning and wish to have it to say they are members of so many committees. The provision of suitable libraries is a vital and complex business and I would make this plea that those who are on committees and have not an active interest should get off them as quickly as possible and leave it to those who have. I have known teachers who were frustrated by the fact that they could not get library facilities for their school. If there was an effective library committee they would ensure that the teachers who wanted libraries would get them.

In these days when there is so much mass-media influence it is more important than ever to teach children how to read, how to assimilate what they read and how to accept or reject— and sometimes rejection is at least as important as acceptance—things that are said on the mass-media or appear in print. Because things are read in the newspapers they get the authority of permanence. Only today we have seen in one of the evening papers how fallible print can be. When something is said on television it has the aura of absolute gospel. This is happening around the country. I am hoping our children will read more widely and develop a power of questioning what they read, so that anything that is printed in the newspapers or said on television will not just be accepted immediately as being the gospel. This will lead to an enlightened society, and that is what education is all about.

Therefore, I would recommend to the Minister to encourage the provision [1847] of library facilities in primary and secondary schools. I would also suggest to the teachers, to both the ASTI and the INTO, that they make strong claims and use strong pressures to ensure that adequate library facilities are made available in schools. Without a broad base of information in education, education in the sense we understand it might in the long run be a useless or even a dangerous weapon.

I was disturbed to hear that while in the last three years there has been an increase of 41,000 in our secondary school student population, some of our schools are not availing of the special grants for science laboratories and various facilities of that sort. It is at the beginning of the secondary school that this problem of the last few years has arisen, because education in the primary schools was always available under the Constitution; it is only in the last few years that secondary education has been subsidised by the State and in many cases provided free. It is regrettable that these grants to which the Minister referred in his speech, which if not a lengthy speech, was a very comprehensive one, are not being availed of. Is it that so many of those engaged in secondary education are still determined to cling to the old ways, are still determined to turn out these boys and girls with a pass leaving certificate when the whole emphasis is now on adaptability and achievement in particular fields? If this is so I am sure it is they who will be the losers. I would encourage the Minister to go a little further than just offering inducements to the technological side. If this trend continues for some time he will have to take what will be essential if, perhaps, unpopular steps and wield the axe in regard to further grants for certain accommodation in secondary schools. Let us be blunt about this: the money is limited, must be limited, and we must see it is used in the best possible way.

As I say, it is a suspicion I have that the technical colleges are not being availed of. If this is so it is a national disgrace. These are the launching pads for a new era, the launching [1848] pads that will bring people eventually towards technical and business advancement. Let me say in passing I was particularly thrilled that in the Limerick area, embracing North Tipperary, which I represent, a third level institute to meet modern demands is to be established. This third level institute must not be a repeat of the facilities provided in other universities. However much we would like a university, with all its trappings, in our own area the important thing is to provide institutes to cater for present needs.

A school of business administration is very badly needed. If Limerick wants a third level institute a school of business administration, or something like it, should be set up there. Every single major town in America has a business school but we have not one here. Rathmines is doing a very good job, such as it is, but it is not a school of business administration. If we intend to sell to Europe people will have to be properly trained in business administration, because unless we have skilled market research people studying the latest developments and the newest sales techniques it will be like trying to sell wigwams to Indians. We shall have to make real efforts to provide business administration courses. Schools of business administration should be set up in all our major cities and the sooner it is done the better it will be for our economy. There are many schools of business administration on the Continent which teach people how to exploit markets with products inferior to those we would be putting up for sale.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  There is the Irish Management Institute.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Deputy Desmond knows that that is not the kind of institute I am talking about. I want a school with the equivalent of university disciplines.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Universities have their own courses of business administration.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  If they have, they cannot be at all adequate. If Deputy Desmond is satisfied with the way [1849] things are going then I am afraid his standards are not very high in this field.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I am quite aware of the fact that Trinity College and UCD have very effective business administration degree courses.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  But I want these schools at third level. I thought I had made it clear that I was not decrying what was being done.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Why do we need another school? We have four or five already.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  The business administration course in UCD is a very advanced one. I want courses for salesmen. When we say that we shall be able to sell to the French and Germans in the Common Market are our salesmen going to try to sell our goods in English or will they be able to speak in the native tongue? I know the Labour Party have no enthusiasm for Europe anyway but if we are going to sell to another country we have to speak their language. I am not talking here about high science; I am talking about practical things. This is obviously a matter which needs immediate consideration.

Education is such a wide field that those of us who are interested in it could speak ad nauseam about it. One of the important things about education is that we should have a comprehensive and planned programme at every level and co-operation between every level whereby the secondary school would be in communication with the primary school and between them they would determine the appropriate level of entry to secondary school. Similarly, the to secondary schools would be in communication with universities and the third level institutes and vocational schools would be in communication with schools of technology so that between them they could decide the appropriate curricula and the appropriate entry standards. In my view there is no such thing as a particular standard for a particular level of education.

Deputy FitzGerald said that university autonomy should allow universities [1850] to determine absolutely the standard of entry but I categorically disagree with this if it is meant to be taken as it was said. I do not think anyone taking a broad view about education could accept that universities should be able to determine absolutely the standard of entry. In fact, universities should be allowed to advise on the appropriate standards in secondary schools, and I would like to commend those universities who have done this and ask those who have not done so to be reasonable about this. I have the same regard for university lecturers as I have for primary, secondary and vocational teachers. I remember at one university hearing an academician say that because he was an academician he had a special right of free expression. In my view he had no more right than a national school teacher. If university autonomy means that a university will cut itself off from other streams of education then I am against it but if it means communicating with the other spheres of education then I am all for it.

I would like to assure Deputy FitzGerald that I am all for the security of tenure which he was talking about because this will mean that university staffs can actively contribute to the welfare of the university by expressing their own view, even if it is an unpopular view. I am all for giving everybody, at every level, the same security. It is probably fair to say that this security of tenure is less characteristic of the university than it is of any other group. The other organisations will, I think, take up the cudgel for bad teachers and sometimes there are bad ones, even though they are limited in number. When I say “bad” I mean ineffective teachers. I hope that the Minister will at least sympathetically answer what Deputy Dr. FitzGerald spoke about, security for university staff, and that some system of appointments will be arranged which will ensure this type of security.

May I say, in conclusion, that I see education and its limits not as being three, four or five channels clearly defined in a doctrinaire fashion. I see it on the broad basis where one level [1851] shares with the other the responsibility for the total programme. I hope that this Estimate will lead, as Estimates, in the last few years particularly have led, towards further development and that this time next year we will be spending still more money and that, if we are spending one-fifth as much money next year, we will be making twice as much progress.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I do not propose to make a comprehensive speech on this Estimate but there are a few matters which I should like to deal with. In the first place I want to say, without hesitation, that very considerable progress has been made in the field of post-primary education in the last few years. It would be anything but gracious to say otherwise. There are people who would complain that the new post-primary education scheme came into operation too quickly and before either the buildings or the teachers were available to operate it. With that I do not agree. I feel that the late Minister for Education was right to push it on immediately because if we had waited until everything was ready, until we had the buildings and the teachers, I am afraid it would not be in operation yet or for a number of years to come. Indeed free post-primary education did not come a minute before its time and while I give credit where credit is due it must be said that this was one of the last countries in Europe to avail of such a scheme and that the children of this country were entitled to it.

Free post-primary education has brought with it teething troubles as was to be expected. One of them that strikes me as something that should be eradicated is an apparent conflict between the various educational establishments. Indeed it could be described as more than a conflict; it might be described as something like an unseemly war, between the traditional secondary schools and the vocational school committees. That is a bad thing. The duty of the vocational education committees is to provide secondary and post-primary education where it is not otherwise available. At the moment the vocational schools are apprehensive [1852] lest they be gobbled up by the traditional secondary schools and the secondary schools are fearful that colossal vocational schools will be built on their doorsteps and that they will be gobbled up. The Minister should set up some sort of machinery or use his good offices to have friendly consultation between the various interests that I am talking about and see that duplication is avoided because if there is duplication there will be waste of effort and waste of money.

I do not pretend to be able to tell the Minister how this atmosphere that I am convinced exists can be dissipated and how the problem can be solved but I want to let him know— I am sure he does know—of its existence and to suggest to him that it is his duty and that of his advisers to try to get rid of it. I am afraid this tug-of-war is going on, not alone between the managements of the various institutions, but also between the teachers, and there is canvassing for pupils and allegations that catchment areas are designed to be injurious to one school or another and that trespass and poaching and all sorts of things are going on. This is probably one of the teething troubles of a new scheme but it should be tackled now because when this attitude is abroad unnecessary buildings may be erected and if the problem is tackled this may be avoided.

I am and have been for many years, since I was associated with a vocational education committee, a great believer in the idea of the comprehensive school. I believe that all students should have an opportunity of deciding whether they want to earn their living by their heads or by their hands. There are probably far more happy technicians in the world than happy people who pursued solely academic education and were forced into “pen-pushing” jobs. When I say that there should be co-operation between the traditional secondary schools and the vocational schools, I mean if one is to take over the other both types of education should be available. It is an undoubted fact that down through the years the traditional secondary schools provided the only form of post-primary education that was available [1853] and provided it in many areas at the minimum cost. If they had not been there there would not have been half the education there was.

The question of residential scholarships is something which affects my constituency. It is not possible to offer day schooling to all students because of distance. In mountainous or isolated districts it is not possible to provide day education. When a case is made in that respect the Minister should be generous about residential scholarships and should meet parents who cannot, without great hardship, send their children to day schools. When dealing with residential scholarships it might be pertinent for me to mention the case of Church of Ireland students who are dealt with by way of a blanket grant which is given to a committee of the Church of Ireland and churches other than the Catholic Church to administer themselves.

I know that per capita these Protestant students are getting more than it would cost if they went to a convenient day school but because they want to go to their own denominational schools, they are dealt with by what I call a blanket grant and the scheme is operated through a commission. The net effect is that, while it is costing the State more, the parents have put their hands in their pockets and put up some money.

To illustrate what I am trying to show better than I have said it, perhaps, I will quote from a letter I got. I will not read it all because it is confidential. I will read the part that will clarify what I am trying to say. It is from a Protestant parent and says:

It has just been announced that fees for day pupils attending Protestant schools in my area are being increased by £21 to £101 per annum as from next September. The maximum grant under the free, post-primary education scheme which, as you know, can only be obtained after passing a rathor humiliating means test amounts to only £40. Thus the poor parent has to find £60 per child to bridge the gap. Some, of course, can get relief [1854] through scholarships, etc. but the majority can get no such relief and, indeed, some who would be entitled to relief feel the tests involved are offensive.

That is a problem to which the Minister should direct his attention. Before I got this letter I had a case in my own constituency where a parent considered he was entitled to a residential grant but the board operating held that he was not. He could not be said to be poor but he could not be said to be a wealthy man. That is another of the teething problems of this new scheme with which the Minister should deal.

I think that is all I want to say about the new, free, post-primary education scheme. The other points I want to mention are just a few miscellaneous points that struck me. There is the transport scheme which serves the secondary schools and in some instances the primary schools. It sometimes happens that the school bus passes some children who, for some technical reason or another, are not allowed to be collected. It may be that they are just inside the three mile area, or it may be that it is held that they should be going to one school instead of another. If the Minister can, without doing violence to the regulations, he should try to be as flexible as possible in this matter. We all come across incidents—I just cannot bring them to mind at the moment—and complaints from parents which we can understand but which are utterly impossible to explain to the parents. I appeal to the Minister to be as flexible as possible.

The next point is the conditions in the primary schools. Some of them are a disgrace. The toilet facilities and the conditions of the toilets attached to some primary schools are a positive disgrace. We have inspectors of hygiene of one kind or another in our towns. Local authorities have health inspectors inspecting the people who serve cups of tea and inspecting hotels and lodging houses and boarding houses. There should be some inspectors who would see to it that the toilet facilities attached to primary schools are properly maintained. Perhaps it is [1855] only at the time of by-elections that these toilet facilities are brought to our attention. They would open your eyes and close your nostrils. At least minimum standards should be maintained in them.

On the question of the Irish language I agree with Deputy O'Hara and others that we should preserve our national language and our national culture. Everybody of my age and younger should be able to converse in Irish without any trouble, but the solid and the sad fact is that we cannot. Indeed, people in their early twenties will tell you: “Oh, I can understand what they are saying but I cannot talk it.” Without starting any controversy or political argument about it, the reason is that the system of reviving the Irish language has failed, and I do not think the most enthusiastic lover of the language would not concede that.

The great percentage of people of 25, 30 or 40 years and up to my age, without disclosing any State secrets, should be able to come in here and converse in Irish if they had any interest in it, because we all had an opportunity of learning it at school. Most of us got secondary education and, when we were turned out into the world, we had a sufficient knowledge of the language to be able to conduct an intelligent conversation through it, but the fact of the matter is that we had not sufficient interest in or love of the language to do so. That does not go for any political party; it does not go for any particular section of the community; it goes for about 95 per cent of the people I am talking about.

If the language is to be revived, if it is not to be lost, some genius will have to come along with a suggestion as to how it can be revived. I will throw out one for what it is worth. I believe that, if you create an atmosphere in this educated age, in this age when people are so interested in education, where Irish people would not regard themselves as educated unless they could carry on a conversation in Irish, then we would succeed. How are we to do that? I do not know.

[1856]Sir Anthony Esmonde: Information on Anthony Charles Esmonde  Zoom on Anthony Charles Esmonde  That is the six marker.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): If you talk about compulsion you will be told that you have compulsory this, that and the other and it will be said that Fine Gael are against the revival of the Irish language. We are not against the revival of the Irish language. When we talk about compulsion we all remember that when we were going to the national school, whatever else we had not prepared— and the Minister will probably have experienced this too—we made sure we had our Irish prepared because if we had not our Irish lesson prepared we were in for trouble and plenty of it. That was the method which was adopted. There was more time devoted to Irish and there was more of the stick devoted to it. Since the State was founded that has done a lot of harm. It created an antagonism to the language. Probably everybody left school and gave three cheers and said: “Now I will not have any more trouble about Irish”.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That is not the way the rhyme went.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  “No more Latin, no more French, no more sitting on a hard old bench.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): That rhyme was written before the days of compulsory Irish. That is the point. My grandmother used to quote that. I am sure the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will bring their joint young minds to bear on this. I believe that, even at the risk of using a nasty word, if you put a snob value on it you might succeed.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That would appeal to Fine Gael.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I am trying to be helpful. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary thinks the revival of Irish has succeeded; maybe he thinks the methods that have been in operation for the last 40 years have been successful. If that is the case he [1857] will find himself in a minority of one. The great lovers of the Irish language will have to concede that the effort to revive the language has been a failure. I should like to hear from the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary some way by which it might be successfully revived.

Somebody on the Fianna Fáil benches yesterday evening seemed to think that there was something to be said for physical punishment, even in vocational schools. I do not think this is so. When I was in secondary school I remember there were some teachers who had perfect control over their classes without using a cane and the students responded very well to them. However, there were other teachers who had less control over their classes. The students had much less respect for them and invariably one found that the latter group of teachers were the ones who resorted to the use of the cane. Any teacher who has to resort to physical punishment is failing in his job and is certainly not a good teacher.

Reference was made today to the question of accidents occurring in schools. I think the Minister replied to a Parliamentary question today and said that the insurance against accidents was a matter for the manager. Accidents occur at school that would not be covered even by insurance, because to succeed in a claim against a manager or the teacher under an insurance policy one must prove that the buildings were defective or dangerous or that there was not proper supervision. It is comparatively easy to establish whether the building was defective or dangerous but it is extremely difficult to prove that there was not proper supervision. The general test is: was the teacher doing what a normal prudent parent would do? I throw out the suggestion that there should be some compulsory form of insurance to cover at least the expense in which parents might be involved in such accidents at schools, whether there was anybody to blame or not. A scheme similar to that of the voluntary health insurance might be applied here.

A point I should like to deal with is the recognition of English-trained teachers as primary teachers here. I have a couple of cases at the moment [1858] where ladies trained in very good schools in England have come home here, have got married and want to become primary teachers. I know they can become primary teachers subject to their doing oral Irish and singing. The people I am speaking about have no objection to doing oral Irish but one of them is completely unable to sing, and she would find this qualification impossible to fulfil. I do not think that the question of singing for ladies teaching in primary schools is the important and indispensable qualification it might have been formerly. In the old days there were many two-teacher and indeed one-teacher schools. In the one-teacher school if the teacher could not teach singing that was the end of it; in a two-teacher school if the man could not sing the lady teacher had to be able to sing and then singing was a compulsory qualification. However, with the abolition of small schools and the establishment of central schools with four teachers it is most likely that one teacher will be able to teach singing. Therefore, I would appeal to the Minister to drop the subject of singing as a qualification for teachers who have come back from England and want to settle here. He could make it a condition that such a teacher would not get employment in a school unless there was some other teacher there available to teach singing.

I have a final parochial point I should like to raise regarding a new technical school in Cavan and a reconstruction job at Belturbet. These plans have been in hand for some time and there appears now to be a delay in dealing with them. I do not think these two schools I have mentioned should be affected by the most recent credit squeeze or the recent re-adjustment of the planning programme as they have been at the planning stage for a long time.

Sir Anthony Esmonde: Information on Anthony Charles Esmonde  Zoom on Anthony Charles Esmonde  I shall not delay the Minister very long. I am intervening because I have been asked to convey to the Minister that, although he may not be aware of the fact, he dropped a bombshell in parental circles when he announced he was increasing university fees by 25 [1859] per cent. Parents should have been made aware of this beforehand. Perhaps the Minister may not know it, but in the average family where the parents intend to send their children to university a certain amount of long-term planning is called for. The Minister should also consider that those who live in country districts—I admit they would be the minority of people attending universities—are already incurring very heavy expense. In many cases they probably had to make arrangements with the banks—not a very easy thing to do nowadays—to obtain the funds necessary for their children's education. They now find themselves having to pay the extra 25 per cent increase in fees.

The Minister did not make it clear when he made the announcement whether this was going to become effective immediately or whether it will be left until after the summer recess. I should like to suggest to the Minister that he would consider that anybody who is already at university should be allowed to continue on the basis of the fees that apply at the moment. It costs approximately £500 a year to educate a student—that is anybody living outside the university centre. If you add another 25 per cent to this it will be realised that there is a considerable imposition on the person concerned.

With all this talk of free education we should not forget that there are a number of poor people who live in Dublin, Cork, Galway or wherever the educational facilities exist who are barely able to educate their children. This extra 25 per cent will cause considerable hardship. I know the Minister has already interviewed students and told them there is nothing he can do about the matter. I do not know if he has been in contact with the parents but I am intervening in this debate to put forward the case for the parents. This has been a gaffe of the first order and I would ask the Minister to reconsider the decision. He should not make any increase whatever for those already studying and if he applies this new scale he should wait until the beginning of the next academic year, which is the autumn. By doing this any person then [1860] entering university will know exactly where he stands.

The transport scheme requires examination. A great many people believe there should be no differentiation. All should be entitled to the same privileges. That sounds fine but, very often, when one tries to apply socialistic principles, one hits hardest the very people one does not intend to hit. Unless a child lives two miles from a school he is not entitled to free transport. I know several instances of working-class people with quite large families living just under two miles from the nearest primary school. These children are not entitled to free transport. In the same area the children of well-off farmers are transported free because they live over two miles from the school. I suggest that the Minister should take another look at the scheme. Some amendment could be introduced whereby those who are able to pay would pay a small amount. That would enable everyone to benefit from the scheme. The need to write repeated letters to the Department trying to get free transport for some child will no longer exist because everybody will be entitled to transport.

There is a certain amount of transport available to secondary schools. There is one type of child for whom I would make a particular plea. I refer to the mentally handicapped. It is highly desirable that free transport should be provided for mentally handicapped children to the nearest school for this particular type of child. There is a problem in my area. We have a school for moderately handicapped children. It is proving very successful. There is a regulation that one may transport children only a certain distance to such school. I think the distance is 18 miles. To my knowledge there is no other school for moderately handicapped children within a radius of 40 miles. It is no good asking the Minister to open other schools because he will not do that. The ratio of mentally handicapped is too low to warrant the opening of several schools. It would not be an economic proposition. On the other hand, providing transport over a distance of 25 miles would be a simple solution to the problem in the rural areas.

[1861] Again, on the question of transport, the buses travel on the main roads. That may not be the fault of the Department. Transport arrangements have, as far as I know, been handed over to CIE. With all due respect to CIE, if it is possible to make an unutterable mess of transport, then CIE will do it. The Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary must have had innumerable letters about children who have to walk half a mile or three-quarters of a mile in order to pick up a bus on a main road. Surely a little liberalisation is possible. Such liberalisation would be beneficial to the children.

There is another point upon which I should like some clarification. There are schools listed for improvement and extension. There is a priority list. At the moment there is something in the neighbourhood of 80 rural primary schools needing extension or re-building. There are a great many schemes on foot for the closing of two-teacher schools. This policy has been very strongly resisted. It may be good policy to centralise schools but it is foolish to close two-teacher schools when the funds are not available for the extension of existing schools. Not so long ago in County Wexford there was a scheme on foot to close the Ballinafad school. The parents resisted that; so did the manager. The school was left open. About a year later it was discovered that an extension would have to be built to the school in North Wexford to which it was earlier proposed to transfer the children from the Ballinafad school. The position now is that this school cannot even cater for the pupils in its own area. Until such time as the Minister is in a position to add the requisite extensions or build new schools it is puerile to talk of closing schools, be they two-teacher or otherwise.

Several Deputies have spoken about career guidance. With the large advance in secondary education great numbers are now getting the leaving certificate. I am sure Deputies get letters from constituents saying their children have passed the leaving certificate and there are no jobs available for them.

[1862] It is not the function of the Department of Education to secure employment for people but if we are going to turn out the finished product in greater numbers it is time something was done to deal with that problem. I suggest, therefore, as part of career guidance the Department should get in touch with secondary schools responsible for turning out these large numbers of qualified students so that something will be done to find employment for them rather than have them a financial loss to the country as a whole. I am sure the Minister knows, as I do, that many of these students when they have finished and when they answer every conceivable advertisement unsuccessfully, end up by emigrating to Britain where they can get into banks straight away and command fairly good salaries. There is no use in educating more people unless we are able to absorb them into our economy.

Recently I asked some questions in regard to the examination in oral Irish. I believe the idea of this examination was to get people to speak Irish as against learning it in an academic way. I was told that 21,093 students were examined last year and that there were 262 examiners who were paid £5 daily or a maximum of £30 which makes the total cost of the oral examination £9,000 to the State. If oral Irish is intended to make people speak Irish— I do not know if it is successful or not —I respectfully suggest to the Minister that money could be better spent by sending a few hundred people to the Gaeltacht to learn to speak the language there. That is the only way one learns to speak a language.

The Minister made no reference to education in regard to the Common Market. All the talk on the Government's side is to the effect that we are on the doorstep of the Common Market. I do not know if there is any plan to mould our educational system into alignment with the requirements of membership of EEC. The Minister and I were at Strasbourg together. He speaks Irish and, as he knows, I speak some European languages, not as well as he speaks Irish but at least I was able to find my way about in Europe. If we get into the Common Market [1863] what we need is what every European has: two or three languages. I should like to know what plans the Department have to meet that situation. This is one of the outstanding problems that the Department should be thinking and planning about day and night because we shall be at a tremendous disadvantage if we go into the European Community without a good knowledge of European languages. I do not think we shall be in it for a good many years yet but if we do go in we must plan things so that we shall be able to talk and bargain with the people concerned. You can only drive home your point if you can speak their language.

Minister for Education (Mr. Faulkner): Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Ba mhaith liom ar an gcéad dul síos buíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí a labhair sa dhíospóireacht seo. Caithfidh mé a rá go raibh an chaighdeán go h-árd cé is moite de chás duine nó beirte. Thaispeán na Teachtaí uilig go raibh suim acu i gceisteanna an oideachais agus gurbh é an rud ba mhó a bhí de dhíth orthu ná cuidiú a thabhairt chun fadhbeanna an oideachais a réiteach. Is maith an ní é seo. Sílim go mba cheart ceist an oideachais a scarúint ó chúrsaí polaitíochta. Sílim freisin gur theaspáin na Teachtaí uilig, cé is moite de chúpla duine, go raibh suim mhór acu san oideachas agus ins na páistí agus go raibh sé de dhíth orthu an córas oideachais is fearr a dtiocfadh linn a bheith againn sa tír seo.

B'fheidir gurab é an rud is fearr domsa a dhéanamh i dtús ama ná labhairt fá dtaobh de cheist na Gaeilge. Ba cheart dom is dócha a insint cad iad na fáthanna go rabhamar ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a athbheochaint, an fáth go raibh an polasaí againn, na haidhmeanna a bhí againn, an dóigh in a dtiocfaidh leis na scoileanna cuidiú leis an athbheochan.

Is fearr dom i dtús ama labhairt fá na fáthanna go bhfuilimíd ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a athbheochaint. Ar an gcéad dul síos, tá an Ghaeilge againn sa tír seo le corradh le dhá mhíle bliain agus sílim go n-aontódh achan duine go mbeadh sé millteanach sa lá atá inniu ann ligint don Ghaeilge dul i léig. Ní hé amháin go bhfuil [1864] sí againn ar feadh dhá mhíle bliain ach chomh maith le sin tá sí á labhairt go fóill i gceantracha áirithe sa tír mar theanga dhúchais agus tá sí á labhairt ag cuid mhaith de mhuintir na hÉireann taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht cionns gur leo an Ghaeilge a labhairt. Ar an ábhar sin, sílim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach an Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo. Tá fáth eile ann fosta, sé sin, go bhfuil chuid mhór de shaol agus de chultúr na tíre seo fite fuaite sa Ghaeilge. Ní hé amháin go bhfuil tionnchar ag an nGaeilge ar ár gcultúr i gcoitinne ach tá tionnchar aici ar an litríocht a chum cuid mhaith daoine sa tír seo i mBéarla, sé sin, ar an litríocht Anglo-Irish.

Is an aidhm don pholasaí atá againn ná an Ghaeilge a bheith ar a thoil ag achan duine sa tír. Sílim go bhfuil sé de cheart ag daoine óga na tíre seo an Ghaeilge a bheith acu agus níl ach an t-aon dóigh amháin a dtig linn an Ghaeilge a thabhairt dóbhtha na í a thabhairt dóbhtha ins na scoileanna. Tá sé de chead acu nuair a fhásann siad úsáid a bhaint as an nGaeilge más mian leo nó gan úsáid a bhaint aisti. B'fhearr liom féin go mbainfeadh siad úsáid aisti. Ach sílim go bhfuil sé de cheart acu an Ghaeilge a bheith acu agus iad a bheith i ndán, más maith leo, an Ghaeilge a úsáid.

Tá daoine ann a deir gurb é an polasaí atá againn ná an Ghaeilge a chur in áit an Bhéarla. Ní fíor sin. Is í an Ghaeilge teanga na tíre seo, teanga ár sinsir ach is teanga an-thábhachtach ar fad an Béarla agus sílim go bhfuil an t-ádh linn an Béarla a bheith againn.

Ach ní fheicim go bhfuil rud ar bith in éadan forás an dá theanga in éineacht agus go bhfuil sé indéanta an dá theanga a bheith ann. Ar a laghad, mar a dúirt mé, tá sé tábhachtach an Ghaeilge a bheith ag an glúin óg. Ba mhaith liom a chinntiú arís d'achann duine nach é an polasaí atá againn deireadh a chur le Béarla ach an dá theanga a thógáil in éineacht.

Tá an scoil iontach tábhachtach ó thaobh athbheochaint, na Gaeilge ach ní féidir an Ghaeilge a athbheochaint ins na scoileanna amháin. Bhí sin ar cheann de na dearmhaid is mó a [1865] rinneadh san am atá thart dar liom. Cuireadh tús le polasaí na hathbheochana sa mblian 1922. Bhí mothúcháin láidre ag cuid mhór de mhuintir na hÉireann cionns nach raibh cuimhne eachtraí 1916 i bhfad uathu agus go raibh cogadh na saoirse ar siúl. Bhí sé de nós ag cuid mhaith daoine pé méid Ghaeilge a bhí acu a labhairt. Sílim gur mheas na daoine a bhí i mbun an oideachais ag an am sin go leanfadh na mothúcháin láidre seo ach tá a fhios againn anois nach leanann mothúcháin den saghas sin ach ar feadh tamaill gairid. Leanann siad faid a bhíonn tír ar bith i dtrioblóid ach ina dhiaidh sin, nuair a bhíonn an baol thart, athraíonn cúrsaí agus ní bhíonn na mothúcháin chéanna ann. Níl mé ag cur milleáin ar bith ar na daoine a bhí ann san am mar shíl siad go dtiocfadh leis na scoileanna iontu féin an Ghaeilge a athbheochaint ach tá a fhios againn go maith anois nach dtigh sin a dhéanamh.

Caithfidh suim a bheith ag muintir na hÉireann sa Ghaeilge taobh amuigh de na scoileanna mar leanfadh na páistí de labhairt na teangan ach go dteaspáinfeadh an pobal suim a bheith acu sa Ghaeilge taobh amuigh den scoil. Ach tá na fórsaí idirnáisiúnta taobh amuigh de na scoileanna iontach láidir agus ar an ábhar sin ní bhfaigheann na páistí seans an Ghaeilge a chleachtadh. Mar gheall ar sin téann an Ghaeilge i laghad de réir a chéile agus mar adubhairt an Teachta Mac Giolla Phádraig cúpla bómaite ó shin tá cuid mhaith daoine faoi 40 bliain d'aois i láthair na huaire ar cheart an Ghaeilge a bheith acu ach tá sí caillte acu. Sílim gurab é fáth atá leis sin cionns nach bhfuair siad seans an Ghaeilge a chleachtadh taobh amuigh de na scoileanna agus gur imigh a gcuid Ghaeilge i léig. Is é ceann de na rudaí is tábhachtaí a chaithfimíd a dhéanamh ná athrú i meoin mhuintir na hÉireann a thabhairt i gcrích.

Do thiocfadh linn é sin a dhéanamh tríd na hathruithe atá ins na módhanna múinte i dteagasc na Gaeilge ins na scoileanna. Sílim go gcuideodh módhanna múinte Bhuntús Gaeilge go mór leis sin. Go deimhin, tá siad ag cuidiú [1866] go mór le hathrú meoin a thabhairt do na daoine i leith na teangan.

Chuaigh mé féin thart ar roinnt de na scoileanna ina bhfuil na módhanna seo in úsáid iontu—ceann amháin anseo i mBaile Átha Cliath—agus mhothaigh mé go gcuireann na páistí óga an-shuim sa Ghaeilge, an-shuim ins na módhanna nua so agus gur bhain siad an-thaithneamh astu. Bhí sin soiléir agus de réir a chéile beidh tionchar aige ar na tuismitheóirí. Tá a fhios agam go raibh deacrachtaí ann ar feadh blianta cionns go raibh tuismitheóirí á rá nár theastaigh an Ghaeilge óna páistí nó nár mhaith leis na páistí an Ghaeilge. Ar an ábhar sin bhí an cuma air go raibh na tuismitheoirí i gcoinne na Gaeilge ach sílim féin de réir mar a bhíonn na modhanna nua á gcur i bhfeidhm go dtiocfaidh athrú an-mhór ar an scéal sin agus má éiríonn linn na tuismitheoirí a thabhairt linn níl dabht ar bith im intinn ná go n-éireoidh linn an Ghaeilge a athbheochaint. Is é ceann de na rudaí is tábhachtaí i leith athbheochaint na Gaeilge dea-thoil na dtuismitheoirí a fháil.

Maidir leis na meán-scoileanna is eol do Theachtaí go bhfuil an bhéim faoi láthair ar labhairt na Gaeilge. Sílim gur fiú an t-athrú seo. Bhí barraíocht bhéime ar feadh blianta fada ar scríobhadh na Gaeilge ní amháin ins na meánscoileanna ach ins na bunscoileanna chomh maith. Ní ar na scoileanna a bhí an locht ach ar an bpolasaí a bhí ag an Roinn Oideachais ach de réir a chéile tá an bhéim á chur níos láidre ar labhairt na Gaeilge ins na meánscoileanna agus ins na bunscoileanna chomh maith agus níl an oiread céanna béime ar ghramadach. Tá an rud seo tábhachtach fosta. Má bhíonn ar na daoine óga a bheith cúramach i gcónaí faoin ghramadach níl seans ar bith ann go labharfaidh siad Gaeilge.

Is cuimhin liomsa na blianta fada ó shin nuair a tháinig cigire isteach sa scoil chugamsa—fear a raibh an-dhúil sa Ghaeilge aige. Ceacht gramadaí a bhí ar siúl ach dúirt sé liom gan barraíocht shuime a chur sa ghramadach ach a chur ar na páistí an teanga a labhairt. Ba chuma leis fá dtaobh den [1867] ábhar nó faoin ngramadach. Caithfidh mé a admháil nár thuig mé ag an am caidé a bhí i gceist aige mar ag an am sin bhí an bhéim ar fad ar ghramadach agus ar scríobhneóireacht agus mar sin de. Acht ina dhiaidh sin fuair mé amach go díreach cad a bhí i gceist aige. Ba ghnáthach liom féin ina dhiaidh sin a rá leis na páistí ag tús rang Gaeilge gur chuma liom faoi na dearmhaid a rinne siad, gur chuma liom fá rud ar bith ach amháin go labharfadh siad agus nuair a fuair siad amach go dtiocfadh leo dul ar aghaidh ar an dóigh sin is iontach an t-athrú a tháinig orthu agus do labhair na páistí gan deacracht ar bith Níl mé ag rá go raibh an Ghaeilge go híontach i gcónaí acu ach níl dabht ar bith ann ná gur labhair siad í.

Ina theannta sin, tá cuid mhaith á déanamh leis an nGaeilge a athbheochant tríd páistí óga a chur go dtí an Ghaeltacht achan bliain. Is é mo bharúil féin go bhfuil seo ar cheann de na rudaí is tábhachtaí i leith athbheochant na Gaeilge. Ní amháin go gcloiseann siad an Ghaeilge ansin agus go n-éiríonn siad cleachtach leis an nGaeilge bheith á labhairt ach is ceist shíceolaíocht í fosta. Cloiseann daoine óga ó achann cuid den tír muintir na háite ag dul i mbun a gcuid oibre agus an Ghaeilge á labhairt acu agus cíonn siad freisin den chéad uair fosta nach teanga scoile atá i gceist ach teanga bheo.

Ní aontoinn leis an Teachta Mac-Giolla Phádraig nach bhfuil ag éirí linn. Tá ag éirí linn an Ghaeilge a theagasc ach níl ag éirí go fóill linn an Ghaeilge a chur á labhairt go forleathan. Ach mar a dubhairt mé ó shin, tá misneach agam agus dóchas ionam go mbainfimíd amach an cuspóir atá romhainn. Ag an am gceánna caithfimíd a admháil nach bhfuil an iarracht is cóir dúinn a dhéanamh á dhéanamh againn chun ár muintear a spreagadh chun an Ghaeilge a labhairt. Dá bhrí sin, caithfimíd scrúdú a dhéanamh ar an obair go léir chun a fháil amach na slíte is fearr chun dul ar aghaidh leis an gcuspóir tábhachtach seo a bhaint amach. Gan amhras, tá dul ar aghaidh déanta againn ach is féidir linn dul ar aghaidh níos fearr fós a dhéanamh agus ní [1868] foláir dúinn an cheist a scrúdú ó thaobh na Gaeilge a bheith mar ghnáth-theanga urlabhartha ag muintir na tíre seo.

I should like to repeat my thanks to the Deputies who spoke in this debate, the tone of which was high. Perhaps here and there we had some political overtones or some emotionalism but, nevertheless, the trend and tone of the debate were good and that is how I feel they should be. Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Desmond contributed largely to this. Of course, that does not mean that I agree with everything they said. The trend was set in the early stages of the debate and that, to a very large extent, was followed through to the end of the debate. I repeat that this is as it should be because everybody now accepts that education is an exceptionally important matter and that our common aim should be to endeavour to improve the educational system for our children. This can be done, I think, only with the co-operation of Members from all sides of the House. As I say, I feel I got that co-operation in this debate.

Deputy FitzGerald made a point that my opening speech did not contain a statement on the philosophy underlying what we are seeking to do over the whole educational field. This does not present me with any difficulty as it consists largely of repeating what I have already stated on a number of occasions. Our basic aim is to provide for every child an education that will enable him to develop his potential to the fullest possible extent. This will involve, in the primary stages, introducing a child-centred curriculum which will respond to the aptitudes and abilities of every child and will enable him to make progress at the rate of which he himself is capable. In the case of the slower learner and the handicapped, this involves making special provision for them within our national school system. After this, an endeavour will be made—an endeavour is, in fact, being made—so that in every area there will be comprehensive provision for post-primary education to cater for all the ranges of abilities and natural bents of the pupils in the area. I think it will be [1869] accepted that we are gradually achieving this while recognizing that this will evolve in quite a number of ways. I want to stress that point just in case it might be suggested that there is only one way in which comprehensive education could be made available in any particular centre.

A high priority here is the removal of the present imbalance between the academic type of education, on the one hand, and education with a practical and technical orientation, on the other. This has been touched on by all parties throughout this debate. I noticed it in practically every speech. At third level, we are ensuring that the students with the necessary degree of ability will have an opportunity to advance to the top of the educational tree. At this level, of course, we must think not alone of the universities but of the other third level colleges such as the technological colleges, colleges of education and the regional technical colleges. Within reason, we must try to achieve, as I mentioned in my opening statement, a satisfactory relation between the numbers and the types of graduates emerging from our universities and the manpower requirements of the nation.

While appreciation was expressed on all sides of the House of progress in the educational field in Ireland in recent years, some criticism was expressed that our awakening to the needs of our people in this respect was rather delayed.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I did not realise that the Minister had finished his statement on aims. Would he consider, in view of the complexity applying to these aims, presenting a White Paper setting them out in full and indicating in detail how they would be applied?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I stated my aims here. Having listened very carefully to the Deputy for three and a half hours, I think I am entitled to make my concluding speech in my own way.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Very well.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  In relation to what I had been speaking about, I think we [1870] should try to put this matter into proper perspective. At this point in time, when there is an upsurge of feeling for education in this country, we might find it difficult to realise that only in quite recent times has world-wide recognition been given to the place of education in the social field. Rising standards of living have brought opportunities for advancement within the scope of all. This should be appreciated when we are concerning ourselves with developments in this country. Other countries very much wealthier than ours were very little in advance of what we have done here. I appreciate, of course, that a number of people in the past recognised the potentialities of education and endeavoured to have their views accepted. I think we will all agree that, in a sense, these were voices crying in the wilderness at that time although quite possibly, though unheeded in their own time, they have succeeded in making us more fully aware of the advantages to be derived from education.

With the advantage of hindsight, it is very easy to ponder on the achievements that might have been possible here had we the foresight to make a greater amount of money available for education in our Budgets each year. As I say, in a sense, this is hindsight. We must also bear in mind that, during that period, very many people were fully engaged in trying to eke out a meagre living—and that applied to countries other than this country: it applied even to countries of Western Europe and America which are now very highly developed countries.

I note that when Deputy Dr. FitzGerald was speaking he mentioned the Minister for Education some years ago who believed his only function was to see that “the water passed through the pipes,” as he said. That might not be so much a criticism of the Minister as a criticism of his times. Today times have changed and education is now within the reach of all. It has come to be regarded as the cornerstone of all development. People now appreciate education and appreciate also that it is essential for their young people if they are to be fully developed. [1871] People are showing a concern for education. It is now possible for us because of this concern to make money available for education for very large numbers. This upsurge in the development of Irish education is heartening and is to be welcomed. It poses many and considerable problems. If there is co-operation in endeavouring to overcome these problems, they can be overcome.

I should like at this stage to speak of the developments in Irish education today and to take issue with Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien in relation to his strictures last night on our Irish educational system. The Deputy appeared to me to lecture us from Olympian heights about the ineffectiveness of Irish education while at the same time, like the old proverb, to feel that “Faraway cows have long horns.” The Deputy could see the excellence of the educational system in other countries. The Irish educational system has developed in this country and is tailored to suit Irish needs. It has been rapidly developed particularly in recent years. It is meant to suit the needs of the people of this country. I am not suggesting that our educational system cannot be improved on. I was surprised to find Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien lauding the French system and some particular parts of it. I should have imagined he would have been inclined to eschew certain aspects of that education, particularly the elitist aspects of it.

Many Deputies referred to the free education system, saying that the system is not free. I do not know why they found it necessary to make this particular statement. In so far as our primary and post-primary children are concerned, and in relation to a certain percentage of our university students, education is free. Nobody ever pretended that education was free in the sense that people have not got to pay for it. They have to pay for it, and nobody knows that better than we do. The very fact that people have to pay for it more or less underlines the difference between promise and performance. It is relatively easy to promise [1872] free education. Everyone would be pleased with the promise. The difficulty arises when it comes to the stage where we must bring in taxation to pay for it. Courage is needed then. It is a tribute to this Government that, when they believed it was essential that our young people should have not only free post-primary education but also free transport, we took our courage in our hands and informed the people of what we proposed to do. We put on taxes to ensure it would be possible for us to do this.

I feel that the introduction of the new curriculum in the primary schools is one of the most important events to take place in Irish educational history for a long time. This new curriculum is child centred rather than curriculum centred. Attention is focussed on the child and his needs rather than on the subject matter. The curriculum content is arranged to suit the age and interests and the endowments of a child rather than as something that is in accordance with the logical order of particular disciplines. The teacher is more concerned with developing the young mind than he is with filling it. This is a very important step in Irish primary education. All Deputies agree on this. The curriculum is flexible so that individual differences in children can be met. We are all aware that children of the same age can vary widely in their interests, their abilities, their background, their level of attainment and their aspirations. It is essential to have a flexible curriculum to deal with the different abilities of the child. The curriculum content must be influenced very largely by the environment of the child. We all agree that the child is the offspring of his environment. His tastes, attitudes and knowledge are to a great extent the products of his social and physical environment. It is on this foundation that his further development must lie. The curriculum, because of what I have already mentioned, lays stress on the importance of learning rather than of teaching. As we are all very well aware, particularly those of us who are teachers, learning is an active and not a passive process. The child is the most active agent in his own education. [1873] Various methods are used in the new curriculum. There is the discovery method. It is recognised that the child drawing on his own personal experience learns very well. Not only that but, because of the fact that he finds that he can learn, he tends to become very much more interested in what he is doing and has a much greater incentive to further effort.

As I said at the INTO congress this curriculum will be introduced gradually and teachers will not be asked to do more than they are able to do. They will not be asked to implement the new curriculum as a whole but they will begin where they themselves are most confident that they can be successful. This is important because if by starting at this stage they find they can successfully cope with the problems they face in relation to the new curriculum they will be much better prepared to deal with the problems of the curriculum in other fields. Considerable preliminary work has been done in the introduction of the Nua-Chúrsa Gaeilge. As I said on a previous occasion, the Nua-Chúrsa is now being extended to all classes of primary schools. Considerable improvements have taken place in the teaching of English, especially in developing reading and the extension of functional and recreational reading and the use of the school library is also improving the situation as regards teaching of English. The preliminary work done here is of very considerable importance in itself but it is also fundamental to the development of other aspects of the curriculum.

The publishers have been most cooperative in providing helpful textbooks which will be available for use in the schools in the coming school year.

Perhaps I should let the House know what progress we have made to date in relation to the new curriculum. In regard to the teachers' handbook, notes for teachers on all aspects of the curriculum are being provided and I hope they will be available to the teachers next September. As I have said on a number of occasions, we have organised several in-service [1874] training courses and I think I mentioned in my original statement that the principals of large schools, about 600 of them, were on courses in July, 1969, and that we hope this year to double that number. Weekend courses will also be held dealing with various aspects of the curriculum and many others are planned for centres throughout the country. Some 1,000 teachers attended music courses last year and approximately 800 will attend courses on physical education in the coming months. We shall also have courses on mathematics and environmental studies and arts and crafts. Some of these are being given in the training colleges.

The INTO have also organised a number of very successful courses. In the past three years about 300 unqualified teachers have completed courses of training and are now qualified to take up appointment in any primary school. About 200 curriculum centres have been set up and teachers from neighbouring schools will be afforded an opportunity of seeing how the new curriculum has been implemented.

Perhaps I am going into too much detail but it may be useful for Deputies to have this information in the Dáil debates.

Arising from the introduction of the new curriculum I think I might discuss the amalgamation of schools because there is a tie-up between the two for the very obvious reason that in order to put this curriculum properly into operation a certain size of school is essential. In regard to amalgamation, the underlying policy is educational. A teacher in a one-teacher school, responsible for six or seven standards, cannot give his undivided attention to each separate standard and cater for the wide range of aptitudes and mental ability of the children. This should be obvious to everybody. A new child-centred curriculum is now being introduced into primary schools and this involves a very wide range of activities for each group and for each attainment level. Smaller schools could not possibly be expected to cater adequately for this new curriculum. Very much broadened courses are being provided in post-primary schools but the benefit [1875] of them cannot be fully reaped by pupils who have had a narrow or restricted primary education. This is an important aspect of the matter. Teachers who are specially gifted are given a much wider scope to do their work and exercise their talents and make their services available in bigger schools to a greater number of pupils.

Deputy O'Donovan during the debate mentioned that the school he attended was a two-teacher school which had an excellent principal teacher and he felt he had got a first-class education from this teacher. No doubt that is true but we should also consider that if the scope of the talents of this excellent teacher was broadened then his talents would be made available to many more children. Again, as regards amalgamation of schools, the modern transport facilities which we are making available bring schools within reach of all the children within the school area. Instead of having to walk long journeys, as they previously had to do in many cases, in inclement weather, they are now taken by bus to school. They are warm when they reach school and in the afternoon they are taken home again. The benefits of this system should be recognised.

Deputy O'Hara spoke at some length about this and expressed appreciation of the facilities. This is something we should all take cognisance of and I would ask the parents specially to take cognisance of it.

Since the policy of the amalgamation of schools has come into operation we have amalgamated about 740 schools and I can say that, in general, the managers, the teachers and the parents in practically every case were fully satisfied with the manner in which the amalgamation took place. It has been our experience that the parents in the areas in which amalgamation took place were fully aware of the value and the improvement which stemmed from the extra facilities made available to their children in the new schools. In some instances there was initial opposition to amalgamation but after the children had spent some time in the new schools not only did the opposition die but letters were [1876] sent to the Department thanking us for what had been done. Some people were big enough to state that they had made a mistake in the early stages. I might also add that at the present time applications are being made by parents and managers in certain areas asking that schools might be amalgamated in those areas so as to provide the children with better educational facilities.

Reference was made by two Deputies to the Montpelier case. I have already praised the approach of Deputy FitzGerald in relation to his speech on the Estimate and I hope that he will take kindly to a suggestion from me that he should try to avoid involving himself too emotionally in some educational problems because it tends to impair his judgment and to make him that little bit arrogant. When dealing with this case Deputy FitzGerald said on a number of occasions that the Minister has made a mistake and should rectify his mistake. He appeared to conclude that because he said this a number of times the Minister had made a mistake. The Minister does not accept that he made a mistake. The Minister believes that when he came to his decision he made the decision much more objectively and much less emotionally than did Deputy FitzGerald because at the time of the Minister's decision there was not such an emotional atmosphere.

I do not wish to go deeply into this matter but I would like to recap briefly on the situation. When I went into the Department of Education I found that a decision had been made in relation to the closing of the school in Montpelier. I studied the file very carefully. I noted the number of children attending the school and I asked that a survey be carried out so as to ascertain how many children were likely to come to the school and whether it was likely to become a three-teacher school and retain its position as a three-teacher school.

From this survey it was evident that the school would not maintain the number for a three-teacher school and, if my memory serves me right, the number in that school within a very short number of years would be down [1877] to 56. I have considerable experience of the manner in which the numbers on the rolls fluctuate in rural schools. It is a common feature to find the numbers increasing from 50 to 80, at which stage all the children in the area who are due to attend that particular school are attending, but from then it must of necessity fall again.

When I found that the number of children at Montpelier would not sustain a three-teacher school I considered the whole area in order to reach a decision as to how we could best assist the education and development of all the children in that area. I saw that the Bridgetown school was a good building. It was a two-teacher school and I realised that if the children who were then attending Montpelier but who were in the Bridgetown parish went to the Bridgetown school it could then become a three-teacher school and not only would we be giving the benefit of the education available in a three-teacher school to the children from Montpelier but we would also give it to the children in Bridgetown. I had an equal responsibility to provide the best possible education for the children of Bridgetown as for the children of Montpelier and I realise also that in transferring the children from Montpelier, who were in the parish of Castleconnel, to Castleconnel they would have the benefit of six teachers.

To my mind this was the solution in that particular case. I was creating better education facilities in both areas. I am aware that there was a considerable amount of opposition and that Deputies involved themselves in the matter. I am not saying they did it for any wrong purposes but they did become involved and the impression was [1878] created that if the children were kept from school for long enough the Minister would give in. Of course, there could be no question of giving in. I did not want any victory because victory was not involved except in so far as to ensure that the children were getting the best possible education.

Therefore, I maintained my decision and, at this stage, I would again appeal to those parents who have not yet sent their children to either one or other of the two appropriate schools to do so now in the interest of the children.

There is one other aspect in relation to this matter which was raised by Deputy Dr. FitzGerald and on which I should like to comment. The Deputy stated that he gave me a list of the names of pupils who would attend this particular school and he said that he was not satisfied with my reply. In the reply I stated that a number of the children whose names were forwarded to me were children who had been taken into the area but who would not be remaining in the area. I shall not go into the details of that now. I stated also in the reply that others were children of parents who did not normally send their children to Montpelier. Deputy FitzGerald said he could not understand this particular aspect. In relation to the first part, obviously if children were taken into a school area at any stage only temporarily, there would be no difficulty in increasing the numbers on the rolls. In relation to the parents who did not normally send their children to this school, this is a very important factor.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 23rd April, 1970.

Last Updated: 15/09/2010 07:50:30 First Page Previous Page Page of 38 Next Page Last Page