HC Deb 02 March 1883 vol 276 cc1262-99

in rising to move— That it is expedient to introduce into Ireland the principle of Compulsory Education, with such modifications as the social and religious conditions of the Country require, said, he did not think that primary education would ever enable the Irish people to deal with great political questions. It was quite true that a little learning was a dangerous thing; but he thought that a mass of ignorance was a far greater evil. There was very little crime of the ordinary character in Ireland, and the little crime that did take place there was the result of drink. He thought that primary education was a powerful instrument for good; and if, as he believed, education would make the Irish people more sober, then there were good reasons for considering it. It was not necessary to say anything in proof of the assertion that education was necessary to the body of the people. There was at present a movement in favour of technical education; but such teaching would be of little use unless founded upon general education—and this was particularly the case in regard to agriculture, the principal occupation of the Irish people. He did not mean to say that teaching a man to read and write would teach him agriculture; but the general education would assist him in the technical education in agriculture. The great majority of the people were Celts, with all the impulsiveness and impetuosity which belonged to the race. In a primitive community, men of this temperament might be allowed to guide themselves; but in a more complex society, and especially in a country where every man was a politician, they required reason and education to enable the people to act with moderation and prudence. The statement of a few facts was necessary to the discussion of the question of education in Ireland. According to English experience, the school age was between the ages of 5 and 13, and the number of children in Ireland between those ages was 1,100,000; but the children in Ireland went to school at an earlier ago, about three or four years of age, and he thought it might be said that the 16th year might be regarded as coming within the school age in Ireland. That would add another 300,000 to the 1,100,000 he had already mentioned, thus bringing up the total to 1,400,000. Deducting from that the children of the middle and upper classes, he estimated that about 1,300,000 children in Ireland were within the range of primary education, to accommodate whom there were 9,100 schools, national and denominational in character. In 1881 there were about 7,615 national schools, and about 1,500 schools unconnected with the State. The national schools at that period had no less than 2,066,000 children on the rolls, and there were at least 100,000 children on the rolls of other schools, making, roughly, a total of 1,150,000. Thus, about 90 per cent of the children who ought to go to school were on the rolls of one school or another; but what they wanted was to make the children who did go to school put in a sufficient number of attendances. The National Board gave some statistics it was worth considering. In the first place, they gave the number who attended on any one day during the last 14 days of the year, and that number was 674,200. That number would contain every child who had any chance of gaining results, and it was also pretty certain it would contain a large number who came there casually. The average daily attendance was given at 453,000. He found a few figures in the Census Papers of 1881, which threw a very clear light on that important question. It might be taken for granted that the attendance at the national schools, which were more largely and regularly attended than the rural schools, was not much higher than the figures he was about to give. Out of the children who attended school 12½ per cent made less than 20 attendances in the year; over 23 per cent made less than 40; 41 per cent under 80; 51 per cent under 100 attendances; and only 49 per cent, just half the number on the roll of the schools, made 100 attendances and upwards. There were many reasons why good attendance at the schools in Ireland was desirable. A good many of the children were taken early from school to discharge domestic duties and to work on farms, and unless they attended school with regularity they never learned anything. A large number of children went late to school, and if children were absent for an interval of a week or a month, they naturally forgot all they had previously learned; and it was therefore for the purpose of increasing and regularizing the attendance that they wanted compulsion in Ireland; and he submitted that if compulsion was introduced and employed generally and rationally, it would involve no revolutionary change in Ireland. Nearly all the children were upon the roll, and had the idea of school in their minds, and what they wanted to do was to make them attend more frequently. What should be the average attendance? Any proportion of 80 would certainly be inadequate. Experience in this and other countries had pointed to 100 at the lowest, and men of education and experience had fixed on not less than that number as being adequate in Ireland, especially as in the educational status of the country 100 was the minimum which entitled a child to go in for results. He would not, however, ask the House then to fix on any number. He would simply say that the present rate of attendance was insufficient, and should be raised. The degree of illiteracy existing in Ireland was a cardinal test of the necessity of compulsion, and he must explain that what he meant in this instance by illiteracy was being unable either to read or write. In 1841, 53 per cent of the population could not read or write; in 1851, 47 per cent; in 1861, 39 per cent; in 1871, 33 per cent; and in 1881, 25 per cent. The reduction from 53 to 25 per cent looked very large; but the House must recollect that that was over a period of 40 years, a great space of time in the history of a nation in the present day; and, again, in 1841, the population was greatly in excess of what it was now, and there was a greater amount of distress prevailing. Again, that percentage of illiteracy was not universal in Ireland, being much lower in some portions than in others. For instance, in Ulster the percentage was only 20, while in Con-naught it was 38, and in this respect Connaught to-day was in the same condition as Ulster 40 years ago, although Connaught had lost a large number of that class of the population among whom ignorance was chiefly found. In 1881, 28½ per cent of children between the ages of 5 and 10 could read and write; 73 per cent between the ages of 10 and 15, and 77 per cent between the ages of 15 and 20. Surely every child between the ages of 5 and 10 should be able to read and write, yet at present only 28 per cent could do so in Ireland; and as to the other figures, it was a serious prospect that 25 per cent of the population should be growing up in almost absolute ignorance. Other countries had determined there should be no residuum of ignorance in their land; they had taken steps to that end, had sacrificed parental authority, and had undergone great expense, and he did not think it would be wise on the part of Ireland to remain behind them on the march. The compulsion he proposed would only involve an expense of £70,000 a-year, which would represent the increased expense of teaching staff consequent upon a moderate system of compulsion. If there was an increased demand for accommodation in denominational schools, he had no doubt that the religious zeal of the community would meet that want to a large extent. He must, however, remind the House that nothing could be done in Ireland to enforce compulsion unless it was consonant to the feelings of the Irish people. He was not deputed to speak on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, nor was he in any way competent to do so. But he could speak from what he knew of the course which the Catholic Church had taken on the subject of education, and from sympathy with Catholic feeling which, as a member of that Church, he entertained. The national system of education was largely used by the Roman Catholic Church; but it had never been thoroughly accepted as satisfactory in principle. There were some branches of it to which special exception was taken—namely, the model schools and the system of training; and the friends of education in Ireland had heard with pleasure that the question of training would soon be dealt with by the Government. He might, however, state that it was quite possible that the rules of the national schools of Ireland might be so altered under new management as to be highly objectionable to the Roman Catholics, who might, consequently, have great hesitation in sending their children to those schools. Were the compulsory system adopted in Ireland, it would be necessary to provide special exemptions in many cases where parents, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, might object to send their children to the only school in the neighbourhood on the ground of religion, because it was well known that in many instances secular schools became denominational schools. If these special exemptions were not provided for, compulsion would do more harm than good in Ireland. Other exemptions ought to be provided in reference to the condition of the country, because it might so happen that want of food or clothing might prevent parents sending their children to school. He would leave it to persons in the locality to set the law of compulsion in force in gross cases of neglect on the part of the parents, and he thought no proceedings should be allowed to be taken without the permission of the tribunal before whom the case was ultimately to come. With respect to the tribunal, he acknowledged that the magistrates of Ireland were not as popular as the magistrates of England; but in a purely social matter of this kind he believed the magistrates would have regard to the feelings of the people, and would not do anything that would impose hardship upon them. There were many delicate topics connected with the subject, all of which he had endeavoured to avoid. It was always well, in dealing with educational matters, to steer clear of questions which might give rise to conflict. Public opinion had of late years greatly ripened with respect to this question. He believed the course he advocated would succeed, because it was now recognized that the general spirit of education among the people of Ireland was necessary to enable them to enjoy free institutions, to promote their industrial progress, and to enable them to rise and hold that position among civilized peoples worthy of their hopes, their capacities, and the old traditions of their country. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


rose to second the Resolution. He said, that the first real difficulty that would confront the State in any attempt to enforce education unreservedly was the poverty of the Irish people. This consideration doubtless weighed with the Commission of Inquiry of 1870, which reported that it would be inexpedient to pass any law compelling attendance at school in rural districts, and that in towns the application of any such law should be limited to children who were not actually at work. His hon. and learned Friend now recommended the adoption of the principle of compulsory education for rural as well as urban districts, recognizing, however, that there was need for discrimination in certain cases, as where a child was too destitute to appear at school, or where occupation afforded grounds for exemption, or where exemption might be claimed on the ground of the distance of a child's dwelling from a school. With regard to the demand for exemption based on the ground of destitution, he held that the poverty of the West of Ireland must itself prove the primâ facie impossibility of any absolute system of compulsion. The average day attendances at the schools in Ireland in 1881 was 465,567, which was a decrease of 14,000 in comparison with 1880. There had been, however, an abnormal increase in 1880, as compared with 1879, of 33,000—an increase which was due to the desire of the children to receive the rations distributed during the period of distress. As to exemption on the ground of distance from school, he believed there were few places in Ireland where there was not a school of some kind or other within two miles. He, therefore, did not anticipate much difficulty in connection with this ground for exemption; but he would, taking into consideration the roughness of the roads, and the fact that the poorer children in Ireland had not shoes, be inclined to as great leniency as the utmost limits of prudence would sanction. The third social exemption which he would make would be that of occupation. It should be remembered that the capital of a cottier was his own industry and that of his family; but he did not be- lieve that children would be debarred on this ground, except on particular occasions such as the hay-making time. There was another element in regard to the question of poverty which should not be lost sight of, and that was the importable character of the food of the poorer classes, such as the pototo or its substitute in some cases of Indian corn. The validity of a claim to exemption ought to be determined by the Resident Magistrates. He was aware that the magistrates were subject at present to considerable popular dislike; but they were a resident body, and in the performance of these duties of a now political character, he could not conceive that they would be likely to act with other than intelligence and impartiality. He now came to the question of exemption on the ground of religion. In 1832 the policy of a denominational system of education was distinctly sanctioned. In that year, a conference was held between Mr. Stanley (then Chief Secretary for Ireland) and the members of the National Board for Education upon the subject of the admissibility of schools into the national system which were conducted by men described as monks. The result was that no objection to assist those schools was made by any members of the Board or the Chief Secretary. Nuns and monks who were teachers received salaries, and schools under such teachers obtained the same assistance on the same terms as other schools. The National Board said— We have assisted in building and repairing their school-houses, and we have given salaries. Mr. O'Connell, in accepting Mr. Stanley's proposal, observed— Let the Protestants and Presbyterians be educated in Scripture or any other course of study they please. All the Catholics asked was the benefit of education accompanied with their own mode of religious instruction. It was not from the Catholics as a body that the opposition to the national system came so much as from the Protestants. The Presbyterian Synod would not accept the proposal of the Board to separate the reading of the Bible from ordinary instruction. The Rev. Mr. Rogers, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Synod in 1837, told the House of Lords Committee that they could not act with the National Board, which maintained the right of separate religious instruction being given to Roman Catholics by ministers of their own persuasion. The same opposition on the part of the Protestant laity was expressed by Mr. Royton, Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, in reply to a question addressed to him by the Prime Minister as a Member of the Committee of the House of Commons in 1837. The attitude of the Established Church was no less hostile. Dr. Trench, Archbishop of Tuam, denounced "this effigy of a system of national education as an unclean thing." The Protestant landlords in some cases refused sites for school-houses, held meetings to denounce the system, and exercised such moral pressure as they could to prevent their tenantry from sending their children to the schools. This opposition of the Protestant Party led to two results. In the first place, the Presbyterians and the members of the Church of England set up their own schools, a circumstance which explained to some extent the fact that in 1860 nearly 84 per cent of the children attending national schools were Roman Catholics; and even, in 1881, though there was an improvement, the proportion of Roman Catholics in mixed schools, after making allowance for the far larger proportion of mixed schools under Roman Catholic teachers exclusively, was as 71 to 50. But the second result of the Protestant opposition was a direct concession on the part of the National Board to denominational education, in accepting the principle that religious instruction might be given during any of the school hours, and not requiring managers of non-vested schools to give the use of their school-rooms to clergymen or laymen of other denominations for religious instruction. It seemed to him clear that from the first the peculiar religious condition of Ireland—the political as well as the doctrinal character of the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism—was taken into consideration, and the State was forced into accepting in reality a system of denominational education. There were national convent schools, there were nearly 3,000 national mixed schools under Roman Catholic teachers exclusively, and there were 1,304 under Protestant teachers exclusively, as compared with 85 only under Roman Catholic and Protestant teachers conjointly. In Ireland the attitude of the Roman Catholics towards the national system was one of increas- ing confidence. In the mixed schools, under Roman Catholic and Protestant teachers, in 1881, the proportion of Roman Catholics to the total mixed attendance was a fraction over one-half. Of the 138 schools added to the list of national schools in 1881, 75 were due to the operation chiefly of the Roman Catholics, and in the year 1881 over 814,000 Roman Catholic children attended national schools out of a total of 1,100,000 of school age—namely, from 5 to 16. He held that it would be most unwise to check this advance among the Roman Catholics—the vast majority of the Irish people—by any Act which would not fully appreciate their religious susceptibilities. He believed there was a desire on the part of some to substitute for the National Board of Commissioners a general Minister of Education for the three countries. That desire shaped itself into a definite proposal when the Duke of Marlborough brought forward a Bill in 1867 to provide for this change. The Commission of 1870 went into the point, and examined Mr. Macdonell, who stated in his evidence that it would be extremely difficult to get any person who would be able to understand so clearly everything connected with Irish education as a Board of Commissioners, representing North and South, town and country, and the different religious denominations. The Commission reported that an unpaid Board representing the different sections of the community ought to be maintained. There were objections to any Government official taking the place of the National Board, or assuming to control them, stronger now than in 1870. In the first place, the system of Irish education if it was to succeed must be plastic, and not controlled by fixed official rules. If controlled by a Government official, there would always be a temptation—which would certainly engender distrust in the Irish mind—to bring the Irish into uniformity with the English system. Another objection was a political one—namely, the odium which any direct interference of Government officialism would create in dealing with so delicate a problem. He was glad that the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend did not involve the imposition of an education rate. The failure of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), when he was in Office, by which the State was to give to successful schoolmasters a grant of two-thirds, the first absolute, the second conditional upon the Unions contributing the remaining third, was due to the practical difficulty of raising local rates, and the money which it was then intended to bestow on education had to be raised in another way. It was very noticeable that the local aid to schools in 1881 had fallen to £9,840, as compared with £27,918 in 1875. Again, the local taxation of Ireland, which was already very oppressive, had increased out of all proportion to the very slight increase in the valuation of property. In 1872 the total local taxation of the country was £2,905,000, and the valuation £13,329,000; in 1876 the taxation was £3,242,000, and the valuation £13,512,000; and in 1880 the taxation was £3,292,000, and the valuation £13,769,000, illustrating that while the local taxation had nearly doubled, the valuation of property had remained nearly stationary. These figures showed that it would be most imprudent to endeavour to raise the additional sum required by means of the local rates. The Motion of his hon. and learned Friend was perhaps open to criticism, on the ground that it had not specified the mode of compulsion more clearly. It appeared to him that his hon. and learned Friend had gone into the mode of compulsion as far as prudence would justify, for the House must bear in mind that, in regard to so delicate a question as that of compulsory education in Ireland, it was necessary to build up public opinion in its favour. Without such an alliance, it could never be carried out, and to obtain its assistance, great circumspection, patience, and avoidance of offence was requisite; but, whatever might be urged in criticism of the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend, it had, at any rate, done good work in showing the necessity of improving the educational condition of the Irish people, and that, he believed, was a task that could be accomplished only by acting in sympathy with the great social and religious peculiarities of the country. He had great pleasure in seconding the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is expedient to introduce into Ireland the principle of Compulsory Education, with such modifications as the social and religious conditions of the Country require,"—(Mr. O'Shaughnessy,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that when the noble Viscount who had just sat down concluded by saying he should second the Motion, he removed a doubt in his mind whether he was not going to oppose it. During a very considerable part of his speech the noble Viscount was like another Balaam; and although it appeared he really came to bless the Resolution, he seemed all the time to be cursing it. The noble Viscount addressed himself rather to the question of denominational education than compulsory education, and spent considerable time in denunciations of Protestant landlords and Roman Catholic clergy. From what had happened in the controversial times long by, he was glad that those controversies had gone by, and glad, too, that the first opportunity of addressing the House of Commons since his last election was from a platform on which he thought all friends of Ireland could meet, and that was, that the education of the children was deserving, at any rate, of consideration and improvement. It was a sad fact that 25 per cent of the rising generation were growing up in ignorance. For his part, he was entirely in favour of some limited degree of compulsion which would oblige children to attend regularly to receive their instruction. He believed that the habit of regularity which would thus be enforced would be almost as valuable to the children as the actual knowledge they would acquire. There was no greater weakness in the character of the Irish peasant than his fatal habit of irregularity. Now, if the children were forced into a school at fixed and stated hours, a habit of regularity would be given to them which would not leave them in after life. Though they might forget their ABO, or their pot-hooks and hangers, the habit of discipline and obedience to orders would remain. For that reason, among many others, he advocated compulsory education to a certain extent. But compulsory education in Ireland must be guarded. In the poorer parts of Ireland the children could not be taken away from their parents at certain times of the year. At the time of setting the potato crop, at the hay harvest, and at corn harvest, the children were necessarily wanted in the fields. But he believed the number of attendances specified by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy)—namely, 100 per annum, were not too many, and would enable the children to assist their parents in all necessary field pursuits. Again, great care was necessary in dealing with the question of religion; but in the present case there need be no real difficulty. Here and there there were districts containing a scattered Protestant population, living at a great distance from schools of their own denomination. But he knew, from his own experience as manager and patron of four national schools, that in such cases the Protestants did not object to their children going to a properly managed Roman Catholic school, in which the rules of the National Board were strictly observed. The same thing could be said of Roman Catholic children attending Protestant schools, and there was nothing which the Inspectors more looked after than that the instructions relating to religious teaching were observed. He had risen merely to give his hearty support to the principle which his hon. and learned Friend had laid down; and he could only express his regret and astonishment that there was not a larger attendance of Irish Members at a discussion which so much affected the welfare of the rising generation.


The hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) has been opportune in bringing before the attention of the House the imperative need of carrying to the homes of the Irish population the blessings which arise when education becomes universal among a people. In one respect Ireland has been far ahead of both England and Scotland in the possession of a system of national education. Both these sections of the United Kingdom long struggled with imperfect systems of voluntary education, supplemented by small and fluctuating aids from the National Exchequer, for it is only within about 10 or 12 years that the nation has extended to and imposed upon them really national systems of education. But Ireland has had a national system for half-a-century. It is true that England and Scotland, by their voluntary efforts, had lessened the ignorance of their populations, so that even before 1870, when education became national in England, the Irish system was still behindhand. The National Board of Education for Ireland has been unremitting in its efforts to lessen the mass of ignorance among the population, and every decade of the Census shows a marked amelioration. If this is still slow and unsatisfactory, the system of education is more responsible than the Commissioners who superintend it. And the result of all these efforts must surely be deemed insufficient when we compare the work of half-a-century in Ireland with the 10 years of the English system, even though its compulsory powers have been extended slowly and with considerable timidity. The Census Returns for Ireland show that on the work of the Census only 47 per cent of children from 5 to 15 years of age were actually at school; or, if we take the numbers from 5 to 13, there were found 54 per cent actually present. We have no similar Census Returns for Great Britain; but, according to the Education Reports, England has 83 per cent, Scotland 87 per cent, of their children at school. England has now a powerful means, through compulsory laws, of lessening these school absences; but Ireland has not this advantage. She has had other and greater aids—I will not call them advantages—to promote education than either England and Scotland, for though local aid has been insignificant, the Imperial funds have been lavished on Irish education. This is scarcely an educational advantage, for it lessens local co-operation, which is so necessary to the spread of education. Hence the National Board has been working at a disadvantage; and, notwithstanding its persistent efforts, the educational results, measured by its half-century of existence are melancholy small. As I have said, they improve in every decade, but still at a slow rate of progress. In 1871 rather less than half the population above infancy (exactly 49 per cent) could read and write; and in 1881, 59 per cent could do so. So that still 41 per cent of the population in Ireland cannot read and write. Does the House realize this terrible fact—that after half-a-century of national education, 41 out of every 100 of the people of Ireland above the age of five years cannot yet read and write? You cannot take a lower test of education than the ability to read and write, though there is a lower depth still, that of absolute ignorance, or of inability to do either. Of course, there are parts of Ireland in which the education is better and the ignorance is less appalling, but there are others in which it is worse. In the county of Dublin, which stands highest in the Educational Census, there are still 23 in the 100 who cannot read and write; while in the County Mayo, which is the worst, there are actually 60 out of every 100 of the population above five years who are still unable to read and write. Gratifying, therefore, though it be that every Census decade shows an amelioration of the illiteracy, can you be surprised that a true lover of his country like the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) should come forward and ask you to strengthen the hands of the National Board, by compelling parents not only to send, but to keep their children at school, in order to obtain the benefits of education which the State has so liberally provided? It would be out of place, in a limited Motion of this kind, to discuss the merits and defects of national education in Ireland. I am no admirer of that system as a whole, though I admire the efforts of the National Board, and in 1875 I expressed my views very plainly in regard to it. Perhaps I may have another opportunity this year to discuss this subject in a broader way than I can do on this limited Motion. But at present I understand the question to be whether compulsory education is required, and should be introduced into Ireland? It is well known that, if scholars leave school after merely acquiring a knowledge little above that of infants, such as that embraced in the three first Classes of the Code, this extremely thin veneer of education rubs off very rapidly in the wear and tear of life. That this is the case in Ireland, as it is elsewhere, is obvious from the fact that while among the population at ages between 5 and 20, shortly after they have left school, 78 per cent can read and write, although of the whole population above infancy only 59 per cent can do so. Unless, therefore, the school children are kept at school sufficiently long to get a lasting amount of education, it is useless to expect any large educational result. This is the reason that we extend the school age by compulsion to 13; but in Ireland many parents think that a mere smattering of letters is sufficient, and promote neither regularity nor continuity of school attendance. But, much as compulsion is required, can you secure the efficient working of a compulsory law? Unquestionably experience shows that it is difficult to carry out compulsion to a successful issue in Roman Catholic countries. That is a fact, whatever is the cause. It is among the Roman Catholics of Ireland, who chiefly include the humbler classes, that great deficiency of education prevails, for little more than one-half (or exactly 54 per cent) of them can yet read and write. Among the Protestant Episcopalians and Presbyterians there seems much room for improvement; but still 75 per cent of them can do so, and among the Methodists 84J per cent can read and write. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick sees this religious difficulty, and wishes to have compulsion with a safety-valve. He would allow parents whose consciences did not approve of schools within easy reach to escape the obligation. I do not know what such a law would be worth, or who is to administer it. But I would give great concessions to religious opinions, if I believed that they would lead to any good result. In no country that I know of are the schools so intensely denominational as they are in Ireland at present. To all intents and purposes, with few exceptions, they are all denominational schools, with a Time Table Conscience Clause. To a large extent even they are managed, not by committees, but by the priests and other ministers of religion. To make them secular schools is impossible, even if it were desirable. I have no desire to see religious teaching lessened in Irish schools. But I think the time has come when the Government should take firm control of the secular results of education in these schools, and insist that the large contributions of the State should only be paid for efficient and sufficient secular education, secured by regular attendance, and enforced by compulsory provisions. The State has the right to do this, because of the whole cost of education the State pays 81 per cent, the pupils pay in pence 18 per cent, and the localities themselves and religious bodies, which assume entire management and control of the schools, pay little above 1 per cent of the cost. Yet, insignificant as this local contribution is, the denominational managers assume all the power to appoint the master, to dismiss him, and to regulate the schooling. If we could hope to create school boards in Ireland, with contributory powers of rating, we gladly would lessen the State management and increase the local government of schools. But when the experiment was tried by Statute in 1875 to interest Boards of Guardians in school work, how disappointing was the result. They did contribute about £28,000 in 1875; but already that sum had dwindled to less than £10,000. How stands local aid in Ireland, say, even as compared with Scotland—the former having a population of 5,170,000, and the latter of 3,730,000? In rates, subscriptions, and endowments, Ireland contributed to national schools £40,573, and the children in school pence £91,830, or together £132,403. Scotland, with a much smaller population, contributes £30,300 in subscriptions, £196,500 in rates, and £260,500 in school pence, making in all £487,300, or nearly four times the local aid to education given by more populous, but certainly poorer, Ireland. It would, therefore, be hopeless to expect the formation of school boards at present, with the responsibilities and duties attached to them in Great Britain. But for the limited purpose of carrying out a compulsory law, it ought not to be difficult to form School Attendance Committees out of the Town Councils, Board of Guardians, or sanitary authorities of the country districts. These Committees, though a very inefficient substitute for school boards, would be one step at least in interesting the localities to promote education. I would go a very long way in any efforts not only to promote the co-operation of localities, but also of religious bodies, in the promotion of education in Ireland. But under the present state of Irish education, the State cannot be relieved of its responsibility. It provides the funds with great liberality under a system which Parliament has laid down, although it has forgotten to retain efficient Parliamentary responsibility for the results. A nominal responsibility there is in the Chief Secretary; but what time has he at his disposal to be an efficient Minister of Education for Ireland? Clumsy as is our educational administrative machinery in Great Britain, we have some definite Ministerial responsibility for its success; for under one Department we have grouped the cattle on a thousand hills and the juvenile population of cities and country districts, and under this composite administration of cattle and human children, we have a sort of Ministry of Education. But in regard to Ireland, we shovel about £700,000 a-year into the coffers of a National Board, and hear no more about it till the Census startles us one day by telling us that, after half-a-century of this kind of education, 41 per cent of the population above infancy cannot yet read and write. If the State choose to pay for education in Ireland without local aid, at all events it has a right to obtain good secular results for its money, both in the attendance of the population and in the sufficiency of the secular education. No maxim is better known in Ireland than the one "That he who pays the piper should name the tunes." But the state has not followed this maxim, for though it pays the piper, it has taken no interest whatever in the tunes; for these practically are named by the denominational managers of the schools. Let the ministers of religion in Ireland be freely allowed to take care of the religious education; but let us have full Parliamentary responsibility that the secular results of the education give us an adequate return in the universality, as well as in the efficiency, of education among the Irish population. I shall allude further on to the causes which, in my opinion, prevent me having that confidence which the hon. and learned Member for Limerick has, that if we trust to the issue of religious indulgences to break the compulsory law, we may nevertheless obtain a practical universality of education. But before we consider this point, we must examine the proofs as to whether the present system has produced, even among those educated, as well as among those whose education has been neglected, those consequences which the State has a right to expect when it pours out its treasures for the education of the people. What induces the State to spend so much money in education? It can only have one purpose in view when it goes between the duty of the parent to the child, and that is to develop good and orderly citizens. To test whether this result is achieved, we must look to the social wrecks as seen in the judicial statistics. Now, I admit that for a long time Ireland had the glory of having, apart from agrarian and political crimes, a less black calendar of crimes than either England or Scotland. If I took the statistics of crime since the ferment of political agitation, beginning in 1879, the demoralization of the nation over the whole field of crime would show very black results. In all classes of crime, from 1879 to 1882, the Returns are very bad. Formerly Irish crime was much lower than Scottish crime in proportion to the population, and about one-third less than English crime. But in 1880, in proportion to population, Irish crime stood, in regard to the more serious crimes, as 7,745 for Ireland, 4,477 for England, and 5,615 for Scotland; and as regards minor crimes, 156,958 for Ireland, 95,387 for England, and 75,522 for Scotland. In all classes of crimes in these recent years of melancholy agitation, Ireland has terribly blackened her calendar. The normal number of criminals in Ireland was 11 to 10,000 of the population; now it is above 21. But we may well hope that this deterioration and demoralization are only temporary; and I mention the fact, because I do not wish my remarks in regard to crime in relation to education to be based upon these exceptional years. As the normal criminal population of Ireland is less than that of Great Britain, we have a right to hope that the same consequences which we have seen in the marked lessening of crime in Great Britain since compulsory education was introduced, should become proportionately apparent in Ireland as education spread under the action of the National system. Of course, as education in Ireland is much less universal than that of England, we must expect more absolutely ignorant persons among their criminals; and accordingly we find that among men, 46 per cent of Irish prisoners are wholly ignorant, and among English male prisoners 31 per cent. Among women, 49 per cent of Irish, and 40 per cent of English, prisoners are wholly ignorant—that is, they can neither read nor write. In every Report, the Irish Commissioners of Prisons ascribe this to want of compulsion. The remark repeated in every Report is as follows:— The Irish National School system seems to be successful for the class that falls within its reach; but the want of compulsory education leaves a considerable substratum not reached by the Irish National system, allowing a wholly ignorant class to grow up to form such a large proportion of those committed to prison. This opinion is, undoubtedly, true; but it, of course, announces a truism that ignorance and crime are frequently but cause and effect. It is less to this than to a remarkable anomaly in the crime of Ireland that I desire to draw the attention of the House. In Great Britain, crime decreases in proportion to education. Of course, when a country becomes generally educated there will be far fewer prisoners; but there will will be more educated prisoners within our gaols. At present in Great Britain, where compulsion has only reached the younger classes, we still find that only from 3 to 4 per cent of the prisoners are able to read and write, while at least 96 per cent are imperfectly educated, or are wholly ignorant. In Ireland, where education is still far less universal than in Great Britain, we should expect to find this difference still more accentuated. We are entitled to expect that in the ordinary crime of Ireland, separating it from agrarian or political crime, the number of educated prisoners should become a vanishing quantity. Going back to 1878, so as to avoid the recent years of terrible criminal demoralization of all kinds, we find the astounding fact that the percentage of prisoners in Irish gaols, who are able to read and write well, is no less than 41 out of every 100. In the year 1881, it was 33 per cent among men, and 29½ among women; while in England it was only 3½ per cent among men, and 2½ among women. Speaking generally, how are we to explain the astonishing fact that in Ireland, with a less diffused education than in Great Britain, there are 10 times as many educated prisoners in its gaols in proportion to the committed criminals? If this were confined to years of political excitement, the explanation would be sufficiently easy. I could then reply that the smattering of education implied in the ability to read and write enabled the criminal classes to read the seditious papers which are circulated in such numbers, and that the unhappy prisoners who committed outrages might turn upon the State which gave them this inefficient education, and could say, like Caliban in The Tempest— You taught me language, and my profit on't Is, I know how to curse; the red plague rid you, For learning me your language. I wish that this explanation were sufficient. Much may be forgiven to political excitement. An ordinary educated criminal is a monstrosity like Caliban; and I wish we could turn to the rest of the scholars educated in Irish schools, and say to all of them— To the most of men this is a Caliban, And they to him are angels. But this we cannot do. There is but one conclusion—that though in normal times crime is absolutely less in Ireland than in Great Britain, the education given in the national schools does not prevent the glaring anomaly that there are ten times as many educated prisoners proportionately in Irish gaols as there are in the gaols of Great Britain. The explanation of this startling fact is extremely difficult, and I am not at all sure that I can give it. Certainly it is not ascribable to any want of zeal in the Churches in neglecting religious education in schools, for that is the chief thing they look to, and they do their duty in that respect religiously and conscientiously. When the priests in Ireland can point with proud satisfaction to the fact that in ordinary times they have done so much to keep their flocks, even though without education, moral and religious, it cannot be from any want of zeal in their religious superintendence of the schools that educated persons are found to be so common in the gaols of Ireland. I rather ascribe the fact to the circumstance that they have not fully realized the truth that the low education implied by ability to read and write only produces low results, and is comparatively worthless to make good and productive citizens. The "three R's" are the mere tools of education, not education itself. If education be not carried further than this, as is the case among nearly three-quarters of school children in Ireland, three-quarters of the £700,000 which Parliament votes yearly may as well, as far as the purposes of the State are concerned, be thrown into the "melancholy ocean" which washes the coasts of Ireland as into its schools. But ecclesiastics do not encourage anything beyond the mere elements of education in Roman Catholic schools. Cardinal Cullen has said— Too high an education will make the poor oftentimes discontented, and will unsuit them from following the plough, or for using the spade, or for hammering iron or building walls; and when asked to what, then, he would limit education, he replied— The 'three R's,' and to the history of Scriptures and of the Church. The Roman Catholic Church claims the control, as Bishop Cloyne told the Commissioners, of every part of the education of the school except the multiplication table. Well, the Churches—not only the Roman Catholic, but the Protestant Churches—have had the practical control of Irish education, and have produced the result which an eminent Roman Catholic layman, Sir Robert Kane, told the Commissioners, when he said— I consider it to be the fact that in every country where such a course has been adopted it has resulted in the social decay and political debasement of the people. At all events, it is a palpable fact that the "three R's" are insufficient to keep boys who have passed through Irish schools from adding to the criminal classes. It is time that the State should assume its sovereign functions, and administer, through a Minister of Education, responsible to Parliament, the education of the people, which has so woefully failed, under the present system, to produce those results for which alone the State contributes nearly the whole of the cost. It is not a question of race, and perhaps not of religion. In the United States the children of Irish parents, educated at excellent public schools, become, in the second generation, prosperous and productive citizens. How rarely in this country do we find Irish workmen in our large centres of industry becoming anything else than "hewers of wood and drawers of water?" If you ask as to the nationality of foremen and overseers, it is very rare to find that they are Irish. But that is not the case with the Irish of the United States, where you constantly find them in positions of responsibility and importance. The difference is that in Ireland the idea of elementary education is a low one, and in the United States it is broader and higher. Thus, in America, as in Scotland, the fuller and wider conception of education gives to the recipient of it a greater productive value. A poor ignorant peasant has within him no spring or resource for improvement. One cannot be surprised at the melancholy condition of the Irish emigrant who complained to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) that he was unfitted to work in Minnesota, because in Ireland he used to spend one-half his time in standing outside the door of his cabin, and the other half in fighting his landlord. It is precisely among these ignorant or half-educated peasantry that it is difficult to introduce the idea of emigration. They understand their own miserable surroundings, but have not capacity to cast their vision beyond them. It is the same in regard to industry. The Irishman is content to be a mere unskilled labourer, and does not aspire to take skilled work. When an Irish hodman wrote to his friend in Ireland— Dear Pat,—Come over here and earn your money. All you have to do is to carry bricks up a ladder, for there is a fool at the top who takes them from you and does all the work. you have an idea of the content of ignorance. If you introduce compulsory education into any country up to the age of 13, you must bear in mind that the State is bound to give the fullest and most effective education which a child can receive up to that age. Because, if you do not do this, compulsion is tyranny and unjustifiable. I thoroughly agree with the hon. and learned Member for Limerick that compulsion in some form must be applied in Ireland. But it will be useless until you bring the educational systems of the three parts of the United Kingdom under one common responsibility, and make it the special duty of a Minister of Education responsible to Parliament. I do not speak with any bigotry on this subject. In regard to higher education, I have always advocated the extension of education in Ireland through agencies acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church, because I believe that the conception of higher education does not differ much between the educated ecclesiastics of any religion. But in regard to the education of the people a national system has been tried for 50 years, with only nominal responsibility to the State through the Chief Secretary, who is overburdened with the cares of administration. I do not wish to lessen, but to increase, the interests of the Churches in education in Ireland, and in the amelioration of the Irish people. But I desire to see one Minister for Education over the whole of the United Kingdom, so that the educational development of Great Britain and Ireland may go on pari passu. The conception of what education should be is rapidly growing in Great Britain, and I wish to stimulate it in Ireland. If I had time I could point out how the low education in England still fills the prisons with 65 per cent of prisoners who can only spell out the words of a sentence, showing that they have been at school, though they have left it too soon. But I must draw my remarks to a close. I would venture to make only one other appeal to the House to show the importance, even in the interests of England and Scotland, of getting a wider and better education in Ireland. The Irish labourers in both parts of Great Britain are becoming a factor with which we have to deal. The slow way in which our English and Scotch Census is brought out does not enable us to refer to the figures of 1881; but in 1871 there were 750,000 of Irish in Great Britain. In our chief towns in England one out of 14 adults was Irish, and in the Scotch burghs one out of six. Therefore, in my own country of Scotland we are immensely interested that one-sixth, representing the adult Irish population of the towns, should be educated and orderly citizens. If we take the proportion of Irish throughout England and Scotland, and suppose that they contribute equally with the native population to our prisons, we ought to find 3,500 Irish prisoners in English prisons, and about 500 Irish prisoners in Scotch prisons. But, as a fact, we find 22,000 Irish prisoners in English prisons, and about 9,000 in Scotch prisons. Why is this? Irishmen in normal times are much less criminal than either English or Scotch. But Ireland throws upon our shores an uneducated and turbulent population less under the control of their priests. It is, therefore, vastly important in the interests of Great Britain that we should ensure a universal and sufficient education for the Irish people, so that when they come to us as permanent residents to aid us in our industries, they should be law-abiding and productive citizens. All modern experience tells us that the position and prosperity of a nation largely depend upon the efficient education of its people. I am, therefore, entirely in accord with the major part of the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, that compulsory education must be applied to Ireland. I do not so heartily go with the latter part of his Motion in regard to the modifications of a compulsory law, because I think the solution of the religious difficulties is of less importance than the establishment of direct responsibility to Parliament for the administration of the law. I think the solution of the difficulty is that the State, as represented by a responsible Minister of Education, should be bound to see that the large funds voted by this House for the promotion of the education of the people are applied equally in Great Britain and Ireland, so as to secure the educational training of a peaceful, law-abiding, and industrious population.


said, he thought the House might be well congratulated at having once more restored to its debates one who was able to speak with such authority and power on the question before the House. The right hon. Gentleman himself also might be congratulated on having escaped from the disagreeable servitude of the Chair, and being enabled to take part in the discussions of the House. All debates on Irish education wore necessarily conducted with a certain amount of reserve by those who were connected with Ireland, and who were acquainted with the special difficulties which surrounded it. The right hon. Gentleman, feeling his recently acquired liberty, had spoken with a freedom and amplitude of instruction to which the House had listened with great pleasure. There was, at least, one fact gratifying to Irishmen, and that was that comparing one period with another there had been steady educational progress. There had been a real, if not a conspicuous increase in the percentage of children who were acquiring education; but that progress had not been so great as could be desired, or as great as had taken place in England and Scotland. What were the remedies proposed? When those were discussed we found ourselves face to face with the real difficulties of the situation. Clear and forcible as was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he did not think it indicated a remedy for those difficulties more efficacious than did the speeches of those who had preceded him. He regretted to say that the local aid to education in Ireland, as compared with the State subvention, was by no means what it ought to be. That was a fact of which Irishmen ought not to lose sight, and the reproach of which they ought to seek to remove. Another deplorable circumstance was that the action of parents as to sending children to school was absolutely unfettered. Thus there was nothing like continuity in the system of education. That was a state of things for which they were bound to discover a practical remedy. There was now the suggestion of compulsion. He remembered that that was a question which was introduced some eight years ago by his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy). It was one in which it was necessary carefully to examine and watch the progress of public opinion in Ireland. He was not sure that public opinion had been keenly directed to the matter. The hon. Member did not profess to be acquainted with the views entertained by the Roman Catholic dignitaries of the country. He was not aware that during the last six or seven years any clear expressions of opinion had come from that quarter. But Sir Patrick Keenan, a distinguished Roman Catholic, and a man of great experience and acquirements, who was Resident Commissioner of National Education in Ireland, had read a most important paper at the Social Science Congress at Dublin, a year or two ago, which, he regretted, had not been communicated to Parliament. Sir Patrick Keenan favoured what might be described as a safeguarded compulsion. It was most desirable to devise some means of increasing the attendance of children. What remedies had been suggested? They had had three speeches. First, there was that of the hon. Member for Limerick, in which he looked almost in vain for any practical suggestion. The hon. Member for Limerick suggested that compulsion should be safeguarded by permitting an exemption to be granted to every child who pro- duced the certificate of its parent that there was no school within a reasonable distance to which it could be sent without danger to its religious convictions. But the compulsion must apply to the parent; and if they allowed the parent who was to be compelled to exempt himself from its operation, the compulsion would be of a very vague kind indeed. The hon. Member said he would allow of some kind of proceedings by the permission of some tribunal, after certain warnings to the parent; but that, again, was rather indefinite. The noble Lord who seconded the Motion (Viscount Lymington), and who left them for a considerable time in doubt as to the course he meant to take, did not attempt to grapple with the crucial point—namely, what kind of compulsion was to be applied, how it was to be exercised, and at whose instance. The noble Lord told them that Irish education should be elastic, and not bound by rule. That was practically what it was now; it was elastic, and the parent was as free as air.


said, that he had only spoken of its not being bound by official rules.


said, the conscience of the parent was to be got at in some tangible way; and yet he was not to be constrained by any rule to obey his conscience. Therefore, although the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution had raised an important discussion, they had not very exactly communicated to the Minister of Education any principle on which compulsion was to be applied. Neither had the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair). While the right hon. Gentleman recognized the social and religious difficulties which surrounded the question, and said he was not opposed to a safety-valve, he did not express himself very definitely as to how he would apply compulsion. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested the formation of School Boards, which were not looked upon with favour in Ireland, but, failing them, the appointment of a School Attendance Committee; but he (Mr. Gibson) was at a loss to know how they were to be composed, what were to be their duties, and how were their duties to be enforced. Those were matters on which they could not give an opinion off-hand without any definite information. The right hon. Gentleman had adduced some in- teresting and curious facts about the education of Irish criminals, but they hardly supported his argument. Education of a low type was, he had told them, easily rubbed off; but the education which those criminals carried with them to gaol did not appear to have been rubbed off. No doubt, when the State contributed such large sums for education, it had a right to see that it got proper value for its money, and as to payment by results, that was a proposition which was accepted in Ireland; but he asked the right hon. Gentleman how would that principle operate on those who did not and who would not attend school? They might secure that those attending school should come up to a particular standard; but that would not of itself ensure them a larger attendence at the school. At the same time, he thought it well that that question had been brought under the consideration of the House. The debate would, he believed, tend, in the first place, to bring into prominent relief the fact that local bodies in Ireland did not take sufficient parting that burden; and, in the next place, it would serve to show that parents did not exert themselves as they might do to send all the children to school who ought to go there; and he thought that such a pressure would have good results, because there was a great love of education in Ireland, and the parents, and even the elder children, were anxious that the younger children should be taught. He believed that that discussion would be useful in giving a healthy stimulus to opinion in Ireland on that subject; and it would be the duty of those who were responsible for the government of the country closely to watch the progress of that opinion, and be ready in every reasonable way to assist its advance.


said, that after the last two speeches he felt rather painfully the comparatively hampered position in which he stood. He must say that there were several points which he should like to start for discussion in connection with that question, including that which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson) had mentioned—namely, contribution from local funds towards national education in Ireland. He confessed that he was a little disappointed at the general course of the debate; indeed, he was much disappointed in one respect, and much pleased in another, and perhaps his pleasure exceeded his disappointment. From the position in which that subject stood at present, two contributions he had hoped might be made towards it by Parliament; the first was the elucidation of the practical question of how compulsion could be applied; and the second was the affirmation or the negation of the principle of compulsion. He was disappointed by the way in which one of those points had been treated by the different speakers, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down having been more emphatic than those who preceded him only in refusing to give them advice in regard to it, although he did not say that he was called upon to do so. The Government were deeply interested and concerned in the state of education in Ireland; indeed, they would not be fit to be the Government if they were not interested in it. He thought his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh had exaggerated the state of education in Ireland in several important particulars. In the first place, he entirely objected to the state of education being tested by the very interesting figures given in the Census Report. It was quite true that 25 per cent of the people were illiterate; but they must not forget that in 1841 there were 53 per cent, and that the number had rapidly diminished since that date. Before 1833 they had no national schools. In that year there were only 700 or 800 schools; in 1840 there were still under 2,000; in 1860 there were 5,000 or 6,000; whereas in 1880 there were 7,590. He thought it was evident, by the great rapidity of the increase in the schools and the diminution in the illiterate persons, that what had happened was that the unlettered generation, by no fault of their own, was passing away, and that the rising generation was very much better read than his right hon. Friend said. Last year his right hon. Friend gave figures which were perfectly appalling. The right hon. Gentleman stated that a smaller number of the children on the rolls in the Irish schools were able to read than those on the rolls in England and Wales. The answer to that was very creditable to Ireland, and that was that the number of children on the rolls in the Irish schools was so very large. At this moment, while the number of children of school age in Ireland was about 1,300,000, the number in attendance at one time or another was some 50,000 or 60,000 in excess of that number. The reason was that, in his opinion, a number of young men and young women, who felt their earlier education was neglected, went into the rural schools and joined in the classes with the children for the sake of improving themselves. Whenever he had gone into an Irish rural school he had seen people of that sort up to the age of 20 actually standing in the class. He did not mean by this to say that Ireland was sufficiently well educated. There was another test that his right hon. Friend took. He said that, while the average attendance was 87 per cent in Scotland and 83 per cent in England, it was only 45 per cent in Ireland. He (Mr. Trevelyan) had taken a different basis for his calculation—namely, the entire population; but he could not conceive how the right hon. Gentleman had arrived at that result. In England and Scotland the average attendance of the children was one in nine of the entire population; whereas in Ireland it was one in eleven. That was bad enough, but it was not the difference between 87 and 45 per cent. But when they came to the question of proficiency, Ireland did not stand in the position that he would wish to see her. As far as he could make out, about 350,000 passed in the three highest classes in England, 82,000 in Ireland, and, oddly enough, exactly the same number in Scotland. If it were the case that the higher standards were the same in Ireland as in England and Scotland, though he was afraid they were not, then Ireland would stand very well by the side of England, though very badly by the side of Scotland; and, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, though he was a Scotch Member, he should not be satisfied until Ireland had got much nearer, and, if possible, quite up to the standard of Scotland. The fault was not in the Irish children, whose natural cleverness and brightness was beyond all question. If they took proficiency in essential subjects—reading, writing, and arithmetic—the Irish children were decidedly better than those of England. The defect in Irish education was really that which was pointed out in the Reso- lution of his hon. Friend. The inferiority of average attendances was not so great as was implied by his right hon. Friend, but it was quite enough to make the friends of Ireland uneasy. The causes of this appeared to the Government to be two. Last night he heard language, which he should be sorry to characterize, directed against him for saying that the taxpayer ought not to pay money to Ireland when it was not for the advantage of Ireland. But when it was for the undoubted advantage of Ireland the Government were quite willing that it should be paid. Ireland had been kept too long waiting to share in the advantages accorded to England and Scotland in the matter of the training of teachers. One great cause that the children were badly trained was that the teachers were not themselves trained. But they did their work wonderfully well considering that fact. In England £110,000 a-year was spent for 42 Colleges, which educated 3,150 teachers. In Scotland £27,000 was spent for educating 851 teachers in seven Colleges; while in Ireland only £7,755 was spent on 220 teachers in one College. That was the provision made to meet the requirements of 7,648 schools, manned by 10,600 teachers. He would not enter into the reasons for that; but it was a very great misfortune for Ireland, which all that had the interests of education at heart must recognize. It was a matter which was only, to a certain extent, the business of the Government; but the question was—Was the Government willing to give the necessary funds? The Irish Government had made a recommendation to the Cabinet, which had been accepted at the Treasury, and they were willing to provide those funds. It now passed to the Education Commission in Ireland, and they would approach the subject with the knowledge that if they thought it right to alter the system of grants towards the training of teachers in any direction they thought desirable, the Government and the Treasury would find the money, unless the direction was one with which they strongly and entirely disapproved. That was a subject which had been well thrashed out in that House; and he was very much pleased to think that his hon. Friend the Member for County Longford (Mr. Erring-ton), who had pressed Parliament so often on the question, would be able to road the line which the Government proposed to take. He now passed to the second method of improving education in Ireland—namely, compulsion. No doubt, if masters were well trained, that alone would attract children to the schools; but whether compulsion should be applied was a matter which was all but novel. It was true that those who regarded compulsion as a remedy had against them the Report of the Royal Commission—Lord Powis's, of 1870. But he must own that the Government did not attach very great weight to the Report of that Commission, because in that year this country was in quite the Dark Ages of education. The Royal Commission, by the light of early and inchoate ideas on the subject, discussed it little, and decided against it on, perhaps, not sufficient experience of its operation, for it was only in 1871 that it began to be applied in England, and a year later in Scotland. But they now had the experience, not of Germany only and of Switzerland, but of the whole of that Island, and that experience was of a more than encouraging nature. In England, in 1870, before the introduction of the compulsory system, the average attendance was 1,152,000. In 188!, after 11 years of compulsion, it had risen to 2,863,535. The scholars who passed in reading were 691,763, as against 1,776,059, an increase in culture of 3 to 1 where the population had increased in the proportion of 9 to 8. In Scotland there was less room for improvement. In 1872, the year before compulsion was made general, there wore 213,000 in attendance. There were now 410,000, and the children who had passed in reading had risen from 137,000 to 286,000; so that culture had doubled, while the population had only increased by 400,000. But it had been good for England and Scotland, because it had been carried out with regard for the feelings of the population, and for the feelings of those interested in conducting education. Compulsory education could not possibly be set on foot, certainly could not be worked to any good purpose, unless the arrangements under which it was conducted commended themselves to the people themselves, and to those to whom the people looked up for guidance. If in this matter hon. Gentlemen who had spoken had been indefinite, the Government could not set the example of being definite; and all he could say was that if they were to have compulsion in Ireland they intended that it should be of a practicable character, and be of great service to the country. The Government did not intend to take any step in the delicate subject of national education which would shock the religious sentiments they so deeply respected. At the same time, they would not be untrue to the principles on which education could be effectively and practically conducted. They were not going to act in a hurry in this matter, or without consultation in Ireland with representatives of those of all religions and classes who must be consulted. The measures which already had left the anvil, having been beaten out as far as they could beat them, would require all the aid and co-operation of Irish Members to pass that Session. On the question of compulsory education the debate had thrown much light; but there were points in it and difficulties in it which, if rashly and hastily handled, might make it an apple of discord and discomfort indeed; and he must say plainly that the Government would be glad to have till next Session to consider the question. Even if they had had a debate more fruitful in suggestions of detail it would still have been necessary to have more time, so that those who understood the people, and whom the people understood, might be consulted. On one point he thought his hon. Friend made a rather modest proposal—namely, with regard to the number of attendances. In Ireland, if they deducted Saturdays' holidays and vacations, there were 220 days of school. If they took out seven weeks at spring time and autumn for rural work that left 150 days, and he should be glad if they could contrive to get the children into school during those 150 days. The Government were determined they would not force people's consciences, or hurt their religious opinions; but they did not see any reason why compulsory education should not be carried out in the great towns of Ireland, and over Con-naught, Munster, and Leinster. He had now said not all he could say, but all he really dared say; and assuring the House once more that in this matter they were really practical, he must say, at the same time, they were determined to work in accord with the best Irish ideas. The Government would be very glad if, by approving this guarded but sufficiently emphatic Resolution, Parliament gave it a commission to apply itself to consider how compulsion could be applied to Ireland with due regard to the social and religious conditions of the country; and if it received that commission it would pledge itself to discharge it in the spirit and according to the very letter in which it was worded.


said, he had waited with some anxiety for the concluding portion of the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, for it was not till then that the right hon. Gentleman distinctly stated the intention of the Government to accept the Resolution. Those who were not satisfied that a case for compulsory education for Ireland had been made out might, nevertheless, say that it was a distinct advantage to have the Government committed to a Resolution which, while in one part it assented to the necessity of compulsory education, also took great care in another part to assert that that compulsion should be carried on with strict regard to the social and religious condition of the Irish people. He must say, on the part of those who were not satisfied that a case had been made out for compulsory education, that he could have wished that the Government had distinctly explained the manner in which compulsory education should be carried out. Whatever advantage they had derived from this discussion, they were not a bit nearer than they were at the opening of the debate to a conception of the means and methods by which compulsion could be carried out in Ireland. If there was a Division, he could not vote for the Resolution, as it was so vague and uncertain. Anything coming from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) on education deserved attention; but he did not think he ever heard a generalization more misleading in its character than the one with which he opened his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said in Ireland they had had half-a-century of primary national education, whereas in England they had only 12, and in Scotland 10 years; and was it not melancholy to contemplate the great disparity observed in Ireland in the results as compared with England and Scotland? He objected to that generalization, as it was not founded upon real facts of general application. Before the right hon. Gentleman could argue in that way, he ought first to inquire whether the three countries started upon an equal footing, and whether, during the half-century, Ireland had possessed those educational endowments and advantages generally belonging to the people of England and Scotland. Before they could pronounce a reliable opinion upon the illiteracy or the state of education amongst the people of Ireland, they must look at the question from the historical standpoint. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt at considerable length upon the paucity of attendance at Irish schools; and he (Mr. O'Connor Power) was surprised that in the anxiety of the right hon. Gentlemen who had spoken to account for this paucity of attendance nobody had ever referred to what seemed to him to be the great essential cause of the backwardness of education in Ireland. He referred to the chronic poverty and serious distress of the mass of the people. If he were told that 25 per cent of the population were illiterate, he would answer that 50 per cent were under-fed. It was once said by the founder of a great religious order that no man could pray on an empty stomach. He did not know if that was true or not, but he thought that if they were to get the boys and girls of Ireland to walk miles across country to school they ought to secure that they should have their breakfast first. He certainly agreed that if it were attempted to apply compulsory education vigorously in the country districts in Ireland the poverty of the people would be one of the greatest obstacles which the School Board, or the Attendance Committees, would have to encounter. He objected to the comparison of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh between Scotland and Ireland upon the test of population. The right hon. Gentleman had contrasted the large local contributions in Scotland with the small local contributions in Ireland, notwithstanding that Ireland had the larger population. In his (Mr. O'Connor Power's) opinion, it was no question of relative population at all, but of relative wealth and means. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh had invited the Irish Representatives to account, if they could, for the extraordinary circumstance that a larger proportion of Irish criminals knew how to read and write than those in England and Scotland. He did not know if he (Mr. O'Connor Power) was under the delusion of one idea, and that he was prepared to account for everything by the poverty of the people; but he would account for this extraordinary circumstance from the want of remunerative employment. Boys who went to school for a short time might generally be counted upon to lead virtuous lives up to a certain period, but if there was no field for their abilities or powers to gain an honest livelihood, they were naturally attracted to criminal courses; and it might, therefore, follow that a large proportion of Irish boys and girls might be drawn into crime because of the want of substantial occupation. Reference had been made to the large proportion of Irish criminals to be found in the English and Scottish gaols, and it seemed to him that the very same fatal misfortune accounted for this difficulty also, because if they looked at the class of the people who formed the bulk of the Irish immigrants to England and Scotland, they would find that they landed in this country with no means whatever, and because of their poverty they were obliged to take lodgings, and to reside in the very lowest quarters of the English and Scottish towns. He had called attention to these few general considerations, in order that hon. Gentlemen might realize the causes which, to some extent, had operated to diminish the success of educational efforts in Ireland hitherto, and in order to prevent them from abandoning themselves to a fatal despair with regard to every Irish question. He did not despair of his country in any sense. He did not despair of its ultimate peace and tranquillity, of its ultimate prosperity, and of its progress in education. On the contrary, he had faith in the power and the capacity of his countrymen and countrywomen to work out a better and brighter destiny for themselves; and though he was somewhat dissatisfied with the position in which the Government stood towards the question of compulsory education, because they were not yet able to define any regular method of carrying it out, he would hail any efforts that were made legitimately, and with a due regard for the social and religious convictions of the Irish people, which might enable them to acquire a higher standard of education in their native land.


said, that, having in view the example of compulsion in England, the enormous expense it had involved, and the inconvenience to which it had put those who had to support voluntary schools, he was not strongly in favour of the Resolution when he first saw it. The whole matter had been so carefully guarded by the Chief Secretary and other Gentlemen, especially as regarded the religious aspects of the question, that there remained but the merest shadow of compulsion to apply, affecting very few persons; and, consequently, there seemed to be little to object to in the application of those powers. There could be no doubt that due deference had been paid to the religious aspect of the question and to the Roman Catholics. The present Government must remember, however, that any movement on their part in this direction would be viewed with suspicion by the Irish people. Their sympathies in that matter, however much they differed in other respects, were rather with hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Opposition side of the House. Education in Ireland had improved in recent years; the number of those who could read and write had increased 50 percent, and the numbers of the illiterate had decreased more than 50 per cent. With the increase of schools the generation of the illiterate was vanishing from the land. The impression conveyed by the figures of the National Board in Ireland was very erroneous, and as a proof of it he stated that they had entered on their rolls 1,000,000 children, not including various denominational and private schools, whereas the population of children in Ireland was only 1,003,000. They took credit for children duplicated and re-duplicated, owing to their removal from one school to another. But he believed that the figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Ediuburgh, comparing the attendance in the three countries, were grossly in error, for it was well known—putting aside all other considerations—that the age of attendance differed. In Ireland it was three, in Scotland and England it was five. But it would be found that the percentage of attendances in the three countries did not differ as widely as had been supposed. In England it was 75 .2, in Scotland 70.8, while in Ireland it was 67.3. Now, the question was whether, if these figures were correct, the game was worth the candle; and whether such a radical measure would produce a result commensurate with the difficulties at every turn. While in Great Britain 63 per cent of the people lived in towns, in Ireland only 21 per cent lived in towns. The great bulk of the population were employed in agriculture, and, the assistance of the children being necessary at harvest time, it would not be easy to enforce attendance upon them. In these circumstances, he submitted whether it was worth while pushing the matter further, and suggested that it would be a cheaper and more easy remedy for the irregularities if a small expenditure in the shape of rewards were given to the masters to secure attendance, and a very small award to the children who gave regular attendance. It would also become necessary, if compulsory attendance was insisted upon, to greatly improve and enlarge the existing schools; for, at the present time, having regard to the general character of the children, and the tender age at which they were admitted to school, the accommodation was wholly inadequate for the needs of the country.


said, he rose to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the announcement he had made with regard to the better training of teachers in Irish schools. He thought, at the same time, that there would be a general feeling among those interested in education that the principle of compulsion should not be applied until the training system had had a little time to work. The want of trained teachers had been one of the most fertile causes of irregular attendance at the National Schools in Ireland; and another main cause was the very inadequate and often wretched accommodation. In his opinion, if all the children in Ireland were to go to school the accommodation would be quite inadequate. He admitted that the results of half a century of education were unsatisfactory, but thought that was due, first, to religious diffi- culties; and, secondly, to the insufficient school accommodation. In conclusion, he would express a hope that there would be no unnecessary hurry in dealing with this question of compulsion.


said, he rose to express gratification at the tone of the debate, showing, as it did, a satisfactory progress of opinion since the time, not many years ago, when a Ministry was threatened to be destroyed, because of the difference among its supporters as to what should be the character of education in Ireland. He was glad to find, from all sections, the opinion expressed that if the people were to be educated, the great point was to educate them, and that they should not dispute as to the manner in which they should force the education down their throats. Large districts of the country had been left absolutely uneducated, because the Government and the representatives of the religious denominations could not agree between them as to the education of the people. In connection with the evidence in the Maamtrasna murders, nothing more painfully impressed him than the fact that a witness, 12 years of age, was totally unable to be sworn, because totally devoid of education. He was also glad to hear the reply made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan), whose speech was a most able and interesting one; and though he had the misfortune often to differ seriously with the Chief Secretary, he rejoiced to find him in a position in which there was great play and scope for the great abilities he possessed. He thought they might congratulate themselves that, on all sides of the House, there would be no opposition to a well-considered scheme of compulsory education.

Question put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That it is expedient to introduce into Ireland the principle of Compulsory Education, with such modifications as the social and religious conditions of the Country require.

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