Green Paper on Education: Statements.

Thursday, 22 October 1992

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 134 No. 5

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An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  As indicated the opening speaker from each group has 20 minutes and each other speaker has 15 minutes. The Minister, of course, has unlimited time. There will be questions and statements from 4.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and the debate is to conclude by 5 p.m.

I welcome the Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan, to the House.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  I thank you for your kind welcome to the Seanad.

I am very grateful this morning to be able to address Seanad Éireann on the Green Paper on Education, “Education for a Changing World”, and I am very proud to open this historic debate on education, a much needed debate and one which I believe we should have openly.

I was anxious to bring you, the legislators, into the discussion at an early stage and that is why I sought this debate in Seanad Éireann today. I was concerned to do that rather than have Senators await an Education Bill, as it were, from the Dáil.

I am conscious of the traditional concerns of the Members of the House — a House in which I had the honour to serve for many years — for education and cultural matters which reflect their electorate and indeed their own professional expertise. By way of introduction to your [450] deliberations, I would like to paint the backdrop to the Green Paper and the national debate on it which is now well under way. This will set into a broader context my proposals for change and my intentions for the consultation process.

Let me start by stressing that I am adopting a totally open and responsive approach to the countrywide debate on the Green Paper. I have not adopted — nor do I intend to adopt — an approach that is any way doctrinaire. I do not want the debate to become a victim of political factionalism. I hope we can avoid that. My purpose instead is to harness the energies and goodwill of all concerned in the pursuit of progress and my priority is to create an environment in which progress can be made.

That environment is one in which politicians, parents, teachers, managers and churches will pull together in the same direction, with the needs of students being paramount. Consensus is the only realistic platform for change in education. In this sector above all others, it is people who deliver change, not edicts or diktats. In particular, I will be seeking stability in change, so that students will not be adversely affected by constant changes. I am determined by combining both principle and pragmatism, to bring about genuine improvement where it matters most, in the quality of students' learning.

In its very title, “Education for a Changing World” the Green Paper challenges all of us concerned with education to focus on the future. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths for getting there cannot be found, they have to be made. The making of those pathways changes both the maker and the destination.

In seeking to chart the development of the education system over the next 20 to 30 years, we must all be open to changes in the system and flexible in our attitudes towards it. We must set out on this journey with the most modern maps and with the best possible instruments for navigation. We need to be acutely aware of how change is affecting the entire economic and social landscape.

[451] One feature of the economic environment we have to face is this: knowledge and skill, both totally dependent on the education system, have become increasingly the dominant factors of wealth and job creation. This increased economic importance of learning is already a powerful catalyst in promoting a culture of lifelong learning in most developed countries. This is a shift in emphasis which in itself creates a substantial demand for change.

Education cannot respond to tomorrow's challenges with the answers to yesterday's problems. Current trends tell us what are some of those challenges. Rapid technological and social change means that work skills are made redundant ever more quickly. In particular, many of the skills required in the newer knowledge-based industries become redundant every three to five years. Over the next 20 years, perhaps as many as half of all job categories will change. Some will involve job categories now existing which will disappear. Others will involve new job categories, not yet existing, which will be created. Others again may keep their name but the work done will change totally.

Technology is also demanding that learning must be broadened. I will take just one example to illustrate my point. To maintain a robot one needs to know about mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics and electronics. All these used to be individual disciplines; for many years they were the responsibility of individual workers. Now, technology is blurring the demarcation between skill areas in almost every kind of work.

The process of creating new products and services — and, therefore, the process of creating new jobs — has become much more complex. It now depends on marrying knowledge and skills drawn across the spectrum of the arts and humanities, the natural and social sciences and the technologies. A modern designer or engineer must synthesise knowledge from all these areas in order to create the new products and services [452] that open up job prospects for other people.

So we need to be adaptable, to be as broadly educated as possible and to commit ourselves to a system of lifelong learning. Adopting a culture of lifelong learning has profound implications for the primary and post-primary education systems. The old idea that life consists of separate periods of education, work and retirement has either gone or will soon go in most countries.

What is vitally important is that people leave school with a desire to be a lifelong learner, and to be capable of lifelong learning because they have the skills to assess knowledge such as literacy and numeracy. There are also major social justice gains from a system of lifelong learning. People who currently “fail” in the education system will have second and third chances to overcome this disadvantage.

I want to turn to a factor which I consider to be of fundamental significance to the country's future. The crucial role of education in shaping society's values and attitudes is universally accepted. One of the ills in society that I see education combatting is what Professor Joe Lee has termed the “dependency syndrome”. For me enterprise is the antithesis of dependency and this is the reason it features so strongly in the Green Paper. I do not see the concept of enterprise that clearly in Seanad Éireann this morning because it became a major discussion point conflicting in any way with the academic and vocational aspects of education. I want to say in the Dáil. I see enterprise as completely complementary, in total harmony with the traditional concerns of quality education. It is not an either/or.

Enterprise, particularly in the debate in the Dáil, was painted as something we should not aspire to. What is an enterprising person? For some people it conjures up the stereotype of the pinstriped speculator. CERI, the educational research wing of the OECD, has provided a helpful and much less scary description, one which I am sure will find general agreement. I quote:

[453] An enterprising individual has a positive, flexible and adaptable disposition towards change, seeing it as normal, and as an opportunity rather than a problem. To see change in this way, an enterprising individual has a security born of self-confidence, and is at ease when dealing with insecurity, risks difficulty and the unknown. An enterprising individual has the capacity to initiate creative ideas, develop them and see them through into action in a determined manner. An enterprising individual is able, even anxious, to take responsibility and is an effective communicator, negotiator, influencer, planner and organiser. An enterprising individual is active, confident and purposeful, not passive, uncertain and dependent.

When we consider the notion of the enterprising person in this wider sense — in what I would consider to the true sense — I do not think many people would find it difficult to accept as a major aim of our education system that we develop these qualities more fully in more people, particularly since we Irish do not at the moment appear to have developed this side of our characters as much as people in many other countries. The fact that as a people we are not in general highly enterprising — in this broad sense — is surely something that has cost us dear, not just in economic terms but in social terms as well.

That is not to say that Ireland is not an inventive country, for we are justly proud of our fine writers, artists, scientists and technologists who do top class work all over the world. However, Ireland does not appear to be an innovative country. Our creativity seldom finds its way into new products and services. Innovation depends on two qualities, being creative and being enterprising. We are good at the first, we need to do much better at the second. This requires an educational response where we focus on the promotion of creativity and enterprise.

In emphasising enterprise in education my aim is to complement and certainly not replace the excellent work being done [454] in the promotion of the arts and creativity. For me the arts are central, not peripheral, to the education of every student. I see them as essential to the development of the individual — emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and socially. The arts create in young people a sense of wonder, of enjoyment and of purpose which improves the quality of their lives through participation and through the encouragement of innovative, independent thinking and personal discrimination.

Education in the arts makes a significant contribution to the way young people develop their feelings and understand their emotions. Through it also, students develop an appreciation of our cultural heritage both national and international.

The status we accord the arts in our education system reflects our values and attitudes. A good foundation in arts education for every child in our primary schools must be an educational priority. That foundation should be broad, and it should allow for a wide range of experience in various arts disciplines.

I want to mention three specific developments in this area. First, as part of its general review of the primary school curriculum, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is undertaking a major revision of the arts education aspects of the 1971 curriculum. The review will include the development of a rationale for each arts discipline with clearly stated aims and objectives.

Second, to assist the professional development of teachers in these areas a sequential and carefully structured programme of training for all primary teachers will be introduced. This will ensure that changes in the arts programmes become a reality throughout the system. Guidelines will also be issued to schools on the development of a school plan for all aspects of the curriculum, including the arts.

Third, as outlined in the Green Paper, some teachers with recognised competence in the arts areas will be seconded to disseminate good practice and to support and advise teachers and schools.

[455] I have attempted to outline in broad terms some of the social and economic trends that the education system needs to be responsive to, but I want to stress that doing this is fully consistent with the developmental needs of the individual. The underlying philosophy of education as clearly stated in the Green Paper is that of contributing to the development of the whole person. This underlying philosophy is not instrumentalism, vocationalism, commercialism or consumerism. I argue simply that economic considerations are among the many factors that we have to take into account. Indeed, to ignore those considerations would be grossly irresponsible.

The attitude to vocationalism running through the report is an extremely broad one. It is not concerned with narrow or outdated ideas of skills, but seeks to promote the quality of adaptability and flexibility. I do not wish to have a narrowly conceived and tightly controlled form of vocational education, and I set my face against the idea canvassed in the Culliton Report of a separate stream of vocational education.

I was at pains to provide clarity in relation to the philosophy of education in the Green Paper. I attempted to do this not so much by defining or describing the process of education but by outlining what I see as its aims. Like all other proposals in the Green Paper, these aims are there for discussion. A consensus will only be reached in the country if education is based on a shared philosophy of education. Perhaps we should focus on building consensus in that area first. I do not believe it will be difficult.

It would not be possible at this stage for me to review all the detailed proposals in the Green Paper. I do, however, wish to touch on one or two of these here. The basic organisational changes proposed in the Green Paper are designed to better serve the fundamental purposes of education which I set out earlier. In particular, the changes must serve the purpose of improving the quality of student learning.

[456] Starting with the school a major centre of learning in each community and the main centre of formal education. The need for and value of representative boards of management at school level arises from a conviction that the overall quality of education will benefit as a result.

Parents are the primary educators; teachers are the professional educators. The quality of education can only benefit from the involvement of both parents and teachers with the school owners in a real decision-making partnership. The right to real, meaningful involvement cannot be gainsaid. The value of their involvement is indisputable.

Correspondingly, of course, the right carries an equal responsibility — a responsibility on parents to reflect the full range of interests of all parents and to promote the good of the school, not simply represent particular interests; a responsibility on teachers to contribute as education professionals and not simply reflect staff interest; a responsibility on owners to treat both parents and teachers on the board as partners in the management of the school and not as customer and staff representatives.

The achievement of this type of real, developmental partnership is a most exciting and challenging objective. It is not simply a matter of new organisation charts for all schools throughout the country. At that, it would only be change on paper. It is much more fundamentally the development of new motivating values, a change in culture, for the benefit I hope of all students.

Critical to the thrust of the Green Paper's approach are the proposals under the title “Equity and Access”. There are at least three aspects to equality of opportunity in education: equality of access, equality of input and equality of effect. The very title of the chapter in the way it juxtaposes equity and access is symbolic of the advance from concerns with just equality of access to the even more profound problems presented by equality of input and equality of effect, both of which we are now seriously attempting to tackle.

[457] The home/school liaison projects we are developing to tackle education inequity are comprehensive. They involve parents, they are innovative, their results are being evaluated and they provide for developmental continuity. A further feature of these projects is that the involvement of parents in the pre-schooling of their chidren if facilitated and funded. This is a deliberate act to level the playing pitch for disadvantaged young people at the earliest possible time in their lives. The rationale behind this approach can be put quite simply. If a child cannot read in second standard, everything else is pretty much wasted.

I am conscious of the crucial but difficult issue of what constitutes a suitable curriculum for disadvantaged students. The need for relevance to his or her circumstances and aspirations has to be balanced against its possible curtailment of social mobility. Broader curricula at primary and post-primary levels, combined with increased autonomy for schools in developing school based curricular responses to the needs of their students, offer great scope to make significant stride in this area.

The strategies I am promoting to improve the retention and completion rates at second level of students from disadvantaged backgrounds will in time be reflected in improved participation from these groups in higher education. At this point, I would like to commend the efforts being made by third level institutions to forge links with second level schools in disadvantaged areas. We will have to try to develop more of these programmes in the future. I am very hopeful that early success will be achieved from these types of outreach activities, coupled with access courses and priority admission for students.

Ní fhéadfainn an ócáid seo a ligint thart gan tagairt faoi leith a dhéanamh don pholasaí dearfach cinnte atá leagtha amach agam i leith na Gaeilge. Tugann an Rialtas seo, mar a rinne gach Rialtas eile ó bunaíodh an Stát, tacaíocht láidir d'fhorbairt na Gaeilge i measc an phobail i gcoitinne. Ní leor, áfach, tacaíocht ó bhéal a thabhairt, caithfimid na bealaí is [458] éifeachtúla a aimsiú chun seo a dhéanamh.

Is é beartas dearfach i leith na Gaeilge atá i gceist agam sa Pháipéar Uaine. Beartas é a bhfuil fáilte forleathan tugtha dó. Tá an beartas bunaithe ar fhorbairt na Gaeilge ag leibhéil difriúla: i múineadh na Gaeilge sna ranganna, áit a mbeidh béim speisialta ar chumas labhartha agus tuisceana; i dtimpeallacht na scoile i gcoitinne, áit a mbeidh dualgas ar scoil polasaithe sainiúla a fhorbairt chun na Gaeilge a chur in úsáid lasmuigh den churaclam foirmiúil; sa phobal lasmuigh den scoil, go háirithe i measc tuismitheoirí, chun deis a thabhairt do dhaltaí an Gaeilge a úsáid sa chomhphobal.

Ní féidir leis an gcóras oideachas amháin an polasaí seo a thabhairt chun críche. Tá sé i gceist agam mar sin, i gcomhar le Aire na Gaeltachta agus le Bord na Gaeilge, beartais a chur ar siúl a chothóidh úsáid na Gaeilge i measc an phobail i gcoitinne agus i measc tuismitheoirí ach go háirithe. Tá plean gníomhaíochta ina leith sin go léir sa Pháipéar Uaine agus tá súil agam go mbeidh lántacaíocht le fáil againn don bheartas sin.

Today's debate in this House will, of course, not be the Seanad's last word on this vital subject — nor Senators' last opportunity to contribute to the great national debate that is now in full progress. I look forward not only to hearing what Senators have to say but also to taking it fully into account, as my thinking and the thinking of the Department of Education evolves in the months ahead.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  I welcome the Minister to the House and the opportunity to debate the Green Paper but the idea of discussing this document in 20 minutes is beyond me, even having to pick and choose reminds me of cramming for an examination. I feel as if I am sitting an examination today. If I do not cover certain areas will I be marked on it or will I be victimised? It is the pressure of an examination that we are all under in the House today. If we had had an opportunity over the last three years to debate education I would not feel so hassled. We only had Private Members motions.

[459] This is a historic occasion and this document is a watershed in the area of Irish education. I am speaking not only as a Senator but as a teacher with 25 years experience, as a member of ASTI and a member of a vocational education committee.

The Minister mentioned the word “consensus” today and I ask him to extend the time because, when the summer holidays are taken into account, we did not get the six months we expected. This would ensure that everyone who wished to respond would have the opportunity to do so.

The Minister said in the Dáil that he had not written the White Paper yet and stressed the need for consultation and consensus. He reminds me a little of Fagan in Oliver Twist, which subsequently became the musical Oliver, in the sense that he has picked pieces from here and there. He has picked devolution from Britain, the concept of vocational education from Germany and teacher education from France so, to an extent, he is picking education pockets——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am sure the Minister would say he is not Ron Moody.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  He is Fagan to my mind. It is important to look at educational institutions and systems in other countries. The fact that we are behind the times means we can pick the best and ignore the worse, but it would be better if we could come up with our own value system of education. In all the buzz words that were used in relation to the document, two words were missing which I felt should have permeated it from beginning to end —“value system” and “caring”. They are words I would like to see when we think in terms of developing young minds.

Education is not about corporate place values nor is it essentially about marketing. I know the Minister was at pains today to get to the root of what he means by enterprise culture. I see education being about qualifications and the development and cultivation of a quality [460] of mind in the rising generation. There is a responsibility on those going through the system to discharge those values to those coming after. Words like “value system” have been ousted from this document by new economic terms; enterprise culture, quality assurance and transparency. They are not words I would have come across either during my 25 years as a teacher, during my teacher training period or even during my Arts degree.

What we should have been doing for the past number of years is discussing the philosophy of education, which would take months, and what we should be doing today is working to see how we can implement the aims of the Minister in the Green Paper. The reason I feel so frustrated today is we still feel the need to discuss the philosophy of education. There is very little reference in this document to resources. That has been said over and over again. It has been referred to by teacher unions as the missing chapter.

Enterprise has always been the hallmark of our educational system in the sense that our entrepreneurial managers and our innovative staff have been enterprising in running a system on a shoestring budget. That is how I would see enterprise. I would not see myself as a teacher going to teach a class at 9 o'clock in the morning saying this morning we will have a lesson on enterprise.

Let us look briefly at the six aims. They are equality, the broadening of education for European citizenship, making the best use of resources, the training and development of teachers, the system of effective quality assurance and openness and accountability. With regard to equity we would need a day to look at our socially, emotionally, physically and mentally disadvantaged areas I am not happy with the reference to “any extra teaching resources that become available would, as a priority, be devoted to increasing staffing in schools in disadvantaged areas.” That is a very lukewarm reaction by the Minister towards the problem of disadvantage.

I taught in a city centre school where [461] there was 80 per cent unemployment in certain catchment areas. I can honestly say we were not waiting for the Green Paper to tell us how to deal with it. We asked what were the needs of the students in our community and we ignored the elements of the curriculum which did not suit them and developed our own. The Minister may not have been aware of the intense curriculum activities in the late seventies and early eighties. Enterprising teachers and managers decided that they would develop modules that would suit the pupils' needs such as a social environmental studies programme, the beginning of the senior certificate community based learning, familiarisation programmes and a local network which preceded the home-school liaison and extended into the community. They were funded from the EC through the Spiral programme and I wonder if the enterprise of teachers and the ground work that was done was ignored?

I asked in the House sometime ago if we could have a debate on what I consider to be one of the best reports ever produced. It is the second report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women's Rights — Gender Equality in Education in the Republic of Ireland 1984-91. It was based on work done by Jim Gleeson who is now on the staff of the University of Limerick. If the aims in the report were implemented through this document we would have no problem with gender equality. We should debate this document to see how we could eliminate sexism in education. The 39 recommendations should be compulsory reading. They infiltrate the three levels of education. They are part of the training aspect, apprenticeships, the area of the inspectorate and promotion. There are very few female principals in a profession dominated by women teachers.

Looking at the area of European citizenship, we are not teaching our students to be Irish citizens. Civics has been seen for a long time as an extra subject in which to get an extra point. The concept of subsidiarity — the buzz word during the debate on Maastricht — would be understood by rising generations of [462] young people if we had proper civics education in our schools. I ask the Minister to take on board what the former Minister, Deputy Gemma Hussey had in mind which was social, political and environmental studies as an integrated module. That would have been the epitome of a well-rounded integrated approach towards citizenship where children would understand how local government works. There would not be the hostility towards that institution that exists at present if young people were shown how the system works and if it were part and parcel of our school curriculum. I feel strongly about that and I would not be gadding off to become a European citizen unless I were 100 per cent sure that I understood the rights and responsibilities of citizenship at national level.

I am utterly amazed that there is no reference to global citizenship. We talk about Somalia. In the educational system there should be a strong emphasis on development education which has been worked through by Trócaire in their educational area and it should be part and parcel of any meaningful curriculum development so that we appreciate the inter-dependence of us all on this planet. We are citizens of planet Earth and should understand the complex issues that exist. We must see our responsibility towards the Third World from a First World perspective. That is what is lacking in the document and I am extremely disappointed. Our students should be given the opportunity to learn and understand the difficulties experienced in southern hemisphere countries. We understand the notion of giving aid under pressure where there are starving multitudes but there are far deeper concepts to be developed, understood and taught to our students.

With regard to devolution, there will not be too many aspiring principals queueing up in future because a principal could not cope under the independent autonomous units the Minister suggests. The principal is already over-burdened with management and unless there is a middle tier of management I cannot see [463] people rushing to become principals of schools.

On the training and development of teachers, I hope at some stage in this House that we will have an opportunity to debate something which has been left within the hallowed walls of universities and teacher education colleges. Do we follow the consecutive model or do we follow the concurrent one? That is something I would love to go into detail today but I do not have the opportunity to do so because of time constraints.

If we are talking in terms of extending teacher education, some would favour the concurrent model as used in the University of Limerick and the teacher education colleges and if we are broadening the curriculum, particularly bringing in a European dimension, that is something the Minister should take on board. The consecutive versus the concurrent model is a debate for another day but it is something that cannot be brushed aside.

I am not worried about transparency in the system at ground level but I am extremely worried about the lack of transparency within the Department. I hope it will not mean that schools will compete with one another as in Britain where, when examination results are published, parents rush frantically to the schools with the best results, ignoring the fact that the school might not suit the needs of the child. We must be very careful in that area. I hope the Department will become transparent; we would welcome that.

I will highlight the vocational education committee area because the Minister has saved his political neck by devoting just three paragraphs to where he sees the vocational education committees going. What will happen to the autonomous unit which is suggested? What will happen to small schools within the vocational education committee system who share specialist teachers when the school size does not justify a teacher on a full-time basis? What will be the effect on employment for teachers who must travel to many schools within the vocational education committee [464] system? What about travelling expenses? What about incremental credits? What about the conditions of service being changed particularly for principals? How will teachers fare out legally? There are so many explosive questions to be answered that I wonder if the operation of this autonomous unit, has been thought out. I would like to see inspectors being represented on the selection board as well as the teachers, parents and others the Minister suggests.

I also want to look at the extension of the school year and financial compensation for teachers. Within the system there are existing safeguards for teachers; if a teacher is not retained he or she has redress and is given an inspector's report. Will the teacher now be given an opportunity to make a case? I worry about that. I worry also about the budgetary constraints within the single unit. Will long serving teachers be phased out because younger teachers will mean cheaper labour? We must ask ourselves these questions because the emphasis here is on cost-cutting and budgetary control. I would not like to see teachers with long service pushed out to make way for younger teachers. I would welcome younger teachers because of their enthusiasm. With regard to voluntary redundancy, is there money in the Department of Finance to fund this? This needs to be looked at.

Regarding technology in the vocational education committee context, at present there are students who are entitled to attend third level establishments because they achieve points in three subjects — construction studies, engineering and technical drawing, but if those three subjects become one, those students may not be able to get the necessary points. This is in conflict with what is in the Culliton report. I am worried about that. Will vocational students have access to third level or will we be back to the two track system which I deplore?

There is no mention in this document of multi-denominational schools and I will be asking the Minister about his position on this. We need to look at the senior cycle. The junior certificate is now in [465] place and we are moving towards the senior certificate. I am glad the Minister recognises the unsuitability of the leaving certificate examination for all students; it is seen as an entrée to third level. I hope there will be umbrella cover for all senior cycle courses; I would not like to see some relegated to second class status. I hope the Minister will bring the National Council for Education and the National Council for Curriculum and Examination together as a statutory body.

We need a local education council to deal with budgets, transport, building, etc., and I see the vocational education committee as the basis for that — to deal with budgets, etc. I would welcome a national council of teachers, a regulatory and co-ordinating body for teachers, which would deal with the thorny issue of teachers who may not be pulling their weight. Within such a framework that issue could be addressed. I do not have time to flesh this out but it is something we should reflect on.

I hope we will have more time to thrash out many of these contentious issues and have a full debate on the necessary resources without which the aims in this document will be just aspirational. We must deliver on this Green Paper, have a White Paper and, eventually, an Education Bill. We cannot do that unless the Minister spells out what finances and resources will be available to turn those aspirations into reality.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Senator Mullooly.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  The arrangement with the Whips was that one speaker from each group would speak for 20 minutes.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Senator Mullooly represents the Fianna Fáil group.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I understood it was the Minister, then Fine Gael — the same as on the Order of Business.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am sure there is no precedent for that arrangement.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  The agreement was that [466] it would not go across the House as is happening at present. I am not going to argue. I will not press the issue.

Mr. Mullooly: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Thank you.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I can rely on Senator Mullooly to say the right thing. He has a very broad view on education.

Mr. Mullooly: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  I welcome the publication of the Green Paper on Education. I also welcome the fact that there is now broad acceptance of the need for an education Act. We have a commitment from the Government and the Minister that, following the debate on the Green Paper, a White Paper will be issued and subsequent to that an education Bill or a series of education Bills will be introduced. We have waited a long time to get to this stage. I do not believe we should rush it now.

The Green Paper is dated June 1992 but I understand it only reached schools in September, and that schools only received one copy of the Green Paper which means it will take quite a while for all members of the staff to have an opportunity to read through it. I know the original intention was that consultation and debate would be concluded before the end of the year and that the White Paper would then be issued which would outline the Government's legislative proposals. My view is that it is vitally important that adequate time be allowed for full debate and discussion on all the very important issues involved.

I have received a number of representations in recent weeks mainly from teachers and from school management boards seeking that the timescale for consultation and debate on the Green Paper be extended. This is a reasonable request and I would appeal to the Minister to defer the closing date for receipt of submissions on the Green Paper at least until the end of February 1993. This would meet with the approval of all the interests involved. It would not unduly delay the issue of the White Paper and the progress towards enactment of the proposed legislation. If the Minister is agreeable to this [467] extension it would be helpful if he were to announce at the end of this debate the new date up to which submissions on the Green Paper would be accepted.

It is important that there should be a very wide-ranging and comprehensive debate on all the issues involved so that we can move forward with the greatest possible degree of consensus.

Over the years the Irish education system has developed on an ad hoc basis. Educational planning has not been a significant feature in the past. That is why there has been a growing demand in recent years for a legislative framework within which the education system can expand and develop to meet the demands and the challenges of the years ahead. The publication of this Green Paper is the first step towards bringing that legislative framework into existence.

I have been involved in education all of my life. More years ago than I care to remember, I started work as a primary teacher. As a parent, I was for a number of years a member and then chairman of a board of management of a voluntary secondary school. As a public representative I was for 17 years a member of a vocational education committee. For the past few years I have had the honour to be Education spokesman for my party in this House.

Over all those years I have seen many changes and many important developments in education. For instance, in the past 25 to 30 years we have seen the abolition of the primary certificate examination, the introduction of the new curriculum in primary schools, the introduction of the free second level education scheme, the introduction of degree courses for national teachers, the establishment of boards of management for primary schools and the opening up of third level education through the introduction of the higher education grants scheme and the establishment of the regional technical colleges and the colleges of technology as well as the huge increase in university and third level places. However, as the Green Paper underlines, the world keeps changing and [468] the education system must constantly adapt to changing educational needs.

In proposing a framework for development into the next century the Green Paper reflects six key aims. These six aims are very laudable and there are few people who would disagree with any of them. The first aim is “to establish greater equity in education, particularly for those who are disadvantaged socially, economically, physically and mentally. This is an aim that has been very much in the minds of all who have been involved in education for a long time.

The second aim is “to broaden Irish education so as to equip students more effectively for life, for work in an enterprise culture, and for citizenship of Europe.” I was very pleased to hear the reference in the Minister's speech to his concept of “enterprise”. The third aim is “to make the best use of educational resources, by radically devolving administration, introducing the best management practice and strengthening policy making.” That is an aim with which I am sure there would be general agreement.

The fourth aim is “to train and develop teachers so as to equip them for a constantly changing environment.” All teachers would certainly concur with this, particularly in the area of in-service education. The fifth aim is “to create a system of effective quality assurance.” The sixth aim is “to ensure greater openness and accountability throughout the system and maximise parent involvement and choice.” These aims are very laudable and would have the support of the vast majority of parents, teachers and the community.

The Green Paper then goes on to outline strategies for the achievement of these six aims. Because of the time constraint on speakers, I propose to confine myself in the main to the sections of the Green Paper which deal with primary education. My colleague, Senator McKenna, will comment in some detail on the proposals regarding second level education. Other speakers from this side of the House will discuss these and other aspects of the Green Paper.

[469] As far as primary education is concerned, there is a very solid foundation on which to build. The way forward has been charted by the two excellent reports on primary education which were published in June and December 1990, namely the report of the Review Body on the Primary Curriculum and the report of the Primary Education Review Body. If the recommendations of both these review bodies are implemented, many of the problems which exist in primary education would be eliminated.

There are major problems in primary education today. Many pupils are still being taught in classes which are far too large and they are educated in school buildings that are seriously sub-standard. I understand that up to one in ten of primary schools are 100 years old. The vast majority of schools have no access to the services of a remedial teacher. The necessary support services are not available in situations where children with disabilities are being taught in ordinary national schools. Capitation grants are far too low. In fact, they are too low to cover even the essential requirements of heating, lighting, insurance and cleaning with the result that there has to be far too much effort and emphasis on fund raising. The only way in which these problems will be solved is by a significant increase in the allocation of resources to primary education.

I recognise and acknowledge the increased funding and support which have been provided in recent years to schools serving disadvantaged areas and the special programmes which have been introduced for such schools, but we must remember that disadvantage is not confined entirely to those urban areas alone. There are many pupils in rural schools who are disadvantaged and support programmes are also essential for them.

In the time remaining to me I would like to comment briefly on a few of the more controversial or radical proposals in the Green Paper. I will not have time to cover all the matters I would like to raise but perhaps there may be an opportunity to do so during the question and answer session.

[470] In the primary school context, I have difficulty with the concept of the principal teacher as chief executive officer. The problem is, 80 per cent of all principals are teaching principals. At the moment they have quite a considerable burden to carry combined with their role in relation to administration, meeting parents and so on. The dual role of teaching principals should be given greater recognition in the Green Paper. I do not know whether it is possible for such principals to take on the extra responsibilities associated with being a chief executive. To fulfil the role of principal, as outlined in the Green Paper, a person would need to find time to meet parents, to support colleagues and to do other duties and the support services of a secretary and caretaker would certainly be essential. The financial implications of all of this are not addressed in the Green Paper.

Some teachers would have reservations about the designation of a principal as the chief executive officer, as team work is very important in the school. There would be some suspicion of a two-tier structure if the principal were to be cast in the role of chief executive and the other teachers in the school were to be classed in the role of staff.

On the issue of seven year contracts for principal teachers, I would support that concept, but it should be introduced on a voluntary basis initially. There are many principal teachers who would retire voluntarily from the position of principal, provided they could become ordinary members of the staff in the schools in which they serve, and provided they did not lose out financially by doing so. This will have to be thought through in great detail and there will have to be agreement and considerable consultation. It cannot be imposed.

I have serious reservations about the suggestion on the amalgamation of small schools. The idea of developing schools of four, eight and 16 teachers may sound attractive in theory but, in practice, it would present many problems. The present policy on amalgamations is that they will only take place with the consent and the agreement of the local parents [471] and teachers. That policy should be continued. Amalgmaation should always be based on educational principles and not dictated by financial considerations.

I question the benefit to pupils in the administration of compulsory testing on a national basis at seven and 11 years of age. Certainly, testing without the follow-up support for pupils who are identified as being low achievers or having special needs would be a waste of time. The vast majority of teachers do not need to use the type of testing suggested in the Green Paper in order to identify the pupils who are in need of remedial services or support services. The problem at the moment is that those services are not available. School-based tests might be more relevant than standardised tests and too great a focus on the results of tests will inevitably lead to a narrowing of the curriculum. There is a danger that we would get back to the situation which existed in the days of the primary certificate examination.

The publication of an annual report is also suggested in the Green Paper. This would be a very costly exercise and I cannot see very much merit in it. It could have negative effects on primary education. There would be a tendency to compare the annual reports of various schools and as everybody will realise, the comparisons between schools could create serious problems in certain areas. I would have reservations about this. It needs to be considered very carefully.

The Green Paper suggests an expanded role for boards of management. It is implied that management boards will have a greater involvement in monitoring the quality of teaching and learning in the schools. Since the management boards were established, the assessment or evaluation of the professional competence of teachers was a matter for the inspectorate. I hope this continues. I would have reservations about people who are not professionals in the education field having a role in the evaluation of the work of people who are professionals in their field. I welcome the proposal for the establishment of a teaching [472] council. This has been sought by the teaching profession for many years.

I welcome the general thrust of the Green Paper. Some aspects are particularly welcome, for example, the commitment to gender equity and the emphasis on the importance of in-service training for teachers. I also welcome the proposals in the Green Paper for meeting the educational needs of travellers. However, I would have like to see a statement acknowledging the desirability of a continued reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio. I am also somewhat disappointed that the Green Paper did not address a number of important matters such as the establishment of an educational broadcasting service, the numerical male-female imbalance in the teaching profession, especially at primary level, and the fact that fewer men and fewer of the higher achieving girls are applying for teaching.

By and large, I wish the debate well. I hope it will be fruitful and that in due course we will see the implementation of the Education Bill.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I welcome the discussion on this document. The Minister has indicated that he is in a “listening” mode on this issue and I am very pleased with the way the discussion has gone so far. I welcome what the Minister presents as revisionism of some of his views. I also welcome his illuminating comments this morning on the arts and education because I felt that was a major element lacking in the document. He has filled that gap this morning and no more needs to be said about it, as long as it is reflected in the White Paper.

Similarly, his views on smaller schools are now far more acceptable. The issue always has been how the best needs of the community can be served, but the reality is that, if a school is closed in an area, no young couple will settle in the area; no children will be born in the area if there is no local school. That has been a matter of concern to Members on all sides of the House — educationists and non-educationists. I am glad the Minister's view has been revised.

[473] It is not possible in the short time available to respond in detail to the whole document but over the next week or so, I intend to respond in a very detailed and progressive way to some of the Minister's views on modern languages in primary schools. I do not think there should be only European languages; I do not see why, say, Japanese should not be included in any discussion we might have. I will also comment on the regionalisation of education or the sub-national structure between the Department and the board of management, pre-service education, the training of teachers and the funding of education.

I am enjoying this debate and I have travelled the country discussing this document. Last night I was discussing it with teachers in Galway, the previous night I was in Longford and I will be in Navan tonight. There is great interest in it. At primary level, the Minister will be pleased to hear, we have set up meetings everywhere — at school, branch and district level. In terms of the timescale, I have some sympathy with the requests for an extension, which have been put to the Minister. I am not asking for it; the INTO will have a full response for the Minister within the time he mentioned. This document is being discussed at our 180 branches at present. The information wil be collated during November, cleared by the executive in early December and should be with the Minister by Christmas; our formal response will be made within the time limit. However, I recognise we have specific structures to deal with this but other groups may not. That is a decision for the Minister.

I know this bores the Minister to tears, but I am coming with a begging bowl. There was an earlier reference to Oliver Twist and I am certainly asking for more. We demand more in primary education and everything in this document requires me to look for more. My greatest worry is that the thrust in the document is, unfortunately, towards safety, conservatism and dullness, even in the context of what the Minister said this morning on enterprise.

I could not agree more with the comments [474] of Senator Mullooly about the role of principal. There is a foireann scoile with a principal as primus inter pares and that is what the role has to be. It is not a role of authoritarianism, it is a role of leadership, co-operation and development. That is lost in the document, and this too worries me. I ask the Minister to look at that issue.

The area of technology is the weakest section in the document. It was a joke to talk about an educational radio service pilot experiment some years ago. There is no schools radio or television. Teachers are trying to match the best satellite television programmes seen at home at night with chalk, talk and personality. If we are talking about technology, we have to make a start in practical areas. We cannot have enterprise on one side and the need for development on the other and finish up with research and development in a primary school system which has not had one computer in the last three years. That is the reality. I am not saying that in a pejorative way but in a pragmatic way. The Minister can ask where the money is to come from. I do not have to answer that question today but I am prepared to answer it at another time. This issue has to be addressed. Technology is about reality and we have to look at where we are going.

I have raised the question of teacher numbers with the Minister on a number of occasions. Members on all sides understand the problem of remedial education. I want to put forward a few simple statistics. At present, there are 950 remedial teachers in primary education serving 1,400 schools, that is, one remedial teacher for about 560 pupils. That sets an impossible task. To meet existing needs, we need one remedial teacher per 250 pupils. In other words, about 2,100 remedial teachers would be required — an extra 1,200. Nobody in the Department would disagree with that objective irrespective of whether the money is there now or will be.

According to the Minister's figures for the projection of pupil enrolment for the next number of years, the figure for 1996 is 460,000; the pupil-teacher ratio is 25 to [475] one at the moment and fewer than 20 throughout Europe. I heard the Minister's comment during the week about places in Germany. If he wants to discuss that I can go through it in detail. It was a handy comment. I know he does not have time to deal with this now but I let him away with it. I will come back on it whenever he wants.

In the rest of Europe the ratio is less than 20 to one. Divide 20 into 460,000 and you would need 23,000 teachers, approximately 3,000 more than we have at present. Those figures do not take into account equity, or disadvantage or special education needs. That is the reality. We are going to run out of teachers at primary level within this school year. I have been saying that for the last three years. I said it in 1990 and I was laughed at but people are beginning to listen at this stage. I have started a survey in recent days on the number of applicants for jobs at primary level over the last two months.

There are people giving roses outside these gates today to raise awareness on autism and epilepsy. Autism is something we try to deal with in the primary sector but it is very difficult. I have been in schools and watched teachers deal with austic children. Very often they can only deal with the children on a one to one basis. I am not suggesting that we could look towards a one to one pupil-teacher ratio in the area of special education, but there are schools in the city where that is the only way they can deal with those problems.

In terms of gender equity, I cannot bridge the gap between the Minister's aspirations and my difficulties every day of the week. The mangement authorities came to the Department recently with a set of recommendations on the elimination of sexism and sex stereotyping in primary school textbooks, at our initiation. The Department worked hard on it and produced a set of recommendations. What has happened to them? How many of them have been implemented?

I agree with what the Minister says on [476] the question of targeting resources. The average class size at the moment in Irish primary schools is 31, an impossible number to cope with. Classes have to be substantially smaller before we can deal with targeting. At present we have to strike the balance, and let us find that balance. I do not have difficulty with that.

The Green Paper on Education contains some very good general ideas which I commend. Every one of them will be developed, responded to and implemented into the present system. There are good things in that system which we should preserve. The Green Paper contains a range of proposals. Let us hold the best of them, improve some of them and drop what is left over. Change is an absolutely essential factor in the process of education.

I like many positive parts of the Green Paper relating to quality of education. However, some aspects of it need to be re-examined. The Minister can look within his own Department immediately at the role of the inspectorate on which I have clear views. It should be strengthened, and enlarged and made more available to teachers, not for inspecting, but for advice, support and to solve problems.

Inspectors should be removed from the Department of Education and based in schools. The Minister has said repeatedly that we need to sort out sections, give in-service training to one group and something else to another group. I do not know what the inspectors are doing in the Department of Education. Their offices should be in schools and their work should be structured through schools. It is a professional and not an administrative function.

The same applies to the psychological service when we come to develop it. It should be based at ground level among the problems. A good inspector knows some of the children by name in the schools he or she visits. Having said that, the vast majority of the inspectorate are highly professional supportive people doing an extraordinarily good job against all the odds. They have a major contribution [477] to make. My interest in them, from a professional point of view, is that quality of education depends on a trustworthy inspectorate who will also take a stand on issues.

My greatest fear about the Green Paper relates to the question of the enterprise culture and its connection with what the Minister has said about assessment. It is a disastrous proposal, heading directly down the road I have seen in Northern Ireland and in the UK. The words in which the assessment is couched in the document do not allay my fears. I can take the Minister through, step by step.

Teachers and parents are smart. Let us get the preconditions right. The three Rs are an essential part of education. The objective of teaching a child to read must be one of the first priorities of education. If a child leaves primary level without knowing the three Rs then the primary system has failed that child. I speak as representative of primary teachers and that is the view of my members.

Let us look at the reason. I do not need assessment at the ages of seven and 11 to tell the Minister the reason and neither he nor his officials need it either. In the view of my members, 97 to 98 per cent of all pupils have the capacity and potential to learn to read. Why do some not learn? Let us peel back all the problems and get right down to basics.

The resources to teach the three Rs at primary level are not available. Pushing the problem up to post-primary level is a disastrous practice. Children should not leave primary level without being able to read, write and do basic mathematics. I ask the Minister for the resources to achieve that. I am back to resources again, there is no way out of it. The argument for money must be made repeatedly.

If the Minister decides to respond by measuring proficiency in the three Rs, I can tell him exactly what will happen. The three Rs are easily measured but enterprise and creativity, risk-taking, discovery, qualities of leadership and co-operation cannot be measured by any test. One can get good tests to measure reading, writing and arithmetic. We all [478] know that. Such tests can be given in school at any time. If one starts measuring the three Rs and, in the words of the Green Paper, aggregating the results, making them available at school level to parents only schools will then be judged on the ability of its teachers to impart bits of information the children can regurgitate. They will know the three Rs and nothing else. Two primary certs in the course of primary level will make for a successful school and that is where we will generate dullness.

What the Minister is looking for, according to his speech, is enterprise, creativity, leadership, people who have been rewarded through the course of their primary education for taking calculated risks and winning with them. We need people who have worked in teams, whether in PE, art or drama; people who have learned self-confidence and articulation in drama; people who have learned creativity through art; people who have learned through discovery how to move from one point of difficulty to another, and above all we need problem solvers, a skill that cannot be measured by the three Rs testing and that will not be measured in any serious way, although to some extent it could be by testing at seven and 11.

Teachers will now be judged on the three Rs so they will concentrate on teaching the three Rs. We will be back to the scholarship days of 40 years ago. The Minister is not going to solve the problem of 300,000 unemployed with that kind of movement. He will simply encourage concentration on one part of the curriculum. That is my greatest fear and I foresee the present system being dismantled by that approach. We can argue over resources but that single move will wreck education and leave it in tatters as it is in the UK at present. It will bring us to the brink reached by the US ten years ago and from which it is receding rapidly. I do not want us to go through the experiences of those two countries. I ask the Minister to take serious and long term advice on that matter.

Where are we going on these issues? Free education in 1969 required huge [479] financial investment at post primary level during the seventies with the start of comprehensive schools, community schools, etc. Investment moved to third level in the eighties, to the new universities, the regional technical colleges and to extended numbers of places in traditional universities. In the meantime investment in primary education has stood still. I ask the Minister to ensure that the primary section wins through in the nineties and that it gets the necessary support.

I would like to know what the Minister envisages for school principals. I started off by saying that the role of the principal should be expanded and developed. Someone said to me last night in Galway: “Do I feel good about being chief executive of a draughty, dirty, wet, underheated, prefabricated, falling down primary school?” That is not what principals want.

Miss Keogh: Information on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  Zoom on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  I welcome the Minister to the House. Despite the brevity of time allocated to us I welcome the opportunity to discuss elements of the Green Paper on Education. I welcome the publication of the Green Paper because it is a genuine attempt by the Minister and the Department of Education to contribute to the debate on education and its future development. I have always abhorred tinkering with the edges of something, making piecemeal changes or embarking in certain directions without knowing the final destination or what route to follow. We are not forgetting that the Green Paper is a discussion document which means, as the Minister said, it is open to consultation, discussion, change and development and it is important to remember that.

It is my intention to provide the Minister with a comprehensive and lengthy submission on every detail of the Green Paper. Today I will alight on a number of important areas that I would like to highlight.

The Green Paper and the discussion here are based on an overall polistic philosophy of education which looks at the whole person in a context, rather than [480] regard each individual as a hot potato to be passed from hand to hand and ultimately forgotten. Our philosophy of education has to be about developing the whole person and must encompass a vision of education which will enable young people to fulfil their true potential and contribute to society.

Criticism of the Green Paper from Senator O'Toole centred on a perceived new philosophy of education for enterprise with work opportunities as the driving force. This interpretation is permissible because of the Minister's focus on an enterprise culture, as we all describe it now. Obviously, as he said, this comes about as a direct response to a particular social problem. We need enterprising, go-ahead young people to contribute to the wealth of this country and to its quality of life, but this approach holds dangers; in trying to redress a perceived imbalance let us not overload the scales in another direction. In many ways our education system has served us well although it is strongly biased towards academic achievement. We need to be aware of changing needs and the necessity to acquire different skills to adapt to a world that is constantly changing.

I will comment on the notion of enterprise as I come from both a teaching and a business background. It is extremely difficult to teach a concept of enterprise. When we examine education we are examining ways of reflecting the type of society we want. As the Minister said we do not have an enterprise culture at present to any great extent. We are caught between a rock and a hard place in this. We need to inculcate a spirit of enterprise into young people but enterprise is not a subject; it is an ethos, the sum total of influences brought to bear on young children.

Having taught for a number of years and having been a guidance counsellor, I know, despite what Senator Jackman said earlier about the enterprise of school principals in stretching funds, that teachers are not the best people to bring about that enterprise culture. Their professional background cushions them from that. I am not criticising teachers; I am [481] merely stating a fact. The type of life I led as a teacher was so different from my life as a businesswoman that people used to ask me “how did you get into business from teaching? Is it not very difficult?” because they assumed that my attitude as a businesswoman must be very different to my attitude as a teacher. Maybe I am exaggerating this distinction for effect, but we must ask ourselves if teachers are capable of inculcating an enterprise spirit.

The Minister and I attended a meeting run by the ASTI, where valuable points were made in a number of contributions from people who spoke against the motion of teaching enterprise. There is a fearfulness among teachers on this issue that must be overcome and it will be a difficult first hurdle.

Six aims are enumerated in the introduction to the Green Paper and it is important that we have a clear grasp of them. We should not lose sight of the fears of teachers in that area. The education system leads and directs people, developing them in ways appropriate to their individuality as much as to society and that is important. There is nothing wrong with the present concept of a broad liberal education; it is totally in keeping with what we have tried to do until now. The fear is that we are narrowing down the focus of education in the zeal for change. Change for change's sake is nonsense, change in a developmental sense is appropriate and nowhere more appropriate than when seeking to influence the leaders of the future. Many teachers think we are talking about change for change's sake; they have not taken on board the necessity for enterprise. They do not see enterprise as a necessary expansion, but as a narrow focus. That must be avoided at all costs.

In-service training for teachers may be a means of overcoming that particular obstacle. I remember lecturing on a back to work programme for women once and I wonder if the elements in that programme could be taught to teachers to bridge that gap.

I ask the Minister to take on board a call from many groups to extend the time [482] limit for submissions on the paper. I think the Minister has done that. I know the summer recess was regarded by many as a foreshortening of the time available. The broadest range of inputs should be entertained to ensure a high quality of debate. It is important that we try to understand the fears of minorities on the subject of education. I believe the Church of Ireland is seeking certain assurances about the preservation of their own values, tradition and ethos as they are concerned about the survival of the Protestant community and signals being given for a move towards a pluralistic and tolerant society as a result. We should be sensitive to their fears and the needs of other groups to be reassured, for instance, about management structures for schools. Apart from that we must recognise the right of parents wishing to send their children to non-denominational schools.

The old subject of resources has been raised time and time again but in welcoming any development in education, the great concern is that resources be provided to implement change. The Minister knows this as well and probably better than any of us. Without the necessary resources, all we will have are pious aspirations, excellent ideas, splendid debate and, hopefully, a new education Act but no action. The Act will recline on a shelf for years to come. None of us wants that to happen and many committed people have already put considerable time and effort into responding to the Green Paper.

Reference has been made to the missing chapter on resources. I do not suppose we are going to hear today how that gap will be filled but it must be filled very soon or people will get disheartened and believe they are talking in a vacuum.

I refer to the Minister's reference to the arts and how vital they are for the development of the person. I concur with that view. Arts, crafts, music, civics, social and environmental education in the post-primary and primary curriculum are vital parts of education and must not be neglected as they form a solid core in [483] the area of developmental skills. I welcome his emphasis on the arts.

On the subject of pre-schooling. I want to remind everybody that during the period between birth and four years more learning takes place then than in any subsequent period in a child's life. In Ireland we pretend children do not exist until at four or five years of age they enter our formal school system. Before that we tend to have invisible children. A three year cycle at infant school level would allow all our children to spend an additional year in the child-centred caring creative environment of primary education with benefits for children and society. The subject of pre-schooling is a difficult one on which I will be making a separate submission to the Minister.

Primary schools provide what a colleague of mine described as an oasis for children, particularly for those who are neglected or suffer abuse. It is essential at this level to make adequate provision for psychological services and remedial intervention. The debate going on at the moment in the other House about other substantive issues brings home to me the enormous extent of child abuse and child neglect in this country. We do not respond with remedial action in time, nor do we intervene in time in these matters. There is a critical role here to be played by the primary school but there is a great lack of appropriate services to enable early intervention to be made.

I would like to link that into the psychological and career guidance services at second level. At primary and second level we should make provision in teacher training for the early identification of children at risk. That should be an integral part of teacher training at both levels and not only for those directly involved in the psychological or career guidance services.

There is a need for ongoing inservice teacher training. If teachers are to cope with new challenges in any area of the curriculum we must have a major reexamination of training procedures so that they can deal with the complexities they encounter. Teachers already [484] involved in the education system need training to interpret the signals from children suffering abuse. This is a critical area where resources are needed.

The Minister knows that any changes made to inculcate a spirit of enterprise will need resources. Any decent business will invest in the training of its employees and open up to new developments. It will make sure that practitioners have the best information, advice and knowledge and the same should be true for teachers so that they can give the best to the children in their care.

Times change and skills have to change with them. I was trained to teach and acquired the right skills at that time but I would not have the skills now or in the future because problems are emerging for children now that were not around when I was teaching. There will be new problems in the next few years. One of the challenges will be the integration of children suffering from AIDS into schools. What are we going to do about it? Have people thought this through?

Intraining is a basic requirement. If any business allowed its employees to go for 20 or 30 years, a lifetime's experience, without retraining to meet presentday needs it would go out of business. I am not drawing a comparison between school and business even if we are talking about an enterprise culture, but similar attitudes should be taken to those charged with developing the skills of young people. It is not only in intervention cases that there are problems but in development also.

The Green Paper has not covered the education of physically disabled or mildly mentally handicapped children. These children might be integrated into the existing school system rather than marginalised as social outcasts. Let us integrate them into the system.

Another area we should look at is the unaddressed problem of the transition between primary and scondary school. The concept of transition has been appropriated by a different section of second level schooling but a much more traumatic transition is required between primary and scondary school. The manner [485] of that transition is frequently the factor which makes for success or failure in secondary school.

I want to refer to co-education which Senator Jackman referred to earlier. The recent report of Dr. Hanafin in Limerick pointed to the fact — this is relevant to the notion of equity in education — that at the moment girls do not perform as well as boys in co-educational schools; girls' results are negatively affected. That is not an argument to abolish co-educational schools but it points to the fact that a policy must be based on sound principles and research. I have read the reports from Britain and the States which describe the way girls are disadvantaged in co-educational schools. There is an awareness of this fact but it is not being corrected. The researcher was pointing out that if we are to have co-education we should be aware of the pitfalls that exist and take measures to counteract them.

Mr. O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  I welcome the Minister to the House and the debate itself is a welcome one. I get the distinct impression that the Minister is interested in hearing opinions and that it will be a consultative process.

As a background to what I want to say, I would make the point that I am a firm believer that any correct attention to unemployment— we are right to be concerned about it, it is the greatest national problem — should not distort our priorities to the extent that, in the process of trying to solve that problem, we might do damage to other things within society that are good and are not the cause of the problem. Within our education system we must maintain concentration on the liberal arts, we must maintain the holistic approach to education, the idea that we are educating the entire person and we must develop creativity. I know that project work in schools and all the things that would lead to an inquiring mind and an adventurous approach to life are important but I would caution against getting rid of the fundamental philosophy that education is about the whole person. The liberal arts are important, [486] music is important, literature is important, all these areas from the Greek model of education are critically important to development and they are not at variance with any attempt to create employment. I do not see any incompatibility. In fact, there is considerable evidence that good arts graduates have been successful in the world of enterprise, that they have the skills to adapt.

We also need to commit ourselves, once and for all, and to have written on tablets of stone, that we believe in the value of education. This is a critical point that all society must grasp; we believe education is liberating for the individual and for society, that it is important for the transfer of heritage, culture and values and that it is the vehicle by which you create equality of opportunity, jobs and a worthwhile society. If we get the concept firmly into our minds that education is highly valuable as a commodity, that it is worth while, that it and health should be our primary considerations in Government expenditure, if that becomes our deep rooted philosophy, then we will see to it that resources follow that conviction.

I favour the concept in the Green Paper of equity and access. I favour equity in all areas, particularly gender equity. I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women's Rights. I would commend for addition to the Green Paper, or consideration with the Green Paper, the Oireachtas Joint Committee report on women in education. That has to be an important consideration. I am also concerned with equity in relation to people with disability. Unfortunately, such are the hard realities of the world we live in that you cannot achieve this kind of equity, this access, this kind of integration without the pound notes to back it. I was talking last night to somebody whose child has a physical disability but no mental or emotional disability. For that child to be integrated into the mainstream community school in their area there will have to be a lot of resources and backup, which are very expensive.

Funding is the missing chapter. I would [487] like to see the Minister in response to this debate, commit himself to a promise that he will fight within Cabinet for the kind of funding that will make these changes possible. The primary sector is the first area where there is a glacing need for extra funding. At present the capitation fee in primary schools is £28 per pupil as against £125 in the secondary schools. I am on leave of absence at the moment but as somebody who spent 11 years as a teacher — I say to the Minister with great certainty because I know the Minister is interested in ideas — the one thing that will create equality of opportunity is the provision of more remedial teachers in our schools. There is no substitute for the remedial teacher as an agent for change and for ensuring equality. The need for remedial teaching knows no social or geographical boundaries.

In County Cavan we have 125 pupils to one remedial teacher. That is not adequate. There are many small schools in Cavan that have no access to a remedial teacher. We should not concentrate on assessment, on psychological testing. The need for remedial teaching is glaringly obvious to every teacher and lay person. Any Member of this House who walks into a classroom in any part of Ireland would identify the remedial pupils after a five minute chat with the children. Remedial education be the No. 1 priority. If the Minister were to concentrate all additional resources into remedial education, he would go down in history as the person who did most to achieve equality of opportunity in contemporary times. I believe in that concept and I am very concerned that we should have an adequate level of resources for remedial education.

The Minister said he is not trying to close small schools. I will not regurgitate all the arguments because of time constraints, but if we were to close the small schools we would effectively close down rural Ireland. That is not a subject of debate. The school is the focal point of an area, the teacher is a major agent for social development in an area, the parents congregate around the school, all [488] social life tends to congregate around the school. Without a school an area is not a living entity. If the pupils are moved to an alternative area, the social activity and their whole consciousness moves with them. I want the Minister to give a commitment today that he is against the closure of small schools and that while he is Minister, it will be an article of faith in his Department, that there will be no closure of small schools.

I am concerned that implicit in some of the suggestions in the Green Paper for curricular change and for integration would be the need to close small schools because you could not achieve curricular reform as proposed within the existing entities. That is why you have to balance which is the greater need: is it more important that we achieve the curricular change or keep our small schools? First, make it an article of faith that we keep the small school and then with the small school in place see what we can do about curricular creativity and change within that small school. The small school in rural Ireland is a sine qua non for the maintenance of rural Ireland. I say, make remedial education the centerpiece of policy and make the small school a sacrosanct entity.

I want to refer now to a question to which I know Senator McKenna will be giving a lot of attention and it is something in which I have a personal involovement. I am very proud to be a member of County Cavan Vocational Education Committee and I find it a very worthwhile body for educational discussion. It is a body of people very committed to education. Despite the fact that the democratisation of the school boards of management is a welcome development, I believe there will have to be an intermediate structure between the schools and the Department and that that intermediate structure will have to have a democratic, reflective content within it. We have the core of that intermediate structure at the moment in the existing vocational education commttees. I recommend to the Minister to keep the vocational education committees as the model — there may be need to look at [489] them in the light of the Green Paper and in the light of developments in other sectors as time passes — of an intermediate structure and to make the inspectorate responsible to the vocational education committees. It is important that the inspectorate is maintained at a high level and that it has the right priority in terms of assisting teachers.

The Teaching Council is certainly to be welcomed as a proposition in the Green Paper and the in-service training for teachers is critically important. I am aware of difficulties regarding resources but as they can be made available the option of early retirement where teachers want it is very important, as are support systems for teachers with problems. If early retirement is an option for teachers it will tend to have the effect that teachers who are having difficulties, who feel out of touch, then retire. It is extraordinarily difficult to teach at the moment. Senator O'Toole made the point that teachers are competing with CNN, satellite TV, vidoes, etc. Only recently I was talking to a woman who has a reputation locally as one of the best people ever to teach with scant resources and she said to me that she is now losing the battle against modern technology, that she is no longer as interesting to the children as she was. It is a shockingly difficult task to go in to a classroom and compete with all the satellite movies and so. For that reason, early retirement for teachers is important, as are support systems for teachers with personal difficulties. They exist in all other workplaces. In-service training is important.

I would advise the Minister to watch out for one thing in dealing with the Green Paper. While the concept is great and the discussion is marvellous, it is important that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have one of the finest education systems in the world and there are some tenets in that education system that should not be lost in any misguided attempt to solve other social difficulties. I would caution against something as excellent as our vocational education committee system being [490] thrown out the window. The basic concept of a good remedial teacher with a bit of chalk and a room cannot be discarded. Something so marvellous as our interests in the liberal arts cannot go. At the same time, holding on to what is excellent must be married to a certain level of change and that marriage can only be effectively consummated by the addition of extra funding to education. I know this is a thorny issue but a grave error will be made if the Minister puts new structures in place, sets out a new set of aspirations and does not match them with money. What you will have then is a completely confused and misguided education sector. It is only when the money matches the change that the change should take place.

Mr. McKenna: Information on Tony McKenna  Zoom on Tony McKenna  May I welcome the Minster to the House and congratulate him on his innovative method of dealing with this Green Paper. The question and answer session at the end of this debate is an absolutely first class development and one which I hope other Ministers will follow. It is a great opportunity for Senators having heard the debate and reflected on the different issues, to deal with certain points and that the Minister is prepared to take questions and answer them. I am also happy the Minister has stated that he does not intend to adopt a doctrinaire approach to the whole education sector. Everyone accepts that this is an appropriate time for a Green Paper. It is a discussion document and no definitive decisions have been taken in relation to what will eventually evolve at the end of the day.

The Minister acknowledged this morning that consensus is the only realistic way to make changes in education. Senator O'Reilly will be surprised to know that I agree with him that you have to be extremely careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. What we have to do is build on many of the excellent structures we have in place at the moment.

An enterprise culture is being talked about at the moment. I reiterate what Senator O'Reilly said in relation to a [491] general degree. I have been talking to quite a number of business people who much prefer to employ a graduate with a general degree rather than someone with a degree in a specific subject. They believe it is far better to train someone in a specific area in their companies rather than to employ somebody who has a narrow focus on one area. It is important to appreciate the importance of a general education as well as the need for specific developments in particular areas of education.

I am sorry Senator Keogh has left the House, just as I was about to mention her. She talked about teachers not being the appropriate people to teach in an enterprise culture. I have to disagree with her there because teachers are very enterprising in many areas, and indeed they have to be. There are people in this House and in the other House who have become Ministers and have been extremely successful people in their own right and who for a considerable length of time worked as teachers both at primary and post-primary level.

I welcome this debate and compliment the Minister. Like Senators Mullooly and O'Reilly, for obvious reasons, I will be dealing with one particular area. Senators have spoken on the broad field of education and what needs to be done. I am a vocational teacher, a county councillor, a member of a vocational education committee for many years and a member of the Standing Council of the Irish Vocational Education Association and I have had the honour to have their Seanad nomination on a number of occasions. It is my intention to focus on that area because there is so much meat in the Green Paper that it is not possible to deal with all the important issues in the time at our disposal.

The vocational sector is solidly based in legislation under the 1930 Act. Apart from the comprehensive range of services the vocational sector provides under the Act, its most striking feature has been its ability to be innovative, flexible and responsive to both local and national needs. The vocational sector has operated [492] on a comprehensive and broad front as opposed to a narrow focus on education.

This sector has introduced multi-denominationalism and co-education. I do not agree with Senator Keogh's comments on co-education. Co-education is a vital development that must take place. I and other teachers who have worked in co-educational schools could not accept that either male or female students are inhibited or suffer in any way from co-education. If difficulties exist in a school it is not because it is co-educational.

Our system offers open access. There is no selectivity. There is education in that sector for industry and commerce. These concepts were alien to Irish society when the 1930 Act came into force. We must acknowledge that. It was extremely difficult for many of the far seeing proposals to gain acceptance. At present the public realise the benefits from that side of the education system and are very complimentary to the efforts it has made to cater for the needs of all sectors. It is very important that there is the facility to go right across the spectrum of education.

This sector continues to advance and develop new ideas in response to the needs of the community. Every day there are innovative ideas and suggestions on how best to use the resources at our disposal to incorporate the advantages to develop schools within the communities, to be community based and to have the community actively involved. The Minister lays great stress on including parents, teachers and local communities in the development of the education structure. That is what the vocational education committee has been doing since its inception.

The first priority — if I may be so bold as to suggest it to the Minister — is to review all education and to ensure it is as open, multi-denominational and responsive as the vocational education committee sector has been. There is a need for that. The Green Paper re-echos the range of essential educational support services needed in all our schools. My association has been campaigning actively over the years for that type of [493] service and it is appropriate that the Minister acknowledge the need for that type of development.

The question of school ownership is raised by the Green Paper. As has been reported by the OECD, the Irish education system is unique in so far as the Department of Education owns very few of the schools. That is very good. The vocational education committees, as statutory authorities, own their own premises, properties and equipment and have managed those assets in an exemplary fashion. We all know of areas that would not have the services, facilities or benefit of a post-primary school were it not for the innovation, the enthusiasm and the forward thinking of the vocational education committees. I need only point to my own area of Borrisokane, County Tipperary. Borrisokane community college now boasts of over 500 students. Were it not for the fact that the vocational education committee in its wisdom saw the need for a school in that area there is no way any other second level school would have been provided because all the indicators at that time were that this type of school would not survive in a rural area. I am glad to say that it has been extremely successful.

The support the local school receives from the vocational education committee is a very important factor. Having this type of intermediate structure or tier is essential in the development of the education sector. The Green Paper refers to quality assurance in our schools. I acknowledge that as being extremely important. In passing, I wish to express concern about over-dependence on the so-called school report. That is extremely important. Quality assurance or the success of a particular school cannot be measured in a concise one page document because other important factors have to be considered in relation to a school's performance. A school report can tell what it wishes to tell and that is where the difficulty lies. Too much emphasis should not be placed on a school report in determining at the end of the year the quality of education being [494] provided in that school. I would ask the Minister to take serious cognisance of the danger of over dependence on the school report.

What is very important is the back-up and support which needs to be provided to the schools' boards of management to ensure that quality assurance is paramount and that the developments envisaged by the boards of management have the support and back-up necessary. The vocational education committee structure is ideal in such circumstances.

Adult education will have an enormous role to play in the future. The Minister has acknowledged that. It is one area where the potential is boundless. I am very glad the vocational education committees are to continue to play a major role in the economic and cultural life of the country. Many people who could not afford to go through the normal educational channels returned to night classes and, as a result, became extremely successful. The number of people entering third level colleges having attended evening classes and adult education courses has increased. People are now being afforded the opportunity to attend day schools as adult students and avail of all the facilities. We must acknowledge that major development. I am glad the Minister has incorporated that aspect in the Green Paper and I hope it will become a major part of policy in the future. The benefits are enormous.

I also welcome the plan to develop technology centres as mentioned in the Green Paper. I hope they will not operate in isolation or be under central control. It would be of far more benefit if the mechanism for controlling those centres devolved to local communities. They should be in a position to respond to local and national needs. The vocational education committees are very well positioned to establish such centres and this could be part of their remit as envisaged in the Green Paper.

The six main aims of equality, comprehensiveness, devolution, staff development, quality assurance and transparency are major issues with which [495] no one can quibble. They are extremely important and must be tackled. The whole debate is about how those aims are to be achieved. I welcome the recent announcement by the Minister that he has an open mind in relation to an intermediate structure. That is evident from the Minister's speech this morning and from comments he has made in other places. I would strongly suggest to the Minister — I believe someone else mentioned this — that the advantages of such a structure would far outweigh any misgivings anyone would have about it. It is essential that we have an intermediate tier.

I have a very positive attitude towards the development of boards of management and becoming autonomous bodies in relation to the management of schools. That is very important. I would hate to see them isolated. They must have an intermediate common focus through which they can negotiate and look for support. I appeal to the Minister to consider that because it would give the boards of management the extra support they need.

The vocational sector is continually broadening its approach to education. It is non-selective and job-orientated. Courses are available and are being further developed which are of benefit. The vocational sector is also involved in literacy supervision. The development of youth services is extremely important, as is local accountability.

I ask the Minister to consider strongly using the vocational education committees as the base for the intermediate structure and to broaden that base to incorporate all other education interests. If the Minister agrees to that proposal it will be a great day's work for the future of Irish education.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  The Minister deserves a compliment for the enthusiasm he has shown for listening to the debate. My small gripe is that I would have loved to have been at his seminar in Cork. As a public representative and somebody involved in education, I am curious to [496] know how attendance at that seminar was organised.

I thought the Minister's speech was constructive and useful and I was particularly taken with his emphasis on enterprise. The definition he took from the OECD is acceptable to me in general. In the area of education I am involved in we try to point people in that direction but it is not easy. We seem to have a culture of employment rather than a culture of enterprise.

I do not like the word “dependency” being juxtaposed with “enterprise”. That has a philosophical base to it, particularly in much of the writing of an anti-welfare kind in the United States in the eighties, which I choose to believe the Minister was not thinking about when he used the word “dependency”. We need people with imagination. As the Minister said, it is an intriguing fact that we are not short of people with imagination in creativity in many other areas of life and why it is in the area of enterprise in the business sense that we lack such people is one of the great issues. I am sure the education system has something to do with it. I will return to that issue in a moment.

In my, perhaps naive, understanding of enterprise, one needs certain things, such as ideas and markets. By ideas I mean ideas that can be sold; people who have those ideas and, therefore, are prepared to run with them; and capital. My reading of a succession of reports from the Small Firms Association in the Confederation of Irish Industry is that the sources of capital available to small industries with ideas, that is, the banking system, are among the least enterprising and least innovative in our society. By comparison with developing economies in western Europe — not in our neighbouring island — our banks are excessively concerned not with the quality of the idea where they have to assess a risk but with the quality of the security where they can ignore a risk. If we are to have a culture of enterprise, it cannot just depend on individuals. Individuals with good ideas need to feel that they have access to sources of capital that are both [497] competent and willing to assess and take risks jointly with them in the legitimate anticipation of joint profits.

I am aware of a hi-tech firm in Cork city based on an academic campus which closed down even though it had a full order book, because one of the Irish banks refused to loan it a sum equivalent to a mortgage on a moderate suburban house because they had no property based security. The people involved refused to allow their domestic residences to become the security and the only real security they had was the approval of the international marketplace for their product. The Irish banks refused to fund them and the business closed down. That is a story of enterprise in Ireland which should be told as well as the part about what we need to do to stimulate creativity in individuals. I intend that as a constructive response to what the Minister said in his speech.

I have always been struck — and it is one of the things I refer to as frequently as I can — by the ESRI study on class mobility in Ireland compared with the United Kingdom and Sweden. The tragic conclusion of the Economic and Social Research Institute is that inter-class mobility in this country is dramatically less than it was in Thatcherite Britain, and even more dramatically less than in Sweden and France. The conclusion was that the possibilities of a young person moving from one income bracket to another in one generation were considerably lower in this country than in Britain, France or Sweden. An Irish person whose parents remained in the same employment and moved from here to Britain would, by that fact alone, improve their prospects of inter-class mobility and of mobility in an upward direction. That is a very disturbing record for a society that externally seems to be for less class rigid than British society. I appreciate that none of these is an absolute and that there may be statistical arguments for and against them but it is disturbing evidence and one that should inspire the rhetoric of the Green Paper in relation to equality and so on.

We tend to believe that because we [498] have not inherited aristocracy we have a non-class based society. Unfortunately the evidence is that unlike other countries, in Ireland the income bracket you are born into is predominantly the income bracket that you die in. Apart from the social justice aspect, it is a waste of human resources if people are forced into classes because of failure. The ESRI saw the Irish education system having a considerable part to play in that.

I am glad that the real objectives of education as distinct from training are still dominating this debate. There was a surge in the direction of what I can only describe as some of the nonsense in the Culliton report. The Tansey-Roche report has been criticised in the recent edition of the Irish Banking Review about the alleged anti-vocational bias in Irish education. It depends on how you define the word “vocational”.

I believe that both language skills and knowledge of the fundamentals of science are the basis of all areas of serious vocational taining whether it be third level or second level. The real basis has to be rooted in science. Everything else springs out of science. You cannot have technology without science and if our young people are learning physics, chemistry and biology, they are essentially learning what are vocational subjects. It is a total misunderstanding to assume that subjects, very specific technologies, are more important.

I do not know whether there is a surge away from the basic sciences of language skills towards some other subjects. The subjects I understand people are moving towards are business studies etc. about which I have mixed views. I am not sure that they serve any useful purpose. I would not want us to be directed into a cul-de-sac where people with intermediate skills, the kind of skills the Minister in the Green Paper and in his speech talks about, will have to learn, forget and relearn. That should not be the basis of our education system.

The basis of our education system should be, as the Minister said over and over again, to enable people to change. That is not about specific skills but learning [499] ways of learning. It is about people's development, maturity, values and sense of independence which is extremely important. It is about people's sense of community responsibility — a value that is not just about morals but about people's view of their role in society epitomised, for instance, by the fact that we are told that large numbers of highly skilled Irish graduates leave this country because of the tax system. I do not believe that. People who believe it should be told it was the Irish tax system that put them through third level education. I wish middle class people like myself would get it into their heads that they do not pay for their children's third level education. The pay a proportion of it, perhaps 15 or 20 per cent, but the taxpayer pays the other four-fifths. The people who leave this country — if they exist — because of the allegedly unfair tax system are saying that having benefited from it they are now going elsewhere. What I call a sense of community responsibility is where people see that they do not get things for nothing. They get them because we, as a community, agree that certain things are worth doing.

Education involves giving people skills. With two children in primary school and one starting secondary school, I am glad that our education system has never wavered from the belief that there are certain fundamental important skills people need like reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Speaking as a pragmatic engineer if there are educational theoreticians who do not believe we need to sort out those skills quickly, then I would not pay too much attention to them.

If we accept those values and the fact that education must have a major role to play in encouraging and enhancing social mobility, then we must face the question of resources. I could spend all the time alloted to me speaking about resources but I will not because there are other issues to be disposed of and dealt with. On the question of resources, I will talk about — I think it has become more sacrosanct than the Bible at this stage — the illogicality of the Culliton report.

[500] Large chunks of that report tell us that we must reduce taxation and public expenditure but at the same time expand the skills base of the workforce. There is no way we can expand the skills base or the educational achievements of our workforce if we keep hammering away at an antiquated and failed economic model that has failed in Britain and the United States over the last 12 years. The only way for us to achieve a high level of skill in our workforce is by a high level of expenditure on education and support for families so that their children can continue in education. That means a relatively high level of taxation — a fair system but a relatively high system of taxation. Too many tricks have been played. It is usually those of us on the Left who are accused of wanting to spend money without raising it. I increasingly find people on the other side of the political spectrum who are at the same thing. They keep talking about contradictory objectives and they never reconcile them.

May I say, in passing, that the Culliton report is no great commentary on numeracy in Irish society. There is a chart on taxation in it relative to per capita gross national product which purports to demonstrate how far offline we are. It is done by the glorious expedient of drawing the straight line in the wrong place through a series of data to prove a point that the person who drew the chart had already concluded. In fact, it is mathematically incorrect. The line, correctly drawn, will show that we are not out of line. The line is drawn to prove a point. It is the wrong straight line and it was written by somebody, perhaps an economist, whose numeracy at least is open to question. If that is the basic data of what is supposed to be the bible for the future, we have a serious problem. I invite any Members of this House or of the Dáil or any member in the Minister's office who is computer literate to put the data on our taxation relevant to GDP on a simple spreadsheet and draw a straight line. They will find the line is different from that in the Culliton report. Yet that is the basis of a chapter in that report. Yet that is the basis of a chapter in that report.

[501] I regret that the question of fee-paying secondary schools was not dealt with more fully. Many of these schools are run by religious orders and can use covenating to raise money through the taxation system. Nobody else can do that. Both major boys private fee-paying secondary schools in Cork raise large sums of money through covenanting which is effectively a taxpayers subsidy to those schools in addition to the per capita grant they get directly from the taxpayer and teachers salaries. They do very well out of the system and manage to maintain an elitism which I belive is very destructive of the culture of my city and, nationally, of the culture of education.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Before calling Senator Honan, I have a note from the Minister to say that, unfortunately, he had to leave. He has another appointment and he apologises.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  I welcome the debate in the House today. I spoke at length on the colleges Bill in the presence of the Minister, Deputy Aylward and I again welcome him.

Surprise, surprise, I was impressed by the address of the Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan to the House today and the change of thinking that has taken place with regard to education. The Minister said that this was not our last opportunity to contribute to the great national debate on education today that is in progress and I welcome that.

I am the first Senator to speak who is not a teacher or professor. I welcome the more positive attitude towards the arts. For me the arts are central to education. I see them as essential to the development of the individual. They create a sense of wonder and enjoyment which improves the quality of life through participation and innovation. They encourage independent thinking and personal discrimination. I welcome this new thinking which should be brought into the classroom.

I want to discuss the areas where the vocational education committees and secondary schools have worked together. [502] This experience might help others to question the absence in the Green Paper of co-ordinating authority. The vocational education committee and the board of mangement of the secondary school found themselves representing educational management authorities in County Clare and the value which they both had in common is summarised as follows. What was educationally best for the community in the area was of paramount importance; the initiatives to be taken would not be pushy or aggressive but would be based on recognising their responsibility to make things happen. There was an understanding and an acceptance that they would provide the best educational opportunities for the community and each would respect the educational principles and professionalism of the other. There was no desire to gain the upper hand. I am talking about Clare and the vocational education committee and secondary schools of the Convent of Mercy working together. I did not realise until lately that this was unique.

There are two community schools and three community colleges in Clare and a great deal of work remains to be done in facing the ongoing challenge of change. Rationalisation is a most complex and sensitive issue. We sometimes go in the wrong direction when proposing what should be done. Do we play a waiting game in the hope of gaining power while the community deserves a more urgent response? Management, teaching staff, unions and parents must support each other, and let us not take any other view, if they are to broaden the canvas to see others as partners rather than as threats. In a time of decreasing enrolment and rapid change it is human to focus on one's own survival and to view a neighbouring child or school as a competitor rather than as a partner. I hope this is in line with what the Minister has in mind.

This is an historic opportunity to coordinate educational services in manageable units at county level with representation from interested sections, religious orders, local representatives, teachers and parents. People should be [503] offered the opportunity to co-operate as equals in facing the educational task ahead. We in County Clare are encouraged by the fact that the vocational education committee, the Mercy nuns and both church bishops decided to discuss the Green Paper. I welcome that.

It is unfortunate that the vocational education committee system is so confined that a great opportunity has been lost. We should build on the best that is in the vocational education committee system. Will the Minister ensure that adequate funding will be provided in order to deliver the aims as outlined in the Green Paper? Is the Minister now considering an intermediate tier between the Department of Education and individual schools and at what level? The Green Paper calls on schools to be accountable. Is the Minister prepared to establish an independent body to ensure that the Department of Education will be accountable in delivering the aims of the Green Paper? Can education address the unemployment problem? This is related to what is going on in the nation today. Can we, through education, improve the social climate? We should remember that impounding the young non-academic teenagers into academic classrooms is not in the best interests of society.

Because of my involvement in special schools for the past 26 years, and seeing how successful they have been for the wonderful children who attend them, and their families, I invite Senator Keogh to come to County Clare and see two special schools at work. I do not think she realised what she was saying today. I seldom take up a colleague on a comment. She referred to — I stand to be corrected — outcasts of society. I would freeze, to hear that phrase, as chairman of the Clare Federation presiding over a special education system. We have two marvellous schools in County Clare, which serve us, and classes in different schools around the county, with the total co-operation of the Department of Education. These schools have contributed to the happiness and success of the children and their families.

[504] It is felt the valuable role of special schools has been underestimated. Can mainstream schools rationally hope to offer the same services, or better services, to the pupils of special schools? Pupils should not be transferred from special schools unless the schools to which they are transferred are adequately resourced, and that is by cash. If the special schools did not have a federation backing them up, they would not have the services they have. We cannot accurately predict the future. There is no doubt that major adjustments must be made for more vulnerable members of society. The question of the best location for the education of our handicapped should continue to be debated.

The Minister, Deputy Brennan, told the Árd Fheis earlier this year there are too many young people who, because of their special circumstances, start in an education system at a disadvantage. If they are to benefit equally from our education system they must not only get equal care from the system, but better care. He went on to say that, as Minister, his main aim was to bring about a specific increase in resources for teaching disadvantaged young people. The Minister should do what he promised where that is required. I have been complimentary to the Department of Education. I have worked closely with them over a long number of years and the results are great.

I agree with Senator Brendan Ryan. I support the Culliton report but I do not accept that Culliton should dictate or recommend that we should go back to the bad old days of vocational education, separated again from the mainstream of education. The Green Paper says that the “VECs will no longer be directly responsible for the day-to-day management of schools, and teachers will be employees of the Boards of Management of the individual schools”. I would like clarification of that.

The Green Paper states:

In view of the new needs and circumstances, the operation and structures of the vocational education committees will be reviewed comprehensively [505] in consultation with all concerned. As part of that review it is proposed to examine and streamline the current network of 38 vocational education committees.

What does that mean? It says also that the chief executive officers of the vocational education committees have been responsible for many recent innovations to adapt the education system to changing circumstances.

The Green Paper further states:

It is proposed that all teachers should be the employees of the Boards of Management. This would represent a change in the case of vocational teachers, and their rights under the 1930 Vocational Education Act, would be fully safeguarded.

I would ask the Minister to comment on that safeguard.

I welcome the change in thinking in the classroom. Senator McKenna, who is a teacher, spoke from experience of classrooms over many years of teaching. He talked about a final report that might adversely affect a person for the rest of their lifetime. I welcome any change that ensures we judge a student coming out of school as a whole person, however that would be done. I say this as a mother and a grandmother. The whole person should be judged in regard to their future role in society. I agree with Senator Brendan Ryan about the cost. Any money spent on education is money well spent.

As a long serving Member of this House, I beg the Minister of State to convey to the Minister, Deputy Brennan, that he should not change everything. We have a great educational system. Changes are needed but what is good should be left in place. In every Department we seem to have change for the sake of change. That worries me. I have not been as tough as the Minister, Deputy Brennan, might have thought I should be. He went to lunch just as I was about to speak.

Professor Raftery: Information on Tom Raftery  Zoom on Tom Raftery  They are afraid of you.

[506]Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  They are not. They only pretend they are. I support the new approach and I would be grateful for replies to my questions. I also welcome the Minister's openness in being prepared to take questions and I thank Deputy Aylward for being present.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  May I also welcome Deputy Aylward, Minister of State at the Department of Education.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I would like to welcome the Minister to the House. I welcome the Green Paper on Education. It is long overdue. It is the focus for a debate on education which we have not had in the history of the State and which has been much needed. I appreciate all the work that has gone into producing the Green Paper. It is a large and and comprehensive document. It deals with many issues and gives an analysis with which I would agree entirely. The points made are thought provoking as well as very beneficial educationally.

The origins of the Green Paper came from the teacher unions which proposed to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions that there should be some legislative structure underpinning education. Such a structure was sorely lacking and education operated largely by Ministerial circular, without any Oireachtas debate. Given that £1.6 billion of taxpayers' money was being spent on an annual basis, it was very unusual that we did not have a system properly answerable either to the electorate or the Oireachtas. It was in that context that the Programme for Economic and Social Progress contained a statement which I will read out to ensure we know where the background to all of this came from:

A Green Paper framed as a strategy paper on education will be issued by summer 1991. We are a little bit off the mark because it took 12 months longer than that for the paper to be issued and will afford the opportunity to all parties to offer views. It will be comprehensive in its coverage and will relate to all aspects of education, including adult [507] education. Following consideration of the various views, a White Paper will issue in early 1992 setting out the Government's policy and will be followed by an Education Act.

That is the origin of the Green Paper, the impetus towards the White Paper and towards legislative provision to enshrine some of the proposals.

The education system has increased enormously over the past 25 years. In terms of post primary education, there has been a 130 per cent increase since 1967 and in terms of third level education, the increase has been 230 per cent. That is very substantial. The 1991 budget made a provision for education of £1.6 billion, or 20 per cent of the Government expenditure, which is a very substantial amount of money.

The Jesuits were credited with the statement that while all people and all children are entitled to education, not all aspire to it. That has changed and all parents now aspire to education for their children. There have been some developments in terms of a free education system which was introduced in 1967, a relatively free transport system also introduced in 1967 and the raising of the school leaving age to 15 in 1972. There is a proposal in the Green Paper that the age be raised to 16 years. Proposals are now being implemented for a six year secondary cycle, raising the leaving age from 17 or 18 to 18 or 19 years in terms of a post primary education.

While the Green Paper is talking about changes in education to deal with a changing world, let us be quite clear that many changes have taken place in terms of accessibility of education. Many changes are also taking place in terms of curriculum development with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and its predecessor which was set up in the mid-eighties. This is a continuation of a process but it is also a more expansive approach than has been taken up to now. Hitherto, progress has been more or less ad hoc, responding to the situation. At last, we have an opportunity of examining [508] a comprehensive set of proposals and criticising them. The Minister indicated in his speech that he will be responsive to suggestions and I welcome that very much.

The intent of the Green Paper is to get the maximum number of children into the system, to keep them as long as the system can take them, or as they need, and then give them certification. There is also a need for second chance education, to allow adults to come back into the mainline system as well. That is a wholly desirable objective in education. The Minister, in the foreward to the Green Paper, said that is the priority. He said:

Throughout the developed world at present ... there is a widespread consensus on the need for a radical reappraisal of traditional approaches to education policies, to take account of the complexities of modern living and the extension of education to all and for a longer period of life. Ireland cannot stand apart from these developments.

That was more or less the same statement as was put strongly in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. The Minister went on to say that the overall strategy in education was “to provide the opportunity for all to develop their educational potential to the full.”

That reflects the words of the founding fathers of the State, that all the children of the nation shall be cherished equally.

A few core issues must be addressed. One is the definition of the aims and objectives of education we want in this country, the underlying philosophy of education we want to promote. Second is the issue of the structures we are going to provide for the delivery of that education service. Third is the content that will reflect that philosophical basis and fourth is the question of how we are going to finance what we seek to achieve. That is probably where I have most criticism of the Green Paper. Although those areas are addressed in the document, to [509] my mind they are not adequately addressed.

The introduction to the Green Paper is very disappointing because of the manner in which it establishes priorities. I am sure the Minister has been told that. I mentioned it to him before this. The following are given as the first three priority aims of education:

The need, particularly in an enterprise culture, to equip students with the ability to think and to solve problems — rather than just with an accumulation of knowledge.

The need to develop students for life as well as for work in a social and economic environment that is rapidly changing.

The need to prepare young people adequately for work.

Enterprise culture, economic environment and work are the first three priorities. To my mind, it is a fault in the document that there is not a greater recognition of the liberal tradition that has underpinned education to date. We inherited our educational philosophy from the Greeks and the Romans. The Latin word educare means to draw out, to elicit the gifts and the potential in children and in people to ensure that all their potential is developed, irrespective of those gifts. Some will have difficulties. Some will be disadvantaged but there is no child who cannot experience a genuine education if our concern is to ensure that we promote their potential and gifts and if we work with them at their own pace of development. That system has stood the test of time. It was renewed by the Renaissance in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. The system of humanistic education, in that traditional liberal sense, was transmitted down to the present time.

Two thousand years of an educational base is what we should have as our priority rather than establishing what is the fashion of the time, i.e. the present enterprise culture. This is being promoted, not just in the Culliton report but abroad, in our neighbouring island and under previous leaderships in the United [510] States. It is part of the fad of the nineties. It is more a fashion than an enduring essential of the education system.

I would much prefer to see initial and immediate emphasis on the holistic approach to education. We should concern ourselves not with the marketplace and the commodity world of buying and selling, initially, but we should be sensitive to the development of the person. This enterprise approach was criticised in the media recently by the businessman, John Teeling, and I agree with many of his remarks. He questioned the value of specific technical degrees and mandatory technical and enterprise study. I have many reservations with the narrowness of this concept.

I do not think there is any shortage of skills in Ireland. We have a good apprenticeship training system which involves third level education. We are moving from an industrial to a service culture. This is the era of the services. This is the only growth area in Irish society, yet there is little or nothing in this paper about the services sector or creating a service culture. The Green Paper speaks of the enterprise culture, not an enterprising culture.

I am afraid that the objectives of this document have been influenced, perhaps not deliberately or intentionally, by the fact that we are recipients of considerable ESF money and that we have channelled much of our education system over the last decade towards availing ourselves of that funding. One can point to the vocational preparation and training programmes, the leaving certificate vocational programme, the post-leaving certificate courses and vocational training opportunities. In other words, we have looked to Europe for educational funding and then we have geared our educational philosophy to construct courses and diplomas which allow us to tune in to that funding. While I have no objection to that, it is diverting the true course of educational development. Under the Treaty of Rome how funding for education can come to a country is defined in training terms. If there is not sufficient training input, you do not get the money. [511] Part of our education system has been hijacked by the need to get funding from Europe and not having the proper definition of training and education to enable us to get it on educational terms.

The second area I want to address is structures. I welcome the standardisation of the boards of management for primary and secondary schools. I am not too concerned about the actual representation as long as there is democratic representation from staff, parents and management. I understand the Minister is prepared to extend the provision that there be a business person on the board. I do not see any reason a farmer or housewife should not be a member.

Professor Raftery: Information on Tom Raftery  Zoom on Tom Raftery  A farmer is a business person.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  A farmer is a business person, but the term businessman is not defined. Of course, a farmer is a business person and the meaning should be extended to include that term. Why should a housewife or a house person not be a member of the board? They have the responsibility of running their little businesses, that is, the household. It would be impossible to operate that provision without extending the category considerably.

A more important matter may be the question of an intermediate structure. I have long argued that we need a new intermediate co-ordinating structure for primary and post-primary education. Being a member of the City of Dublin vocational education committee I appreciate, the strengths of the vocational education committee structure. It has been tremendous in relation to new thinking in education, such as curricular development, the PLC courses and others. Nevertheless it does not cover any of the primary areas it covers only a minority of the post-primary area and a smaller minority still of the third level area. We need to provide a new structure.

There is no stand-alone school in our society. The religious orders have their [512] own schools network; every religious order has its own intermediate structure. None of the schools that belong to the Dominicans or the Christian Brothers is a stand-alone or isolated school. It is not a question of the Department of Education on one hand and the school on the other. Whether it is a voluntary secondary or a vocational education committee school there is a network between the Department of Education and the school.

It is now being proposed that each school board of management, and be responsible for its own financial matters. I have no problem with most of that but I do have a problem with there being only a direct link between the board of management and the Department of Education. We need an intermediate body which is responsible for the delivery of the service, the implementation of policy, curricular development, and staff development, which is very demanding. Perhaps the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment can be expanded — I am not sure if it can because it has a specific role in relation to curricular development and assessment. I would be very worried if all our schools were an entity in their own right but we then left them to fend for themselves. That would not work. We would find that we had created not an autonomous schools system, but an isolated individual school which would sink or swim on its own strengths. Whether the school was in a deprived area would have a very large bearing on the matter. We need a trained inspectorate specifically directed to concern itself with the quality of education in the schools.

The transition year as proposed here may be a modular element and, if so, I am opposed to it. The transition year option should be an entity in its own right and not be divided over a three year period with a module done in each year. That would not work out.

In relation to gender equity, I suggest to the Minister that he put his house in order in this regard. In the leaving certificate examination last year subjects which are traditionally “girls subjects”[513] were juxtaposed to traditional “boys subjects”; for example, music versus engineering and the same applies to the coming year. The vocational leaving certificate includes certain traditional “boys subjects” but does not allow for traditional “girls subjects”; it features technical engineering but not home economics, art or design. Why are those subjects not included?

The question of investment in education resources is the bane of the system at present. There is an inadequacy of resources at all levels as the recent OECD published report clearly indicates, even though it is a little out of date. This critical area must be addressed by the Minister and that can only be done by guaranteeing that his Government are prepared to underpin whatever White Paper and legislative proposals come from this Green Paper so that the Government make a commitment rather than say as in the Green Paper “as resources enable”. That approach is demoralising on those involved in education. We lack in-service training, decent remedial education with grant aid to secondary schools and pre-school education. Pre-school education is not covered here; we have no public system of pre-school education and that needs to be addressed.

I welcome the Green Paper which has many desirable aspects and I regard it as a document that should be discussed at greater length. Society needs a broader discussion of many aspects because we have never had the opportunity to discuss education before. I hope the Minister will not rush in with his White Paper or with legislation but ensure there is ample opportunity for this document to percolate down to teachers, parents and the country in general and that he will respond to the views coming forward.

Mr. Farrell:  Fáiltím roimh an Aire agus roimh an bPáipéar Glas. I will deal with one point on page two which states: “To broaden Irish education so as to equip students more effectively for life, for work in an enterprise culture and for citizenship of Europe”.

[514] The little academy where I went to school was in a village called Grange and my ex-teacher wrote a book entitled Time Cannot Dim. This is going back to where we started. I welcome the Green Paper and the Culliton report because, as can be seen, this book is about a school in action in 1979, before we had preemployment courses. The pupils of this school always found jobs when they finished school.

In my own village of 50 people, with six factories, five factory owners are products of this school, one of them is the biggest operator of his business in Ireland and two of them are in the export market. The technical schools were introduced by the county councils to bring education to the rural community and to working class people in our towns and cities. There had always been secondary schools but only for the élite, but the county councils introduced technical schools which were great training schools before their time. The author of this book and I argued on different occasions that those schools should have retained their identity as technical schools and should never have gone down the road of secondary schools.

I would like the Minister when reorganising the vocational education committees to give back the technical schools to county councils who did a good job in that field. County councils are being written off at present. While I welcome the enterprise boards I am disappointed there are so few councillors are on it. Here is a golden opportunity to give councillors back their technical schools and to let them do their job again. This would give them a sense of purpose and dignity and an opportunity to get money from Europe.

After all our attempts at amalgamation, regionalisation etc. we are now going back to the county system with the enterprise board. Regionalisation has failed as I always said it would. One must keep close to the roots. I would be glad if county councils became actively involved in training again. They left a vacuum which was taken up by AnCO and then by FÁS and while they are doing a good [515] job they are not as effective as the technical schools and they never will because they do not have the long tradition of training of the technical schools.

I am proud to be a product of the technical school system. It was well summed up by Goldsmith when he wrote:

Beside yon struggling fence that skirts the way,

with blossomed furze unprofitably gay, there in his noisy mansion skilled to rule,

the village master taught his little school.

In these schools teachers knew everybody and everybody knew the teachers. There was a work ethic summed up by the famous phrase, “small things make perfection but perfection is no small thing”. These schools gave a training and Time Cannot Dim documents the provision of an education for life. The pupils of these schools went out into the world well equipped to earn their living. John FitzGerald Kennedy said that Irish people left our shores with a mixture of hope and agony but the technical schools of Ireland equipped people with education and training and gave them hope and they did well at home and abroad.

It is here in this book and we learned going to school that there are four types of backbone in people. The wishbone people are one — they hope for, they long for, they wish for and sigh, they want things to be done but they ain't willing to try. There are funny bone people who laugh, grin and giggle and twinkle the eye, if work were a joke they would not give it a try. There are jawbone people also of whom we have many today: they scold, jaw and sputter, froth, rave and cry, they are long on the talk but short on the try. Lastly, there are back bone people who strike from the shoulder, they never say die, they are the winners in life since they are willing to try. That was the policy and the philosophy of my education and it is contained in this book. This is what Culliton was talking about and what I am talking about.

[516] Technical schools were community schools in the true sense because they were co-educational and multi-denominational. It was not only for one group. At one time members of three different religious groups attended this school and members of those religions spoke on religion and held classes in the school.

The school covered all aspects of life. I do not think anybody, no matter how brilliant, can acquire a smattering of everything. People try to do a little French, a little German, a little of this, that and the other but they are not able to comprehend it all and that is why so many drop out of education today. When people went to the national schools until they were 14 years of age, it was a good thing. People leave national schools too young but if they did not start school until they were six years of age and finish at 14 years, they would be better off.

The schools discovered who was academically inclined and who was not. Many people who went to the vocational or to the technical school, as we knew it, were not brilliant academically but when they became interested in woodwork or mechanical drawing or engineering, they started to read to further their interests and became brilliant in other directions. If they had been told to learn it, they would not have done so but they read because they had an interest and a sense of purpose. I would like to see vocational schools return to that system. Now that we have started to go back to county administration, I want the Minister to consider giving the county councils a proper role in schools. They are the elected representatives, though there seems to be an idea that politicians should be take a back seat to allow voluntary organisations to take over. The local politician stands at the chapel gate and is elected by the people. He represents all the people, not certain sections only.

The county councils have done their work well with the amount of money they get in comparison to other organisations. It is easy however to criticise them. I would welcome an opportunity for county councils to do worthwhile work at [517] which they have proved themselves and I appeal to the Minister to send technical education back to its roots where it will flourish because the tradition is there.

If I had not had the opportunity of going to my school, I may not have made a success of my life because later I would not have been able to go to a college or to other schools. It is important that we get back on the traditional track because we are not going forward.

Much of today's vandalism and other problems stem from an education system which set out to destroy everything small and to build everything big. What happened? We spend a fortune on school buses. When children cycled to school two or three miles from home, they received an education from a young age in the university of life. They met their neighbours on the road where they did a course in PR by talking to people. They robbed a bird's nest but they learned about life and about nature. They watched fruit grow, they robbed the orchard——

Professor Raftery: Information on Tom Raftery  Zoom on Tom Raftery  They stole apples.

Mr. Farrell:  They learned about nature without thinking. Where are they today? They are on the bus ripping a seat with a knife because they have no other way to use their energy, but when they walked and climbed trees, walls and hedges they were learning and getting rid of their energy. Today, they are using their energy but for what? To vandalise. When they walked to school they knew every shop and everybody who worked in them. There was control without anyone knowing it. We need to get back to small units again, where people can get to know everybody.

Many teachers say that in large schools they do not know the names of half of their pupils. That is sad; it is not education but learning. We are providing much learning for youth today, but not education and there is a big difference between learning and education. It is important to return to the old way. I will dwell on the vocational education [518] committees only because my time is running short.

I have here a book —Time Cannot DimThe Life and Times of Grange Vocational School— anybody who wants to see what a small school could do. I have a list of the prices of items when we were studying. We went to ploughing matches and to every kind of activity. Here are some beautiful photographs of horses and ploughs, this is what education was all about. The school children were brought to the ploughing match, They were involved in every facet of life in the area. At that time 51 meat teas cost £1.17s.8d. That is how it was then, it is what we are trying to go back to now but let us do the job properly.

Technical education was always needed and is needed more today than ever, but it will not be learned. We are pushing too much onto FÁS and I want to see vocational schools going back to the county councils. County councils should get fair representation on those committees as they had in the 1950s. We need to bring back vocational and technical education as described in that book. If the Minister, an official or anyone else wants to read this book I will glady give them a copy.

Professor Raftery: Information on Tom Raftery  Zoom on Tom Raftery  I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for coming although I am astonished at the short space of time devoted to this debate. Both Senator Murphy and I have spent most of our working lives in education. We will have 15 minutes each to make our contributions. Next week we will have three days and virtually unlimited time to debate a subject that we have no experience of, know nothing about and in which I have little interest apart from trying to prevent abuses. We need to do something about re-ordering the business of this House.

Education is an investment for the future. Our education system will determine society. That is my first difficulty with the Green Paper which contains many good features despite a missing crucial chapter quantifying the costs and telling us where they are to come from. [519] Also missing from the Green Paper is a philosophy determining the sort of education we should have, the kind of society we have and what we hope to achieve. What kind of society will we have? Will the values of honesty, the work ethic, tolerance, civics, compassion, and so on, not be important in the future? They were certainly important in the past in Irish education, but they have now been lost sight of.

Let us not forget that the one lasting and real contribution that we made to the continent of Europe was through education. We brought the written word, civilisation and Christian values to Europe. That is easily forgotten now, especially by central Europeans. The record is there in many parts of Germany and in other areas of Europe and we should be proud of it. We should go back to that philosophy and never forget it.

I sometimes think when I read the Culliton report and some of the Green Paper that we want to have the kind of bread and circuses the Romans had or should I say bread and videos. That is not good enough as an ambition for our society.

I am in favour of equity and so is the Green Paper but I dispute its method of trying to achieve equity by targeting certain areas. Presumably they would target in Cork city for instance, Mayfield, Gurranebraher, Ballyphehane and so on and ignore middle class areas as if they had no problems. I live in a middle-class area. The principal of the largest school in that area told me that there is a new poor there among the middle class, people in dire straits because of broken marriages or lost jobs, and that to target areas to achieve equity is unfair. He made the valid point that people in middle-class areas were never accustomed to deprivation and consequently are less well equipped to cope with the pressures of poverty.

We have to bear in mind that whatever we say about free education, there is no such thing. How can we have equity when people who can afford it arrange grinds for their children? In Dublin there has been a sprouting of grind schools which [520] enable children of the wealthy to get the points necessary to get into university but which can have adverse effects subsequently when people who are not suitable university material find the pressures of university unbearable.

What about families with particular problems irrespective of their class? There is a lack of remedial teachers. I know a family who had two children in need of remedial teaching. They could afford remedial teaching. Those children eventually got into university and ended up with good degrees. If the family had not had the resources the children would be doing less rewarding work today.

The lack of speech therapists in schools and the shortage of psychological services causes many problems. School attendance problems often determine the success of a child at school. There is a lack of career guidance and here I advert to the points system. I do not know if my colleague, Professor Murphy, will agree with me but I think the points system is admirable from one aspect. It is fair and not open to influence; it goes into the computer. However, the indirect effect is that it puts enormous pressures on students. The other effect, which is equally disturbing, is that students choose certain options in university only because they have sufficient points for them. We now have bright mathematicians doing medicine because they got the necessary points and not because they are interested in medicine, veterinary science, electronic engineering or whatever.

I had personal experience of this. My daughter wanted to do veterinary science and missed it by one point. She took the next course down because of peer pressure and it happened to be dental science. Her parents knew that she had no interest in dentistry and very shortly afterwards she opted out. Fortunately she is now back in university and happy to be doing computer science. Our son wanted to do law, missed it by one point and the next course on the list was commerce, in which he had no interest. He attended for one year and left and is now doing a PhD in science. That kind of [521] thing happens mainly because there is no career guidance to encourage children to do what they are interested in. Professor Murphy is a member of the UCC arts faculty and whether he knows it or not many able people do not do arts because of the pressures on them to do a higher points subject for which they are eligible. That is a tragedy for the children themselves.

Some years ago I chaired a board that shortlisted a person to teach electrical engineering in UCC. He came and served in the college for four years and then left to join ICI in Britain. Three or four years later I met him and asked him how he had enjoyed his time in Cork. He said he had enjoyed it very much but the two things that had left a lasting impression on him, were that the electrical engineering students were the brightest young people he had ever met, which was not surprising because they had a very high points requirement and that he was disturbed by the number who opted out after a very short period. That supports the argument I am making: they only went in because they had the required points.

The Culliton report and the Green Paper confuse education with training. In my view the first priority of education must be to make students skilled orally, in literacy and in numeracy. They must get that right before we start talking about training. We have become lopsided. The Culliton report is a good report but somehow the interpretation taken from it is that we need less emphasis on the liberal arts and the literacy side and more on physical and management skills.

The Green Paper also deals with teaching foreign languages. That is marvellous and I am all for it. It is a strange irony at the moment that the only institution in this country requiring matriculation in Irish is the National University of Ireland, which was established by a foreign power. None of the third level institutions established by our own Government have a matriculation requirement in Irish. If the matriculation requirement for Irish goes, then Irish will [522] go as well because that is how schools operate.

Children begin school and leave school too young. They go into university too young. In Ireland children of 16 years of age can get into university and although they must be 17 years of age the following January that is still too young. If the requirement were 18 I might be happy, but the present situation is quite ridiculous.

At present I have a German student in one of my classes. He called in to see me before the classes started so I asked him at what age students go to university in Germany. He said 20 years of age. I asked did they not have a 19 year requirement. He said “Oh, yes, but we have to do military service as well”. So young men in Germany are 20 and the girls can get into university at 19 years of age. If we are to do with our young people all the things that are laid out in the Green Paper they will require much more time at first and second level. We cannot hope to get in all the things that are supposed to be done. In addition there are many other things that we should spend a bit of time on at second level, such as civics, debating for oral skills, physical education and nutrition. Exposure to some of these would do students a lot of good. In the meantime they would be maturing to cope with the pressures, the loneliness, the various other things that they are confronted with when they go into third level.

I am not speaking without some knowledge of this. Indeed, Senator Murphy has some knowledge of it, too. Some of the consequences of the pressures when young people get into third level are just horrendous and we are only too well aware of how many of them decide to solve it by terminating their lives. In one month in 1981 we had four such cases in UCC. One was a student of mine, one was a neighbour and the other two were in some other faculty. We have, as a nation, to take note of that and we have to do something about it. Whatever the resources required to go into it and whatever changes we have to make, we have [523] to ensure that that kind of pressure is not put on young people.

I am sorry about taking so long. There were many other things I wanted to say, but let us go on to transparency and school management. I am all for it, but please do not have a situation where pupils' results are available to all parents. I would have a grave doubts about the necessity to have a businessman on the board. If he is worth it, fine; but if he is not, no. I have concern about the way new pseudo universities are springing up in this country and getting validation for degrees from universities outside of the state. The Department of Education need to monitor that very closely.

Finally, one of my old favourities. For 20 years I served on the adult education committee in UCC. During that time we worked closely with the vocational education committees throughout Munster except for County Clare. Personally I cannot speak highly enough of the contribution made by the vocational education committees. I was very disturbed by the manner in which the vocational education committees were ignored in drawing up the Colleges and the DTI Bill. I sincerely hope that somehow or other the Department of Education and the Minister will find a greater role for the vocational education committees in future. They have an enormous role to play. They have played a distinguished and useful role in the past and I am satified that they could continue to contribute to our educational needs in the future.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  I dtosach báire ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an bplé seo ar an bPáipéar Uaine i gcúrsaí oideachais. Tá an oiread sin rudaí ar mhaith liom labhairt futhu agus nach mbeidh deis agam é sin a dhéanamh go bhfuil súil agam go mbeidh an t-ábhar seo á phlé ar bhealach níos cuimsithe ar ball.

I am always worried when debates concerning ordinary people are dominated by professionals because there is a tendency for everybody to discuss their particular [524] angle of the issue. I am speaking on education as somebody who never worked professionally as an educator, somebody who was educated at primary, secondary and tertiary level in the city of Dublin but who has at present children attending rural primary and secondary schools.

The first thing I would be worried about with the Green Paper and with the development is that those things that would cost money might get left aside and at the end of the day we might wind up changing structures and getting involved in cosmetics. As a general rule I am not a great one for getting involved in big philosophical debates as to who should be on the boards, how many people representing this interest, whether there should be a business man or woman or not. To my way of thinking these matters do not really concern most parents and particularly most children.

The second thing I am wary of is long list of aspirations, a broad curriculum, the arts, physical culture and so on without actually looking at what happens for example, in the ordinary primary school. If we look at education from the child's point of view there have been tremendous strides made in certain directions. One of the greatest strides has been that most children nowadays like going to school — and I cannot say that I liked going to school, that I found it an enjoyable experience. To me that is a very positive development that has taken place in the last 20 or 30 years. That is a major achievement, something that was achieved by changing attitudes, by the elimination of corporal punishment, but not by changing structures.

The second point I would make is that change for change's sake is never a good thing. In general the primary school system in this country works well, particularly in the rural areas where there are cohesive populations. There is very little complaint on the ground in most cases and obviously no matter how good the structure is you will get problems. There are very few complaints about the basic structure involved in primary education. I believe it would be totally wrong and [525] contrary to the principle of subsidiarity to start toying with and changing this with, for example, the idea that has been put forward of the creation of education boards within counties, because outside the educational standards sphere of primary education, the actual running of the school has been at the level it should be at, that is, the level of the parish, subject to general regulation by the Department of standards, curricula, primary teachers etc. That is where it should be left. It has served us well and it works well.

As regards the particular curricula in the primary school, there is a need to provide facilites, there is a need to make sure that whatever we teach we teach it well and in a constructive way. To do this it is obvious that we have to ensure in the first place that every school child is afforded proper school space — in other words, that the buildings are up to standard, that the fundamentals are right first. We can talk about all the fancy things; but if you put the fancy things in before you get at the fundamentals what happens is that those schools that are already developed develop further and those that are already in serious trouble through lack of facilities fall back further.

I would like to refer to the amalgamation of schools, the size of schools and the use of resources. I would like to see much more of an analysis done of the relationship between the community on the one hand and school on the other hand. If you went on a tour of rural Ireland to the two-teacher and three-teacher schools — my own children go to a three-teacher school — you would find that their level of attainment and achievement would be as high if not higher than children from larger schools. Their interpersonal development, where they know every other child in the school, big and small, is extraordinary. In those situations there is a close relationship between school and community. If there is an imbalance it is between the schools in the middle class and upper class parts of the city and in the socio poorer parts. That is where the real disparity is occurring and that is so not because of numbers [526] but because of the socio background the children come from.

There is no doubt that the climate in which children are brought up has a huge influence on their education. To put it in its simplest terms, if the mother and father read books and newspapers the chances are their children will read also. The background help that is needed to offset disadvantage in this area is very great.

There is need for one change in regard to shifting demographic trends in rural areas. I am not talking about the number of pupils at which a school get an extra teacher but there is a need to lower the number of students at which a school lose a teacher. If a three-teacher school loses a few pupils the number at which that is made a two-teacher school should be lower. This would be the greatest thing that could be offered to rural Ireland.

Furthermore, there are places, particularly for geographic reasons, where one teacher schools are necessary. I mention, for example, the offshore islands. What will be done on Inishmaan, Inisheer and Inishbofin? What will be done in some more isolated areas where the choice is between bringing children five to ten miles a day in a bus or providing them with a small rural school? There are only something in excess of 100 of these schools in the country. I suggest that unless the number drops between to, say, 15 or 17 pupils they should be made two teacher schools because the extra resources needed to solve that problem would be very limited and reasonable.

As regards the urban primary schools, it is important to look at the effects of the social segregating of houses on education. There is a great correlation there. In trying to solve the educational problem we must look at social background. As we are talking about resources, and as somebody whose family have had a huge connection with third level education and who received a third level education, I say that we have to be wary of the professional lobbyists. When I went to UCD at Belfield in 1968 there was only the science block. Every time I go back I see wondrous developments. I [527] do not begrudge them the facilities but I wonder how it is that that huge, massive development took place, that they were able to attract all these resources at a time when we still have primary schools that cannot attract the resources to provide them with indoor toilets? This is something we have to be very wary of in educational policy. We must ensure that the person who can put up the best case and has the best resources to lobby does not end up with the biggest slice of the cake. That has and continues to happen and it is something we must guard against.

I would like to say a few words about teaching Irish in schools, and the position of the Irish language in education. I am purposely not going to say this in Irish because there is a nice convenient habit, when we come to talk about things Irish, to talk to ourselves in Irish so that other people do not know what we have said. Let us be realistic and face facts. The first fact is that many of our primary school teachers, for one reason or another, are not capable of carrying on an ordinary conversation in the Irish language. That is an inescapable fact that we have to face in 1992. What is the answer to that? If we are to be realistic about this and teach Irish in the primary schools I suggest two remedies for that problem. The first is that we make much greater use, particularly in bigger schools of video and video material. I do not mind if it is about Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse because once they are talking Irish children will soak the language up and the emphasis will be on the spoken language and conversing. If you can converse in a language it is easy enough to learn to write in that language. The second point is that in the very big schools there is a case, in view of the lack of knowledge of the Irish language on the part of many teachers, for aiming at having specialist Irish teachers in those schools rather than living with a sham.

As regards second level education and the Irish language I have argued for years that the literary people and academics have had greim an fhir bháite on this [528] subject. The concentration has been on an academic curriculum with poetry, textbooks and so on. I welcome the trend towards oral Irish in the Green Paper but I would go further. As somebody who enjoys Irish literature and has a good knowledge of it I believe it is ridiculous to be trying to teach Irish literature to people who cannot read and speak the language as an ordinary language. There should be two leaving certificate courses in Irish; one i dteanga na Gaeilge.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Foley): Information on Denis Foley  Zoom on Denis Foley  May I interrupt the Senator? We have a delegation from the textile industry in the Public Gallery. I understand most of them are from Moscow. They are very welcome.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  I would like to be associated with that welcome. There should be another course i litríocht na Gaeilge. They should be two separate curricula just as physics and maths. Physics are two separate curricula for the Leaving Certificate at present. A person like me who did maths, applied maths, physics and chemistry for leaving certificate had some of the maths/physics course done in my maths course and some of my maths/physics course done in my physics course and therefore it was not too difficult to get the extra honour in maths/physics. Such a change would serve two purposes. Those who were only learners of the language would concentrate on the course i dteanga na Gaeilge and those from the Gaeltacht or from Gaelscoileanna would do the cúrsa i litríocht na Gaeilge and also do the course i dteanga na Gaeilge. It would be essential to ensure that in such circumstances the universities would be forced to recognise both of them as distinct and separate courses for entry purposes. Therefore, the student who got an A in one and a C in the other could count those as two of the entry requirements.

I would visualise most young people in the schools who do not have an Irish background either through all Irish schooling or at home concentrating on the cúrsa i dteanga na Gaeilge. In that [529] way they would leave school hopefully with what I would term a working knowledge of the language. The advantage of that is that if as mature people they decided to develop an interest in the Irish language they would have the basic tool to develop their interest in literature.

The Minister in his Green Paper placed great emphasis on an enterprise culture. I can concur with the way he explained it today. The greatest gift in education is the gift of an inquiring mind. I do not like the use of the word “enterprise” because in most people's minds it has a certain connotation. The curiosity of a child, and the questioning nature is to me what education is about. It has frustrated me as an employer many times that employees I had would not query anything they saw around them. If we could only maintain among our young people the inquiring mind of a child we would then bring the essence of education to them.

Tá an t-uafás ann a d'fhéadfaí a rá ar an ábhar seo; ní bheadh dua ar bith agam labhairt ar feadh cúpla uair a chloig eile. Tá sé tábhachtach an páipéar seo a phlé go mion agus tá súil agam sula gcuirtear moltaí an doiciméid seo i bhfeidhm go mbeidh deis eile againn é a chíoradh. Molaim an tAire as ucht é a chur inár láthair agus tá mé ag tnú leis an seisiún ceisteanna agus freagraí ar ball.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  Tá sé náireach nach bhfuil dóthain ama againn ar an ábhar seo, chun é a phlé go hiomlán. Bhíomar ag feitheamh leis an bpáipéar fada go leor agus ba chóir go mbeadh dhá lá ar a laghad againn chun gnéithe éagsúla den ábhar ioltaobhach seo a phlé. Is dóigh go mbeidh seans againn amach anseo an Páipéar Bán a phlé, agus ní hé sin an Bille ar ndóigh. Fáiltím roimh an Aire agus roimh an bpáipéar seo.

I have made my complaint about the limited time we have been given to discuss this Green Paper. It speaks volumes for the wrong scale of values in ordering business that after all the years of waiting for the Green Paper in a Chamber that, as the Minister said this morning, is particularly qualified to deal with education, [530] we are given one miserable bit of a day to deal with it. Having made that complaint, I will move on. There will be opportunities in the future when we get the White Paper and the Bill.

In spite of what I have said, I welcome the Green Paper. Whatever we feel about aspects of it, it is very welcome indeed. I congratulate the Minister on the way in which the Department have promoted debate on the Green Paper. The Minister deserves our thanks for that. The organisation of seminars, for example, is very much to his credit. He may not be too pleased with all of the responses to the Green Paper to date but he must be pleased with the volume of the response and with the live interest which it has aroused, even if he has reservations about the negative criticisms, as he would see them, of the Green Paper.

I would like to pay tribute to all the voluntary bodies and non-governmental organisations which have taken upon themselves to promote interest in the Green Paper. Among them is the association of the Chief Executive Officers who have devoted a special issue of their very good journal The Irish Education Decision-maker to the Green Paper. In fact, they are to launch this publication this evening; it is the second special issue because a year ago they devoted No. 3 of their journal to the same topic. I say this by way of welcoming one of the editorial decision-makers, Mr. Barney O'Reilly, who is in the Visitors' Gallery. It is particularly good that it should come from them, given the kind of bad press that vocational education committees often have and the poor relation image the vocational system has not shaken off since its beginning.

The Green Paper has undergone a certain change of direction from one Minister to another, indeed from one Minister, through a very transitional Minister to the present Minister for Education. It would be surprising if there were not changes accordingly. Rightly or wrongly, the present Minister is associated with an enterprise view, a utilitarian view of education. This is the wide perception [531] there is of the present Minister for Education.

It occurs to me that perhaps “enterprise” is a derogatory word in our culture because it may historically have been associated with a very undesirable kind of enterprise. Perhaps some of the first entrepreneurs in 18th and 19th century Ireland were gombeen men and they have various latter-day successors who are named in more euphemistic terms. It may well be that “enterprise” is not very acceptable to the Irish traditional mind.

The Minister has said that he will take on board the various criticisms of the Green Paper. There has been considerable criticism of this ulititarian thrust in the paper, ranging from people like Dr. Garret FitzGerald to Mr. John Teeling, who have criticised the view that you can somehow teach enterprise culture to children, or that if it is teachable that all pupils are fitted to receive it, the emphasis on technology and on vice-presidential corporation ethics, as it were, and the philosophy of the Minister to date on education.

It has been said that the Green Paper is lacking in philosophy but the Minister, whether we like his philosophy or not, has a very definite view of the purpose of education. For example, he thinks that university presidents should be modelled on the chief executives of business corporations, a view which is quite at variance with the traditional concept of a university president in the academic tradition. To be fair and to judge from the speech which the Minister made this morning to us, it seems to me that the Minister has begun to listen to these criticisms and that in the extended emphasis he placed this morning on the humanities, the Arts, he may well be in the process of adjusting what many of us would regard as his excessively enterprise-cum-technology orientation and I welcome that.

One of the big questions in terms of organisation is, how do the schools of whatever category deal with the Department? In the special issue of The Irish Education Decision-Maker, to which I [532] referred, Bishop Michael Murphy of Cork — and, therefore, a sensible man — discusses this question. This is according to a newspaper version of his paper; I have not actually seen the paper yet. He said that despite the fears of bureaucracy there must be an intermediate layer, a liaison between the school and the Department of Education, perhaps at regional or local level, because his experience and that of the school managers of whom he is the patron, is that it is almost impossible for the individual school to make contact with the Department. That is one large aspect of the organisational overhaul that has to be looked at.

There is also the composition of school boards of management. May I say to the Minister he should hold firm on his intention to democratise the schools' boards of managements and to have the maximum of community representation. I am not particularly pushed whether they are business people or not. Of course, they must be parents, but I want a representative spread of interests on the school board of management. I hope the Minister will not be pushed into diluting that aim. I am at one with the Minister in, let us say, our modern view of this. He knows, as I know, that the sun is now setting on a too long era of behind closed doors collaboration between various interests, Church interests particularly, and Department officials. It is time to move away from this. The words, “trustees” and “patrons”, smack of a paternalistic age which is now thankfully, disappearing.

The paper is sub-titled Education for a Changing World and change is the essence of the human condition. Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamuar in illis goes the old saying — times change and we with them. As the Minister pointed out this morning, we are at once both the recipients and agents of change. The two greatest changes in our approach to Irish education over the last 30 or 40 years are in the area of Irish language and in the overall religious ambiance of this country. Year after year from the foundation of the State, Ministers for Education [533] came before the Houses of the Oireachtas and their annual review of education amounted to nothing more than an annual report on the progress, or lack of progress, of the Irish language. That was deemed to be the be all and end all of education. That was understandable given the history that preceded the War of Independence. We are changing all that but there is gain as well as loss.

Senator Ó Cuív outlined his views on Irish language teaching and so on. What I want to point out about the Irish dimension — to which only seven or eight pages are devoted out of 240, and that is also a measure of the changing times — is that the atmosphere for the teaching of Irish and for the place of Irish in our community has changed radically. We live in a post-nationalist Ireland where to speak Irish is not regarded as the absolute sine qua non of nationality but rather as an expression of personality. I welcome that Irish is being depoliticised. Similarly there is and will be increasingly, I hope, an emphasis on oral rather than on written, literary and grammatical, Irish.

There was a significant event in Cork the other night. There is a significant event in Cork every night. Dr. Chris McGimpsey of the Ulster Unionist Party addressed a traditional Gaelic League audience on the importance of the Irish language for all the people of Ireland. His voice, I have reason to believe, is not unrepresentative. We must provide for a future where the language will be the welcome heritage of Unionists as well as Nationalists. There is a philosophy behind that which has to be taken into account.

The other great change is that up to relatively recently it was seen as axiomatic that the purpose of education was man's eternal destiny. One of the striking things about the Green Paper is its secular tone. The references to religion are slight and perfunctory. There is no mention of man's other-worldly destiny in the Green Paper. Of course it pays the usual ritual tribute to the religious and so on but it is clear that the Green Paper sees that day as dead and gone.

[534] That brings me to the question of ethos. It has not been referred to much up to now but we know that the churches in this country were apprehensive about the Green Paper and were clamouring for the retention of their particular ethos in any reshuffle. The whole question of ethos raises problems as to what is a Catholic ethos in this day and age and how it can be conveyed in a school, or whether teachers can be depended upon, as formerly to convey that ethos and so on. The Protestant ethos is even a more problematic entity because, as far as I can see the Protestant ethos is confused, on the one hand, with a secular ethos and, on the other, it seems to be little more than an attempt to preserve a particular social enclave with public funds.

By all means let the churches promote their own ethos but the big question is to what extent should public funds be used to promote the ethos of a particular church. Ideally perhaps we should have two parallel systems, a denominational system on the one hand and what might be called a secular system or a multi-denominational system on the other but this country cannot afford that.

We have to look at the existing system and ask how far we are safeguarding the rights of the increasing number of children whose parents have non-conformist views, whose parents are no longer orthodox Catholics, Protestants or whatever. The children of those dissident parents have constitutional rights and these rights must be respected. It is a large question as to whether, for example, you can constitutionally permit a school to be permeated by the ethos of a particular church in this day and age, supported by public funds, or defend the concept of an integrated curriculum, etc — all that has to be looked at — and, above all, should denominational criteria be used for the training and recruitment of teachers who are paid out of public funds.

These issues are crucial to the kind of society that is evolving in Ireland now. My view is quite clear on that. I do not believe you should use public funds for [535] the quite different purposes of the churches. If I may adapt a historic phrase, there should be no taxation for evangelization.

The question of resources is crucial. Everyone has asked where the money is to come from. On the day the Minister was in Cork and was on the receiving end of a protest from UCC students about overcrowding in third level — there are more students in college partly because of Government pressure, but the money has been spent on salaries and not to provide additional space — there was a report in The Cork Examiner that Scoil Barra in Beaumont in Cork city was in a dreadful state in terms of being short of day to day funds and the extent to which parents were being pressed to supplement the deficiencies of what is a constitutional obligation to provide free primary education. I do not have time to go into that but these are the problems.

If there is to be a revolution — the paper should aim at a revolution — it must be a social one. Our education system is riddled with layers of privilege and snobbery. In Cork city people can tell you to a T to what refined social layer a particular school belongs. We must try to remedy the inequities that are built into the system. It is the Minister's duty and privilege to preside over that resolution. I wish him well and I hope we see the principles enshrined in the ultimate education legislation.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I will not dwell on the religious ethos as Senator Murphy has dealt with it in great detail. Such is the extensive nature of the Green Paper that I am sure my colleagues on all sides will select those aspects they feel have relevance to either their experience in education or as elected representatives of vocational education committees, local councils, etc.

I welcome the Green Paper. Those of us who have an interest in the future education of young people must welcome the document which has been put before the people, primarily as a discussion document. Like many of my colleagues [536] who are members of a vocational education committee, I will be anxiously looking forward to the specific proposals the Minister will outline prior to introducing the legislation.

I welcome the large number of commitments proposed in the Green Paper, for example, improved pupil-teacher ratios, remedial teachers for primary schools, extra guidance counsellors, improvements to school buildings, improved grants for third level students and greater access to third level for the disadvantaged. While the Green Paper is long on commitments, it is short in resources. Everything in the Green Paper seems to suggest that much, if not all, of the innovative proposals will not be implemented without European money. Those people who questioned this Government's commitment to proceeding with the Maastricht Treaty might do well now to reflect on what might have happened if we had not endorsed it so widely.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Nothing has happened since we did.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  One of the most significant proposals contained in the Maastricht Treaty was that there would be a shift in emphasis for grant purposes to education as a training concept which would, of course, impact greatly on this country where such a huge amount of public money is spent on education.

I support and encourage the Government in their efforts to ensure that those elements of the Maastricht Treaty which impinge and impact on education will be successful. Without European money much of the welcome suggestions involved in the deliberations that brought this paper together will go for nought.

One thing I am a little concerned about is the absence of any great emphasis on civics as a subject in what will be the secondary school system. The reason I raised this particular aspect of education is that all of us who are in the public arena will agree, even my colleagues on the opposite side of the House, that politics and politicians have come in for a [537] great deal of public odium over the last number of years. This is rather surprising in the sense that we have now the most intelligent and well-educated generation ever in this country. Whereas in earlier days people who were not as well educated or did not have as great an access to education might have listened to propagandists and media manipulators, one would think that nowadays people could make up their own minds. They are intelligent enough and have all the information available to them. Yet we as politicians seem not to be able to break through the concept that somehow politics and politicians are odious and that the vocation of public service is something that should be questioned. I believe part of the reason for this is the lack of the teaching of civics in our schools, from primary level through to second level.

Within the last 12 months a quiz programme was transmitted on our national radio network, on Radio 1. It was a business quiz sponsored by one of the major banks. Admittedly the questions were oriented towards business. The students involved in the competition right up to the final were, I presume, the cream of our student population — boys and girls who were on the verge of leaving the like of academia to enter the real world and to make a living for themselves in the world of business. While they were quite capable of answering, most, if not all, of the questions on the business side, any time a question arose relating to the political arena, and some of these would have been very basic questions such as “name the leader of the Opposition” or “who is the Minister for Education”, none of the eight participants was able to give correct answers. Initially I was astonished and eventually quite saddened and a little angry. I was not blaming the students but it seemed to me that the educational system somehow had failed to address our political system, how it operates, who our politicians are and what their function is in this democratic society.

If we ignore the political process and the constitutional activity of our political establishment, the consequences will be [538] a public odium based primarily on ignorance. I hope that those who are listening to this debate and advising the Minister will address the whole area of civics being taught in our schools and being given more emphasis than seems to be the case in the Green Paper.

I fully appreciate that the thrust of this Green Paper, and I welcome it, is towards enterprise culture, a term used in the Culliton report. Ireland has been lagging behind in not creating an entrepreneurial culture. The emphasis for generations has been on the academic side of education. Indeed as late as this year, in looking at the intake of third level students, I was surprised to learn that despite all the efforts of the last decade to orient our students towards a business style education, there was still a huge number of applicants for the general Arts programmes in our universities. Before my distinguished intellectual colleague, Senator Norris, intervenes to suggest that I am proposing that Arts be discontinued, I assure him that I am not saying anything of the kind. I believe it is vital that we continue to have in our education system an appreciation of culture, the arts, languages, music and all of those elements that make for the well rounded person. It is vital that we do not in any way diminish that.

It is also vital that the concepts, as outlined in this Green Paper, towards creating an enterprise culture in Ireland are encouraged and that educationalists and those involved in business as well as politicians on all sides of the House, give every encouragement to the Department and to the Minister for Education in his plans in this regard.

Unless we have a generation who are capable of thinking in an enterprise-business way and unless we can harness that creativity in the business and commercial sector, I believe we will have serious difficulties in the next century. One has only to look at what is happening with our near neighbour, Great Britain, in this regard. A once powerful industrial nation is now on the skids. I would like to think that the experience of our nearest neighbour has not been lost on educationalists [539] in this country and that it has not been lost on those who are framing policies in the Department of Education.

As a member of a vocational education committee in County Leitrim since 1984 I have a reasonable grasp of the vocational ethos as outlined in the 1930 Act and the manner of its practical application throughout the country since then. I am concerned that the tier of local accountability as expressed through the membership of the vocational education committees will literally be abolished in favour of school boards, thereby removing an important tier of public accountability between parents, teachers, students and the Department of Education and creating school boards in which the principal will become the chief executive. He or she will not only be responsible for providing timetables and for the running of the school in an academic sense but will also be responsible for running the school in an administrative and financial sense.

Irrespective of the proposals contained in the document on finance, there will always be a financial deficit in education. Even the most optimistic of legislators or framers of legislation will have to admit that even with European money and what we can provide from our own Exchequer there will still be a deficit. I wish that it were not so. Consequently, there will be a greater need for individual schools to arrange fund raising activities. I am concerned that schools will become enterprise boards themselves rather than places of academic distinction.

I am not arguing for the retention of the powers of vocational education committees simply because I think the county councillors should have it and for that reason alone. It has been an important and satisfying element of vocational education in this country. The vocational education committees have done well for Irish education in the vocational sector. I am not sure whether the Minister has completed his thinking on the role of vocational education committees. It appears that while the paper goes into some detail on their future role, much of [540] their teeth have been drawn and once schools are taken out of the vocational education committee sector and teachers are employed by school boards very little is left. They are important; vocational education, training, adult education, literacy, youth and sport will all continue to be part of the vocational education committee network but their raison d'être was their relationship with schools. That relationship is to be removed, as is their relationship in the teacher area. I would argue there should be a greater rather than a diminished role for vocational education committees in the context of the Green Paper.

As I said at the outset, I welcome the proposals contained in the Green Paper particularly its key aim of greater equity, including gender equity, in education which is vital and an area where we have lagged behind. I mentioned earlier about preparing for an enterprise culture in a European setting; the improvement in teacher training and in career development; an openness and accountability with a greater role for parents but I am concerned that theory and reality may be different matters.

While the theory is fine in relation to the establishment of school boards and a greater input by parents, the reality may be that power will be centred around the school principal and a small elite in schools, that parents generally will allow this small elite to run the school and its activities whereas under the vocational education committee system, while there was some element of control at school level, that control was publicly accountable in an election subsequently. As in the old sports cliché in boxing — you can run but you cannot hide. As a public representative, one can run but one cannot hide. The ultimate sanction is that the people decide whether one did the right thing or the wrong thing. That has been removed in this paper and that is what I am concerned about.

Overall, I welcome this discussion document and I look forward to the further proposals that will emanate from the discussions on this document.

[541]Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am not going to challenge anything my colleague, Senator Mooney, said in his very fine speech which, as always, was delivered with great panache that pays tribute to whatever educational system he came from. He very rarely refers to notes and it is a pleasure to have somebody speaking directly to the Chamber rather than reading from notes. Almost invariably I engage in free range improvisation but today because of time constraints I am going to refer fairly comprehensively to documents.

One thing I will say in response to Senator Mooney is that unfortunately the very word “VEC” sets my teeth on edge when I contemplate its appalling managerial structure — I hope the Minister will do something about that — and its absolute lack of responsibility in terms of its holding of property. This is a hobbyhorse of mine. I will not waste my time on it but I would like him to think about the Jacobs factory and Nos. 18-19 Parnell Square, which they destroyed and cost the country over £1 million in so doing through their bad stewardship and No. 20 North Great George's Street which if they are not stopped they probably will succeed in destroying as well having already flattened the significant 18th century town garden that was there. I will avoid the vocational education committee. I pay tribute to their teaching skills but the managerial structure of the vocational education committees really is a public scandal and ought to be looked at. There is no accountability whatever in it. It is utterly undemocratic.

I am very glad that the Minister spoke about a totally open and responsive approach to the debate on the Green Paper. It is a Green Paper and a discussion document. I wish to refer to a briefing document I got from my own Church, the Anglican Church, now the Church of Ireland. I have to say with reference to Professor Murphy's speech, I do not experience the difficulty he does in distinguishing a Protestant ethos. It is all about individual responsibility, choice and conscience.

I am not a bit happy with denominational education, North or South, and [542] I speak as a practising member of the Anglican Communion. It is most regrettable that it exists. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the minority churches, including the Church of Ireland, tend to hang on to the denominalisation of education in a way I regret although I understand the psychological motivation for it and in the existing situation perhaps the smaller religions feel they must do so. I think that reflects a weakness. The ethos is something that should be provided in its religious and spiritual sense principally in the home. School is a place where one acquires facts but, of course, in the context of a general civilisation.

However, the Church of Ireland Board of Education made the point that they respond very positively to the fact that it is a discussion document and they hope that in the Minister's anxiety to impose a deadline, which they understand, the White Paper will be delayed until adequate time is given for the consultation process. This is a fair point. I wonder if the Minister has any information about the timescale within which the White Paper will emerge.

The other point which concerns them, which also concerned many people who spoke, is the level of discrepancy between the aspirational level of the document and the exact costings that are provided. In the absence of an increased commitment to funding it is difficult to see how some of these improvements, which Professor Murphy regarded in some senses as being revolutionary, can be funded. Generally speaking, there would be a welcome from the minority churches for the whole notion of flexibility which the Minister has stressed.

The Minister spoke of broadening education and the necessity to draw on different wells of knowledge and experience. I also agree with him that the old idea of life existing in separate periods of education, work and retirement has gone, or will go in most countries. I am very glad it has gone or is going and the sooner it goes completely the better because we need to have a feeling of integration about the whole of our lives. We cannot be separate, compartmentalised entities [543] which result at the end of the day when somebody retires in male retirement shock syndrome, where a person leaves his beloved job and drops dead the next day. It is not something, I can assure the House, that will happen to me. I look forward with an eager voracious appetite to taking early retirement as soon as possible so that I can devote myself to the things that interest me most rather than merely the round of teaching which I have been engaged in for 26 years, although I enjoy lecturing.

The Minister also talks about the desire to be a lifelong learner. This is something with which I wholeheartedly agree. However, he has introduced the question of phases of time. Here I would like to refer to a position that has been taken by my university and a problem that I see as crucial to the development of third level education, and that is what is perceived by many people as the beginning of an attack on the four year degree system in Trinity. It will be very strongly resisted.

I put it to the Minister that we are in danger of engaging in precisely the same mistakes that were made on the Continent which they are now rectifying. We are swimming against the tide if we abolish something of which we have very good reason to be proud and for which I fought in a debate last year in this House to secure proper accreditation in America. There they already treat our third level degrees and also our second level qualifications with a certain degree of caution and scepticism through the system of professional education awards evaluators. We are not going to do ourselves any good by reducing this commitment to a four year degree, particularly when we are in a period of focus on European integration in various ways and the European model, with the exception of England and Northern Ireland, is a four year model and sometimes longer.

I took a tutorial the other day and I had not just a fourth year, but somebody from the fifth year of a German university parachuting into a first year tutorial class. Somebody had said perhaps it would be insulting to admit someone from the fifth [544] year of a German university to the first year of an Irish university but this particular person confessed herself to be very well pleased after the initial hour. This indicates that there are people doing five years or six years to degree level. For us all to go back to three years would be a great pity.

There are financial considerations here, but I know the Minister is in possession of some detailed views and notes from Trinity College, on this subject, in which they demonstrate, at least to me, fairly convincingly, that there is not, in fact, the kind of saving that might first appear to be there. I would also like to remind the House of a commitment given by the Taoiseach to the universities that the introduction of a new system financing universities would be accompanied by the continuing freedom of the universities to manage their internal affairs. I hope and I am quite confident that this will, in fact, continue.

Some institutions in England, for example, which have traditionally worked with the three year degree system are now actually exploring the possibilities of very definitely expanding to a four year system. Dr. John Ashworth, the new director of the London School of Economics, which has an international reputation, has proposed a four year undergraduate course with emphasis on information, technology and languages. I wish to quote from a letter of his to The Times in which he said:

Such a curriculum would, in my view, be a suitable preparation for that cadre of skilled administrators, politicians and managers who will be running the European state in the year 2,020.

Here again, we have evidence of the direction in which this is going. The four year primary degree is the European norm.

The rationale for adopting a four year structure has to do with the breadth and complexities of the degrees. I will list a couple of them. There is a series of categories. There are degrees involving a mixture of traditionally related subjects. [545] Early and modern Irish, for example, has not only the study of language and literature over the whole historic range of Irish but also Scottish-Gallic and Welsh both, like early Irish, studied ab initio. English, which I teach, includes English literature, language, Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and so on. The Department of English — I speak from my narrow parochial context — is exploring the development of other modular groups such as the relationship between sexuality and literature and the whole question of post-colonial literature. These cannot in my opinion, be practically accommodated in a shrinking course body.

There is the mixture of traditionally unrelated subjects very like the ones that Dr. Ashworth spoke about. For example, in computer technology an understanding of lingustics, and of certain particular languages, is extremely valuable. These previously unusual combinations are now being admitted into university structures. There are the degrees which include a practical element. The one that springs immediately to mind, as it would to any graduate of the alma mater of Samuel Beckett, is the theatre studies course, which has not only an academic content but also a practical content in terms of theatre management, directing, acting and so on.

Then there is the issue of external accreditation and the slightly fraught question of the interest currently being taken by the British Psychological Association, the evaluating group, in the three year psychology course in University College. My view is that we may well come under pressure to develop into a four year cycle and it is very important that we retain that option. With regard to law, the Law Faculty will point out the extraordinary appetite in the European and world markets for the graduates of our four year law system.

On the question of money, there are practical and technical difficulties involved in initiating this kind of scheme. It is imagined that a three year course, offers a double advantage in providing more places in third level courses at a [546] time when there is increased demand by well-qualified applicants and when this exceeds available places, while at the same time reducing the cost to the student of acquiring the degree. If you look from a different perspective, the switch to a three-year Arts course involves the need to sustain income from fees by increasing the annual intake into Arts by approximately one-third, that is accommodating the same number of students in the three-year course that the college currently does in the four year course.

I am not going to introduce many facts and figures because, first, I am not very good at them, I might get them confused and, second, I imagine the Minister and his advisers are already in possession of them. I should like to point out that there will be a huge increase in the teaching load. English and history would have to rise by up to 50 per cent of their existing quotas. It might have the, perhaps welcome, impact of reducing my capacity to attend this House, which might not be entirely unwelcome in all quarters. I am just pointing out the degree of difficulty that arises there.

There are a number of contradictions in the Green Paper. I would like to refer to a matter my colleague, Senator O'Toole, has, I am sure, already raised, I heard the Minister discussing this with him over the past months. I am referring to the question of the smaller national schools, their closure and/or amalgamation. This is not quite the kind of thing I understand by enterprise and initiative. This seems to be a narrow accounting and rationalising procedure and it does not really reflect the structure or values of Irish society.

I have been reading through the life and works of Oscar Wilde and I am tempted to suggest that it comes dangerously close to the definition of a cynic, somebody who knows the price of everything and the value of very little, particularly if the cost of a national school is seen merely as an entry in a ledger rather than the heart and hub of social community life, particularly in rural areas. It does not make any estimate of the cost [547] of community decay and disintegration that result from a narrow view. There is a cost and that ultimately falls on the Government and the nation.

It is difficult to square the logic of cut and abolition with the concept of enterprise, and we are told we are going to have enterprise on the curriculum. How convincing a subject will it be, if the students' eyes wander from the classrooms to the view from the window, across empty fields, to the naked rafters of an extinct national school and the half extinguished village that once surrounded it? Is that enterprise? It is the enterprise of the deserted village, referred to in one of the favourite poems of my friend and colleague, Senator Willie Farrell, which he finds useful on numerous occasions.

We get the impression, sometimes, too, that the framers of the Green Paper think that enterprise consists of filling young people full of specialised manipulative skills. Nothing dates more quickly in a changing world than a highly specialised or hard skill. What we need is more of the soft skills. I have to strongly defend the Arts because of the training they give to the intellectual processes and the capacity to deal with people in the market. It is very interesting that, often, businesses will employ Arts graduates even in preference to those who might have apparently more appropriate, more highly developed technological skills, because they have the ability to self-start, to exercise personal quality control, creativity, adaptability, all the things that create a climate of quality assurance and facilitate flair and enterprise. These, I believe are very much fostered by the Arts.

There is nothing enterprising in creating technological dinosaurs or continuing with concepts like the artificial distinction between education on one hand and training on the other, which is a kind of snobbery that my friend Senator Murphy was speaking about.

I note that the National Council for Educational Awards are to be abolished and that is a pity. I know it is largely a [548] question of title. The NCEA have built up and promoted a system of national awards in higher education, over their 20 year existence, that are now accepted at home and abroad, in other words, they have brand identification. They have acquired a certain standing and I do not think we should lightly cast this away. An NCEA certificate, diploma or degree is a quality brand name product. The proposal in the Green Paper is to remove it from the shelf. In terms of enterprise this is an absolutely nonsensical proposal. The enterprising thing — to use the Minister's buzz word — would be to extend the existing NCEA system of qualifications to cover all levels of education and training and to give a ladder of opportunity of linked awards stretching from apprenticeships to research degrees.

An emphasis on change for change's sake, accompanied by buzz words, is rather difficult. The creation of this new body, the Council for Educational and Vocational Awards, has a fair amount of duplication with the existing NCEA. I would encourage the Minister not to abandon lightly the work that has been done. It must be terribly disillusioning for the people who work in that area, to feel the credit they have built up over the last 20 years is being cast aside, particularly when the model proposed in the Green Paper for the new body is so close to an enterprising development of the work already done under the honoured title of the NCEA. I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider this matter.

I am sure the Minister and his advisers are aware of the arguments here and aware of the fact that, were there more time, I could make very detailed and substantial identifications in this area of a confluence between the NCEA and the new body, and make a strong reasoned logical argument for the continuation of the NCEA. I would very strongly urge the Minister to consider this in the framework of the Green Paper.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I congratulate the Minister and the Department of Education on bringing out this very comprehensive Green Paper, Education for a Changing [549] World. They are to be commended for putting these proposals before us in the Dáil and Seanad and giving us the opportunity to express our views and consider where we are going for the next ten years.

In 1965, when I was a very young boy a general election was called by Mr. Seán Lemass due to the death of a TD in Castlepollard, Mr. M.J. Kennedy. The late Paddy Lenihan, RIP, father of two of our best known parliamentarians — Deputy Mary O'Rourke and Deputy Brian Lenihan — said in an after-Mass speech at that time that the greatest scarcity facing our young people was the scarcity of knowledge and education. It is great to be able to stand up here in Seanad Éireann today in 1992 and see the well educated young people we have in Ireland and the magnificent progress in education this country has made over the last 30 years. We are possibly the envy of Europe in relation to that.

The progress that has been made has been widely recognised all over the world. Anywhere you go, be it Australia, America, Canada or England, there is great praise for our young people who speak English so well and for the system under which they were educated. That must be said, to put into context the work which was done by all Governments over the years and which started off with Donogh O'Malley. The parents of very many intelligent boys and girls in the fifties could not afford to send them to second level school — let alone third level. If you were a student in the fifties, as I was, you could not think of going to second level school, particularly if it was, as in my case, 13, 14 or 15 miles away. The cost of even providing a bicycle in the fifties, in rural Ireland, was a major factor. I am sure it was the same in the towns and cities as well. The sixties saw the introduction of the school transport system which gave equal opportunity whether you came from a very well off or a middle class family or from a family that was not so well off. Quite often, in those days, work was just as scarce as at present. This Green Paper is put before us here today to enable us to exchange our views and discuss what is to happen [550] for the next 20 years in education in Ireland.

I am a member of the vocational education committee in Westmeath, who have had a tremendous track record since it was started up in the thirties. We have a second level school — Coláiste Cionn Torc — in Castlepollard under the auspices of the vocational education committee. The vocational education committee have served us very well indeed. There are many success stories coming from vocational education committee schools in relation to young boys and girls having very successful careers in Trades, whether it is in carpentry, iron or in manufacturing. That is due to the great education they have obtained in the vocational education committee schools.

It is very important that we have a good mix of various types of education. Education of the brain is essential but education of the hands is just as important nowadays. Quite often this offers greater rewards in terms of salary, self-employment or job satisfaction. Having left school, the happiest people you meet, quite often are the people who have job satisfaction and who are enjoying their work because it is creative rather than repetitive. You get a better reward from students who were taught in our vocational education committees than from a student who has been doing something that has become boring after so many years.

I want to make a case here today for the vocational education committees. They are the backbone of the future of Ireland, as a small island which must look to exports. We must increase our exports and try to maintain jobs, in particular in rural Ireland. If you were good at maths in school in the sixties that was important, but it does not really matter nowadays, because you have a calculator that does all that type of thing. If a person is very creative with their hands, that is a different ball game altogether. Different opportunities exist because that person specialises. From that point of view, with crafts and so on, which are available the vocational education committees must not be overlooked or side-stepped. They [551] offer the type of education I certainly would enhance in the future if I were Minister for Education.

I compliment the local authority members and the county councillors who, in a voluntary capacity, — and I underline the words “voluntary capacity”— made so much of their time available to build up the expertise with the vocational education committee operators, the chief executive officers and the teachers. I want to pay tribute here today to the county councillors. Many new boards and new committees are being appointed. The expertise and experience of local authority members is not being availed of for these boards to the same extent as in the past. I would like the Government and the Minister's involved to bear in mind that anyone who has created wealth for himself or herself is much more experienced than a person who is pushing a pen behind a desk every day of the week and who would not be streetwise in relation to the availability of opportunities. It amazes me to see on that enterprise board in particular only one public representative, the chairman of the county council who is to be included, out of a membership of 15. I sincerely hope the Government will reconsider that and put at least three more members on that board.

In a rural area remedial teaching is very important. There are never enough remedial teachers. In Castlepollard, the capital town of north Westmeath we have been looking for one remedial teacher and we cannot get that one remedial teacher. Now we have the hospital for the underprivilged, St. Mary's in Delvin, which is an excellent hospital giving a tremendous educational service to underprivileged and handicapped young boys and girls there. It all depends on resources.

I would like to see a campaign for music in schools over the next 20 years. This is a tremendous opportunity to avail ourselves of our great musical tradition. The Minister would know Willie Clancy and the great musical tradition from County Clare, the leader in this field. [552] Music brings everyone together. It takes young boys and girls off the streets and give them a sense of pride. It also keeps them from watching unsuitable television programmes whether on video or a culture from another country. I hope Government will consider this.

In the North of Ireland instruments are provided free to anyone who wants to learn music. That is why there are so many bands in the Six Counties. I hope the Education Bill will include provisions relating to the teaching of music.

When I was going to the national school in Castlepollard we started with a morning prayer and then we sang the National Anthem. I think it is deplorable nowadays when you go to a function that at the end of the evening, very few of the younger generation have respect and stand for the National Anthem. This problem will have to be redressed. I feel strongly about it. I will have to discuss it with my colleague, Senator Mullooley, who has the portfolio for Education. We might frame a motion asking why the National Anthem is no longer sung in the classrooms every morning.

No matter what we think about the Americans, they have a respect for their anthem. Older and middle-aged people always had respect for the National Anthem and we should show a good example and insist that the National Anthem be sung in Irish. It gives us great pride to stand in Croke Park, or in Wembley Stadium or Milan with an Irish team to hear Irish people singing the National Anthem in our native tongue. No matter where you go, you are asked if you speak Gaeilge and the one song one should always know is one's National Anthem.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  The Green Paper on Education comes at a time when 73 per cent of pupils complete the senior cycle — and there is an expectation that 90 per cent will complete the senior cycle by the end of the century. Participation in second level vocational training programmes is expected to rise from 14,000 to 20,000 in the same period. Participation in third level programmes is also expected to rise from 40 per cent to 50 per cent.

[553] I, too, would like to pay tribute to the work and success in the vocational sector. The contribution it has made over the past 50 years has been enormous. It has given an opportunity for education to people who otherwise would not have it, people whose talents lie in their hands rather than their heads. In this day and age it is probably more important to have such skills to survive.

The vocational sector has been innovative and has always responded to needs. It is a headline for the success of the involvement of public representatives in education. The vocational sector has been comprehensive and broad; it has never been narrow. It was always open to new ideas and promoted them. It introduced co-education which is very important. It is now coming in for criticism, but I do not agree with that. Those of us who went to school in the sixties remember the single sex schools. The experience of children today in co-ed schools is much broader and healthier and the vocational sector is to be complimented for that.

The vocational sector also catered more for the disadvantaged than any other educational sector. It recognised that people who are disadvantaged need education and introduced approaches to provide it. Like my colleagues, I compliment the many public representatives who have served on vocational education committees and brought the views of the people to bear on the education system. Rather than reduce their involvement, the Government should look at ways of developing the education area.

Like the previous speaker I am concerned that the new enterprise boards do not have an involvement of local public representatives. Having only one public representative on a board of 15 members, is hardly involvement. The public representative is very close to the people and knows what they think and what their needs are. I accept that one requires the expertise of industrialists on such boards, but surely people who know what the general public feel, require and will respond to, should have a more assertive role in those boards.

A fundamental review should be [554] undertaken of the vocational education and training area. I welcome the establishment of the action group comprising the Departments of Education and Labour, FÁS and the vocational education committee sector, to establish and define clearly the respective roles of FÁS and the vocational education committees.

Apprenticeship education should be fundamentally reviewed as should the remit of the Department of Education. Over the years the Department of Labour and FÁS — and prior to that AnCO — have done quite a good job in the area of apprenticeship training. In this day and age, however, apprenticeship training should be broader to develop the person as well as the skill and allow apprentices to obtain more management skills. People who come through the apprenticeship system have often achieved a high level of success in business but the apprenticeship system did not train them for that. They were successful in business despite the limitations of the apprenticeship training. The system is very good communicating the skills of the relevant craft but not in the overall education of the person. For that reason the Department of Education should in be in charge of apprenticeship training.

Many post-leaving certificate courses provide a form of apprenticeship which offers broadly based skills to young people, and this provision should be expanded. The traditional designated apprenticeships should be incorporated into this provision. The establishment of the CEVA is welcome and I agree that co-ordination, development and financing of youth work should remain the remit of the vocational education committees. In considering the chapter in the report on making the best use of resources, I agree with much of the chapter. However, I disagree with some of the basic concepts presented.

There is an essential difference between the idea of managing schools and managing a schools system. The idea that all schools in Ireland should report [555] directly to the Department of Education is unworkable. There will be cut-throat competition in each area and disadvantaged pupils will be sacrificed. The schools report will not be other than a palliative and the system in general will not respond to identified needs. The only solution is to create an intermediate structure which could oversee the affairs of all schools in an area. This structure should be developed to include existing vocational education committee structures.

I should like to comment on the suggestion that schools of three teachers or less should be rationalised. There is great fear in rural areas about this suggestion and the Minister will be aware of the effect that would have on rural communities. I do not want to develop this because I believe it is a non-starter as I am sure the Minister will agree. Like the closing of rural post offices and so on, this would be serious and devastating for the future of rural Ireland.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  Any opportunity we have to look at our education system, to improve it and guide it into the next century has to be welcomed. There are many views on this Green Paper. Much of it is laudable and there are some issues about which we might have reservations. The Minister is looking for greater equity in terms of entrance to schools and in what is available for students attending school.

I have a difficulty with the name suggested in the Green Paper for second level schools, that is, secondary schools. Secondary schools exist in principle at the moment and are regarded as separate and apart from community schools, comprehensive schools and, most especially, from vocational schools. If we are to achieve some level of agreement across the board then the title “second level schools” might be a more appropriate and all-embracing one.

In the Green Paper I am concerned with the part dealing with the composition of the board and with the budget. Somewhere in the composition [556] of the board the Minister has suggested that second level students should form part of the board. My view is that they are not mature enough at that stage to contribute adequately to the operation of a board of management. The parents of pupils are already on the board and they will reflect any views the pupils may have. This suggestion may be in a third level institution but does not serve any useful purpose at second level. They are already adequately catered for by way of parental representation.

The Green Paper states there must be free access to all schools. This surely rules out fee paying schools, a timely and welcome development. When one examines entrance procedures to fee paying schools one finds a system of streaming in operation discriminating among pupils on their abilities. In true educational terms it would be correct for the Minister to say that the time for private schools is now over. The time for segregation and for streaming is past and everybody involved in education knows that mixed classes are preferable. I have seen schools cream off the top students so that at the end of the day they can lay claim to excellent results, honours, high points and a successful school. The problem is that somebody has to pick up the pieces and, by and large, socially deprived children find themselves in the lower streams and are, therefore, at a major disadvantage.

I welcome any provision to do away with school entrance examinations. Let us do away with fee paying schools and give each child equal opportunity and entitlement to attend the school of their choice.

I was interested in references to the teaching of Irish. I wonder about the teaching of that subject. Our pupils are introduced to the language at an extremely early age. How able are those who do not continue with Irish beyond second level to communicate fluently in Irish and this begs the question: is there a flaw in the teaching system? I agree with the Minister's emphasis on oral Irish at national school level. That is laudable and correct but it means that we will need [557] teachers able to communicate orally in our native tongue. That is a welcome development.

The emphasis should be on the oral aspect of the Irish language in national schools. It is time enough at second level to concentrate on reading and on the written form. Mastery of the language can only come from an oral capability which brings about confidence and a love of the language which, in my view, will ensure that the student becomes enthusiastic. Irish is their culture and their native tongue and an inheritance of which they can be proud of.

The recommendations on foreign languages are to be welcomed. The emphasis should always be on the oral aspects of language at the early stage.

Up to now Gaelscoileanna have had the opportunity of teaching a foreign language. The vast majority of national schools do not enjoy the same privilege and facility. In other national schools teachers with linguistic competence are not given the opportunity to teach foreign languages at that level. The Green Paper affords the Minister a golden opportunity to introduce foreign languages into national schools. We have a market-led economy and will need to be among the three and a half billion Europeans selling our wares and products so this is a move in the right direction and will intensify our interest in foreign languages. Since, in the future we will need to trade with non-English speaking nations, this is an important move.

According to the Green Paper the principal's role is changing dramatically. Effectively, the principal will now have to manage the school, very often teach there also with the additional task now of being an inspector. By and large relationships between teachers and principals are excellent. I ask the Minister if, by extending the role of a principal teacher to that of an inspector,' he will change the relationship between principal and teachers. The principal's function now will be to certify particular teachers at various levels. I wonder if the principal teacher will retain the same [558] focus and the scope given the additional functions included in his job.

By and large, teachers do an excellent job. Under the Green Paper, some teachers will be allowed to allowed to leave teaching to become part of an advisory group. A top class teacher may be seconded into other areas in an advisory capacity. Does the Minister consider the teacher vacuum being created here? The teacher who is seconded as an adviser may be replaced by a less capable substitute. That may cause disruption in schools and will not be in the long term interests of the children denied the continuity of a teacher who is obliged to be absent for advisory work at intervals.

This suggestion is worth looking at again. If we want to engage teachers in an advisory capacity it should be done on an annual basis rather than taking teachers out on a willy-nilly basis.

On the subject of enterprise technology I often wonder about enterprise. It is appropriate that our education system should be focused on enterprise by way of economic and technological and particularly to encourage entrepreneurship here that has been sadly lacking over the years. The Minister is correct about this. This should have been done long ago and I am glad he has had the courage to introduce this now, to bring it before the people for ideas and opinions, and before the Dáil and Seanad for our views. Hopefully, the Minister will take on board some of the suggestions made to him.

I want to look at enterprise and enterprise technology as a subject. The business studies element is welcome but what exactly does the Minister mean by “enterprise technology”? Is he going to allow the technical subjects to continue? Where does he see entrepreneurship in enterprise technology? In the Green Paper the Minister mentioned summer camps and students going abroad. Generally speaking, people who go abroad need funds. If enterprise technology is to work, then the Minister must put a major emphasis on summer camps within schools to ensure that his aspiration in this area is realised. There are other [559] issues I would wish to raise with the Minister, and I hope I will have an opportunity to put one or two questions to him.

Pól Ó Foighil: Information on Pol O Foighil  Zoom on Pol O Foighil  Fáiltím roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach chun ceist an oideachais a phlé. D'éist mé i rith an lae le Seanadóirí a luaigh gnéithe éagsúla den chóras. Labhair lucht na hollscoile i dtaobh cúrsaí ollscoile, lucht an dara leibhéil i dtaobh cúrsaí ag an leibhéal sin agus lucht bunscoile faoi bhunoideachas. Déanfaidh mise trácht ar fhoinse cultúr na tíre, is é sin oideachas sna Gaeltachtaí. Ní mór caint agus staidéar a dhéanamh ar mholtaí an Phaipéir Uaine seo maidir leis an nGaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí.

Bhí suim agam ina dúirt an Seanadóir Batt O'Keeffe romham faoin smál atá orainn tar éis ceithre scór bliain d'oideachas trí Ghaeilge agus múineadh na teanga ón mbunrang aníos go dtí an tríú leibhéal, nuair nach bhfuil an Gaeilge fós á labhairt go cumasach. Ceist ámharach a chuir an Seanadóir.

Bíodh go bhfuil moltaí maithe sa Pháipéar Uaine, is dóigh liom go bhfuil smaoineamh doimhin le déanamh ag an Aire i dtaobh múineadh na Gaeilge agus áit na Gaeilge sa chóras oideachais agus i saol an phobail. Fágtar an iomarca faoi na scoileanna ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Ó bunaíodh an Stát, fágadh caomhnú na teanga faoi na bunscoileanna, go príomha. Le linn an ama sin bhí go leor daoine — múinteoirí agus mar sin de — an-dílis don Ghaeilge agus do chuile shórt a bhain leis an gcultúr Gaelach. De réir mar a bhí na blianta ag imeacht ar aghaidh, áfach, d'fheicfeá an Ghaeilge ag dul síos an graf de réir a chéile go dtí an pointe anois gur beagnach chuma ann nó as don Ghaeilge. Is oth liom sin a rá.

Nuair a bhí mé féin ag dul go dtí an bunscoil i nDúrlas Éile bhí chuile rud i nGáeilge. Níor chuireamar suim dá laghad inti ach dheineamar í. Dheineamar an bunteastas trí Ghaeilge agus níor chuir sí isteach nó amach orainn. Anois, áfach, caithfimid scoil speisialta a bhunú lena leithéid a dhéanamh, ar a dtugtar na gaelscoileanna seo. [560] Bhí an córas sin ann nasctha leis an gcóras oideachais i dtús réim an Stáit seo. Is trua go deo go bhfuilimid titithe siar chomh mór sin. Deineadh an-dearmad agus anmhíchothromas i leith an oideachais sa Ghaeltacht.

Nuair a chuaigh mé féin isteach sa Ghaeltacht ag múineadh sna caogadaí ní raibh focal Béarla ag muintir na Gaeltachta ag an am sin, nó ag gasúir na Gaeltachta a raibh mise ag plé leo, Gaeilge amháin a bhí acu uilig. Níor thuig siad focal uaim mar bhí mé féin ar bheagán Ghaeilge nuair a chuaigh mé isteach ann. Gaeilge na leabhar agus Gaeilge na scoileanna a bhí agam, ach le himeacht aimsire chuaigh mé i dtaithí ar Ghaeilge na Gaeltachta.

Istigh sa chóras oideachais san am sin bhí neamairt iomlán déanta den pholasaí dhátheangachais. Bhí faitíos ar an ngasúr scoile agus ar na tuismitheoiri focal Béarla a labhairt mar go mbeadh cigire in áit éigin ag faire orthu leis an dá phunt a bhíodar ag fáil as labhairt na Gaeilge, a bhaint díobh. Bhí sé bunaithe ar chóras mícheart a chuaigh ar aghaidh anuas tríd na blianta. Má théann tú isteach anois sa scoil inar thosaigh mise i 1950 — scoil Ghaelach fós í ach tá mé i mbannaí leat gur i mBéarla ata an chuid is mó den obair, an chuid is mo den spraoi sráide nó spraoi imeartha. Ní dhéanfaidh mé dearmad go deo ar chomh lochtach agus a bhí an córas oideachais a bhí ann. Ní raibh mé ach cúpla lá sa Ghaeltacht nuair a chuala mé bean agus Béarla briste á labhairt aici len a mac. Chuir mé ceist uirthi cén fáth a raibh sí ag labhairt Béarla leis siúd. Dúirt sí “he won't be as I am. Chuaigh mise go Sasana without a word of English. Níor thuig duine ar bith mé. Bhí chuile dhuine ag gáirí fúm. My child will not grow up under those educational circumstances”. Bhí an ceart aici go huile is go hiomlán.

Nuair a dhein muid iarracht labhairt faoi chúrsai dhá-theangachais sna caogadaí shílfeá go rabhamar ag iarraidh deireadh a chur le rud éigin agus is beag nár cuireadh cuid againn amach as an nGaeltacht le bata is le gunna. Dúradh linn go rabhamar ag milleadh na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.

[561] Anois is iad na hoideachasóirí ceanann céanna agus daoine mar iad atá ag rá linn polasí dhátheangach a bheith againn. Táimid dhá scor bliain ró-dhéanach. Tá iarrachtaí fánacha á ndéanamh anois. Tá na gaelscoileanna ann agus is maith ann iad. Buíochas le Dia go bhfuil siad ann mar tá an dé fós fanta sa tír. Tá dóchas ann go gcoinneofar cúis na Gaeilge beo tríd na gaelscoileanna agus tríd na scoileanna náisiúnta freisin, mar nílim a rá nach bhfuil siadsan ag déanamh a gcoda. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos éasca dá mbeimis uilig tríd is tríd ag plé leis an ábhar céanna. Táimid ag caint faoi oideachas den dara leibhéal.

Is aisteach liom áiteanna go bhfuil gaelscoileanna an-láidir, ar nós cathair na Gaillimhe, áit a bhfuil trí cinn díobh, agus tá siad ann ó thús. Bhí ábhair trí Ghaeilge á muíneadh i gColaiste Iognáid i nGaillimh i bhfad Éireann sula raibh aon smaoineamh ar ghaelscoil. Anois i mbliana tá siad ag tosú ar mheánscoil trí Ghaeilge uilig. Más maith ann is mithid. Tá sé deireanach ach tá súil agam nach bhfuil sé ró-dheireannach.

Tá ráiteas sa Pháipéar seo a deir go dtabharfar chuile chúnamh le go gcuirfear téacsanna ar fáil do na scoileanna a mhúineann trí Ghaeilge. Is mór an náire nár deineadh é sin blianta ó shin. Ceann de na fáthanna ar éirigh me féin as an mhúinteoireacht i 1970 ná an chuma a bhí ar an curaclam nua. Níor cuireadh oiread is leabhar amháin as Gaeilge ar fáil do mhúinteoirí na Gaeltachta nuair a tháinig an curaclam nua chun tosaigh. Ní raibh réiteach dá laghad déanta lena aghaidh agus tá an chuma sin ar na scoileanna Gaeltachta go dtí an lá ata inniu ann. Tá siad ag caint anois faoin nGúm a dhílárú agus a chur síos go dtí an Tulach Mhór. D'iarrfainn ar an Aire, in ainm Dé, má tá aon athrú le déanamh, cuireadh sé siar é go dtí áit éigin go bhfuil foinse na Gaeilge ann. Cuir siar iad go dtí an áit a raibh muidne, ag iarraidh go dtiocfaidh sé sna seachtóidí — go dtí Clódóirí Lurgan mar shampla, áit a bhfuil teach foilseachán Gaeilge nach bhfuair tacaíocht ón Stát seo le córas oideachais a chur chun cinn sna Gaeltachtaí.

Tá scéim na dtéacsleabhar ina scannal. [562] Bíodh go bhfuil airgead agus cúnamh le fáil, tá leithscéal sa leabhar seo faoi nach bhfuil dóthain ann. Ní chóir go mbeadh aon leithscéal, beag nó mór i gceist na teanga. Más dona é an bunscoil agus más measa fós é an córas Gaeilge sa mheánscoil, is mór go deo an náire ar chóir a bheith orainn faoi chúrsaí oideachais sa tríú leibhéal trí Ghaeilge. Ritheadh reachtaíocht i 1928 go raibh dualgas ar Ollscoil na Gaillimhe go réiteofaí céimeanna le scrúduithe as Gaeilge. Ní dhearna siad a gcuid oibre an t-am sin. Tháinig na céadta macléinn Ghaeltachta chun tosaigh in Ollscoil na Gaillimhe — mo chuid féin istigh ann — agus ní bhfuaireadar cúnamh ar bith le go mbeadh a gcuid oideachais i nGaeilge. Sin ceann de na fáthanna a bhfuil siad ag cur ceiste orm: “Cén fáth a bhfuil teipthe orm?”

Tá rud amháin gur chóir dom a mholadh, áfach. Is é sin na hiarrachtaí a bheidh ar bun anois leis an teanga labhartha a chur chun cinn agus go mbeidh trí scór faoin gcéad de na marcanna ar fáil do labhairt na Gaeilge. Céim iontach chun tosaigh é sin. Dá mbeinnse im Aire agus deis agamsa, chuirfinn dhá onóir ar fáil ó thaobh an Gaeilge de, ceann amháin do labhairt na Gaeilge agus ceann eile do scríobh na Gaeilge. Dá ndéanfaí sin, bheadh athrú bunúsach ar chúrsaí oideachais sa Ghaeilge sna scoileanna.

Tá moladh ag dul don obair ó thaobh caint na Gaeilge agus do na hiarrachtaí atá á ndéanamh i measc na dtuismitheoirí agus daoine mar iad. Tá súil agam go ndéanfar na rudaí sin agus nach n-usáidfear an leithscéal a d'usáid Seanadóir ón dtaobh eile den Teach inniu a dúirt: “B'fhearr liom é seo a mhíniú díobh i mBearla ar fhaitíos go bhfuil an oiread sin daoine thart nach dtuigeann é”. Má táimid ag iarraidh bealach ar bith le deireadh ar fad a chur leis an nGaeilge, sin é agus is uafásach an rud é polasaí nó intinn mar sin a bheith ag aon duine. Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis an Aire. Tá rúdaí iontach maith istigh sa leabhar seo. Tá siad cumasach agus níor mhaith liom go gceapfaí go raibh mé ag caitheamh anuas ar a bhfuil istigh ann. Tá an-smaointe ann ach ó thaobh na Gaeilge iarraim ar an Aire [563] breathnú arís air. Tar éis ceithre scór bliain ag múineadh na Gaeilge cén fáth a bhfuil an córas oideachais chomh lochtach sin ann? Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an tAire aghaidh ar an gceist sin nuair a bheidh an tAcht seo á chur chun tosaigh.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  For the information of the House I propose to take questions from Senators. We will take one question from a Senator and any other Senator may ask a related question and the Minister will reply to the questions. I would ask Senators to be as concise as possible for the obvious reason of making the best use of the time allocated. This half hour of question time is a once-off initiative by the Minister who regards the subject matter as very important. In doing so he is not creating a precedent for himself or any other Minister. For the first round of questions we will agree on the format of the Order of Business.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  This will be very difficult but my questions will have “yes” or “no” answers.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  After her question, if any other Senator has a related question he or she may ask it.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  I heard the Minister in the Dáil last week, and subsequently read in The Irish Times the following day making a commitment to the setting up of local education councils, perhaps not by that name but an intermediary structure. Has the Minister made up his mind on the setting up on that intermediary layer? In relation to structures, will the Minister set up immediately a general council of teachers. It will not demand funds, it will be a professional body. I see no reason why it should not be established.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I have a related question. On the question that has just been asked about a regional or intermediate education authority, will the Minister outline his thinking on that? Would he accept that issues like teachers' salaries are [564] still determined nationally and paid nationally?

In terms of what he said about the power of boards of management, will he accept that the power of appointment of teachers would still remain at the level of the education institution, whether it be primary, post primary or third level, rather than with the intermediate structure? Finally, on the question of the teachers council, would he accept that if there is a certain slowness in certain areas or sectors of education to establish a teachers' council, if a certain sector for example, the primary or post primary sector was ready to run this idea, it could do it on is own?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I wonder, in the light of the arguments made this afternoon, if the Minister would consider revising his intention of abolishing the NCEA and replacing it with the CEVA. I will not go on at any length. He will find the arguments contained in what I said and what other people said and there was a broad degree of consensus that the brand name image of that, after 20 years service is something valuable that should not be lost.

Mr. McKenna: Information on Tony McKenna  Zoom on Tony McKenna  In relation to the intermediate structure, may I ask the Minister if he has firmed his mind in relation to that to look closely at the vocational education committee sector as a base for that type of a development?

Mr. Farrell:  As a graduate of a vocational school, I believe they should be given back to the county council as training centres. Training should again be the main part of vocational education. In reorganising the vocational education committees rather than putting them into bigger secondary school units, they should be used as technical training centres. Some of the money that is going to FÁS should be given to the vocational education committees and to the county councils.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  In regard to the teachers councils I just answered a Dáil Question [565] on that topic in the last hour or so. The position is that there is a legal hold-up and we sought the opinion of the Attorney General. It has to do with freedom of association and how we are to deal with that issue under the Constitution. I have just told the Dáil that it is proposed under the Green Paper to go ahead with the teachers council and I am committed to doing that, subject to how the debate concludes. I would like to get on with it as quickly as I can. I hope the committee that has been dealing with that can get back together and progress as quickly as possible. On Thursday, 15 October a meeting was held in the Attorney General's office to try to make progress on the teachers councils. I am still proposing to go ahead with the teachers council and I think the legal difficulties are beginning to clear themselves. There is general agreement on that.

On the intermediate structure, I deliberately did not put it in the Green Paper because I felt that the case had to be made to have such a structure. I have been listening very carefully to the debate for a number of weeks and will continue to do so before we take a final decision on it. It is being debated hotly throughout the country. There are two sides to the argument. Money is very scarce in education and before I could agree to a proposal to establish say, 26 new education structures throughout the country, I would want to be absolutely convinced that they were necessary; that there were certain services that could not be delivered without them and that certain voices would not be heard. Such structures are expensive. One question we should ask is whether if we did not have the health board structure we would propose it.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  No.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Before I embark on establishing regional or county education structures I need to be convined that in a couple of years' time somebody will not take the view that it is a pity all that money is not going into educating the [566] children in the schools. I need to be convinced that money does not get tied up in bureaucracy and administration but that it goes into the schools where it is desperately needed, particularly in primary schools. I would like the debate to continue before I make a recommendation to the Government. I am not dodging the issue. I have an open mind on it. I left the topic out of the Green Paper in order to get people to make the case. The case has been made today by a number of Senators and I have taken careful note of their points.

Let me apologise to Senators for having to leave for some time as I was dealing with Dáil Questions today. However, I received a full report of the points made. The jury is still out on the regional or county structures and it is worth continuing that debate. The point must be made that they are necessary for the children not that they are necessary to keep either politicians or teachers or anybody else satisfied and busy. The purpose of the structures is to make sure that the children get a service that would not otherwise be delivered to them. Once I am convinced of that I will be the first to propose such structures if necessary.

We will monitor the debate on the NCEA. The proposal is to not to have the National Council for Vocational Awards in its present format but to merge it with the NCEA and call it, for example, the Council for Educational Vocational Awards. We have not settled on a final title. I am becoming impressed with the argument that the NCEA has a long number of years of marketing its title and we should not interfere with it. I will listen to the points but I wanted to pay some homage to the vocational sector by including their work in the title. I will take account of what Senator Norris said today.

I have great respect for the vocational education committees. They were established back in the thirties and have done wonderful work but the world is changing and vocational education committees have to change with it. I said in the paper that I want to have more discussions with the vocational education committees [567] about their future. Their future may be tied up with a future regional structure. I acknowledge their work but I see a different role for them in the future. They too will find it exciting once we discuss it with them. I take the point Senator Farrell made about the overlap with FÁS and we will see if we can work that out.

Chuala mé tuairímí suimiúla ón Seanadóir Ó Foighil. Tá córas oideachais maith againn faoi láthair, cé nach mór é a athrú anois agus arís. Tá moladh sa pháipéar go mbeadh 60 faoi gcéad de mharcanna scrúdaithe ag dul do labhairt na Gaeilge ag an gcéad agus ag an dara leibhéal. Beidh mé ag smaoineamh ar na pontí a d'árdaigh an Seanadóir.

I hope I have dealt with the points raised so far.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  My question relates to an article in the Green Paper on the pupil-teacher ratio and its function, class size and what the Minister said about disadvantage and targeting resources. May I ask the Minister if the thrust of the Green Paper can be implemented in average class sizes of more than 30 and, related to that, what working figure does the Minister use for the disadvantaged? When he talks about disadvantaged, obviously it includes socio economic disadvantage, children with special needs and children with learning difficulties, travellers, etc. In terms of planning, what overall figure is he looking at, and even if we can agree on targeting, the average class size at primary level is 30; how does he intend dealing with reducing class size and targeting resources? What percentage is he working on?

Mr. Mullooly: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  May I ask the Minister what proposals he has to deal with the question of disadvantage outside of the major urban disadvantaged areas?

Mr. O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  Did the Minister accept my contention this morning that the best way to achieve equality of opportunity and create equity in the school system is to increase the number of remedial teachers? Would he see that as a priority [568] and accept that the present number of remedial teachers is inadequate? Will he give a clear indication that he wants to preserve small schools at all costs?

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Senator O'Toole will forgive me if I do not engage in Programme for Economic and Social Progress negotiations with him today. The Senator asked me about reducing class sizes over 30. We have to set priorities and we will have to get classes numbers below that figure. That will be done at a pace that we can fund. Over a number of years we will continue to get the PTR down. It has come down from 27:5 in 1988 and is heading for 25:1; I plan to keep up that progress because to get the PTR down at primary level is a major aim.

Senator Mullooly asked about rural disadvantage. I understand the problem. When it comes to appointing remedial teachers, in order to get to the greatest number of children very often priority is given to a large urban area. For example, over 70 per cent of all children at primary level are covered by remedial teachers, that is, if you count all the large urban areas, but it is more difficult where you have a large number of small schools because these teachers have to travel. I am aware of the added difficulty and the added cost of handling disadvantage in rural areas, but we have a programme and there are remedial teachers now dealing with large tracts of rural Ireland and we will have to continue to improve the programme as best we can, as resources permit.

Senator O'Reilly asked about remedial teachers. If one is serious about tackling the problem of helping slow learners and children with difficulties, a remedial teacher is necessary but this will not happen on its own. We all remember our days at school when there were no such teachers and children got left behind in the system. There are some still being left behind, but not to the same degree. At present we have approximately 1,000 remedial teachers at first level and we need to recruit more. That is the purpose of the Programme for Economic and[569]Social Progress negotiations I referred to. We will do the best we can and as quickly as we can.

Let us be very clear about small schools. This is an education argument that I have put into the Green Paper. There is no proposal for widespread closure of small schools, that would not be very sensible but we have been closing small schools every year. The figure over the past few years is 1,500 or so. This has been happening without any great fuss. By agreement schools have pooled resources and anyone who wants to address this issue should think more about the children than the power of the village, if I can put it that way. It is the children who count, not the purpose of the school to prop up villages.

Schools are for education. It is very important that the children have a choice of subjects. Put yourselves in the position of one teacher with eight different strands, one classroom with eight different classes, and I am talking about introducing continental languages, exposure to science, art being at the centre of primary schools. How could one teacher handle all that? It would be very difficult.

If we are genuinely worried about the children in the system we must address this question of small schools from the point of view of the children. Are they getting the choices other children are getting? If we insist on addressing it on a political basis then we will not get the right answer. I have given a commitment that we will continue this process by negotiation and agreement, but that process should continue at a normal pace, a pace that has been going on over many years. If we focus on the children we will not have any great difficulty. A two teacher school is better than a one teacher school——

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  That cannot be turned into an argument.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  ——in terms of the choice the pupil has. The example I gave is the continental language. If there is a second teacher involved, the class can be divided and one can concentrate on [570] languages, art, science or other extra curricular activities. From an educational point of view having that second teacher gives the children an option but if there are different views on that, I will listen to them very carefully. I would like to hear from educationists on that subject.

There is no proposal to have a mandatory shut down of small schools. It is an educational argument which we should debate, whether the children in the small schools have the same educational opportunities as children in larger schools, and the only way to deal with that is by agreement and consensus.

Dr. Upton: Information on Pat Upton  Zoom on Pat Upton  Will the Minister indicate where he sees the funding of education going in terms of the proportion of the gross national product which is given to education? Does he anticipate that there will be a redistribution within the total educational budget towards the primary sector? How does he respond to the comments of Dr. Teeling when he spoke in terms of a relatively poor relationship between enormous expenditure on science and technology education over the last few years and the number of new products which were developed in Irish industry?

Mr. Mullooly: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  In Chapter 5 — Making the Best use of Resources — there is a section headed “Conditions for Funding”. One paragraph reads:

In addition State-aided secondary schools will be required, as a condition of funding, to have an admissions policy that will not discriminate on the basis of means, educational level or social background.

Does this imply that entrance examinations will be discontinued in such schools? I would like to hear the Minister's comments on entrance examinations.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  How does the Minister propose to fund post-primary remedial education considering there are 152 remedial teachers at present in the post-primary [571] sector, one remedial teacher per 2,000 students?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  We have had a discussion on remedial teachers.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  The second question also relates to funding. Does the Minister propose to continue the per capita system of funding education? Does he believe his proposals in relation to the aims and objectives of the education system are unduly influenced by the European criteria for funding in the education sector?

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Since the publication of the White Paper, the OECD report on funding has come through and we have had some discussions on it. Accepting that there are certain connections between primary, post-primary and third level, would the Minister accept that the difference between £28 per pupil at primary level as opposed to £130 to £150 at post-primary, which is under-funding in itself, is a totally untenable situation and that primary level needs to get priority in terms of funding at this time?

Miss Keogh: Information on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  Zoom on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  I apologise for coming late. I was at a meeting. I wanted to know, in relation to in-service training for teachers, whether the Minister would consider that——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  I am sorry, that is not related to funding. You can ask that question later.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Would the Minister accept that the economic arguments relating to funding——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  A concise question, Senator Norris, please.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  ——as it affects the four year degree cycle in Trinity College, are inadequate and unsustainable? Would the Minister not accept as defective the argument that there is an economic funding basis for pressure to cut back the four-year degree to the three year degree?

[572]Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  The Green Paper discusses the question of resources. It is not a financial plan. It seeks to lay down the road map and the future of education. There are resource implications but education expenditure has been increasing. I do not want to be defensive about this because a Minister for Education or anybody interested in education never has enough funds to do all of what we want to do in education. If we had three times what we have we would not have enough. There are things we need to do in education, things I would love to do and things which all of you would love to do. However, we are all taxpayers and it is important that we understand what is happening.

The Education budget has increased by 33 per cent in four years. It is very substantial at a time when inflation was about 12 per cent for that period, so education spending is up 33 per cent, from £1.2 billion to £1.6 billion. Second, I accept the per head argument but a country has so much wealth and we spend 6 per cent of our wealth on our education system. The OECD average is 5 per cent. Teachers' pay is a very high proportion — 75 per cent — of our spending. For example, in Japan or the UK it is substantially lower. I do not mind that because I do not think you can make a better invesment than in your teachers but it does have a different profile. It is important to remember also that primary school spending has increased by 28 per cent in the last four years; that post-primary school spending has increased by 27 per cent and that third level education has increased by 46 per cent, working out overall at 33 per cent. So, spending is up by one third in that four-year period. I do not want to be defensive about this figure but I think it brings it home to us how much the country values education, and rightly so. I am not saying it is too much. The State takes in £3.4 billion in income tax. The spending on education now is equivalent to half of the income tax take of the entire State, which is very substantial. As far as I am concerned as Mininster for Education, we can never have enough, but let us be clear, it is a [573] very significant sum and we have to know and appreciate those figures before we can move on.

Senator Costello asked me about the European criteria. Yes, the EC is beginning to influence our education system. They do not fund first level but that is something in which I may perhaps get it involved, maybe starting on the language side. I am working on some thoughts there. The EC does not fund second level to any great extent, apart from some courses. It largely funds third level and even at that stage, it is in the scientific, technical area so, to an extent, its funding mechanisms directly impinge on what we invest in and how we invest. Up to now we have been glad to get funding under any heading but we have to start in the next round to negotiate with Europe so that it takes on board more of our educational policies than it has in the past.

Education, as you know, is part of the Maastricht Treaty. Before that it was not mentioned to any great extent in any Treaty of the European Community. It is becoming more centre stage. I know of Senator O'Toole's interest in the capitation fee. It is substantially higher at second level. A sum of £28 is not enough and it has been proven it is not enough because primary schools and parents have to dip into their own pockets to make up the additional cost of running the school. I accept it is not enough and I will make every effort to advance that, as and when — I know the Senator hates this phrase as much as I hate him talking about resources — resources permit.

I did not study Dr. Teeling's comments in any enormous detail but I would have some difficulty with his general thesis and I was a little suprised, coming from his own background, that he had that viewpoint, but I will have another look at his comment.

With regard to TCD, there is no proposal that I am aware of at present to shorten that particular course but I will look into. It is quite a specific item. Suffice it to say that the public funding for Trinity College is quite substantial.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  May I suggest that [574] the Minister's comment on spending on teachers is a very safe comment to make in this House?

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  While the Minister was absent today, I was the seventh speaker and the first non-teacher. There were five teachers and one professor before me, so I really felt I was with the elite.

I asked questions today on the Green Paper; I do not seem to be getting any answers, but I will ask this question again. Page 158 of the Green Paper reads: “In view of the needs and circumstances the operational structures of the VECs will be reviewed comprehensively in consultation with all concerned. As part of that review it is proposed to examine and streamline the current network of 38 VECs”. What does the Minister mean by that statement?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  That was covered in some ways but I am sure the Minister will reply to it again. Is there any related quick question on that issue?

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  What is the Minister contemplating in relation to intermediate structures?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  We have discussed that already.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  This is not related but you must allow me to speak on this. On the European dimension, I would like the Minister to give a commitment this evening to look favourably on a particular group of students — this is to do with the European Social Fund — who are diploma holders from RTCs, who wish to pursue just one-year degree courses, who are living away from home and cannot be financed by their parents. They qualify as post-23 year olds——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The Senator is making a speech.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  I am not, I am only just specifying the question.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Yes, you are.

[575]Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman  Zoom on Mary Jackman  I would ask the Minister to look favourably on that grey area so that words like equity and access could be implemented in relation to that small group of students who will be far more employable if they get the opportunity of a one-year degree course.

Miss Keogh: Information on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  Zoom on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  I was wondering how the Minister feels about having a scheme for early retirement for teachers. Maybe he could elaborate on that?

Mr. McKenna: Information on Tony McKenna  Zoom on Tony McKenna  In relation to adult education, I welcome the reference in the Green Paper to adult education and, indeed, the Minister's comments this morning about life-long learning and the need for a revolutionary attitude towards that. Does the Minister envisage that adult education will be put on a formal footing in its own right as distinct from being somewhat on the fringe in terms of the provision of resources?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I have a clearly related question. It is related more to what Senator Keogh said. Could the Minister give some thought to the possibility of early retirement at third level? In the Army people can retire at 40 after 20 years' service; in the Garda they can retire at 50 and teachers at 50. I have taught since I was 22 and I am expected to continue until I am 65. There is such a factor as “burn out”.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  I will look at that specific group of students for Senator Jackman. My officials have taken a note of it and we will have a special look at it. With regard to the VECs, let me make it clear; there is no hidden agenda. I have no hidden agenda to dump the VECs but, given that the VEC system is 60 years old I have an agenda to review their [576] operation, to see if they fit into the modern world, the way education is changing and to link that question into whether we need supplementary forms of regional or county structures. Let me assure Senator Honan that there is no hidden agenda. I have nothing but respect for the VECs but the world is changing and I am going to talk to them about how we might rationalise their operations.

There are no major proposals in the Department of Education to embark on a widespread scheme of early retirements but we are looking at it in the context of conciliation and arbitration, it is being looked at overall. There is a major cash implication to any decision like that. One thing the Green Paper does is to lay out priorities. That is an important issue; but it is not as high on the list of priorities as a number of the other issues that are in this Green Paper.

The VECs have done a wonderful job in the area of adult education, and will continue to do so, whatever comes out of our discussion on the intermediate structure.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  The Minister has given us more than 30 minutes for questions, although would have liked more time. It is an important matter to him and hence the innovation of the 30 minutes Question Time. We thank him for being with us for most of the day and look forward to a further discussion on the subject.

May I ask the Leader when it is proposed to sit again?

Mr. Wright: Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  It is proposed to sit next Wednesday at 1 p.m.

The Seanad adjourned at 5.5 p.m. until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 28 October 1992.

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