Wednesday, 23 February 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Go ndeonófar suim fhorlíontach nach mó ná £10 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun íoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1972, le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Oifig an Aire Oideachais (lena n-airítear Forais Eolaíochta agus Ealaíon), le haghaidh seirbhísí ilghnéitheacha áirithe oideachais agus cultúir, agus chun ildeontais-i-gcabhair a íoc.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: When we adjourned this aspect of our discussion I had been putting some questions, one of which concerned the question of the degree of responsibility which our educational system might have for certain social and political developments, including the growth among a section of the young people of the belief that Ireland could be united by the gun and the bomb and should be so united. I asked the question whether the seeds of Aldershot might have been planted in an Irish classroom, a very serious question. In the interval while other things were being discussed here, the point was put to me by some Deputies that far from this being the case, since it appears that one particular group, the so-called Official IRA, were responsible for this, since they were Marxist oriented, this was not a case of anything growing out of our society, but of alien infection from outside our society altogether.
I take that point but I do not accept it. I do not think it is actually true. I think that these acts of violence, which are very similar, whoever commits them or whoever claims them, grow out of the one ground, which is basically that of ultra-nationalism. It  can be dressed up after that in various ways. It can be dressed up in religious ways, ideological ways, anything you like, but it grows out of the idea of legitimate hatred of the foreigner. That is the common ground and I would make very little of the distinction between the various groups. It would not be proper that we should attempt to discuss the differences between such groups here.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I agree that to discuss the details of such distinction would be irrelevant but, with respect, I would urge on you the thought that the relationship of our system of education, our method of education, the relationship of what is happening in our schools to what our young people do should not be irrelevant to this debate and should not be held to be irrelevant to this debate. That and only that is what I am discussing. I am not discussing the Official IRA, the Provisional IRA, their sympathisers in this House, except as regards what we are breeding or may be breeding in our schools.
I pass from that because I respect your judgment, even a hint of your judgment here. I shall pass to some other considerations which are related because I think the fact that in some of our schools, by some of our teachers, a narrow, rigid, intolerant nationalism is being produced, is related to other things about how the machine works. We remember some things which have been said about such a machine. One question that arises is how far are our schools preparing our young people for life in the modern world, because if you shut people into a narrow nationalist ideology you are not preparing them for life in the modern world, you are shutting them off from it.
It is true that some interesting people like the late Evelyn Waugh, like W. B. Yeats, have questioned philosophically the idea that people should be prepared for life in the modern world. Evelyn Waugh said he  could imagine nothing more wicked than for a teacher to prepare young people for life in the modern world. W. B. Yeats urged that people generally should not be taught to read and write but should be taught arts like curry-combing and playing on the swifle, whatever the swifle may be. These are interesting ways of playing with ideas but in fact young people have to be prepared for life in the modern world because that is the only world they are to have a chance of living in and, in particular, when a great majority in this House are urging that we enter I will not say Europe but the expanded European Economic Community, I do not think it is quite enough to say: “We ought to learn some French and may be a little German. These ought to be encouraged.” More serious things are happening. The general rate, type and intensity of our education are likely to be put to the test whether we go into this Community or whether we keep out of it. They will be put to the test not just in terms of technical competence in French, German or whatever it is, but in ability to think. The question is: are our schools, comparable with European schools, equipping people to think? I would accept the point that people cannot be taught to think. No one person can teach another person to think. It may not be entirely true, I am not sure how far this is in conformity with what modern educationalists believe, but I do know, because we see it around us every day, that whether people can be taught to think or not they can be taught not to think, they can be discouraged from thinking. To what extent in our schools, other schools too, but it is our schools we are concerned with, are people daily being discouraged from thinking?
There is a word, much in use in the 19th century, less now, the word docile”, which is often praised by educators, and is supposed to mean “capable of being taught”, “amenable to teaching”. In our daily usage it is interpreted as meaning a person who will do what he is told. That is a docile person. It can be argued that there is a real contradiction, that the person who does what he is told without question, and does that regularly  and always, is the person least capable of being taught, least capable of beginning to think. I suspect that that idea of docility, of reception of a statement, writing it down and taking it as true, is more generalised in our schools than in other schools in northwestern Europe or on the other side of the Atlantic.
Here I should like to refer to a great influence now passing from the scene of our educational world in this part of Ireland, the retiring Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. McQuaid. I want to refer to him with the greatest personal respect because he is a man who throughout his life acted consistently with what he believed to be true, and fearlessly so and I hope it may be given to the rest of us to be able to say that in our retirement as he can say it. But I want also to ask this: can anyone who knew Dr. McQuaid, who even read those pungent, unmistakable short epistles of his, think that children brought up under that aegis, even under that remote shadow as it was for most of them, were encouraged to think for themselves, to ask questions and then come back with more questions? I do not think so; I do not think that is how it was. That is how it may be and I think the changes that are coming and that are needed in education cannot be taken in isolation and as part of the State sector, leaving the ecclesiastical sector, the religious sector, apart. The changes have to come and I believe are coming all over, and here I want to say I think this is really very important—that what happens when children are discouraged from asking questions, which has been a large part of the history of our education, discouraged sometimes by the slap, the slap which was described, first of all, as being, and then later on as not being, for failure at lessons, could often be for being too inconveniently bright and asking the wrong questions. I have heard examples of that and I believe them.
Deputy Clinton, in his very interesting remarks in detail—I may be wrong but so it seemed to me—took a rather patronising attitude towards the abilities of human beings generally. He defined them down—people, in his  opinion, were generally well below— he inferred and, I think, implied, tremendously below—the level of ability of Deputy FitzGerald. Deputy FitzGerald is a very able man, probably the most able man in this Assembly and we all have learned greatly from him, but he also is a man who has had great advantages. He was himself highly educated, born of highly educated parents and brought up by them. We do not know what a Garret FitzGerald would be like with the same innate intelligence, born in poverty and brought up by teachers who, because themselves confused, were confusing. It might be that even with the fine intelligence such a man has, he would appear a not very intelligent person as a result of what he had been through.
I am sorry to seem to criticise adversely Deputy Clinton's speech which I admire, but he seemed to be limiting the possibilities of human beings and to be limiting them in a particular way, because when you are saying that most people are pretty stupid and maybe it is better that they stay that way—there was an undercurrent of that, even if not so expressed—in saying that, the people you mainly have in mind whom you are discussing, are people who have not had the basic educational opportunities in the home and school and you are ruling them out and pushing them down. I think it is the wrong approach in that what we should be looking for is the possibility of liberating the intellectual and spiritual power which is latent in people but which you cannot define in advance. You cannot say in advance that that man is a stupid man and, therefore, you give him a stupid education and still less can you say that a group of people—and this is implicit in that argument—are likely to be stupid so give them the education that befits stupid people. We do not altogether say that but there is a vestige of that in it.
It may be said that the system has such and such defects but that it is what the people want. Is it? I should like to ask questions about that. This is a very general assumption which I  think inhibits our debates a lot. There are two things I should like to cite here. One is drawn from Northern Ireland, for which we are constitutionally responsible, and it is an interesting thing found by Professor Richard Rose who wrote a book with which many Deputies, and, perhaps, all, are familiar, Governing Without Consent, which is a study based on a very careful and sophisticated sample of opinions there. This was at a time, 1968, when on the whole, the Northern Catholic bishops were saying that our people want separate education, that they want Catholic education and do not want mixed education. They are still saying it to a great extent, but they said it on behalf of our people, the Catholic people of Northern Ireland. The survey shows the reverse; it shows that by quite a considerable majority the people wanted integrated education, wanted Catholics and Protestants to be educated together, which is a very interesting fact, considering the relations between Catholics and Protestants there which, of course, are far more tense and charged than they are here.
I do not want to dwell on the affairs of my own constituency—it is not appropriate that I should do so in this debate, but at the same time these matters are close—and I should like to refer to a meeting in the middle of this month in my constituency, in Kilbarrack. The Minister knows all about it. It was a crowded meeting, with hundreds of people present. The people concerned were parents, from the Kilbarrack area, with about 17 or 18 different associations of parents represented. They were concerned about two things. One was whether there would be the actual educational facilities for their children as they grew up in this expanding area. Two officials of the Minister's Department attended, and it was a very good thing that they should attend, and answered questions. One of them referred to the educational situation in expanding Dublin as frightening and this is an aspect on which the Dublin Deputies, probably all of them, would like to hear more comment from the Minister, the problems of education in this city expanding at a frightening rate. What does the  future hold for people, because parents are very anxious about this in terms of any kind of education being available for them?
The particular point I want to make is that they were asked at this overflow meeting in a not untypical outlying area of Dublin city: what kind of schools do you want? They voted by a show of hands in favour of non-denominational, co-educational schools. I do not know whether their wishes will be taken into account to any degree. There was present the headmaster of one school, Sutton Park School, which is very near me. I believe this is a Protestant or Church of Ireland school. He reported and I quote from the newspapers:
This is very interesting because that is a co-educational school already. They wanted to turn it into a non-denominational school and make it available in this area where the parents said that what they wanted was a non-denominational, co-educational school. The Department said “No”. I want to know why the Department said “No”. The officials present could not answer the question or would not. I hope the Minister will come to this in replying.
I urge the Minister also to realise that this State of ours has become a rather diversified one, that the needs of parents and children in different situations urban and rural are not necessarily always the same and that to decide them by rule of thumb is wrong. There should be a greater response to local needs, local ideas and to what people say. As I said at the outset, I am not taking the Minister to task or making any accusations against him. I think he is doing his best in a situation which he has inherited. I think we are right to criticise him and his Department and that we are also right to recognise that he has made a good deal of progress and, in these discussions we are having here,  perhaps more progress will emerge.
Deputy FitzGerald raised the question of people who are a bit ahead of what is supposed to be their intellectual age and are ready to move on to the next examination before the Department says: “Move on.” I am very confused about this. I took up this matter in relation to a pupil in my constituency who was brought to my attention and eventually the Department allowed her to proceed, possibly unconnected with my representations. She did extremely well and continues to do extremely well. Last week I heard of another pupil apparently in an identical situation who was told there were no exceptions to this rule; there you are and there you stay and until you reach a certain age you cannot be allowed to proceed. I think that is very unfair.
Deputy Clinton suggested that, perhaps, we pay too much attention to intelligent children. It seems to me the educational system is based on a certain amount of respect for children just below average. They are the ones who best fit into the sausage machine and come out in the neatest case at the other end. The people who run into trouble with it are either those who are well above average or below it. Both are told: “We do not cater for you; we have only time for this particular type.”
I should also like to refer briefly to the question of the Irish language and Dunquin school, as a symbol. The Minister delivered his entire speech in Irish. That is all right—or is it? It is a little artificial in a Parliament whose proceedings are overwhelmingly carried out in English, particularly when they are mostly intensely political and most meaningful. In a way, this is a kind of liturgic language the Minister is using when he speaks Irish for this particular purpose. I should be happier, as would most people who are concerned with the Irish language and the state of the Gaeltacht, if the Minister spoke in English, the language we are all using in the remainder of the debate, but showed real concern for— I shall not say the people in the Gaeltacht for whom I believe he has concern but I think it is paternalist conpier  cern based on what he thinks as the person who knows best—what they have to say and for what they are asking.
This is what he has not shown over Dunquin school. He has believed his own inspectors rather than the parents and has shown very little interest, not merely in what the parents have said— all right: people say various things— but for the effort of those parents in keeping that school open. Granted what that school means to everyone who is concerned with the Irish tradition, it is an exceptional and extraordinary school and there should be room in the Minister's philosophy for a little of the extraordinary and not just for the purely normative and logistic. I believe it is not in vain to plead with the Minister and I plead that he should look again at this question and say: “I thought it might have been the right thing to do. I thought it was in the interests of the people and the children but I now see they are determined to keep their school open and I respect their determination.” I think he should say that and I hope he will begin to say something like that.
Finally, in regard to community schools I think the Minister has changed in an important way what appeared initially to be his line in that respect. I am not criticising but praising him for that. That kind of flexibility in the face of criticism is desirable and does nothing but credit to the Minister and his Department. It would have done both even more credit if instead of taking the slightly petty approach towards criticism which part of the Minister's speech took, he had said: “Yes, there was criticism by Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Thornley. I thought about their criticisms. Some of them were right; some were wrong. I and the Department reconsidered our ideas in the light of these and other criticisms and then we came up with this.” I think that might be an educational example and I would hope our debates on this issue might be an educational example.
Mr. Power: I should like to compliment the Minister on a year of good  solid work for education and a year of continued progress in this particular field. Last year, when the Estimate for the Department of Education was before the House, our minds were preoccupied with teachers' salaries. We were all very worried about how we would reconcile the three different sections involved. We realised that parity seemed to be essential but, despite the views of certain people, the Minister reached a solution and I am confident that in the year ahead the few remaining problems left will also be solved. All the good work done during the year was done in spite of the Opposition. It is my experience that anything designed for the good of education is hindered in every way by people on the opposite benches, people who hold themselves up as experts on education.
The Minister has been criticised. Deputy FitzGerald had the cheek to criticise him for, as he alleged, having no policy on education. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien said he believed we had no philosophy in education. I listened carefully to Deputy FitzGerald. I heard him say the politician's duty was to satisfy and reconcile. That sums up Deputy FitzGerald's attitude to the work of a politician and, when we come to examine his blueprint for education, we will, I am quite sure, find he is not prepared to take a stand on anything; he will try to satisfy and reconcile everything.
Anyone who says we have no policy for education must be living in a world of his own and must be unaware of what is happening. We have a new curriculum for primary schools. We have free transport. We have post-primary education. We have community schools. They will affect only a small minority at the outset. But the real good in all these things, particularly in the community schools, has been shrouded in misrepresentation. We have higher education grants. We have more schools. We have more teachers. We have more money for education.
To illustrate how hard it would be for the Minister to reconcile people in this matter, we had an example today of two prominent members on the Fine  Gael front bench completely at variance over education. Deputy Clinton took Deputy FitzGerald to task on the question as to whether it is advisable to cater for individual personalities in education. Deputy Clinton believes it is. Deputy FitzGerald was quoted as saying it is not. Then they reached some conclusion that there had been a misquotation in the newspaper and they put their heads together and said it was all right. That is an example of how hard it is to reconcile views. When two prominent members of the Fine Gael Party hold irreconcilable views, how much more difficult is it for the Minister to reconcile the views of people all over the country?
Mr. Power: I hope you will remain so. I would appeal to those democratic begrudgers to take their heads out of the sand. They do not seem to grasp what is happening in education. They do not seem to realise that Fianna Fáil are giving children an opportunity in education that those in earlier generations never had.
I compliment the Minister on the introduction of the new curriculum in the primary school. This is a liberalisation. It is a big step forward and it will be beneficial to primary education and to education in general. I like particularly the less rigid timetable. I appreciate the greater professional freedom given to the teachers. I can assure the Minister this freedom will not be abused. The teachers will prove worthy of the trust placed in them.
As far as implementing the new curriculum goes, old teachers, like myself, will need to be allowed to work at their own pace. There is a great deal of goodwill. I understand there is a proposal to select teachers for familiarisation courses during the summer holidays for a period of three weeks and to allow them five days holidays subsequently. This will not be very acceptable. A course has been held for principal teachers but not many have gone on that course. It has not proved very effective. On the other hand, local  courses sponsored by teacher organisations at local level have proved both effective and helpful. No service training should take place during the summer holidays.
The new curriculum will lead to a very big improvement in education. New subjects will be introduced, such as arts and crafts, and basic skills will be developed. These will give the children manual dexterity. The children love these subjects. The tendency now is to teach children observance of the things around them. This will lead to the development of the whole person. In the past the teachers told the children; in future the children will find out for themselves.
The role of inspectors has changed and teachers now find them very helpful. However, I hope there will be no rushing of the transitional period. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. With time and patience we can reap very good results.
Space will be essential for the new curriculum. Big classes will be out. There will be group attention and each class will hold five or six groups. The ideal should be 30 in a class and certainly not more than 36.
I compliment the Minister on his special grant of £55,000 for audiovisual aids. Further efforts, however, will have to be made to subsidise the provision of all types of aids, such as film strips, and so on. The setting up of teaching centres is a welcome departure and should prove beneficial to the teachers. These will cater for all teachers and not just one particular type of teacher. I know that the INTO will co-operate. Teachers will be able to swop ideas in these centres. If the teachers provide the centre, then the Department should pay for it and furnish it.
Deputy Cruise-O'Brien asked was Aldershot a result of the teaching in our schools. He feared our schools were turning out little IRA people. I do not subscribe for a moment to the IRA or their tactics but, remembering that it was the official IRA who claimed responsibility for Aldershot, it would be much more credible to place the blame on those whose philosophy  is extreme socialism rather than on the schools of Ireland. Teachers, both lay and religious, have produced an Irish Ireland which has survived 800 years of persecution, an Ireland that refuses to look upon itself as a part of Britain. It was the schools which kept alive that spirit which kept us distinct from Britain, which saved us from becoming a mere province of Britain, as the Welsh and Scots did. There is nothing very wrong with our educational system, nothing very wrong with the system which has produced a country with a decent set of values. Those of our people who live abroad and who come back here all maintain that this country is the best country in which to rear a family. From his experience in Ghana and the United States, does Deputy Cruise-O'Brien think that those countries have a better type of pupil than the child who obtains his education in Ireland?
I welcome the proposal regarding the library service to primary schools and I am pleased to say that my own county has availed of the service. It is much appreciated and I compliment the Kildare County Council and the county librarian for their interest in this scheme. However, even though the grant available is matched by the county council it is inadequate and it is not possible to extend the service to the entire county. If money can be found I would ask that the scope of the scheme be extended. We realise that books are a necessity with regard to the new curriculum and the present grant is not sufficient for this purpose.
Last week a question was asked regarding the pupil/teacher ratio in schools. It was mentioned that in more than 1,000 city schools there were classes with 50 or more pupils. This information was the cause of consternation to Deputies opposite. I agree that 50 children in a class is undesirable but there is something even more undesirable, namely, for a teacher to be forced to teach in a schoolroom with four classes. I have taught in many national schools and I realise what it means to try to teach four classes in a two-teacher school. I compliment the Minister on his programme  of amalgamation and I am glad to see that it is proceeding.
In my own parish there is a proposal to amalgamate a local school. In all country areas there will be a resistance to change. I would remind those Deputies who interest themselves in matters such as this that the greatest disservice they can do is to advise the local people to resist such amalgamations. There will always be a Montpelier or a Dún Chaoin for those last and lingering troubadours who were in this House earlier this evening. They are always ready to make a political parade to embarrass the Government despite the effect on the children.
With regard to post-primary education, we can claim credit for the fact that more children now avail of post-primary education than at any stage in our history. If any proof were needed of the soundness of our policy it is in this fact. Fianna Fáil have changed the concept of post-primary education. No longer does a parent's means decide the scope of the child's education. We have provided that every child can utilise fully the brains with which he is endowed and the parent's lack of money does not prevent a child from getting an education. I am confident that the parents of Ireland appreciate this fact.
In certain circumstances new schools are needed. However, people who are education-conscious realise that they cannot have three science laboratories or three gymnasia in the one small town; neither could one expect to have three good science teachers, arts teachers or maths teachers in the one small town. Years ago there was a variety act with a man called Bamboozalem who filled out all kinds of drinks from an inexhaustible kettle and he continued to do this throughout the act without replenishing the kettle. Some people have the idea that the Minister has an inexhaustible supply of money to finance the various schemes but if people would consider the matter I am sure they would agree that community schools are the only logical way to provide the best education for all the pupils.
The one consideration which should outweigh all others is the educational  good of the pupils. It is a pity that parents are not allowed to realise the range of subjects available in community schools. They should be told about the benefit in having a qualified career guidance teacher to advise the pupil and parents on the choice of education which is orientated towards the ability of the pupil. In the community schools pupils could be streamed towards an academic or technical education as their aptitudes dictate without the parents having to decide on the school their children should attend. The result would lead to greater opportunities for pupils, even those who live in sparsely populated areas. However, parents are not being given the opportunity to appreciate these benefits. The two Opposition parties have embarked on a programme of misrepresentation with regard to the community schools.
First, we were told it was a take-over by the nuns and the Brothers. Later on it was said it was a sell-out of the vocational schools and, finally, the sectarian issue was brought into it. The people had no thought of anything sectarian in the community schools, nor is there anything sectarian in them, but certain people opposite considered it necessary for their political ends to drag in the sectarian issue and to play on any slight fear that existed. They have done a great disservice to the schools. The Unionists will never lack an ally while we have people on the opposite benches prepared to do that. During the year they have consistently shown that they are prepared to sell out the country.
Mr. Power: We were told that the Minister was being dictated to by the bishops, that the parents and teachers were not being represented and that the Protestants were not being represented. All these issues have now been solved but we learned during the course of this debate that both Fine Gael and Labour have taken credit for solving them. It amazes me how a  Minister for Education, who was so much under the thumb of the hierarchy and the Archbishop, was allowed to change his mind. How did the Minister throw off the grip of the bishops?
The Minister made his own proposals. He approached the people and they complimented him on the changes he made. We have now reached the stage where the community school proposals are accepted and are beginning to be understood by the people. I am confident that where these schools are established the children will get a better education. We want the cooperation of the nuns, the brothers, and the vocational schools. It has been said we were anxious to get the religious out of education. We know the contribution they have made to this country. They are the people who have to sacrifice most to enable the community schools to go ahead. The latest proposals prove that the religious denominations have nothing to fear.
I noticed a certain amount of woolly thinking when questions were asked on this matter. I made an attempt to throw a little light on it but the Ceann Comhairle, in his wisdom, did not allow me to do so. Deputy Desmond was concerned about faith and morals. I am confident that the Deputy genuinely thought the proposals were framed with reference to the faith and morals of the teachers. That proves to me the trend of thought of the Opposition parties. They never take the child into account. I am confident that it was to safeguard the faith and morals of the children that this clause was introduced. It is well to remember that for the moment we will have community schools in certain areas only. In a years time—like the teachers' salaries this year—we will be able to look back and decide who was right and who was wrong.
The attitude of Fine Gael and Labour to education would be laughable if it were not so lamentable. There is evidence that certain people over there are prepared to flirt with the educational future of the children of Ireland to catch a vote or two. Since they are continually changing horses their sincerity is very much in doubt. The biggest laugh of the year was  Deputy FitzGerald's blueprint for education and his policy statement. He said before that a politician's duty was to reconcile matters and he did that in this policy statement. He attempted to please everybody. He gave everybody everything they wanted.
There was no mention in his blueprint of where the money was to come from to finance it. There was no mention of the children. The educational future of the child or the child's good did not come into it. That is the real difference between Fianna Fáil and the Opposition. We are interested in the educational good of the children of Ireland. We are prepared to put forward proposals that may not win us votes. We are prepared to stand on that policy and be judged on it. I am confident that the people of Ireland will judge us rightly on it.
Deputy Clinton said there was a certain amount of difficulty about the range of subjects or the choice of subjects available to the pupils. He seemed to feel that, because 18 subjects are available, the pupil would be expected to take them all. He should realise that there will be a career guidance teacher in these schools who will channel the child to where his abilities can best be used. He talked about the brainy child. He mentioned the half of 1 per cent who would be in the same bracket as Deputy FitzGerald. Perhaps it is lucky for the people of Ireland that it is only half of 1 per cent. Deputy Clinton also mentioned the dull child. He talked about a junior cycle and he seemed to feel that it was sufficient for the children in the junior cycle to learn the three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. I could see that Deputy FitzGerald did not agree with him. I think he was mixed up between the junior cycle and the primary school cycle. Possibly he had a tricycle in mind rather than a junior cycle.
Dhein an Teachta Ó Briain tagairt don Ghaeilge. Ní raibh sé ró-shásta gur léigh an tAire an meastachán seo i nGaeilge. Measaim féin go léiríonn sé sin an tsuim atá againn sa teanga agus tá sé de chuspóir againn an teanga sin  a chur in úsáid chomh foirleathan agus is féidir é. Fuaireas féin cruthú i rith na bliana go mbeadh daoine áirithe ar na bínsí thall sásta deireadh a chur leis an nGaeilge. Chualas an Teachta Bruton á rá nár chóir go mbeadh Gaeilge dá laghad ag na gardaí agus seachtain ó shin bhí an Teachta FitzGerald ag cur in iúl don Aire nár ghá do na micléinn sna coláistí oiliúna freagraí a thúirt i nGaeilge sna scrúdacháin. Tá a fhios agam féin go bhfuil caighdeán ard go leor ag na micléinn ag dul isteach sna coláistí sin chun aon ábhar a fhreagairt i nGaeilge agus níl aon dabht im aigne ach gur chóir dóibh na h-ábhair a bhaineann le modh múinte, go speisialta, a fhreagairt i nGaeilge ach ní ghá dúinn aon leithscéal a ghabháil le héinne mar gheall ar an bpolasaí sin.
D'fhiafraigh an Teachta FitzGerald den Aire cá bhfuair sé an chumacht chun é sin a dhéanamh. Sin é an polasaí atá againn agus ní ghá dúinn aon leithscéal a ghabháil le héinne mar gheall air ach tá mé cinnte gurb é an rud atá in aigne ag dream an Lucht Oibre agus ag Fine Gael an Ghaeilge a chur ar leathaobh nuair a cheapann siad go bhfuil vótaí breise le fáil. Nach raibh sé sin mar gháir chatha acu cúpla toghchán ó shin? Tá mé cinnte freisin gur masla don Ghaeilge Fine Gael a thúirt ar an dream sin thall. Ní h-aon ionadh é go raibh sé d'intinn acu an teideal sin a athrú cúpla bliain ó shin. Is é mo thuairim féin gur oiriúnaí mar theideal acu “Fine Gall” ná an teideal atá acu inniu.
I should like to refer to Deputy Dr. Browne's attitude to the teaching profession. He asked a question some time ago in which he inferred that the teachers of Ireland were capable of marking a child absent although he was present, with the intention of suppressing the child's attendances and holding him back for a further year, not for educational reasons but, I presume, to gain some financial benefit for themselves. I am confident that that is a groundless accusation. I am sure there would be many raised eyebrows if I accused the doctors of this country of signing certificates for people who did not really deserve them.
 There are people here who avail of every opportunity to downgrade the teaching profession and particularly the religious in the teaching profession. This has become a little too obvious in the case of Deputy Dr. Browne. Perhaps he is still smarting from an encounter he had long ago. He has proved to be a godsend to the Unionists. Any enemy of Ireland who needs ammunition to denigrate our country can find it in the utterances of some members of the Opposition parties.
The other night during the debate on the Tobacco Bill, Deputy O'Donovan took umbrage at the fact that that debate was being hogged by the doctors. He felt that they were not really competent to give an opinion on that matter, or on any medical matter, and that other people should be allowed to express their opinions. I would not suggest that somebody who had been in hospital for an operation would feel he was an expert in the field of medicine but it appears to me that, just because they went to school—and I presume they did go to school for a while anyway—some people have no hesitation in setting themselves up as experts on education. They purport to be capable of producing a cure-all for every ill.
Deputy Cruise-O'Brien mentioned corporal punishment in the schools. During the week I got a communication and a questionnaire from Dr. Cyril Daly concerning corporal punishment. We were asked certain loaded questions and the good doctor promised that he would publish the results in the local and national papers. I should mention that this is the notorious Dr. Daly who was involved in the NBC film where the reputation of Ireland was tarnished and adverse propaganda was used against this country in the USA, which proved a decided disadvantage to anyone there with Irish connections and brought thousands of letters to this country asking if it could be true. This is the doctor who mentioned that we treat our pigs better in this country than we do our children because when pigs are slaughtered we do not allow them to be slaughtered in the view of other pigs awaiting  slaughter. My impression is—and I make no secret of it—that the educational system generally in Ireland suffers from the interest of these misguided, mischievous and misfit medicos who set themselves up as paragons of every virtue and feel they have some special expertise which enables them to speak ex cathedra on education. I want to tell Dr. Daly that I am in favour of the retention of corporal punishment in Irish schools and I have experience enough to know that there are occasions, and there are pupils, where a slap is the best punishment. That is my answer to Dr. Daly's loaded questions.
I have slapped many children during my 21 years teaching and I doubt if I have wronged any child. I have yet to meet a parent or a pupil who said that I had wronged a child or had punished him in an uncivilised manner. Perhaps, like whiskey, we all mellow with age. Perhaps I have mellowed. I do not see any sign of mellowing in Dr. Daly, who seems to become more bitter with the passage of time. I know what the average parent thinks of Dr. Daly and his ilk and I feel sure that the parents I know would much prefer to have the education of their children entrusted to the teachers of this country whom he tries to besmirch rather than commit them to the care of any Dr. Daly.
I would compliment the Minister with regard to the school transport system for which he has now made £½ million extra available. This scheme must be a burden on the Exchequer. It costs £3½ million—a very big outlay. At one time I felt that we should have provided the schools first and let the children get to them under their own steam and introduce school transport later but when one looks at the matter in a reasonable way it would seem that we have to provide transport for pupils and that both schemes must go ahead simultaneously. When this scheme was first mooted in the House it was the subject of sneers and jibes by people who doubted that it would ever be implemented. It was implemented. There was a great deal of goodwill and co-operation from all those concerned. Today I heard the suggestion made in  the House that a pupil living a few hundred yards outside the prescribed limit should not be left out. It should be obvious that whatever limit is prescribed somebody will be left out. It is impossible to satisfy everybody.
There is one case that I should like to bring to the Minister's attention. It is the case of a child attending national school who resides not quite three miles from the school. In such a case the child is entitled to free transport until he or she reaches ten years of age, at which age he or she is put off the bus. After two years, at the age of 12, the child will proceed to post-primary school and will be eligible for free transport. The older, and, therefore, stronger, members of the family have free transport to the post-primary school while the younger members have to walk to school. The Minister should reconsider this matter with a view to having children carried to school for the whole period of their attendance at national school.
I should like to mention the wonderful work done in an area of which we have only recently become aware. I refer to schools for mentally handicapped children. I should like to thank the Minister and his Department for their help in providing a school in Droichead Nua, which will soon be built. I could not let this opportunity pass without commenting on the excellent work done at local level by local committees. These people have been unrelenting and unselfish in their work. This is a matter which seems to bring out the best in people. I would hope that the school, which is so badly needed in County Kildare, will be provided in the coming year.
I should like now to deal with a school which I hope will be provided. I am a member of the vocational educational committee in Droichead Nua. For some time we have endeavoured to provide a site and this month we acquired ownership. The Minister will realise that in a town of very rapid expansion—Droichead Nua has the highest growth rate of any town outside Dublin—and with an industrial complex, a good vocational school, or whatever type of school he proposes  to build, is urgently needed. I would hope that this matter, which has been under review for some time, will soon be resolved and that a decision will be taken. I have found the Department reasonable enough during the year. Recently the vocational educational committee of which I am a member and the Department found themselves at variance over the suggested closure of the Curragh Vocational School. The Department received our deputation and I thank the Department for having acceded to our request and for keeping the school open.
I should like at this stage to mention regional technical colleges which are now only in the infancy stage. One could hardly say that as yet they have got off the ground but they are well worthwhile in correcting the bias towards academic rather than technical education. Parents who experience difficulty in placing a child who has got a middling pass in the leaving certificate examination will appreciate how much better that child would be and how much more easily he would be placed if his activities had been directed towards technical rather than academic education. This is a matter which must be considered in relation to our entry into the EEC. In international competitions students of our technical schools have proved to be as good technicians and apprentices as any in the world. The regional technical colleges will provide opportunities for young people.
The Minister referred to teacher training colleges. I am pleased that the grant has been increased this year to bring it up to university grant level. I sincerely hope that the difficulties being experienced by students will be ironed out. A three year course with a degree at the end of it would be the ideal solution. I realise that there are snags but a solution will be found. I am pleased to know that the Minister has had consultations with the students on this matter.
The scheme for higher education grants is an excellent one. There are now 3,500 pupils availing of the grants, at a cost of £900,000. Prior to the introduction of this scheme, under the county council scholarship scheme  there were only 800 places available. The new scheme is a big step forward.
There is one matter that I should like to raise with the Minister. It is the question of late applications for university grants. An applicant may be late by a matter of days in some cases and by a longer period in other cases. I can well appreciate that there must be a closing date if one is to implement a scheme. Here I should like to quote a reply that I received from the Minister in this connection:
As the application for a grant made by...under the Kildare County Council scheme for 1971 was late, she cannot be awarded a grant under that scheme. There can, therefore, be no question of deferring the grant for her to 1972.
I am not too happy that there can be no question of deferring the grant. A pupil whose school life was aimed at the leaving certificate and who got sufficient honours to entitle her to a grant and who has proved that she is suitable for the university has been shot down because of a technicality and loses the grant. If her parents have not got the money, and they probably have not, she cannot go to university. That is a dreadful penalty to impose on any student. I think consideration should be given to those late applicants for next year. I do not know what the numbers are but I believe there is need for sympathy in a particular case like that.
Deputy Thornley praised the “consistently good educational policy of The Irish Times. Is oth liom a rá nach bhfuil an scéal céanna agamsa agus bá maith liom dréacht a léamh as an Irish Times, 16ú Feabhra, 1972, ón alt ar a dtugtar Tuarascáil:
That is the opinion of a group of people whose names appear at the end  of the article. I cannot say who is particularly responsible for that. I presume it is a case of collective responsibility. They are people who look for a trial and in the next sentence find the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary guilty. I thought such trials were only held in the Soviet and Soviet dominated countries but now we find Gaeilgeóirí at home sponsoring a type of people's court. Since that article was written a week ago the people of Ireland have had an opportunity of passing a verdict on community schools when thousands at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis decided that the policy pursued by our party and our Minister was the best one and endorsed all the decisions to date. I was interested to get today's Tuarascáil. I note that while several heads appear on it—Cathal Ó hEocha. Brian Ó Luineacháin, Niall Bléine agus a leithéid—there is not one mention of the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary nor does it mention education in any way. If the decision at our Ard-Fheis had been otherwise and if the heads of the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary had rolled at that I am convinced their names would appear in Tuarascáil today. I am not terribly happy with the type of articles that appear in The Irish Times. I differ with Deputy Thornley there.
Fianna Fáil have a very proud record in education at all levels. Every child is getting a fair chance, a chance that was not even dreamed of ten years ago. In 1957 the total cost of education was £15 million. In 1972 the total cost is £88 million and there are 200,000 pupils in post-primary education, more than twice the number ten years ago. We realise that this is proving very costly but I am confident that this investment in the future of our country will pay a very handsome dividend.
I should like to compliment the Minister on his solid achievements during the year. The people realise that he is pursuing his ideals with sincerity of purpose. I know the Irish people realise, too, that we in Fianna Fáil are not weather cocks that will twist with every breeze. We have proved that we are interested in the  educational welfare of children wherever they live. The people are well capable of judging the shallowness of those who try to belittle our achievements. Particularly will they judge severely those who play on the fears of gullible people. Deinim comhgháirdeachas leis an Aire agus leis an Roinn Oideachais agus iarraim orthu leanúint ar aghaidh leis an dea-obair atá á deánamh.
Mr. O'Donnell: Much as I am tempted to do so, I do not propose to follow Deputy Power and deliver a political speech on this most important Estimate. I have always held that education is such a vital matter and of such vital significance to the nation that it should, if at all possible, transcend party politics. On the few occasions when Deputy Power spoke as an educationist he was quite good but where he spoke as a politician his speech was more suited to a church gate by-election meeting.
I said I would not make a political speech and I shall not preach any philosophy or deal with education in a purely theoretical manner. Deputy FitzGerald has dealt with the whole field of education in a realistic and comprehensive manner but there are certain areas in which I am particularly interested and where problems have to be solved. I shall confine my comments to these areas.
On every occasion in the last ten years when we have had a debate on education I have started my speech, although I was leaving myself open to being accused of being parochial, by pleading for a university for Limerick. I could not do better tonight than to start in the same fashion. At page 18 of the Minister's speech he referred to the Limerick Institute of Higher Education. We were all set in Limerick for the opening of our new Institute of Higher Education last September. After years of struggle and agitation and years of effort we saw our hopes beginning to be realised. Pupils in their final year of their post-primary courses were looking forward eagerly to enrolling in that new institute. About May or June all our hopes were dashed when it was announced  that the college would not open on the projected date, September, 1971.
There was considerable resentment and disappointment. Now we are into 1972 and all seems ready for the opening of the college and it would appear from the progress that has been made in the last couple of months that there is a good likelihood that it will open next September. I want to warn the Minister that while the people of Limerick were really very tolerant, despite the colossal disappointment they suffered last year, any further postponement of the opening date will just not be tolerated. I was glad to see in today's newspapers an announcement by the director of the institute of the filling of seven key posts as lecturers. I hope the additional staffing requirements will be filled without further delay and that all the administrative posts and so forth will be filled in good time so that the college will be ready to enrol pupils as from next September.
I am hopeful that at long last the long-awaited institute of higher education in Limerick will be a reality next September. The Minister will have a terrible row on his hands, will be really in serious trouble, if it does not go ahead on the projected opening date. This new national Institute of Higher Education, as it is now being called, is a good development, not merely for Limerick but nationally, because it represents a new dimension in third level education in that the courses in this College will be technologically and commercially orientated. This is a very desirable development. The courses, instead of being along the traditional pattern of university courses and university faculties, will be of a type which we have not had in this country before—courses in engineering sciences of various specialties, computer science, business administration, secretarial science and languages, and, of course, there will eventually, all going well, be a new national college of physical education on the same campus which I assume will ultimately be part of the whole third level complex in Limerick.
Looking at the composition of the courses and the different types of  degrees and qualifications that will be conferred there, I think it is a pity that the Minister did not go the whole hog, and instead of calling it the National Institute of Higher Education, he called it what, in fact, it is, a university. We are very anxious that this college would be designated as a full university. We know that there was opposition from the vested interests in other universities and a compromise has now been reached in that it is to be called the National Institute of Higher Education. I suppose there is no point in falling out on the terminology or the title. The main thing is that this institute will be providing courses of a type that have not yet been provided in this country. These courses have been geared to meet the technological developments in industry, in science, in engineering and in agriculture for which there is a tremendous need, and this higher education institute at Plassy near Limerick, taken in conjuction with the regional technical colleges to which the Minister referred, will fill a very great need in the educational field, that is, the need for trained technicians, trained technologists and trained experts in various specialised fields.
The fact that this institute is located in Limerick is significant by reason of the fact that the first industrial estate in this country was established at Shannon and now that the scope of the work of the Shannon Development Company has been extended from Shannon Airport to Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary, there will be further industrial development. One of the big complaints of the various industrialists, particularly from abroad, who have come to the Shannon region and set up industries there was the fact that in some cases it was an almost impossible task to find trained and skilled people, with an adequate supply of unskilled labour as there would be in any largely rural and agricultural area. There was a serious shortage of trained people but, fortunately, many Irish people who had emigrated to Britain and had acquired skills and expertise there were persuaded to come back and have settled down and got on very well.
While I have on many occasions down the years been highly critical of the Department because of the dilatory  manner in which it approached the establishment of this college, I want to say on behalf of the people whom I represent here, the people of the Limerick region and of the whole area generally, that we are looking forward eagerly to the opening of this college next September. We sincerely hope it will live up to our expectations and will play an important role in educational development in the years ahead. If this college is to be as successful as we hope it will be and as I personally expect it will be, much of the credit will be due to the fact that we were extremely fortunate in securing the services of an outstanding young man, the director of the institute, Dr. Walsh, who, since his appointment, against tremendous odds and difficulties of many kinds, has succeeded in getting the college off the ground. He is now recruiting staff and has succeeded in attracting in the seven appointments made—I suppose these will be the heads of the various faculties—people not merely of the highest qualifications but of international standing.
The Minister referred to the new college, the national college of physical education, which is to be established in the same place, in Plassy. This is a very desirable development and it, too, will fill a very great need in the educational sphere. Physical education is of vital importance as part of the national educational process. It is a field which has been seriously neglected down the years and its establishment will ensure that we have an adequate supply of teachers for the various schools, primary, post-primary, third level and so on, which is so vitally necessary. The present system whereby we sent a certain number of people abroad to be trained is not a satisfactory system.
In addition to these developments in Limerick, there is another in my constituency—the fact that one of the new regional technical colleges will go up there, the regional technical school. I was particularly interested in the Minister's references to certain aspects of the functions of these institutes. He mentioned the type of courses that would be provided there. He did not go into detail about them but referred to them in a broad general way. I am  particularly interested to find that he referred to the need to train technicians and people in various skills and he referred to computer operators and to courses in food technology.
While food technology and the Minister's estimate may appear to be poles apart I regard it as highly relevant, particularly in view of our entry into EEC and the fact that we are basically an agricultural country and that there must be possibilities for a vast expansion in view of our industrial development in food processing industries. Naturally, if we are to succeed in food processing it will be vitally important to have people with the necessary skill, expertise training and education in this highly complex science. This is something which has been overlooked for far too long. Particularly in an area like Limerick with a huge milk processing industry and a background in food processing of various kinds, I envisage that provision of courses in food technology would be very important in the new regional technical schools or even in the National Institute of Higher Education being established there.
I have discussed this with Dr. Walsh on a number of occasions and in the course of his fact-finding mission after being appointed to Limerick, he interviewed everybody interested in education including all the public representatives. I emphasised to him that I was very keen on the idea of advanced courses in food technology being provided and felt that the Limerick college was an ideal place to set this up. Certain work is being done in the Agricultural Institute and in the dairy science faculty in UCC but this is totally inadequate to meet the overall needs of the country. I hope the Minister will bear this in mind. There might be a possibility of adding this at some future stage, not just at post-primary or technical school level but at the third or higher educational level.
Listening to Deputy Power one would think all was well in the field of education and that everybody was happy, thanks be to Fianna Fáil. That was his attitude. It would be far better for him and for all Deputies interested in education to face the penalties of the  situation which in my opinion are that at present education is in a very confused state. I would hesitate to say that it is in a state of chaos but there is confusion and uncertainty and more and more people are beginning to doubt if even the Minister and his Department know where they are going. Therefore, it is vital that there should be forward, comprehensive national planning in education. As a first step towards formulating this type of national planning for educational development, the whole complex field of education must be looked at on a national basis. Problems must be identified and remedies thought up taking into account our resources which are scarce, as the Minister says. Unless this is done education will get into more and more trouble.
Therefore, I suggest—I think it has been suggested by one or two other Deputies—that the Minister should consider the whole field of education, assess our resources, examine the various systems and see where we are going and, most important, decide where we want to go. Having done that, a White Paper should be published outlining the Government's and the Minister's thinking and the attitude of the Department to education. Modern life is highly complex and what may be said about the need for overall, comprehensive planning in relation to the activities of other State Departments is just as applicable, if not more so, in the field of education. The progress any country makes, economically, socially and otherwise, will be largely determined by its educational system.
I have always believed that in a country like ours which, socially and economically by comparison with other countries can be regarded as underdeveloped, more and more of our financial resources should be devoted to education. Now, that we are contemplating entry to the EEC and when doubts and fears are being expressed about our survival—personally I have no doubt about it; I am an ardent pro-European—and while calls have been made on the Government to gear up our industrial arm, our agriculture, our transport services and other sectors in preparation for EEC entry, too little  emphasis has been laid on the absolute need to gear up our educational system. Our survival and progress in the EEC will be determined, to an extent not yet fully appreciated, by the manner in which we can gear our educational system to prepare our people for entry and to provide a pool of skilled persons at all levels in industry, agriculture, in business, in tourism and so on.
Therefore, I have grave doubts about the ability of the existing traditional policy of the Department to meet the challenge that is there now and has been with us for some time past and which will certainly grow as time goes on. This type of haphazard, stopgap, patchwork, unco-ordinated policy and legislation that has been coming from the Department in recent years is not good enough and will not enable us to meet the challenge ahead and if we continue in this way we shall find ourselves in serious trouble. We have had developments in education in recent years; we have had breaksthrough in certain ways; There has been a vast expansion in post-primary education and there has been an enormous increase in the demand for university education. The Minister and his Department have not kept pace with that demand and it is only now that they are beginning to wake up and realise the need for an educational revolution. The emphasis has changed from the traditional academic subjects to modern technological and commercially-orientated subjects. There is a very big task facing the Minister and his Department. In the past the Department of Education was the Cinderella of Government Departments. It was presided over by a very junior Minister. In my time here it has become perhaps the hottest seat in the Cabinet.
There is, as I say, a major task facing the Minister. I do not wish to hurl personal abuse at the Minister but I am seriously concerned with the major problem that confronts us in education. This problem must be tackled realistically. There must be forward, long-term planning. The road must be clearly mapped out. We must ensure that all systems—primary, post-primary, technical, technological and university—are properly integrated so that there will be no overlapping and  no duplication. Constant surveys will have to be carried out to ensure that the systems are flexible enough to meet the changing demands of industry and agriculture.
Food processing is a very important industry. From the point of view of education, it has been totally neglected. No attempt has been made to provide proper educational and training facilities. Certain small beginnings have been made in some areas to provide limited classes, but this is an industry demanding special skill and special training. It is an industry dependent on the personnel who operate it. There is a course in the college in Rathmines but, overall, no attempt has been made to meet the educational needs of this industry. There is a very big task ahead. If we continue on our present lines we will run into the same difficulties as those which confronted the Minister in the closing of small schools and the introduction of community schools.
I was involved in the closure of Mountpelier school and I said then that the Minister and his Department must be made to realise that people nowadays want to know what is happening. Parents have a right to consultation. They have a right to have their views heard. The day of the bureaucratic civil servant and the dictatorial Minister has gone. Policies and programmes must be spelled out clearly and explained fully. The people must be consulted. I urge on the Minister the desirability of initiating a completely comprehensive survey of the whole educational field and publishing a White Paper to enable public discussion to take place on an informed basis out of which will emerge long-term comprehensive planning. If that is done we will all know where we are going.
The Minister has given details of the close of one- and two-teacher schools. The total number of schools has been reduced by 909; of these, 471 were one-teacher and 389 were two-teacher schools. During 1970, the Minister said, 124 schools were closed and the total number of schools now in operation is 3,929. What are the Minister's intentions with regard to the future closure of schools? Rumour has it that the  next schools to be closed will be the three-teacher schools. We had, of course, the classic example of that in Mountpelier. Mountpelier will forever be a memorial to the stupidity of the Minister and his Department. A grave injustice was perpetrated there on the parents and on the pupils. There was an ironclad case for a new school but the parents and pupils were coerced, after a long battle, into accepting the closure of the school. Would the Minister and his Department now make a little gesture of reconciliation to those parents and pupils by providing transport for those of the pupils who elected to go to Killaloe school?
The Minister made an observation that amalgamation of schools frequently results in overstaffing and he is now increasing the incentive bonus from £200 to £400. This bonus is designed to attract teachers from the overstaffed schools to other posts. I understand that the overall situation with regard to the pupil teacher ratio is bad and that it will be a long time before we reach the figure which is recognised as the optimum.
I was pleased to note with regard to primary education that there has been a number of developments in relation to the new curriculum. The Minister said it has been received favourably and I should like to go on record as stating my approval of the curriculum.
With regard to post-primary education, matters are getting more chaotic. Not only has there been the controversy about the concept of the community schools but we have the situation that the Minister has refused to sanction the appointment of additional teachers. During the current school year additional classrooms were provided but in many cases the Department have been unable to pay the grants. There is one case in my constituency where a secondary school had five teachers on the staff but their appointments were not sanctioned. This was despite the fact that the numbers warranted the employment of the teachers and that the school had an A stream. The Department were not paying incremental salaries to the five teachers and the authorities were forced to notify the Department that  they would have to close the A school. Finally, the Department agreed to sanction the appointment of two of the five teachers.
There was another case in Limerick where, at the suggestion of the Department, a member of the religious staff went away for three years to train as a domestic science teacher because it was realised this subject was essential for a girls' school. When the teacher returned after three years the Department would not sanction her appointment. There have been numerous similar cases throughout the country. Last June higher diploma students marched to Leinster House.
If we want to have a satisfactory educational system it is essential that we have the necessary accommodation and that we provide enough teachers. It is no use talking about various courses and a wide range of subjects if the Department are unable or unwilling to sanction the appointment of a sufficient number of teachers. I do not think the Minister referred to this matter in his speech and perhaps he would comment on it in his reply. I have known a number of cases where grants due to secondary schools have not been paid. I know of one case where a grant for a science block, which was approved by the Department, had not been paid up to relatively recently.
The Minister talks about comprehensive schools and the new approach to post-primary education. We have a development in Limerick city where a new comprehensive school is in operation and is proving satisfactory. The Minister went into detail about comprehensive education, where it can be achieved by a larger single unit or, where this is not feasible, through co-operation between existing schools. I have always been in favour of the system whereby in a country schools there were three post-primary schools —the convent school, the Christian Brothers' school and a vocational school. Where three such schools existed there was tremendous scope for co-operation, for sharing teachers and for transferring pupils for certain courses. As a result, a wide range of post-primary courses were available without any controversy as to who was  in control. I think this has come to be known as a community of schools. I have seen this phase used but I look on it as realistic co-operation on the part of different schools.
In areas where there is one school there is much anxiety about the senior and junior cycles that are being introduced. I know that some principals have received notification that as from a certain date they will not be allowed to provide senior cycle courses. The Minister should tread cautiously because he will run into serious difficulty with regard to this matter. He must remember that in many of these towns and in the rural areas it will be difficult to sell this idea of senior and junior cycles. These small schools, insignificant as they may be when the emphasis is on larger schools, provided an important service for the people and many of the pupils have made their mark in many walks of life, at home and abroad. In most cases the schools have been run by the religious communities and but for their efforts there would not have been any secondary education in this country in the last 50 years. The Minister should remember all these facts and he must be careful in his approach to this matter. I am speaking about places such as Buttevant and Doneraile and other areas mentioned by other Deputies. Deputy Barry is particularly interested in them, too, and he has been telling me about them.
There has been a colossal growth in the demand for university education in recent years. As has been said, the universities are now bursting at the seams. People thought that the complex at Belfield was huge and that it would never be filled, but it is now fast reaching full capacity. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about student participation in the governing of the universities. The voice of the students in the democratisation of the universities has been referred to. To put it quite simply, students are demanding a greater say in the running of their universities. I believe they are entitled to this say. The Minister has recognised this to a certain degree, although the manner in which he has recognised it has proved to be totally unsatisfactory.
 He has appointed students to the governing bodies of different universities. I know he has done this in Dublin and Cork and I presume the same thing has happened in Galway. Theoretically this is very desirable. I am all in favour of student participation and I should like to see much greater student participation. The manner in which the Minister has done it is working out very badly. I know of one or two cases where the student nominated was the serving president of the students' council. More often than not, the president of the students' council is in his final year in college, or he may be doing a post-graduate course. He is appointed at Christmas and he can serve until June or July only when the academic year ends and he departs from college and goes to another area. A six months period is no use because he might have an opportunity of attending only two or three meetings of the governing body.
When the Higher Education Authority Bill was going through this House, the Union of Students of Ireland made a very good case for continuity of student representation on the governing bodies. They wanted three students appointed so that when one retired another student would replace him. If three students were appointed over a three year period and one dropped out he could be replaced. I have in mind the case of University College, Cork. Anyone who reads the papers will have seen that the students' representative on the governing body resigned recently because he was no longer a student of the college and, therefore, he could not be regarded as a satisfactory students' representative. I hope the Minister will fill that vacancy. I have a sneaking feeling that the Minister is not fully converted to the idea of having proper student representation on the governing bodies. Having made a start, it should not be too difficult to devise a method which would give adequate student participation.
Much has been said about students in general, and about university students. There will always be a certain section who are more vocal than others and inclined to be wild, but we  hear very little about the vast majority of students—and I am referring to university students—who are responsible, who attend to their studies and who devote a considerable amount of their time to voluntary work; fund raising for charity and assisting the poor and under-priviledged. Unfortunately, this aspect of the activities of students does not get the same publicity and is not highlighted in the same way as the activities of the very vocal minority who tend to hit the headlines. I am fully in favour of proper student participation in all aspects of our higher education institutions. I hope the Minister will devise a satisfactory method of ensuring that there will be proper continuity of student representation.
Last year there was a row over the night courses at UCD. I worked my way through college. I worked during the day and attended university courses at night. Thousands have done the same thing. The system was that new courses started each year and it was possible to enrol each year. Then a cylical system was introduced. A course was started and until it was concluded at the end of three years, another course could not be started. I condemned that inside and outside the House. I felt it was a diabolical decision. It was grossly unfair to hundreds of students who could not afford to go to the university full time and who were glad to avail of the facilities at night. It is a highly nerve-wracking business, it makes colossal demands on one's physical and mental energies, having worked all day to go to the university at night, attend lectures and find time for study, but thousands have done it.
Whoever is responsible, the Minister or the powers-that-be, should be ashamed at not being prepared to provide this facility. More and more of these night courses should be provided in our universities if we believe that education is important. There is a demand for these courses. The universities should be shaken up and made realise that we are now in the second half of the 20th century and that we are not back in Newman's day,  much as I admire Cardinal Newman and his concept of university education. We must face facts. It is grossly unfair to the young boy or girl who has the leaving certificate, who does not qualify for a university grant, who takes up a post in a university town, and then cannot do night courses without having to wait for three years.
Only two courses are provided, a BA and a B.Com. I cannot see any reason why a wider range of courses could not be provided at night by the universities. Last year when this row blew up—and Deputy Desmond was very interested in it too; he might be able to recall the exact reasons which were stated as to why the yearly courses were discontinued—there was some suggestion about the staff being over-worked or some question about the availability of staff. I do not accept this at all. Could the Minister do something about this? Could he look into it? There is a very big demand from people who are anxious to pursue university courses at night and this facility should be provided.
Furthermore, the Minister should now seriously explore the possibilities of the concept of the open university. When he is replying to the debate I would be very grateful if he would tell me whether or not this matter has been considered by him and his Department and, if so, what conclusion they have arrived at. I have also been in favour of the universities providing extern degrees, such as is done by London University, where one can study at home by way of correspondence and tutorial courses and qualify for a wide range of degrees. I cannot understand why the National University or Trinity College, Dublin, could not provide such courses. Each university should provide a wide range of night courses and courses for extern students not resident in a university town. Otherwise the privilege of university education is confined to a relatively few very brilliant students who can obtain university grants or students whose parents can afford to pay for third level education.
The development of the open university in Britain is a very interesting one. The fact that this is a small country with a very small population  as compared with the population in Britain may make an open university not economically possible. I am in favour of universities going out to the people, coming down from their ivory tower and making courses available to the largest possible numbers.
In that context, I come to the next point I want to make. It is in regard to adult education—a matter that I have been speaking about in this House for the past ten years and to which the Minister has made no reference in his introductory statement. Whether we like it or not, whether we recognise it or not, adult education is an integral part of the educational system of all modern democracies. There have been certain developments here in the field of adult education but, with the exception of University College, Cork, which has done trojan work throughout Munster in bringing the university to the people by means of their adult education courses, universities have not played their proper role in adult education.
In the 1950s, the then President of University College, Cork, Dr. Alfred O'Rahilly, pioneered the idea of bringing the university to the people in the villages, towns, hamlets and townlands of rural Ireland. I had the opportunity the other day of seeing the schedule of courses of adult education being provided by UCC this year and was tremendously impressed by the range of these courses. They include courses of two years duration, of a high academic standard, culminating in an examination on the passing of which the student is conferred, quite properly, with a diploma.
I do not know to what extent the Minister is financing these courses provided by UCC. I do not know why UCD, Trinity College, Maynooth College and University College, Galway, are not doing the same thing. There is a certain limited range of adult education courses available from these university colleges but the formula that has been devised by UCC and the way in which they have developed adult education courses is a model that other university colleges should follow. I am not too sure as to what exactly is the financial assistance given to  UCC for these courses but I do recall that when Dr. O'Rahilly started the courses he got a certain subvention from the Department of Education and that some time in the 1960s that subvention was cut by half—from £10,000 to £5,000.
The Minister has not referred to adult education in his introductory statement. I do not know whether he is interested in the matter or not. In a modern democracy the universities have a vital role to play and they are under an obligation to the community to provide for people in non-university towns the benefit of higher education. There has been a commission examining the whole question of adult education under the chairmanship of that outstanding man, Mr. Con Murphy. An interim report has been published. I understand the final report will be submitted in due course.
I am tired now of speaking of adult education over the years. What we need is a proper national system of adult education. We need the organisation, the structure, the facilities. It requires to be done on a properly organised basis. The University College, Cork, courses are so provided. I should like to see a national system of adult education organised. There should be a special centre from which these courses could be provided, where the work of the universities in the field of adult education could be co-ordinated with the work of other organisations. It would be very remiss of me not to pay tribute to the Catholic Workers College and the Dublin Institute of Sociology and to other bodies throughout the country that have been doing very good work in this field.
It is recognised in all modern democracies that adult education has a vital role to play, that it is an integral part of an educational system. I hope that when the commission that is examining the whole structure of adult education issues its report, the Minister and the Department will take action so that we can look forward to a situation where not merely University College, Cork, but University College, Galway, the Dublin universities and the other institutes of higher education will play their full and proper role in providing adult education.
 The Minister referred to the question of school transport, particularly for mentally handicapped children. This is one aspect of the work of the Department of Education about which there is no controversy. Deputy Power appears to be party-orientated in his outlook on education. However the question of the education of mentally handicapped children is one which can be discussed non-politically. The Minister has a serious responsibility in this field. One of the most dramatic and welcome developments in recent years is the way in which the community have begun to take an active interest in the welfare of mentally handicapped children. There are numerous examples of tremendous voluntary effort in the raising of funds and more recently in the provision of actual educational facilities, in the provision of schools, for these children. There is one outstanding example in which I have a personal interest. That is the school at Rathluirc which is servicing a very big area embracing north Cork, east and west Limerick. It is a school, started by a local voluntary organisation, which has 25 pupils on the roll and is open two days a week. The children are brought in by mini-buses and all is paid for through voluntary organisation. This school has not received one penny from the Department of Education. It did not qualify until recently because the premises were inadequate but now they have 25 pupils and excellent premises and the school should be eligible for support. The teachers are working voluntarily. The mini-buses, which travel fairly long distances, are very expensive. Where local community effort has proved itself in a project of that nature it is worthy of support. I am not saying at all that the Minister did not do anything about it, I am merely drawing his attention to the fact that the school appears to be geared now. His Parliamentary Secretary very kindly visited it when he was opening a new school in a particular town during the year and he has taken a very keen interest in it. So have the officials of the Department. I appeal to the Minister to come to the aid of this  school now and enable it to be set up on a five-day week basis.
Mr. Desmond: The Minister and his secretariat have had an extremely difficult year. Some of the problems which they faced have been with us since the foundation of the State. They have been inherited from the British colonial set-up and they have defied, in many instances, the best efforts of successive Ministers for Education. Unfortunately we accepted the inheritance of the British concept of a colonial educational system and as a result of this very uncritical acceptance we now have the almost total absence of a coherent futuristic educational policy. I suggest that this is the greatest single problem facing the country.
I share the views put forward by Deputy FitzGerald. I may differ in detail from his attitudes but I feel he has mirrored the impatience of many people with the present system of education. He is correct in saying that there is a revolutionary attitude of thought among the electorate towards the whole structure and system of education.
Much as I personally like the Minister for Education, and I suppose for an educationalist to become Minister for Education is a supreme honour in any republic, and much as I admire his work to date, I regret that in the field of policy formation his contribution, due to a variety of circumstances, has so far been quite marginal. This is a tragedy because the very things the Minister is setting out to do are extremely radical. This is the peculiar perverseness of the situation. Many of the Minister's proposals are quite revolutionary, particularly the proposals in respect of community schools, the general philosophy and basis of which I support. Unfortunately unless the Minister pulls up his socks very rapidly in the field of educational policy formation he will go down in history as a man who did not make the contribution which I think he is capable of making. This is a point I do not make in any personal sense.
The second tragedy is that we have also inherited a system of departmental administration of education which is totally outdated. This is the second part of our inheritance from the  British concept of colonial-style educational system. Whole tracts and areas of administration and policy in this scheme in Britain have been thrown out, lock, stock and barrel, as no longer meeting the wishes of the people or the needs of the people. The Department of Education, the lady from Marlborough Street, is still autocratic in structure. She is still vertically conceived in administration. One might say, and I say this with no disrespect but indeed with a personal regard because I worked with the secretary of the Department—when I was a trade union servant we had to work together in our different spheres—that the quality, the temperament, the personality, the effectiveness of any secretary of the Department of Education virtually determines the quality and effectiveness of the whole system of education. In that setting all Ministers for Education are almost irrelevant. If we look at education today we see that the secretary of the Department of Education is far more powerful, far more influential, exerts a far greater influence than the Minister for Education, who is merely a party political head of a Department for about three and a half years because we have a general election every three and a half years and in accordance with the policy of the Fianna Fáil Party the Minister for Education shuffles upwards every three and a half years.
Mr. Desmond: Look at Deputy Colley and Deputy Lynch. You are on the way up, if I may rhetorically point out the fact to you. If there is any consolation in it, you may well shake the hand of Deputy Gibbons.
Mr. Desmond: Getting back to the influence, the secretary of the Department is more powerful than the political head. He administers the Department on a day to day basis and negotiates with the trade unions in the educational sector on conditions of employment. The internal tone of the Department is set by what the staff think the secretary might think about a given proposition, while the Minister somewhat far removed, looks after the Fianna Fáil Party and he will interpret the Fianna Fáil Party as it interprets itself. The attitudes internally of the Department are determined by people's reactions towards the secretary and, therefore, the political heads come and go very rapidly in the Department every two and a half years. They leave something behind them, some of them, but more by accident than by design, such as the late Donogh O'Malley—not a terribly good Minister for all the hoo-ha that has been said about his contribution. He decided on free education and put it to the Cabinet and then there dawned on him and on the Cabinet the enormity of what he had decided to do. The late Seán Lemass, as Taoiseach, had a right go at him at the following Cabinet meeting.
We all know that the so-called free post primary education came about but I would advance the point here that we in the Republic now have, for good or for evil, a rather ineffective Minister for Education, perhaps, one of the most ineffective in these islands. I would be very loath to draw any comparison between the Minister and Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. I think we all know Mrs. Margaret Thatcher's reputation in Britain to-date. She is probably the most reactionary and conservative  Minister for Education the British people have ever witnessed. I find it very difficult to make a comparison between Captain Long in Stormont and the current Minister here.
I would hope that the Minister in his reply and particularly in the months ahead in relation particularly to the bringing to finality of the community schools proposals, may yet display the experience, the capacity and the political imagination to meet the accelerating demands of the electorate in the Republic for a more broadly-based, more progressive and, indeed, I might say, a more democratic system of education. Ironically, relatively speaking, the conclusion I come to is that at the moment Captain Long, from what I have read of his speeches in Northern Ireland and the statements he has made—and I do get the handouts of Stormont—on educational topics is somewhat more progressive, so, therefore, the Minister falls behind Mrs. Margaret Thatcher and Captain Long.
Indeed, if one looks at the MacRory Report in Northern Ireland, one finds that it gives a greater measure of autonomy and a decentralisation of authority to local education committees and a regionalisation of education, one might say, to some extent in Northern Ireland. That system of education is, indeed, more democratic in Northern Ireland. It is more progressive at this stage, in fact, in our evolution than it is in the Republic. These are things one would hardly be expected to say in respect of any comparison between North and South in terms of educational practices.
The reason, therefore, that we on the Opposition benches are so extremely worried about the situation is that while there has been an explosion of expansion in education in the country, particularly in the second half of the sixties, there has not been a similar matched explosion in terms of the whole system, structure, administration and particularly policy formation of the Department. I have a great deal of sympathy with both the Minister and his senior staff. They have my sympathy in having to drag by the bootlaces a hodge-podge of a system  into some kind of coherent rational structure. They have my sympathy but, frankly, I do not think at this stage that the job is being done. We all know that in 1966 there were about 103,000 pupils in what I would prefer to call the so-called secondary schools. The terms “secondary school” and “vocational school” should be abolished in educational practice in this country. They mean nothing in 1972 and we should try to get these two terms out of our educational terminology, our general vocabulary in education. We have seen the explosion in the secondary schools sector, so-called, from 1966 when we had 103,000 pupils up to 149,000 pupils in one of our recent school years—a phenomenal rise of some 44 per cent in just over four years.
I think it can legitimately be said that this rise is one of the fastest in Western Europe. It has been quite phenomenal but it has imposed an enormous strain on the Department as the outcome of what one might call a flash decision of a former Minister for Education. I am not sure that the late Minister was really quite sure what he was doing but he did it and all credit to him. It came about and we have had the parallel problem of trying to cater for this massive upsurge in pupils, with a building programme in which 55,000 places were provided in post-primary schools over the same four-year period, 1966 to 1970. This all had to be undertaken by the Department and it certainly was quite a massive development, but the tragedy is that notwithstanding this development there has not yet emerged in any explicit terms a general statement of future policy for post-primary education in particular in this country.
I very much share the view expressed recently by the general secretary of the Vocational Teachers Association, Charles McCarthy. He spoke quite recently in Dublin, on 30th January last, and made his demands, as he has been demanding ad nauseam—to his credit, as we all know, Charles McCarthy has plenty of stamina—and said that the Government and Church —I presume he meant the Churches— should now state in explicit terms their  policy on education. He said that the Government had issued White Papers on far less significant subjects and the debate could not get under way without a general statement on policy. There had been no comprehensive statement from the Church either, Mr. McCarthy said at a meeting of the Dublin Institute of Adult Education Debating Society. He challenged the idea that the problems of education could be solved through the application of a rigid formula devised in Dublin which could put small communities in peril through the closure of schools. I shall come to that later, but broadly speaking, Mr. McCarthy demanded that there should be a White Paper on education.
We had a Dáil Question this afternoon to the Minister for Education from—I think—Deputy Burke, who got the brush-off from the Minister. There was no indication of any real anxiety within the Fianna Fáil Party to think about this problem. I am certain that if Fianna Fáil had any reaction to their own grassroots thinking there would be a different position. One could take last week's Ard-Fheis which showed that the rank and file of the party were streets ahead, in terms of progressive thinking, of the Minister and streets ahead of the platform itself. That says something for the Fianna Fáil Party when they are ahead of their platform. It shows how ill or insensitive that platform party must be. I suppose that is excusable since they were so busy shaking hands with one another. I think there is general recognition within the Fianna Fáil Party of the need for the publication of a White Paper by the Department or by the Government on this matter.
We are probably unique among western democracies. One realises this when one looks at the plethora of white papers and reports published in Britain by successive governments or at the documents produced in France, Germany and Sweden. Even in Sweden where there has been a long succession of democratic governments, successive ministers produce their white papers on their future plans for education. We have had the amazing situation of virtual one-party rule without having a  statement of policy by that party. What we have had is a hodge-podge of public servants' reactions and statements but never a clear-cut statement of policy on education.
A recent criticism is perfectly valid. Michael Murphy of UCC, as reported in the Cork Examiner of February 5th, said at the education forum meeting— he is a founder-director of the Education Forum in UCC, that in the absence of clearly-defined educational objectives the ad hoc structure of education reigned supreme. He said that education in Ireland, especially since the early sixties, illustrated the ad hoc pattern with three classic examples, primary school consolidation, the university merger and community schools, occurring in an unnatural sequence, first level, third level and second level. The credo of the initiators of the ad hoc system in education seemed to reside in bigness, supposedly resulting in equal opportunities and improved education. While I do not necessarily agree with his assumptions in regard to size and bigness I do share the view that in respect of these three classic areas of primary school consolidation, university merger and community schools, we have a supreme example of the ad hoc approach of the Minister.
I do not know why there is this reluctance on the part of the Minister to get down to work. We have many educationalists who could make a contribution even within a very short period, if there was a commission on education appointed to map out the general areas of reform for the future. I am certain they could make a report within 12 or 18 months which in many respects would be revolutionary in regard to educational reform. The Labour Party have suggested to the Minister that he should consider the setting up of a select committee of the House on education. It is most unsatisfactory to have only an annual estimate on which there can only be a relatively short discussion on education after which we all return our files to their brown paper covers and the Minister says: “Thank God that is over. Did they not drag it out a lot this year?” There is no continuing discussion  on education at parliamentary level, no opportunity to meet the staff of the Department and have a discussion with them on educational reform.
I am in the peculiar position that when I worked in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as an official I had far more contact with the Department of Education and the industrial training side of the Department of Labour and in many respects could exert far greater influence in conveying official views and have access to much more information and have much greater freedom of discussion than I can now as a Member of Parliament because, as a Member of the House one is in a political setting and naturally does not want to prejudice or in any way embarrass  public officials who must serve a Government composed of members of a political party. On the Opposition benches there are at least a half-dozen people who could usefully contribute to the constructive development of educational policy. That is why I suggest a committee of the House and I hope this will come in the parliamentary reform proposals now before the political parties. I am certain we shall have this structure and on that basis they could make a very effective contribution to future progress.
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