§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY,
in rising to move an Amendment dealing with the question of Irish elementary education, said, that it ran in the following terms:—That, having regard to the educational progress now taking place in England and Scotland, it is expedient to adopt measures consistent with economy and the rights of conscience to promote the general diffusion of elementary education among the Irish people.The progress to which his Notice referred as having taken place in England and Scotland consisted in this—that Parliament had declared that it was the duty of parents to educate their children, and that they had established the system enabling them to discharge it. Of course, it was only when the State had created adequate machinery for instruction, that it was entitled to declare the educa- 18 tion of children a legal duty. They had laid the foundation of their structure, and when the present generation of children attained manhood, it was reasonable to expect that they would all be adequately educated. But even before that result would be arrived at, a gradual improvement would have taken place, an increasing enlightenment would be visible among the people, and with it an increased capacity for appreciating and following in social and political matters all that was wise and good. Whilst, then, these great changes were taking place in Great Britain, it behoved those who represented the Irish people to take care that that country did not lag behind its neighbours, and that its posterity should not wake up 50 years hence to find themselves inferior in intelligence and in mental capacity to the generations of Englishmen and Scotch-men who would have grown up by their side. However honest might be the efforts of Irish Members in behalf of their country, if a future generation of Irishmen awoke to such a discovery, they would reproach them with having neglected the most important duty of all, and if they did not utter such reproaches he thought they would be unworthy of their national traditions, and unworthy of any great future as a nation. He would, however, ask if there were any ground for anxiety on this subject? If they were to take the statistics of the present day Ireland, perhaps, did not contrast very unfavourably with Great Britain; but what they must consider was not the present condition of England and Scotland, but what their position would be when the system of universal education would have had full effect; and they must consider further whether the progress Ireland was making, and the system on which she depended, would place her on a par with Great Britain. He found by the Census of 1871, that out of a population of 5,400,000, about 1,600,000 persons in Ireland over 5 years of age could neither read nor write; and that something over 800,000 could only read, and even of those the greater part could derive little information from their reading. This was, of course, a fallacious test as to their future, because of the illiterate, many were old persons born at a time when education was an impossibility, and they would give place to young 19 persons taught in the existing schools. When, however, he looked at the population between the ages of 15 and 20, he found that 21 per cent could neither read nor write, and that 19 per cent could read only, so that the knowledge of the latter class was necessarily exceedingly limited, the accomplishment of reading without being able to write conferring but a small educational advantage; in fact, for all practical purposes he would be disposed to place them on the same footing as the totally illiterate. He would now see what progress they had made in Ireland of late years, so that they might ascertain whether or not that progress would place them on a level with Great Britain. Necessarily dealing again with figures, he found that, in 1851, 47 per cent of the Irish population were totally illiterate—that was, could neither read nor write. In 1861, 39 per cent of the people were in the same position; and 10 years later the figures were reduced to 33 per cent. It would, therefore, be observed that, whilst in the first decade they reduced the number of illiterates by 8 per cent, in the second the reduction was only 6 per cent. This was the more remarkable because between 1861 and 1871 many of the older generation who had no educational advantages must have passed away. It was probable that progress would continue at a constantly decreasing rate, inasmuch as the lower they got in the strata of society, the greater difficulty they found in inducing people to appreciate the benefits of education. No doubt, that every day more zeal was manifested in the cause by the better classes; but even supposing that they were to maintain their rate of progress at 6 per cent for every 10 years, it was hardly necessary to point out that the day of universal education among the lower classes of the Irish people was very remote. This, he contended, was quite a sufficient justification for his calling attention to the question before the House. He would now examine the machinery which was at work in Ireland, and endeavour to discover if its features accounted for the state of things he had described. There they had two systems at work, spread over the entire country, and, so far as accommodation went, adequate to its wants. They had the National Schools, under the control of Government; the Volun- 20 tary Schools, which were generally under the guidance of associations of Christian Brothers and nuns, schools for Roman Catholics, and Church Society Schools, and similar institutions for Protestants. Now, in 1871 the total number of children of school age, between 5 and 16, was 1,500,000. The National Board at that time had on its rolls upwards of 1,000,000 children; the Christian Brothers had 40,000; the Convents about 25,000; and the Protestant Schools about 25,000 more. But the average attendance at the National Schools was only 389,000 children. The Census Returns of 1871 stated that at that time out of the 1,500,000 children of school age, as many as 792,000 were not attending school at all; 16 per cent of the pupils attended only 20 days of the year; 23 per cent attended over 20 days and under 60; and he thought about 10 per cent attended over 60 and under 80 days. The attendance at the schools of the National Board over 80 days was 49 per cent of the pupils; that at the Church Education schools 57 per cent; and that at the Roman Catholic elementary schools 64 per cent. It would thus be perceived that although they had a very large proportion of Irish children on the rolls of the schools, the attendance was very inadequate, and the work of education could not be efficiently carried on until it was brought to a much higher standard. The National Board at present considered an attendance of 90 days in the year necessary, and was about to raise the standard to 100. It was quite apparent, he repeated, that the present machinery was quite insufficient to produce universal education, and that if they were to keep that object in view it must be supplemented by some stimulus that did not now exist. The question was, what that stimulus should be; and though he should be glad to think it would be unnecessary to have recourse to compulsion, yet he urged that they should not approach the problem in a spirit of theory, but that they should be guided by the experience of other nations. They must consider what others had done, and how far it was necessary and possible to adapt their practice to their own case. If, then, they were to judge by the experience of surrounding nations, all that went to show that nothing but compulsion could produce universal elementary education. 21 There might, perhaps, be something in the condition of Ireland by which the effect might be obtained by other causes, or which would render compulsion a failure amongst them; but if that were not so, compulsory education was the only solution. Quite admitting that compulsion was an evil, he would point out that ignorance was a greater evil still and he contended that, if compulsion were necessary to extirpate ignorance it ceased to be an evil and became benefit to the community. They had seen compulsion adopted in Germany and the events of the last few years told them with what effect. It was about to be adopted by France—a fact well worth, of remark, because, of all the countries of Europe, France was the one in which the voluntary system was carried out witch the most perfect discipline, and in which there was the greatest anxiety on the part of the Government to educate the people without compulsion. He was informed that the latter system had been adopted for a very long time in the Basque Provinces, amongst people having considerable analogies with the Irish people, with excellent results; and finally it had been adopted in Great Britain—a country were voluntary effort in every department of life was the most relied upon, and where the great principle had been to leave things to their natural developement. Here, then, they had four nations, distinct in race, in religion, and in forms of civilization uniting to adopt the compulsory system As regarded Ireland, experience taught them that neither the excellence of the system, nor the zeal of those who managed it, nor the activity of Government, could produce adequate progress The question was, what new element they were to introduce, and whether, if no new voluntary element could be discovered, and they were not to remain behind their neighbours in enlightenment and civilization, they must adopt compulsion, provided that it could be applied without violating the religious liberty of the people. In England the Government had applied the Education Act under two systems—the first laid down in the Act of 1876. The elementary Education Act of 1870 provided for the creation of school boards wherever its principles were adopted. It imposed upon local authorities the duty of levying rates for building schools, their 22 management, and the regulation of compulsion. In 1876 the duty of education was imposed in a less direct manner, and enforced in two different ways—first by forbidding the employment of children whose education had not been attended to, and secondly by punishing the parents who neglected them. The school-board system, however, being unpopular, would be utterly unnecessary and unsuitable to Ireland. All the duties of a school board, except the duty of compulsion, were already discharged in Ireland by other bodies. There was no necessity for levying money for building schools, because the schools already existed. The management of their National Schools was under the superintendence of the Board of Patrons, and that of their voluntary schools under the associations which had not established themselves. Under these circumstances school boards were unnecessary, for they would only have the effect of upsetting the present arrangements, and of breaking the continuity it was so desirable to maintain in educational administration. Besides that, school boards were not very popular in many parts of England, and their unpopularity had been reflected and perhaps exaggerated in Ireland, where he thought they would so endanger the success of any educational scheme that they might dismiss the idea of adopting them. The first thing was to create a public opinion in Ireland in favour of universal education, and great care should be taken not to excite public feeling against an unpopular Act. The Act of 1876 pursued different lines. It was felt that the Act of 1870 failed of acceptance in many places, and was ill-calculated, particularly in the rural districts, to produce universal education. It was found necessary to introduce compulsion of an indirect character, less likely to press with sudden violence on the habits and inclinations of the people, and to avoid expense. Further, it was found desirable to leave education more to local feeling than to the hard-and-fast rule of the school boards; and if compulsion was to be employed in Ireland it seemed to him that they must follow those lines, and render it as indirect as possible. It could be rendered indirect by bringing its action to bear, not only on the parent, but on the employer, by prohibiting the latter from tempting the 23 parent to evade his duty. But even in applying this mild system, they must endeavour to suit the condition of Ireland, and to render it milder still. England was prepared for the measure of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, by the previous existence of the school boards, and the new system was rather a relief than an addition to the old one; but Ireland had not yet tasted compulsion, and therefore they must be slower in applying it, and its penalties must be mitigated. In cases where they had granted exemptions in England they must make them broader for Ireland, where they must ask themselves what exemptions were necessary which the circumstances of England did demand. The law of 1876 prohibited the employment of children under 10 years of age, and of those over that age, unless their education was attended to; but it exempted from the operation of the Acts such employments as did not interfere with education, and also such employments as might be determined upon in the manner prescribed by the Acts. The Act, then, gave the local authority power to exempt from its prohibition certain agricultural employments for six weeks in the year. In Ireland they must entrust the duty of determining what employments should have this privilege to some local body — to the Board of Guardians, or some other authority; but it must be remembered that this would not give the Board of Guardians any power to interfere with the management of schools. The exemptions would, of course, vary in different places. In some districts the assistance of children was required to a very large extent for haymaking; and in counties like Donegal they were constantly employed in herding sheep. The requirements of such districts would demand particular consideration, and ample provision must be made that the wants of agriculture were not suddenly interfered with, because in Ireland machinery was not used to the same extent as in England, and emigration had diminished the number of hands available for agricultural purposes. The other mode of compulsion was that employed on the parent who, habitually and without reasonable excuse, neglected the education of his child, or whose child was found habitually wandering and not under proper control. The local authority thereupon 24 warned the parent to comply with his duty, and if he neglected to do so within a certain time, a complaint was made to the magistrates, and the Court ordered him to send his child to school. If, however, he could prove that there was no school within two miles of his residence, or that sickness or any other unavoidable cause interfered, he was held to have a reasonable excuse. It was here that it became necessary to consider the special condition of Ireland, and what other excuses should be held to be legitimate in that country. He would submit that as compulsion was new to the people of Ireland grave domestic inconvenience should be regarded as an excuse, and also that in cases where the parents were unable to pay the fees, poverty should relieve them from the operation of the law. He had no great fear that many such cases would occur; he had heard that a clergyman once remarked that one hen would lay in a week as many eggs as would provide fees for the education of six children for the week. There would, no doubt, be other cases of exemption, but there was one that the House would have to consider with great care, if ever compulsory education came to be dealt with, and that was the exemption founded on the religious aspect of the question. What, he asked, was now the religious aspect of primary education in Ireland? The first feature was this—it must be remembered that the Irish people, whether Protestants or Catholics, were very much attached to their respective religions and strongly of opinion that religion should be closely united with education. The second feature was, that any attempt to compel the people to attend schools of which their consciences disapproved would not only be unjust, but would prove a failure, and provoke deep exasperation and resentment. Such a law, indeed, would be resisted as a violation of conscience, and it could not be enforced, for men would rather suffer than obey it. They would find sympathy from their fellow-citizens, who would regard them as martyrs; the law would be set at defiance and brought into odium; and—what he held to be more unfortunate—the cause of education would be seriously compromised. How did the Roman Catholics and their spiritual advisers regard the system of primary education which now prevailed in Ireland? First, as a matter of practice, 25 they availed themselves of it in most of the rural districts, protesting at the same time that they objected to the principle upon which it was based. He could not express the views they held on this subject more candidly than by quoting to the House some observations which had lately fallen from the Prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. The Archbishop of Cashel, speaking lately, said that it was the right of the Catholic people of Ireland to educate their children, under the sanction of their Church, in the religion which they held to be the best, not to say the true one, and not to incur by doing so any social, pecuniary, or other penalty whatsoever. Having cited the decision of the Synod of 1850, that the changes introduced into the National system were incompatible with the discipline of the Church and with the safety of the religious principles of Roman Catholics, his Grace went on to say—But cannot this very undesirable state of things be remedied, or, in other words, is it not possible so to modify what is known as the National system of education amongst us as to render it really acceptable to, instead of being, as it is, merely tolerated by, the Catholic people and clergy of Ireland? I believe it is. We are not inexorable; I hope we are not unreasonable or ungrateful. We acknowledge that the National system has been hitherto, on the whole, productive of much good, especially in Munster, where it is unmixed. We hold, however, that of its nature, its tendency is to be mischievous; and that, if it has not been so, it is because its working has been well watched. The elements of evil abide in it, and, as long as they do, it cannot enjoy the full and implicit confidence of the people and priesthood of the Irish Church. It is not national, because it gives no place in its vaunted publications to anything creditable to the religion or ancient fame of the people. We want to have this spirit of exclusiveness banished from our schools, three-fifths of which are attended, I may say, by Catholics alone. Let this much, at least, be granted us, and if there must be mixed schools in the North, or elsewhere, let the terms of Lord Stanley's letter be there rigidly enforced. Nor is it out of any spirit of sacerdotal querulousness or with a view to embarrass the Government of the day that we ask you and respectfully insist on the concessions which I have thus briefly indicated.The Bishop of Down and Connor, in a late Pastoral, said that—it was a misrepresentation of the acts and feelings of the Bishops to say that they had accepted the system of mixed education. Their conduct proved a moderate and confiding disposition in them. Whilst they were most willing to live in charity they could not be induced to barter faith. The Rev. Mr. Kennedy, Protestant clergyman, had said he would adhere to 26 it, because the principles of the Board were the principles of the Reformation.The Bishop thought that if it had thus become so un-Catholic, it would be a libel to insinuate that any Bishops of the Catholic Church could approve of it, or accept of it as safe; and, in fact, the primary schools were only accepted because they were denominational, because reference showed that there was no common platform which in this matter of education could satisfy and secure the rights of all. Now, they must remember that the Prelates who candidly set forth these principles—and in doing so they had the cordial support of the Catholics of Ireland—did not in practice offer any unreasonable obstacles to the National system when it was fairly managed, and when the principles to which they objected were prevented from doing harm. That was shown by the fact that even in Ulster very nearly one-half of the children on the rolls of the National Schools were Roman Catholics. They must judge the particular action of the Irish clergy under the compulsory system by a reference to their present generous and practical mode of action. They regarded the system as founded upon a wrong principle; they protested against it; but still they they used it when it was possible to do so without allowing those evil principles to do harm. The House could not expect the flocks of the priests to accept a law which would compel them without any exemption to frequent schools founded on what they believed to be wrong principles. The English rural National Schools were now managed in many cases in a way that met with the approval of the people; but a demonstration might come to-morrow which would bring into action principles that might render those schools most objectionable. At the same time, as long as they did not allow those principles to come into operation, they might expect the Roman Catholics of Ireland to pursue their present course. What security, he would now ask, had they a right to demand, if they accepted compulsory education. He replied that they had a right to ask that the Catholics should claim exemption from the obligation of sending their children to school if it would violate their conscience to send the child to a school in their immediate neighbourhood. The Catholic 27 parents were guided by the advice and authority of their clergy in this matter, and therefore if compulsory education was not to become mere coercion, and necessarily a failure, they must grant an exemption to the enforcement of the Act in cases where parent and pastor certified that there was no school in the neighbourhood where the child could be conscientiously sent. The priest must join in the certificate, or otherwise a parent might make religion the pretext for unworthy reasons for not sending his child to school. He had no doubt that such cases would be exceptional, and that the only effect of such an exemption would be to make all parties more conciliatory, and to prevent the creation of controversies. It was not merely for Catholics that this exemption was necessary, but it was required also for Protestants living in the South of Ireland in the neighbourhood of schools under Catholic management and altogether frequented by Catholics. He had now treated the great difficulty of the question—the impossibility of forcing parents to send their children to schools of which their consciences disapproved. He had further suggested the means by which this difficulty might be met, namely—a certificate from the pastor and parent that there was no school in the neighbourhood to which the child could be sent with safety to its religious principles. Once thrown down before a bench of magistrates, this certificate should be an absolute bar to further proceedings. There might be other solutions of the question, but he would impress upon the House that unless it was recognized that parents were not to be obliged to send their children to schools of which they disapproved, any attempt at compulsion would be a failure. There was little fear that this exemption would be abused. It was merely a security against the violation of conscience. It might be urged that it would increase the power of the priests, but the fact was that the priests had the very same power at this moment. Under the voluntary system they could prevent parents from sending their children to particular schools, and they could do no more under the compulsory system. At this moment Catholic parents might disobey the priests, but the instances in which they did so were rare, and he dared say that under the system of com- 28 pulsion the instances of disobedience would be equally rare. It might also be said that to grant this exemption would be a grave concession of principle, but he would ask if the Roman Catholic clergy rigidly insisted on their principles in the matter? They made no concession involving danger to their flocks, but still they acted in a spirit of conciliation and practical concession wherever it was possible, and if they were not met in the same spirit of conciliation he feared that the interests involved in the question would fall to the ground, and that they would make very little progress in the matter. He would only say that although those who sat on that side of the House differed from Irish Members on the Conservative side on many points, he had yet no doubt that his hon. Friends would approach the sub-j ect in a spirit of conciliation, that they would respect the feelings of their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and that the religious difficulty would disappear before their anxiety for the welfare of the country. The English Act provided that before any proceedings were instituted a warning was to be given to the parent, and he would suggest that in the case of Ireland that warning should be repeated. The Act also gave the Court power to inflict a penalty of 5s. on any parent who neglected to comply with its provisions. If, however, a penalty was to be inflicted in Ireland, it would be necessary to make it smaller still, because the country was much poorer than England. Further, the Act declared that a prosecution was not to be repeated more than once a fortnight, but a longer interval would be required in Ireland. In Eng' land, if the parent persisted in his neglect, his child was sent to an industrial school; but in Ireland it would be impossible to carry out such a provision without immense cost, and he thought that it would be unnecessary. The statutes also set up in England a power for the purposes of administration which it called the local authority. This in some places was to consist of the Guardians of the Poor, and in others of committees chosen from the corporations. He would not suggest that any such power should be constituted in Ireland. Possibly it might be necessary to do so at some future time; but, in any case, the tribunal would have nothing to do with 29 education beyond seeing that the children went to school. At present he would leave compulsion to the public opinion of each district. There were many Acts which Parliament now left to be enforced by individuals or associations, and it was thus that he would treat a compulsory Act in the first instance. It might be said that this was giving great power to irresponsible hands; but if they created numerous and broad exemptions, that power could not be used harshly. It was very improbable that people would incur odium by enforcing laws against the popular feeling of their districts. No doubt, in towns where large numbers of children roamed at large about the streets, men would take counsel and join together for the purpose of enforcing the law; but nobody would regret such a proceeding. The object in view was to impress upon the people that the necessity of education was recognised by the law, and thereby to create public opinion in its favour. Beyond this he thought it would be impossible to go at first. He would now say a few words as to the efficacy of instruction. The Government had provided means for testing the value of their school work in England, and it was necessary in that country, for many of the schools were merely private adventures, and it was well known that the instruction they afforded was inadequate. The case, however, was different in Ireland, and he believed that they would practically do enough if they compelled the children to make a proper number of attendances at school. There were very few private schools in Ireland, where the great majority of their schools—he might say all in the rural districts—were under the National Board, and therefore under proper inspection at that moment. With regard to the other schools—those conducted by Roman Catholic and Protestant institutions—he believed that all those who knew them would consider the application of a test equally unnecessary. In proof of that he could refer to the testimony borne to them by the Commissioners of Primary Education in Ireland, who reported in 1870. The less they incumbered compulsion with complications, the greater the chance of its success. There remained many other questions connected with the subject which he had not touched upon, because they had no 30 bearing upon the question of compulsion. There was the question of the payment of the National teachers, whose remuneration at present was not only inadequate, but precarious—and unless it was dealt with generously before the close of this Session, he feared that the cause of education in Ireland would suffer severely; then there was the question of training schools; the question of the position of the model schools, to which there was now so strong an objection on the part of the great bulk of the population; the complaint that the National Board enjoyed the monopoly of providing school-books; the complaint, as had been pointed out by the Archbishop of Cashel, of restraints put upon harmless religious practices in schools where all the children were of one religion; and other matters which, although important in their character, did not directly bear upon the subject before the House. These were questions which would have to be discussed and settled, but if they were to wait for their settlement before bringing education home to the Irish people, the days of general enlightenment in Ireland were, indeed, very remote. He would only say this — that compulsory education would give all classes a greater interest in the subject, and produce in all those who were brought into contact with its administration the spirit of conciliation, which would remove in practice many obstacles which now existed in theory. In certain respects the difficulty of introducing compulsion was not as great in England as in Ireland. The Royal Commission of 1870 reported that Ireland had sufficient school accommodation for the wants of the country. Again, as he had previously observed, a large proportion of the youth of the country was on the rolls of the schools, and to a great extent compulsion would only be necessary to insure sufficient attendance. That in many rural districts was absolutely true, but it was not so accurate as to the towns, because there many children absented themselves completely from school. The most important question was how far the public mind was prepared for so great a change as compulsory education. The Royal Commission reported that it was not popular, and they declined to recommend it for rural districts, although they spoke with less hostile language with reference to 31 its application to the towns; but even when they made their Report, they found opinions favourable to compulsion in many districts, and one witness remarked that he did not find the Roman Catholic clergy of Dublin at all so hostile as he had expected. Things, however, had altered since then. England and Scotland had adopted compulsion; the signs of progress were already apparent; and the sense of the necessity of action was growing in Ireland. For his own part, he had conferred with persons of every creed in many districts, and he had found opinion preponderate in favour of compulsion. He had spoken to Catholic clergymen in several towns, and he had found that they were willing that it should be tried, provided that it was accompanied with security for the religious liberty of the people. But what was the opinion of those who were most interested—the people themselves? If there were nothing but compulsion to produce universal education, and if compulsion were applied with due regard to their sentiments and their condition, he believed that it would be willingly accepted. He could conceive the absurdity of a cry of coercion being raised, but from various indications he believed that the people of Ireland were beginning to think for themselves to a greater extent than some of their countrymen supposed, and that they would not be deceived by that cuckoo cry. He believed that all Irishmen looked with hope and anxiety to the progress of their country. Some looked to that progress being achieved under their present Union with England, whilst others expected it under the sway of a domestic Legislature sitting in Dublin. Some, perhaps, had higher aspirations; but the higher the aspirations any man entertained, the greater the sacrifice he must be prepared to make to achieve what was an absolute condition of national progress—the diffusion of enlightenment among the people. What had the people of Ireland seen within the last few years? They had seen the people of England, with their traditional love of liberty, with their dislike of interference with personal freedom, and the people of Scotland, with their sturdy independence, submit themselves for the good of the community to the compulsory system. They now beheld another example in a country with which they had ancient traditions 32 of sympathy, and to which they had always looked with admiration and affection. The last war had taught France many salutary lessons, and none more salutary than the value of education. The Irish people saw that whilst that country was ruled by the Bourbons, and the Bonapartes, and the Orleans Princes, her people were left by paternal Governments to plod along miserably enough under a voluntary system; but now that the French people, for the first time in history, enjoyed in calmness the reality of liberty, they began to feel its responsibilities, and they, too, for the good of France, were about to submit themselves to compulsory education. With examples like this before them of free countries, he had no doubt as to the ultimate verdict of the people of Ireland. The proceedings to be taken on his Amendment that evening were in the hands of the House; but he would say, with great respect, that he felt no desire, and that he would regard it as a misfortune, to take a division at that stage of the question. It was hardly ripe for detailed discussion, and he hoped that if it were discussed, the grave difficulties such a subject presented would meet with considerate treatment and forbearance. If they treated them with the warmth which educational topics so often awakened in that House he feared that they must bid a long farewell to the progress of elementary education in Ireland. The only object to be gained by the Amendment was to call public attention to an important subject. It was only by a discussion there that that object could be gained, and it was for that reason that he had ventured to bring it forward under a strong sense of duty. He begged to thank the House for the patience with which they had listened to him, and would conclude by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard to the educational prgress now taking place in England and Scotland, it is expedient to adopt measures consistent with economy and the rights of conscience to promote the general diffusion of elementary education among the Irish people,"—(Mr. O'Shaughnessy,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question,"33
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he was sure he expressed only the general feeling of the House when he congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) on the admirable manner in which he had placed that subject before them. His hon. Friend, however, would forgive him for saying that he regarded the Resolution which had just been submitted to the House as of a very vague and indefinite character; and without the explanation which had been given by his hon. Friend, it would, he considered, have been extremely difficult to understand exactly what the House might have been bound to in the event of its accepting it. But he thought it was pretty clear from the speech which had been made, that what his hon. Friend wished the House to approve of, was the establishment of some national system of compulsory education in Ireland. While, however, the general tendency of his hon. Friend's speech was in that direction, it was to be remarked that in the earlier portion of his observations he expressed the hope that compulsion, to which he said he had a strong objection, would not be necessary; but, notwithstanding that statement, he had gone on to contend that recourse should be had to compulsion as soon as possible. There could be no doubt that this was a very important subject. Were the people of Ireland prepared to adopt such a system as his hon. Friend had indicated? Was such a system necessary? He agreed with his hon. Friend that if it were necessary, in order to secure for the population of Ireland the full advantages of education, the people of that country would not be found to be behind the English and the Scotch in the verdict which they would pronounce; but he confessed that, for himself, he entertained an old-fashioned prejudice against compulsion unless it were proved to be essential. The people were quite alive to the importance of education, but he did not think a mere declaratory Act setting forth that it was the legal duty of every parent to educate his child would be of any use. It was very easy to speak of a cuckoo cry against the word "compulsion"; but he held that in Ireland there had been a great deal too much compulsion on various matters, and he certainly did not believe that the enactment of a law compelling education in that country 34 would have a tendency to render education more popular. He believed the effect would be quite otherwise. According to the last Return of the Census Commissioners, there were between the ages of 5 and 16 only 1,200,000, children in Ireland. That was the number they had to deal with, and not 1,500,000 as stated by his hon. Friend. Now, his hon. Friend had shown that on the rolls of the National Board Schools there were about 1,000,000, and in the other schools in Ireland, in a rough way, very nearly the other 200,000 would be accounted for. Fully admitting that the fact of a child's name being on the roll was no proof that he received education, what they had to ask was, how many children were there in Ireland giving such a number of attendances as would justify them in supposing that they were receiving a real education? Considerable progress had been made within the last few years. According to the latest Return from the National Education Commissioners, nearly 400,000 had given a sufficient number of attendances at the National Schools to entitle the teachers to payment for results. For that purpose 90 attendances, to be raised in future to 110, were required. He admitted that up to the year 1871 the progress of education had been slow, and his hon Friend stopped his statistics at that date but in 1872 important changes were effected by making the payment of the teachers depend upon results and on the regular attendance of the children, and the consequence was that between 1872 and 1873 the number of children who had put in a sufficient number of attendances had increased by 50,000. In the year after that there was a falling off in the progressive increase of attendances, which was attributable to the epidemics which prevailed throughout the country; but he believed that when the Returns for the year just ended were published, it would be found that the increase continued rapidly to progress. Looking to all the circumstances of the case, he thought he was entitled to say that the proposal which had been made by his hon. Friend was at least premature. It was a proposal which the necessities of Ireland at the present moment did not justify. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) introduced his Bill for establishing compulsion in England, the 35 number of children throughout that country who were not at school, but who were of school-going age, was very large; but in Ireland, the proportion of children who were not receiving education was nothing at all in comparison with what existed in England when the compulsory scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was first proposed. His hon. Friend (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had said that he would not advocate direct compulsion; that he would prefer the indirect system of attaining what he desired; and that he would fine the man who employed children without having received from those children a statement showing that there had been on their part a certain number of attendances at school. But was his hon. Friend not aware that at the present moment that was the law in Ireland with regard to almost all employments except agriculture; and the number of children who were there hired out for agricultural pursuits was very small. Then his hon. Friend spoke of the National system as one which was objectionable to the Church to which the majority of the people belonged; but if that were so, he was afraid that the objections would only be rendered stronger if a system of compulsion were adopted, and that the result of this would be to render a system of indirect compulsion practically inoperative. While, therefore, wishing to support his hon. Friend in any appropriate means to improve the education of the Irish people, he could not go along with him in supporting the application of a system of compulsion, direct or indirect. His view of the whole matter was that, instead of adopting the system which his hon. Friend had advocated, they ought, as far as they possibly could, to extend and encourage the system of making the payment of teachers dependent upon the attendances of children at school. He believed that by carrying out that system, or something of a kindred character, and by obliging parents to contribute towards the cost of the education of their offspring, a regularity of attendance would be secured which would entirely dispense with any necessity for compulsion; and that when the present generation of children grew up to manhood the Irish people would not be found one whit more backward in education than the people of England and Scotland.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, the general character of the Resolution enabled him to support it, but he could not quite agree with many of the observations of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) in introducing it. He believed that in the country parts of Ireland there was not the same difficulty in securing the attendance of children at school that was experienced in some of the large towns. He admitted the necessity for calling attention to the matter, but thought they could not adopt compulsion without a good deal of further consideration. Still, he admitted that if they were not to begin to look the difficulties in the face they would never arrive at any conclusion on the matter. The excuses and grounds of exemption which had been suggested covered a wide area, and would go a long way towards destroying the compulsion it was proposed to secure. Poverty ought not to be a ground of exemption, because provision ought to be made for the payment of fees for children whose parents were too poor to pay them. If the certificates of clergymen were to give validity to excuses, it was to be feared they would sanction too many cases of nonattendance. He believed the question of primary education in Ireland would soon have to be seriously considered, as large masses of the population, principally in the towns, were still to a great extent uneducated. He wished to support his hon. Friend in endeavouring to have the question thoroughly considered; but he agreed with the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) that to adopt compulsion before they saw their way out of the difficulties in which it was involved would be dangerous. His hon. Friend had done well to bring the subject before the House; but he trusted he would be content with having elicited the views of those who took an interest in the subject, and that he would withdraw his Resolution.
§ MR. BUTT
said, every Irishman was indebted to his hon. Colleague for the temperate manner in which he had brought the subject before the House, and he should be disposed to say of him, that which was sometimes considered as a compliment—that he was a little in advance of the age. The great defect in Ireland at the present time was that voluntary effort in regard to education had never been encouraged 37 as it ought to be; in fact, it could not be encouraged to any material extent unless they enlisted religious zeal on behalf of education. But this was shut out under the present system. Until religious zeal had been enlisted in the cause of education it could not be said that the voluntary system had failed, and until then the time had not come for the adoption of a system of compulsion, even although it might have to be ultimately adopted. Indeed, to interest the people in the work of education was to make the best possible preparation for any system of compulsory education they might afterwards adopt. Up to the present time everything had been done to exclude the influence of religious zeal both from Catholic and Protestant schools, and especially to discourage the Christian Brothers' and convent schools, to which the people were especially attached. The Protestants had protested against this course even more than the Catholics. He hoped that steps would even yet be taken to enlist the voluntary zeal of the people in the cause of education, and that by this means it might then be rendered unnecessary to adopt any form of compulsion. It was on account of the neglect of the voluntary efforts that the first educational Estimates had been swollen to £500,000. He thanked his hon. Friend for bringing forward this subject; but he thought it premature to propose the adoption of compulsion at the present time, or until they had so far modified the National system as to enlist the voluntary zeal of all classes and creeds in the cause of education.
§ MR. PLUNKET
desired to join in the general expression of gratitude to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) who had brought the question forward in so temperate and conciliatory a manner, more especially when it was considered that it was a question which might very well have been introduced in a different spirit. He had shown that the question deserved further consideration, and that, although a great advance had been made, there was still room for considerable improvement, especially in the large towns; but the terms of the Resolution were very vague, and he hoped the hon. Member would be able to accept the advice offered him generally 38 from both sides of the House, and would not press the Motion to a division. He did not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman through the details of his proposition; but he wished to say a word upon what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman's hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Butt). He (Mr. Plunket) took exception to the view that the discussion of the subject and the elucidation of Irish opinion on the question of coercion should be postponed until a radical change had been effected in the National system. It had been represented to the House that the system of National education as now established in Ireland had not been successful. For himself, he must enter his protest against any such opinion as that going forth to the public. Nothing could really be further from the fact. Various influences had been at work in Ireland improving the condition of the people; but none of them had been operating so beneficially towards that end for many years past as the National system of education. He trusted that the question which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had so well started would be considered throughout Ireland, and that when they resumed its discussion in that House, they would be possessed of fuller information and in a better position to judge how a proposal of coercion in any form was likely to be received in that country. He hoped that when the subject was brought forward again the discussion might be longer and fuller; but, in the meantime, he only wished to express his conviction that a proposal of coercion, to be acceptable to Ireland, must be of such a character as not to violate the broad and absolutely essential principles on which the National system of education now established in that country had been founded, and by reason of which it had flourished so well and so long.
§ MR. O'REILLY
agreed with what had been said in praise of the calm and temperate manner in which the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had introduced his Resolution. He agreed, however, with the hon. Member's Colleague (Mr. Butt) in the remark that he was probably before his age. They were not yet prepared for absolute compulsion in Ireland. With regard to that question generally, he did not himself now hold as strongly as he once did the opinion that the day 39 might not come when it would be necessary to require by law the residuum of parents in Ireland who neglected to send their children to school to discharge their parental duty in that respect. He regretted he could not quite agree with the congratulations of the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) upon the progress which they had made in regard to National education in that country, although he thought that such progress as had really been attained had been aided by the principle of payment for results. On the contrary, he believed it was slow and unsatisfactory. As a proof, he might mention that of 1,200,000 children of school age, only 600,000 attended school, and that for a period of but 90 days in the year. Neither could he agree with the hon. Gentleman's statement that very few children were employed in agriculture, for in his (Mr. O'Reilly's) district almost every child of the labouring class was employed for a large part of the year in agriculture at considerable wages; and he was in favour of the adoption of at least this amount of compulsion—that no child should be so employed without having an educational certificate. With respect generally to the introduction of absolute compulsion, lie remarked that there was in Ireland an absence of any suitable machinery for its application. In saying that, he did not mean the merely technical machinery, but that there was an absence of those moral elements out of which such a machinery could be created. He apprehended that the last and also the worst instrumentality to which they could resort for such a purpose would be the Constabulary. Neither did he think the Boards of Guardians could be fitly entrusted with such a function. They did not sufficiently possess the confidence of the population, nor were they themselves sufficiently educated always to appreciate the value of education to others. At the same time, the attendance of the children at school was very bad in many parts of Ireland, and though the clergy at church on Sundays frequently urged the parents to send their children to school, their most earnest exhortations were often ineffectual. Therefore he could not agree with the hon. Member for Roscommon in thinking that they could trust altogether to the parents to secure the attendance of children at school, and he thought there was some 40 ground for calling attention to the necessity or the expediency of resorting to compulsion, indirect if not direct, in order to secure attendance at school. The Royal Commission had reported that there was ample school accommodation, and the only difficulty was as to the attendance. At present anybody who chose to build a school and could put in it about 30 pupils went to the Commissioners of Education, at once got a salary for the teacher, and thenceforward took no further interest in the school. That state of things tended, especially in the North of Ireland, to an unnecessary multiplication of schools which involved no burden and no responsibility on those who had built them. He was of opinion that no grant should be made by the State for educational purposes, unless considerable local contribution was made, either of money, or of what was far more important—namely, personal effort to promote the efficiency of education. As long as education in Ireland was paid for entirely out of a central fund, whether out of taxes levied in the United Kingdom, or in Ireland alone, so long would the schools there be comparatively ineffective, and zeal and energy would not be exerted in their behalf. He did not advocate the principle of universal compulsion, but thought that indirect compulsion might be more effectually carried out by means of an increase of the local fees devoted to schools. He wished to suggest that a rule should be established providing that one part of the salary should be paid to the managers of schools by the State, and that another portion should be contributed locally. That would interest the managers in their work, and increase the efficiency of the schools. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Government would consider what measures could be brought in to increase at once the efficiency of the schools, for this was a question of urgent necessity. The schools were not doing all they might do, nor were the teachers receiving the amounts which was their due. In conclusion, he trusted the result of the present discussion would tend to the advancement of education in Ireland and contribute to the improvement and prosperity of the Irish people.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
congratulated the House on the excellent tone of the 41 debate and the business-like manner in which it had been conducted. In discussing the question of primary education the real points were sometimes forgotten in side issues, and he believed many hon. Members would feel that in debates in that House upon Irish education very often what was least considered was the interests of the Irish children. He must say that he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had made out that the interests of the Irish children demanded the attention of Irish Members, and of the House generally, for it was distressing to know that of Irish men and women 57 per cent could not read and write. He had no doubt that that scandalous state of things was diminishing day by day; but it would be a very long time before we could look without shame at the condition of education in Ireland. By some means or another we found the present state of things among a people who cared a great deal about education. He had always heard and believed that, speaking generally, Irish parents compared very favourably with English, and even with Scotch parents, with reference to their desire for the education of their children, yet, by some means or other, the education of Irish children was neglected, and they had not been able to receive the education which they all desired they should have. He thought the exertions made to secure it were not at all sufficient. The statistics were not at all pleasant. For instance, the average daily attendance of children at schools in Ireland was only 395,000, being only 7½ per cent of the population, while the average daily attendance in England was 2,000,000, being 10 per cent of the population. The most disagreeable feature in these statistics was the very small proportion the average daily attendance bore to the numbers on the roll, the former being 395,000, and the latter being 1,000,000; whereas in England the average daily attendance was 2,000,000, the number on the roll being 3,000,000. This great difference between the average daily attendance and the number on the roll in Ireland certainly did point to the necessity for the adoption of some penal measure for insuring a better daily average attendance. He did not think that they could get further tonight than to bring the question before the country; but he ventured to prophecy 42 that it would be found in Ireland, as it had been in England, that, however much they might dislike compulsion, they would be unable to secure attendance without it. And after all, what did compulsion really mean? It simply expressed that it was the duty of the parents to take care that their children should be taught, and that it was the duty of the State to give them aid, if necessary, for that purpose. Undoubtedly Parliament had to consider the special circumstances of the case as regarded Ireland; but he could not see why that country should be behind others in the acknowledgment of its duty in that respect. There was no Vote that he supported with greater pleasure than the Imperial grant for the promotion of education in Ireland; but be thought that the localities ought to bear a fair proportion of the expense.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
agreed with the opinions which had been expressed by several speakers, that it was a great public advantage that this subject should have been brought before that House, because much good must result from public attention being drawn to the defects of National education in Ireland, in the way it had been by the able and moderate speech of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy). In considering the question, however, hon. Members should not form any exaggerated estimate of the deficiencies of education in Ireland, and he was afraid that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster) might lend some colour to exaggerated estimates upon that point. The right Gentleman had spoken of the large proportion of the Irish population who were unable to read or write, or who were able to read only, and not to write, and upon those figures he had based certain of his arguments. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was afraid that it must be admitted that a large proportion of the Irish population were unable either to read or write; nevertheless, he should wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that there was a very decided and marked improvement in Irish education during the last 40 years. From the Census Returns it appeared that for the 10 years ended in 1841 the proportion of the population above five years of age unable to read or write was 52 per cent, for that ended in 1851 the proportion was 46 per cent, for that 43 ended in 1861 the proportion was 38 per cent, and for that ended in 1871 the proportion was 33 per cent. He did not mean to say that even the last of those figures was satisfactory, but they certainly showed a very marked improvement, and, it should be remembered, in criticizing them, that this improvement occurred after a time when large numbers of the population had left the country, those emigrating being probably the best educated of their class. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the number of attendances of children at school in Ireland as compared with the attendances in England, and in doing so instituted, as he thought, a comparison upon an erroneous basis. He alluded to the average attendance each day, from which no comparison could be made. The soundest basis upon which to form an opinion was that properly pointed out by the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don)—that was, not the average daily attendance, but the numbers and percentage of children who had made a sufficient number of attendances to pass the results examination. These were the children who might be regarded as being educated. Thus, though the right hon. Gentleman said there was an average attendance of 2,000,000 of children in England, out of 3,000,000 on the rolls, yet when he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) came to examine what percentage passed the result qualification he found the proportion 34 per cent out of 1,783,000 children, including infants. He would not deal with the number of children on the rolls in Ireland, for, as already remarked by the hon. Member for Roscommon, the systems in the two countries were very different. He found that in the last Return, taking the school population and their attendance, the proportion that passed was 400,000, or 33 per cent of the total population of children of school age. That was only 1 per cent behind England. It must, however, be borne in mind that the qualifying attendance in Ireland were only 100 in the year, whereas they were equal to 125 in England. But even taking this into consideration, he thought that, whether it was desirable to introduce measures of compulsion or whether it was not, the state of Irish education was not altogether so backward as was sometimes believed. The question now before them 44 was whether, by indirect or direct means, they could induce a more satisfactory attendance of children at school. In England this question had been approached in a more tentative manner than any question which had engaged the attention of the Legislature during the last decade. By the Elementary Education Act of 1870, school boards had been empowered to make bye-laws for compulsory attendance; yet he found that out of 1,760 school beards only 674 had as yet exercised that power. A great advance was made in England last year in the powers given to school attendance committees of Town Councils and Boards of Guardians to make bye-laws for compulsory attendance. But this provision had not yet come into practical operation; and whether that power would be largely exercised in the future time would show. He simply referred to it to show that nothing more had been done in England in the way of direct compulsion than to give power to local authorities which they might exercise at their discretion. After all the repeated discussions and agitations for compulsion not much more than one-third of the school boards had put the compulsory powers into practice. He thought it would be admitted that this question of compulsory attendance in Ireland must be approached with even greater caution than had been found so necessary in England. What did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick himself suggest? He objected to school-beard compulsion altogether, and said that everybody would agree with him that school boards were not wanted in Ireland — and everybody would share his impression that that was the general opinion of the Irish people; but the hon. Member also said that any compulsory system in Ireland must be much milder than the English system in its powers of compulsion and more flexible in the power of making exceptions, so as to admit of other grounds for non-attendance being urged before the authorities besides those which were recognized as reasonable grounds in England. Now, as to the power of compulsion, the hon. Member for Roscommon had very properly pointed out, that so far as indirect compulsion of children employed in trades was concerned, that compulsion was at the present moment, and under 45 the existing law, exercised in Ireland as much as in England. Well, then, it was really a question of the agricultural population of Ireland, which, of course, formed a very large proportion of the whole population. Now, what was their case? There were something like 300,000 occupiers of land in Ireland holding land under the value of £8 per annum. These persons employed their own children, rather than those of others, in the operations of agriculture. It would be very clear that it was much easier to enforce a law forbidding a person to employ another person's children in his business than to enforce a law to forbid a parent to employ his own children on his little farm. Then, again, the hon. Member for Limerick said that to be fair to the parents, they must have a smaller penalty than in England, though that penalty was only 5s.; and, more than that, the hon. Member, seeing another difficulty in the case, did not even propose that the attendance committees which had been instituted in England, should be extended to Ireland. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had no doubt that the hon. Member foresaw no little difficulty in forming any attendance committees in Ireland that could or would carry out any compulsory bye-laws. The religious difficulty would most certainly arise. For his own part, though he did not think that it would be impossible for the system to be put in force in Ireland, he could not but feel that there were grave difficulties in regard to its adoption which scarcely presented themselves in England. What he understood the hon. Member for Limerick to recommend really amounted to nothing more than this—that Parliament should recognize it by law as the duty of the parent that his child should be educated; but if such a law were passed as that, supposing that the duty of enforcing the law was not placed upon anyone whatever, was it likely to have any practical effect? What was the history of the Agricultural Children Act in England? Did not Parliament repeal that statute, and substitute another system, because the Agricultural Children Act, placing the duty of enforcing the attendance upon no one, was inoperative? And he ventured to say that if such a law were passed in Ireland it would be, if possible, more inoperative, because in Ireland, for the reasons 46 he had described, the fact that the parents employed their own children in agricultural work, they had less chance of eliciting public opinion on the side of such a law than in England. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) had said that he thought that the difficulty of the whole matter was that there was no voluntary co-operation on the question of education in Ireland, because Parliament had decreed that religious education should not have State aid. He had heard that statement with astonishment; he did not believe that there was any country in the world where the religious instruction of children attending the National Schools was better cared for than in Ireland. There were no fewer than 5,882 National Schools under clerical managers; and in the vast majority of those schools, religious education was thoroughly and efficiently given every day in the week; but there were no doubt rules in the Irish education system which were of immense value, particularly in those parts of the country where there were small minorities of particular religious denominations to secure liberty of conscience to all. There were in Ireland among the whole of the Irish National Schools no fewer than 57 per cent of mixed schools where the children of Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Presbyterians were taught together. He was bound to say that whatever might be the failure of the system of National education in Ireland, he trusted no change might ever be made in it which would diminish the religious liberty of the parents or the children. He thought that, after all, the speech of the hon. Member for Limerick, and the course of the whole debate, pointed to the fact that although he hoped they had discussed the question to a very useful purpose that evening, yet the time had not arrived when it could be practically dealt with. It would be a matter for future consideration whether by the extension of indirect compulsion, by a more general enforcement of the payment of school fees, by requiring the pre-payment of fees, and a certain return for regular attendance, and other means of that kind they could not very much encourage the attendance of children at school. He was inclined to believe that when parents had to pay for the education of their children, they 47 would take greater pains than now in seeing that they were regular in their attendance at school. He hoped that they would have a little more experience than they at present had how the system adopted for England, practically worked before attempting to extend it to Ireland. They would be enabled to walk in the light of English experience. Although he could not undertake to deal with the question at once, he might, on behalf of the Government, state that the question would receive their most careful attention, and that he would, in every way in his power, cooperate with the Board of National Education in Ireland upon the subject. The only way by which a proper attendance of the children in schools in Ireland could be secured was, he was convinced, by educating public opinion in its favour. They might pass what law they close, but he firmly believed that it would be of no avail whatever unless supported by public opinion. He hoped the hon. Member had, by his Motion, though it had no immediate practical result, immensely contributed, to awaken public opinion in Ireland to the need of a more regular attendance at school; and he thanked the hon. Member—on behalf of himself and the House generally—for having brought the subject under their notice. He thought the hon. Member could not but be satisfied with the debate that had arisen upon his Motion; and he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) hoped the hon. Gentleman would continue to devote his attention to what was a most interesting and important question as regarded the welfare and future prospects of the Irish children.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, he should not like the discussion to close without expressing his sympathy with the object the hon. Member for Limerick had in view in bringing the subject before the House. No one who had listened to the details he had brought before the House could fail to see that, whatever difficulty there might be in the way of the education of the Irish people, it had been shown that their condition was not satisfactory, or what the people of this country would wish to see it. Everyone must sympathise with the desire of Irishmen to have the whole population of that country able to read and write. The right 48 hon. Baronet had disputed the accuracy of the figures which had been adduced by the right hon. Member for Bradford, but the Chief Secretary omitted to take notice of the fact that whilst 125 daily attendances were required to make up the 250 attendances which were requisite in England and Scotland to enable a child to obtain the Government grant, only 90 daily attendances were required in Ireland. This, it would be seen, was a great difference, and when the fact was considered, coupled with the great irregularity in the attendance of the children of the various schools throughout Ireland, it was clear that the pupils could not fail to be far behind as compared with those who were educated in English and Scotch schools. He considered that it was of very great importance that some form of compulsion should be established, whether it was direct or indirect. The hon. Member for Limerick had not pressed upon the House that direct compulsion should be resorted to at the present time. On the contrary, he had recommended that indirect compulsion should be adopted in such a form as would secure the co-operation of the parents. He was sure of this—that the House would do nothing to interfere with the freedom of the parent to select the school at which his child should be educated, and it was certain that no subject of greater importance could be discussed than the means of providing for the educational advancement of the Irish population, so that it might keep pace with the advance of intelligence in Great Britain.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
entirely concurred in the opinion expressed by hon. Members opposite, that the National Board had failed because it was not popular with the people. It was originally intended to combine religious and other teaching, so that two creeds might be educated in the same schools. The Protestants did not like the Board system of education because their clergymen could not go into the schools at any hour of the day they chose with their Bibles under their arms and give religious education to the children, and the Roman Catholic priests did not like it because they considered that the religious education given in the schools was insufficient. The Protestants, however, were not in favour of denomina- 49 tional education, because they thought it would place the education of the great mass of the people in the hands of the priests; and they objected, notwithstanding the fact that they were the first to have recourse to the denominational system by establishing parochial schools. For himself, he objected to a secular system of education where the children of two different creeds had to attend the same school. He looked upon the denominational system as the best for Ireland, and believed, that if it were adopted there would be no need of compulsion, as the people would willingly send their children to the schools where they thought the true religion was taught. He did not agree with what had been said about compulsion. He would have a Board that would go annually round Ireland and superintend the education of the schools, and see that the children were properly educated. If the suggestions made as to local contributions were carried out, one result, he thought, would be the establishment of denominational education.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
thought that Ireland was not ripe for compulsion in the matter of education, and that any scheme in that direction at the present moment would be a failure. With respect to the National Board, although it was regarded by the people with some mistrust, it did not deserve that mistrust so much as was the case 20 years ago. Under the Board, education might be carried out in the denominational sense—and, indeed, such was the rule in the greater part of Ireland; but if it worked in a secular sense, it would not work well for the people of Ireland, who were a religious people. If they adopted compulsion, they would alienate the clergy, who really were the persons who looked after the education of children in Ireland, and they would cease to take the interest they now manifested in the schools. In Ireland one creed had the wealth and the other creed the great bulk of the population, so that the local head of the Board would be of a different creed. He suggested that the present National system should be allowed to go on, leaving the people to put more trust in it and get rid of the idea that it was a system of secularizing education, as it was once endeavoured to be made. He thought the people of Ireland would be led to have more trust 50 in the National system if the restrictions at present imposed on the purely denominational schools were removed and the convent schools, for instance, placed in a pecuniary sense on the same footing as the secular schools. That was a point in the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he specially wished to refer to, inasmuch as it was a practical point. It appeared that while 2s. 11d. per head was paid to the population of Scotland, only 2s. 1d. was paid to the people of Ireland. The difference was upwards of £120,000; and if Ireland received the same amount paid to Scotland, all the differences would vanish. Some details of the Irish system required amendment. The denominational schools were not so well paid as the secular schools. Religious education was not given in an unmixed school, and only with certain restrictions of time in other schools. It used also to be the interest of the teachers to have as many pupils in their schools as possible; but now, where the "result" fees were too large, it might injure a teacher to have children in his school who did not pay the school-pence, and this made it the teacher's interest to exclude backward children. The Motion before the House was an excellent one in its way, and they must all feel deeply indebted to the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) for having brought it under their consideration, but he hoped it would not be further pressed just now, for he did not think that Ireland in its present condition was quite ripe for it. Circumstances might arise under which the compulsion would remain, and the character of the school be changed, and thus children would be compelled to attend schools which were not in union with the religious convictions of their parents. He hoped that would be guarded against. Beyond that, he concurred with his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), that it was inexpedient to arouse an ill-timed opposition to the National Board of Education. Until their system of education had been more fully worked and tried he did not consider that it would be right to interfere with its progress by setting up a compulsory system of education in Ireland.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.