§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. G. W. BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
This Bill is introduced with special regard to the recommendations of the Viceregal Commission appointed to inquire into the system of intermediate education in Ireland. That Commission 488 made a very thorough inquiry into the whole subject; it took a large amount of evidence, and ultimately brought in a valuable and unanimous Report. It is not necessary that I should describe minutely the conclusions at which it arrived, but, speaking generally, it reported in the direction of attaching loss importance to individual results and more importance to tests of general efficiency as the measure of the grant that should be made to a school. How far legislation is necessary to give effect to its recommendation is a doubtful matter; on one point certainly it is requisite, and I think we may take it for granted that the Commissioners would not be willing to give effect generally to the recommendations which they made in the absence of special legislation clearly enabling them to do so. The Bill proposes to give powers of a general character to the Board—powers which will enable them to apply portions of the funds at their disposal for the promotion of secondary education in a manner provided by rules to be made by the Board with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant. It has been deliberately drafted in that form because it seemed to the Government that the provisions of Clause 2 would give sufficient safeguards against any abuse of the powers so conferred; but, in addition, it was thought desirable to give them greater freedom than they would possess if their policy was absolutely limited and circumscribed to the recommendations made in the body of the Report. I am still of opinion that the Bill in that form would be a more useful measure than one limited to the recommendations of the Committee, because it is impossible to say definitely the direction which fresh educational developments may take. Just as since 1878 considerable difference has become apparent in the opinions of those interested in education, so in the next twenty years similar differences may arise. But it has been intimated to mo that in its present form the Bill might prove contentious, and that the element of contention might be removed if in the Committee stage the Government were prepared to introduce Amendments confining the scope of the Bill to the recommendations actually made by the Commissioners. In the circumstances I shall be prepared to make that concession to the objectors to the Bill, and having given that intimation I 489 trust that the Second Heading of the Bill will be taken without very much further discussion. The measure will constitute an important stop, not only in the cause of secondary education in Ireland, but in the cause of education generally in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. G. W. Balfour.)
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
The circumstances under which the Bill has been brought to a Second Reading are such as will probably prevent any great contention over its provisions. A Bill dealing with this subject cannot, however, be disposed of in a few minutes; there must be some reasonable discussion of the subject. I do not think it would be possible for a more important and interesting subject connected with Ireland to be brought before the House. It is now some twenty years since the intermediate system of education was established in Ireland, and ample time has elapsed to enable the Irish people generally to judge of its merits and demerits, and, with regard to the system, the public opinion of Ireland has come to three clear conclusions. I believe that public opinion has come almost unanimously to the conclusion that, looking at the system broadly, it has worked a very great deal of good in the secondary education of the country. It has certainly put an end to the apathy and stagnation which prevailed in Irish schools twenty-five years ago. Interest in the school work has quickened, and emulation has been stimulated and improved. Boys at school work with a keener zest than they did twenty-five years ago, and the standard of secondary education has been greatly improved in every school throughout the country. Not the least valuable feature of the system is that it has enabled high-class secondary education to be imparted to the children of poorer parents—education which it was very difficult for them to obtain before the intermediate system was introduced. The Irish people under these circumstances are prepared to admit that the system has been of enormous benefit. But it is equally clear to them that this intermediate system has grave defects which have been apparent to everybody, and I say the fact that we have had to wait over twenty years for a remedy for 490 these defects points to the most serious defect of all—the centralised and irresponsible educational control which has been set up. The Board of Education which exercises control over the education of the country consists of seven gentlemen, and although I dislike intensely alluding unnecessarily to any question of religion, I feel bound to point out that of these seven gentlemen four are Protestants and three Catholics, and it seems rather a strange thing that Protestants should preponderate on a Board which is administering education to boys the overwhelming majority of whom are Catholics. This Board is exclusively appointed by the Government, and its history for the last twenty years shows that it has been for the most part absolutely out of touch with educational opinion in Ireland. Certainly the headmasters of the schools in Ireland have had no voice whatever in the management of examinations or any other matter connected with the work of the Department. I believe it is not overstating the case to say that for the most of those twenty odd years, certainly for the last ten years, no member of the Board has had any personal experience whatever of secondary education in Ireland. I think that is a system thoroughly unsound. The gravest defect of all is that the constitution of this educational control is wrong. It is, I believe, without parallel in any country in Europe. I do not think there is another instance in Europe of an educational board of this kind which has not associated with it a consultative council, upon which the opinions of practical educationists are represented. I do not pretend to be completely familiar with the educational systems of Europe, but I do not believe that in any country there is an Education Board appointed by the Government having no association with practical education, as happens to be the case in Ireland. Even here in England —England that is always so slow to move in these matters—this Continental system was adopted last year. An Education Act was passed for England which created a consultative council, to consist, so far as two-thirds of its members were concerned, of persons qualified to represent the views of universities and other bodies interested in education. The first consultative council includes such authorities as Mr. Dyke Acland, Sir William 491 Anson, Mrs. Sophy Bryant, Sir William Hart Dyke, Professor Michael Foster, Professor Jebb, Mr. Ernest Gray, Professor Owens, and others. With such a precedent, surely a similar system might be extended to Ireland, and you might give us a consultative council charged with the duty of advising the Board on educational matters. We have a precedent nearer at home. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the South Division of the County of Dublin in his place. Last year a measure was passed constituting the Department of which he is the head, and a provision was inserted in it for the creation of a consultative council to advise him on matters of technical education. The principle having, therefore, been adopted in England, and to a certain extent in Ireland, I submit that it should be extended to the Intermediate Education Board, as until that is done that Board will continue, as it is, I believe, to-day, to be very largely out of touch with educational opinion throughout the country. This is a reform which, for my part, I feel sure is bound to come in the very near future. This Bill, however, does not propose any reform of this character at all. As the right hon. Gentleman has most frankly stated, it, on the contrary, confers new and enlarged powers on this centralised and irresponsible Board. As it is drawn, it enormously increases the powers of the Board, and if it be passed as it stands it will give for all time to the Board of Intermediate Education, however it may be constituted in the future, absolute power to spend its endowments in any way it likes. That is a proposal which I certainly cannot agree to, neither do I believe that the Irish Members of this House will assent to it. If the constitution of the board were amended in the way I have suggested, by associating with it a consultative council, then the objection to giving enlarged powers to this Board would almost entirely disappear; but so long as the Board is constituted as at present I believe Irish representatives would be false to their duty, and false to the best interests of education in Ireland, if they agreed to pass a measure such as this, giving the Board absolute plenary powers. This Board may or may not command public confidence. Nobody can tell what its constitution in the future may be, and it certainly seems a rather startling proposi- 492 tion that we should be asked to give it a blank cheque to enable it to do as it likes henceforward. This Bill proposes to give power to the Board to interfere, not merely with the results of education, but also with the methods of education in every school in Ireland. The schools, in fact, will have absolutely no voice whatever, and therefore I say that in my opinion it would be a most unwise and foolish thing for the Irish representatives to give the Board power to carry out Amendments in their system of which we know nothing, and which will not be submitted for our judgment. I therefore cannot agree to the Bill passing in its present form. With its main object, however, I am in perfect accord. That object is plain. The history of this intermediate system is in many respects most curious. For upwards of twenty years public opinion has been clamouring for a. change in the Education Board, and the anti-reform section of that Board, if I may so call in, has been successful in preventing any reform whatever. At last, by the exertions of some members of the Board, it was induced to ask the Lord Lieutenant for an inquiry into the present system, and the House will be amused when I recall the fact that the inquiry that the Board asked for was to be one directed by itself; in other words the Board of Intermediate Education asked that members of its own body should be appointed a Commission to inquire into the defects or the merits of the system it was administering. The Intermediate Education Commission which sat was, therefore, a Commission consisting only of members of the Board of Intermediate Education itself The inquiry, though hold under such disadvantageous circumstances, still proved most valuable. It was held in the light of day, and by the very force of circumstances the Board were obliged to examine as witnesses all those associated most closely with educational interests in Ireland, with the result that evidence was given on every part of the system, and the greatest possible light let in as to its merits on the one side, and its defects on the other. The Commission—rather to my surprise, I confess, knowing some of the elements on the Board—unanimously agreed to a Report of a most valuable character, setting forth a number of very important reforms—reforms for which people have been clamouring for a great 493 many years past. It would not be right for me to attempt to make this an opportunity for any prolonged consideration of the Report, hut I might say in passing that I think the Government ought to give Irish Members a proper opportunity of discussing the recommendations in that Report. Those recommendations, when they become new rules under this Bill, will have to be laid upon the Table of the House for a certain number of days; but we know by experience that that does not mean a proper and adequate opportunity for discussing matters of that sort. They will come on late at night when there is no real opportunity for discussion, and I think it will be only fair if I ask the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government to give us some sort of understanding that before the forty days, or whatever may be the number of days during which the rules are to lie on the Table elapse, a fair opportunity should be given for their consideration. If we have no such prospect before us I am afraid we will be driven to consider and discuss them on this Bill—a course which will be inconvenient and not in the interest of the passage of the measure. All I have to say may be summed up in two or three sentences. The chief complaint against the system of intermediate education in Ireland was that it led merely to a training of the memory, that it did not train the intellect, that it simply crammed the mind. The system of competition and the system of exclusively written examinations were very largely regarded as the causes of the deplorable results which undoubtedly have followed. I regard the first three recommendations of the Report as of enormous importance. The provision as to the two courses will enable boys to obtain the advantage of the system by training themselves more on a commercial than on a literary or a classical basis, and the first two provisions are calculated to put an end to the system of cramming, which undoubtedly has had very bad effects in the working of the system in Ireland. Equally important from this point of view is the recommendation which provides in certain cases for viva voce as well as written examinations, and in certain circumstances that the test of the efficiency of a school should not be solely, as heretofore, the results of the examinations, but should depend upon a certain 494 modified inspection. These are some of the main recommendations in the Report, and it would be very foolish for anyone interested in secondary education in. Ireland to throw any obstacle in the way of those recommendations being carried into effect. I must, however, take this opportunity of expressing the deep regret universally entertained in Ireland that there is nothing in the Report dealing with the study of Irish. Some years ago the marks allotted to Irish in the programme of the Intermediate Board were suddenly, and without any valid reason being given, reduced, and they are to day considerably below those awarded for French, German, or other languages. It is a monstrous thing that the language of the country, the ancient language of Ireland, should in this way be proscribed in the system of intermediate education, and that it should be on a lower level than the languages of the Continent. If it were in my power, I would be delighted to have an opportunity of moving some Amendment that would insert in the new rules which will be based on these recommendations, a. provision that the marks for Irish should be raised to the standard at which they stood before, or at least be equal to. those given for French or German. Let me, however, briefly sum up the position I take on this Bill. I am quite willing—I am anxious—that the Board should have given to them the necessary powers to carry out the recommendations of their own Report, and if the Bill is amended in the direction indicated by the right hon. Gentleman so as to limit these powers to carrying out those recommendations, I think it will be the duty of Irish representatives not only not to throw any obstacle in the way of this Bill, but to facilitate its passage into law. I have drafted an Amendment on this subject, which I propose to put on the Paper, and a copy of which I have handed to the Government. I do not ask for any pledge that the Government will accept the precise terms of that Amendment, but I do expect the right hon. Gentleman to give us a pledge that in Committee an Amendment carrying out the substance of my proposal will be either proposed or accepted by the Government. My suggested Amendment runs in this way—And so far as may be required, in order to carry into effect the several recommendations 495 contained in the Report of the Intermediate Education Commission presented to Parliament in 1899, may from time to time apply a portion of the funds placed at the disposal of the Board," and so on.The Bill, as it stands, enables them in future to dispose of the money under their control in any way they like, while the Amendment I suggest limits their power to the spending of the money in the carrying out of those particular re-commendations embodied in the Report, which are before us, and of which we approve. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to promise that he would accept in substance that Amendment, and on that understanding I hope the Bill will be passed into law. I may be asked why, if I take so strong a view as I have expressed about the constitution of this Board, should I agree to enlarge its powers at all? The answer is very plain. We all want the constitution of the Board altered, and I am strongly in favour of associating with it such a consultative council as exists elsewhere. But I have to ask myself—are we, therefore, to postpone all the reforms for which we have asked and waited for the last twenty years? We desire to see the recommendations of this Report carried into effect, and the only way they can be carried into effect is by passing this Bill with the alteration I have suggested. I should, therefore, on the understanding given, support the second reading, and I think it would be a wise course generally for Irish Members to take the same line, in the hope that thereby we may obtain valuable reforms in the system, and that in the constitution of the Board in future we may be able to obtain such a reform as I have indicated.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I rise to perform once again the ungrateful task of criticising the drafting of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman opposite has told us that this Bill does not provide for the preservation of the Irish language. I think, at any rate, judging from this Bill, that the English language has become almost a dead tongue in Parliamentary drafting. The first section of the Bill begins—Notwithstanding anything in the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1878, or the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Act, 1890—notwithstanding anything in those two Acts—therefore, before I come to this 496 Bill at all I have to know everything in those two Acts. Then I turn to Section 4—This Act may be cited as the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1900, and the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1878, the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1882, and this Act shall be construed as one Act, and may be cited collectively as the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Acts, 1878 to 1900.Therefore I have got four Acts to read together before I can come to a knowledge of what is enacted. That is hard enough, but let me come back to the first clause—Notwithstanding anything in the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1878, or the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Act, 1890, portion of the funds—What portion? A small portion? A large portion? Some portion? Is there a word omitted? It must be Irish.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Certainly as it is here put in English it is not intelligible. You cannot say "portion." You can say, "a portion," "some portion," or "any portion." It may be adequate, but it does not appear so to me; that is all I say.—portion of the funds placed at the disposal of the Intermediate Education Board for Ireland (in this Act referred to as 'the Board') may, subject to the proviso in Sub-section (4) of Section 5, and to Section 7 of the said Act of 1878—First of all you say, "notwithstanding anything" in that Act, and now it comes in as part of the Act. This seems to me to be another instance of that legislation by reference which has been so often condemned in this House. I do not know how the English or the Irish Attorney General would deal with such a simple matter if they had to refer to the Ten Commandments or the law against murder. I suppose he would say, "Notwithstanding anything in the 20th chapter of Exodus, the word 'wilfully' should be inserted in the 13th verse," and then I suppose he would say, "This Act shall not extend to Ireland." I sometimes ask myself whether the framers know what they have in their minds. Here is another point to which I invite 497 the attention of the Chief Secretary. Sub-section 2 of Clause 1 provides—All rules made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within three weeks after the same have been made, if Parliament be then sitting, or if Parliament be not then sitting, within three weeks of the session then next ensuing.But which end of the session? Is that right? To make that passage intelligible you should follow the example set in the first part of the phrase and insert—Within three weeks after the commencement of the session.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
If that is the common form, then it is not intelligible and it is not plain, and such words ought not to be put into an Act of Parliament. It is another instance of slovenly drafting, and it is neither English nor Irish. I do not think the Education Commissioners will understand this law, and certainly the man who comes down to give technical instruction will not be able to understand it. I protest against this kind of drafting, for the object of a draughtsman should be to render that which is complicated distinct and clear and that which is involved plain, so that we may all understand exactly what laws we have to obey.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
reminded the hon. Member for King's Lynn that the object of the drafting of a Bill was that nobody should understand it. Had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford he should have been inclined to oppose the measure. He was perfectly sensitive of the number of absurdities that had grown up under the existing system of examinations in Ireland, especially in the teaching of modern languages. In order to obtain passes in French, pupils were instructed to pronounce the French language as it was spelt. As to "cramming," he could not see how pupils could learn anything except by cramming. The system which it was proposed to abolish had to be compared with the system which it was intended to introduce. Could any rule which could be proposed get over the question of 498 personnel? The laws which were passed for Ireland were good enough until they reached the judges. The rules under this Act might be of a splendid and impartial character, but the moment they got away from the practice of this competitive system and entered upon the question of personnel, then came in religious and political controversy, and the schools would consider whether the inspector was a Protestant or a Catholic, whether he was a Jesuit or a member of the Nonconformist conscience. Under the system proposed to be set up they would have at once, unless the inspectors were almost on a level with the angels, a burning-controversy. They had been told that for the first time they were going to have superannuation. He did not know how this superannuation would scale off all this earthly dross. Suppose they appointed as an inspector a most learned, a most pious, and the most perfect Jesuit possible to examine an Orange school— say, in Sandy Row—in the elements of Euclid. The whole of the pupils might find themselves "plucked" by the new examiner. In that case was there an organ in Belfast that would not be ready to contend that this result had ensued because a Jesuit inspector had been sent down? He would take another case. They had at the present time, earning large sums, Jesuit schools in certain parts of the country. Supposing they sent down some hard and fast examiner from the north of Ireland, with very strong theological views, to examine a Catholic school in Cork which had hitherto earned large prizes, was it supposed that they would not have the suggestion made that the inspector was a person of religious bias? He saw the other day, in a paper in the south of Ireland, where it was the custom to have an examination in the Catholic catechism, that several columns were occupied with attacks on the clergyman conducting the examination, whoso fairness was called into question. That was amongst Catholics. Now it was proposed, in regard to a Board composed of four Protestants and three Catholics, to set up a system which was to give satisfaction to both sides. He would ask anybody who had considered the subject to consider the personnel of the examiners, even under the competitive system. Papers were set, and secretly set, and; there had been no imputation whatever of unfairness, and so far as 499 he knew there had been no complaint whatever of the existing competitive system. But it was a strange fact that at the very moment this competitive system was instituted nearly all the examiners were Protestants. Taking the entire body of examiners who had been conducting the competitive system in Ireland for the last twenty years, it was an extraordinary thing that the learned persons set to conduct the examinations nearly all belonged to the general minority of the people in Ireland. His hon. and learned friend had mentioned the names of the members of that Commission, and undoubtedly they were all very eminent men. For his part he protested against judges of the land being appointed members of that body. Why did they not mind their own business? To tell him that a lawyer of the eminence of the Chief of the Bar had not enough to do in his own court, and that he had to fill up his leisure time and amuse himself in setting problems for the benefit of the youth, when he had problems enough to discuss in his own court, was an absurdity, and a gross absurdity. Either the judges had enough to do or they had not. If they had not enough to do, abolish them. If they had enough to do, do not go to the farce of suggesting that men of that laborious occupation could really engage themselves in business of this kind. Take Mr. Justice Mathew. He was no doubt a very distinguished Shakesperian scholar, and a very eminent man in many ways; but was it suggested that he had not enough to do on the bench, or that he ought to be supposed to occupy the Long Vacation in considering those educational problems? Had the Lord Provost of Trinity College not enough to do? The O'Conor Don was a man of leisure, a gentleman and a Catholic, and was a proper appointment from the point of view of a man having time on his hands. Then there was the Rev. Mr. Martin, of the Theological College, Belfast. He knew nothing for or against him, but he thought he should be a gentleman sufficiently employed in the Theological College. Of Mr. David G. Berkley he had never beard, and he did not know whether he came from Belfast or Bantry; and there was the Archbishop of Dublin. The majority were hostile in religion and politics to the majority of the people of Ireland. They were told that in ordinary times Ireland was a hotbed of controversy, 500 but yet a large number of persons of a different persuasion to that of the majority of the people were appointed to these positions. He would be well disposed to have this Bill deferred to another session, and then, perhaps, in a new Parliament the Government might bring up a scheme for the entire revision of the education system. They had stood it now since 1878, and for his part he would be prepared to bear the burden for another twelve months. The final observation he had to make was that he entirely protested against this scheme. The first thing an office-seeker in Ireland wanted was a job; when he got the job he wanted an advance in salary; and when he got the advance he wanted a pension. These office-seekers were all delighted when they got the jobs, and they were perfectly satisfied; then their work became really overpowering, and they claimed an advance of salary, and when they got that they wanted a pension. Who were these gentlemen? Let their names be known. Thorns' Directory was rather vague on the subject, but he would back this: that every man who was to get a pension under the Bill was a Tory and a Protestant. That he was sure of, because there was no fear that the Government would go out of their way to give pensions to Catholics or Nationalists. The Bill, as the hon. Member for King's Lynn complained, was very vague in its drafting; but as he read it, the pension scheme would moan a further diminution of the Irish Church surplus. The Bill stated that "the Board may, if they think fit, order out of the funds at their disposal," which, of course, meant the funds out of the Local Taxation Account—which was to that extent an earmarked Imperial Fund— and the Irish Church surplus. No burden would be placed on John Bull; he was too much engaged in South Africa and China, and of course the losses in Natal must be taken into account. Therefore, for the second time in this session, they had a raid made on the Irish Church surplus for the benefit of a particular class in Ireland. He protested against it. He thought these gentlemen had done very well out of the country. They had had very little to do in making out these examination papers. Look at all the examination papers available. There were the Home Civil Service examination paper, the examination paper 501 for sub-commissioners in Ireland, which he recently brought before the House, and the Indian Civil Service examination papers. The officials would only have to copy from them, and for that they were to be given pensions. There was a great deal to be said for the view of the Gaelic League and other societies of that kind—namely, to block these Hills and then insist on their own views. The Government sooner or later would give in, and, perhaps, if they would give the pensions, the Government would give marks in Irish, or something of that kind. If they promised the pensions the Government might even agree to the teaching of the Irish language, and in that way, in another session, and, perhaps, in a new Parliament, they might get what they wanted. His own view was entirely against the passing of the Bill, and he thought that it was to be regretted that the Government had not determined to bring forward a comprehensive reform of the system now in force.
§ MR. LECKY (Dublin University)
After an exceedingly long and full inquiry, at which all creeds and classes in Ireland were heard, the members of the intermediate Board, among whom were Archbishop Walsh and the Provost of Trinity College, came to a unanimous conclusion on this matter, and I believe that this scheme was drawn up by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and the representatives of the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church. I do not suppose that anyone imagines that the Intermediate system in Ireland is, or ever will be, a perfectly ideal one under existing conditions. In working an united system of three creeds we must look not only to questions of efficiency, but quite as much to questions of religion. We must oftentimes duplicate officials, not because they are wanted, but because they belong to different creeds. Examiners must be changed over and over again for the same reason, and under these circumstances you will never get an ideal system. All classes in Ireland are agreed that the system of payment by results, which some years ago was popular, has been carried to an extent which is extremely injurious to the best schools of Ireland, and the real point in this Bill is to substitute payment after inspection to a great extent for payment by 502 results. The three most eminent members of the three different creeds in Ireland are all agreed that this very important change is for the benefit of the poor children for whom this intermediate system is intended, and I earnestly hope that those proposals, having been received with complete harmony in Ireland by members of different creeds, will not be obstructed or opposed by hon. Members, and that this piece of good work for Ireland may be carried into effect during the present session.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I confess I hold what I know to be a somewhat extreme view on this question. I go so far as to differ from the hon. Member for Waterford in what he says as regards the effect that has been produced by the results system in Ireland. I am a bigot on this subject, I admit. I believe, although it is a deplorable thing to have to say, that intermediate education in Ireland is worse to-day than it was fifty years ago. I do not expect any Irishman to agree with me, but I do believe that we have been going backwards. I believe our fathers had better schools in Ireland than we have at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, whose authority on these matters is great, and who, whenever he devotes himself to a speech on education or literature, is always listened to by hon. Members on these benches with the respect and interest he deserves, drew in his speech a most melancholy picture of the state of Irish education. He seems to accept it as inevitable that Ireland should for all futurity be condemned to the miserable circumstances which have placed the education of that country in a deplorable position. He said practically that all the evils connected with education in Ireland arose from a conflict of religions and the rival claims of different persuasions. I will tell the House what has been the root, in my judgment, of the unsatisfactory position of the intermediate and every other system of education in Ireland. It is that when the Intermediate Education Act was passed in 1878 no man ever thought for a single moment of considering it from an educational point of view. The Bill was dealt with by the Government and by the House, as all Irish educational questions are dealt with, from the point of view of rival factions in Ire- 503 land, and still more from the point of view of the Parliamentary exigencies of the Government. I have been in this House for twenty years, and I confess I never heard Irish educational questions debated from the point of view of the interests of the people or of educational advancement. Irish education has always been dealt with from the point of view of political exigencies, and that is the reason it is so unsatisfactory. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman shows that he has abandoned all hope of ever reaching the true ideal of education in Ireland, and thinks that we must accept this barbarous system of subordinating the educational interests of the people of Ireland to political exigencies as a permanent system. The original Irish Intermediate Bill was a bad Bill, and the machinery for its administration was worse. I will give the reason for that. We see this extraordinary phenomenon, already alluded to by the hon. Member for Water-ford: that for twenty years the Irish people have been absolutely powerless even to demand a reform in the system of intermediate education, because the House of Commons and the Government of the day—with great ingenuity from the point of view of their own convenience, but with infinite perverseness from an Irish educational point of view—saddled us with an irresponsible Board, and abstained from putting down a single pound on the Estimates which would have enabled us to discuss the system from year to year. The effect of that has been that we have been closured and forbidden to debate the working of the intermediate system of education in Ireland. We have succeeded in effecting very considerable improvements in primary education because, fortunately, we had on the Estimates a large Vote which we were able to discuss, and during which we laid our views before Parliament, and consequently many of our grievances were redressed. But, as regards intermediate education, the Government, warned by their experience in primary education, constructed an iron wall, by which, having passed a very bad Bill and set up a very bad Board, they have completely muzzled Irish Members from discussing the working of the system. In my opinion we never will have decent intermediate education in Ireland until we have a Minister or a Board in control of the system which will boar the same relation to the 504 public opinion of Ireland as the English Board of Education has to public opinion in this country. We hear about the danger to the integrity of the Empire in connection with Home Rule. Was there a danger to the integrity of the Empire in allowing the Irish people to educate their own children according to their own ideas? It was part of the system pursued by this country in regard to primary, intermediate, and university education, to compel the Irish people, by taking hold of their children, to forget that they were Irishmen. In order to stamp out the obnoxious spirit of nationalism, the children were never taught the history of their own country or the history of their language and literature. Although that policy had been laid aside, and men are now ashamed to admit that it had ever been put in force, yet the old principles on which the system of education in Ireland was first started still live. I want to know on what grounds this House denies to Ireland the right to educate her own children according to the views of the people of that country, just as you allow the education system of England to be cast and recast according to popular sentiment in England. Am I to be told that the union of the Empire and the interests and integrity of the Empire demand this sacrifice at our hands? I doubt very much whether any Minister will get up at this time of day and say so. The Chief Secretary of the Colonies cannot say that, because we all remember that in the "unauthorised programme" which was to be the alternative to Home Rule he proposed deliberately that the whole system of education in Ireland should be handed over to an Irish Board. That would be a true system; and we would settle this matter among ourselves. I maintain that all these religious quarrels which are alleged as an excuse for the infamies which have destroyed education in Ireland are the creation of your interference in Ireland, and it is intolerable that you should attempt to justify the ruin of our educational interests by such flimsy pleas. Leave us to ourselves, give us a free hand, and in twenty years we will show a very different picture from now. It is impossible to conceive a question more vitally affecting the future generations of our race than that of education, and yet when a Bill is introduced regarding it, hon. Members 505 who are qualified—none better—to appreciate the real ideals on this matter, get up from these benches and, with gloomy countenance and in a melancholy voice, accept as the unchangeable fate of Ireland that the education of our children must be subordinated to vile politics. It is time for us to put forward a claim on this matter of education which you have so dismally failed to make a success, and that you should give it up to some Irish body which would be responsible to the people of Ireland. My position is that this is largely a question of personality, and we shall never have a satisfactory system of intermediate education in Ireland, nor of primary education, until we have a Board which will be responsible to Irish public opinion. There is only one other point on which I wish to say a few words, and that is as to the teaching of the Irish language and literature. The hon. Member for Waterford said quite correctly that unfortunately in the Report of the Commission, which is a very able Report in certain respects, there is no mention of the teaching of the Irish language. That was not because the Commission did not investigate the subject. They heard a great deal of evidence upon it. The preservation of the old records and the ancient literature of Ireland is a matter of interest to practically all the scholars of Europe. The witnesses who came before the Commission gave most interesting and valuable evidence which struck me very much, although I confess I have been for twenty-five years a member of all these national scientific associations, and was indeed one of the founders of the Association for the Preservation of the Irish Language. But when Professor Atkinson came before the Commission he gave evidence of the most scandalous kind. Although the Chief Secretary smiles, I repeat it was evidence which shocked and disgusted the Gorman and French scholars who take an interest in this matter; and in fact it attracted a great deal of attention throughout Europe. This gentleman, who en-joys the hospitality of Ireland and rejoices in the receipt of a large salary, comes forward and declares that the Irish language and literature are worthless objects of study, that it is impossible to teach the Irish language in the schools of Ireland, because its literature is so disgusting and filthy that he would be ashamed to allow anybody to read it. 506 Now I am sorry to say that, although this subject was so fully investigated, there is no recommendation in the Report in regard to the teaching of the Irish language. If my memory serves me rightly, it was placed long ago among the paying subjects in the schools.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I fail to see how the hon. Member can enter into a general discussion of the teaching of the Irish langauge and literature under this Bill. Of course I understand that regulations are to be made by the Board, and it is possible that the question may arise under these regulations. It is competent for the hon. Member to suggest that from what he has seen in the Report the Board of Education in Ireland should not be entrusted with that power; but to raise the question of the Irish language and literature generally is going too far.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Would it not be in order to move, as an Amendment, that no Bill will be satisfactory to the Irish people which does not provide for the efficient teaching of the Irish language?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I think that would not be in order. This Bill is for the creation of a Board which is to make regulations in connection with intermediate education.
§ MR. DILLON
I think if you, Mr. Speaker, will allow me a few moments, on a point of order, I may make some effect on your mind.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I should have said that this is a Bill for entrusting an existing Board with power to make certain regulations.
§ MR. DILLON
The Bill is to endow the Board with very great additional powers which will revolutionise the whole system of intermediate education in Ireland. It seems to me to be at the root of the question that the Bill be read a second time, whether the Irish people have sufficient faith in the Board to justify its being entrusted with such powers. The object of granting these powers is to carry into effect the recom- 507 mendations of the Board in its own Report, and it seems to me that we would be clearly in order in discussing the nature of the recommendations, because there is no object in introducing the Bill except to carry out these recommendations.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is entitled to advance arguments to show that the Board ought not to be entrusted with larger powers, but he is going far beyond that. It is irregular to anticipate what the regulations as to teaching Irish may turn out to be, and so to discuss the teaching of the Irish language as if it were the substantial question before the House.
§ MR. DILLON
The point which I was trying to address to the House was this. In the past history of the Board they started by putting the Irish language upon the same level as French and German. It is a permissive subject, and that is the policy of the Board. There is no compulsion for any child coming into an Irish school to learn the Irish tongue.
§ MR. DILLON
Then I fail to see what we are to discuss on this Bill, and I shall be much obliged if the Chief Secretary or somebody else will explain to us. This is a Bill to give large powers to the Board. If we are not entitled to criticise the Board or to discuss the uses which they have made of the powers that they already have, how are we to discuss the question at all? Am I not allowed to go into the history and tell the House the uses they have made of those powers they already have?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I have said that the hon. Member is entitled to show that the Board ought not to be entrusted with large powers, but the hon. Member is not entitled, because there is a particular subject with which the Board will have to deal in the regulations, to treat that subject as a topic for general discussion upon this Bill.
§ MR. DILLON
Then I will say that this Board has placed the Irish language upon the plane of French and German— that is to say, on the plane of a foreign tongue; and I think upon that ground we are not justified in trusting the Board in future. I now turn to one point arising out of it which, I think, is strictly in order. This Bill proposes, I think, in Clause 2 a certain method by which the Board is to exercise its power. There is nothing in the Bill laying down the conditions under which intermediate education is to be conducted in Ireland in future, but it is perfectly obvious that the object of the Bill is to place in the hands of the Board the power to alter in the most radical manner the whole system of intermediate education in Ireland. I am in hearty sympathy with the resolution, but I think I am entitled to examine the machinery that is to carry this into effect. The Bill prescribes that it should be effected by rules which shall lie on the Table of the House for forty days. I say that the system of education under these new rules will be illusory and absurd, and early next session —for the rules will not be out this session — we ought to get a pledge that a day will be given to discuss the new rules, when all these matters, which are vital to our people, ought to be fairly and fully discussed. I will put the matter a little further, and I would ask the Government to make this departure: I would ask them to place upon the Estimates some Vote—I care not how small, £50 or £100 a year—by way of a grant-in-aid towards this matter, so that in future we may, from year to year, have a right to discuss the system of intermediate education in Ireland, as we now have a right to discuss primary education. I think that is only reasonable, as it is governed by a Board over which we have no control, and upon which the people of Ireland are only represented by a small minority.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
thought that when the hon. Gentleman described himself as a bigot on this Bill he was hardly doing himself justice. In all pro-liability his (Mr. Rentoul's) medical education led him to take a view upon the subject which would not be taken by 509 those who had not given the same study to medical science. While the Commission was sitting to inquire into this matter, a medical man of great eminence wrote to a large number of his professional brethren in Belfast and Dublin upon the question, and received from all a reply which spoke in terms of the terrible evil that was done to intermediate education in Ireland. Those letters were far more important to his mind than any evidence that was given before the Commission, and why they were not published in any newspaper he did not know. It was from the medical point of view that this Bill ought to be considered, and therefore he could not agree with the first of the three propositions laid down by the hon. Member for Waterford. The hon. Member said that the system of intermediate education that had been in vogue since 1879 had done marked good. No doubt the hon. Gentleman spoke from his own experience; but let hon. Gentlemen compare their experience with his. The hon. Gentleman's first remark was that boys work with greater assiduity; that he emphatically and entirely denied. In the schools before 1879—before this system of intermediate education was started—the assiduity of the boys was just as great as at the present time. He had been a pupil at four Irish schools, and had once had opportunities of being in many in connection with prize distributions, and he had taken a great interest in this subject. Bribery with regard to education—and he regarded these prizes and scholarships as bribery—had been rampant in Ireland since 1879. It was simple bribery and prostituting education, and dragging it down from the high level on which it ought to stand. The cultivation of the intellect ought to stand next in importance to the cultivation of the soul, though it required a greater metaphysician than himself to say where the one ended and the other began, and he almost despaired when bribery and fraud were so rampant. They might almost as well offer bribes to people to attend to their religious duties. The hon. Member then said that the standard of education had been raised, and there, again, his experience did not coincide with that of the hon. Gentleman. As a test he would point out that the intermediate schools, both before and since 1879, had been preparing students for the university colleges, but, so far as he could hear, the standard of examination 510 necessary to obtain a scholarship in the three Queen's colleges had not improved. The standard of education had not been improved at all. If the standard had been raised in the intermediate schools, clearly the standard in the university colleges must have risen too. Some hon. Gentlemen only smiled, and that was because they did not approve of the Queen's colleges, but that had nothing to do with the question. The point was that so long as students came into the colleges from these schools the colleges were the test of the work done in the schools. He found on looking over the list that Queen's College, Galway, had the honour of having more Members in that House than any other university college in the United Kingdom except Christ Church, Oxford, and that being so the scholarships of that college would certainly be the test in the matter. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman said that education by this intermediate system was being extended to the poor. Again he would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, before he repeated that statement, to investigate and find out whether there were more students now going on to university education than before 1879—whether, in fact, the number had increased, and whether intermediate education had done anything in that direction. The hon. and learned Member had said that the system had many grave defects. There he agreed with him at once. He listened with great attention and took great pains to hear what the many defects wore, in order to treasure them as the result of the hon. and learned Member's experience of the subject. As far as he could gather, the hon. and learned Member stopped with one of the grave defects, and that was with reference to the seven gentlemen who formed the Board. The grave defect there, in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind, seemed to be that four members were Protestants and three were Catholics.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
That is a most unfair statement. I only alluded to the constitution of the Board in passing. The real defect in the constitution of the Board to which I drew attention was that it was irresponsible and had net associated with it, as have other similar 511 Boards elsewhere, anything in the nature of a consultative council.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said he should be extremely sorry to say anything unfair to the hon. and learned Member, but that was how the matter struck him. He did not gather any other objection. He now came to the recommendations of the Commission, and he might refer just in a sentence in passing to the question of teaching the Irish language. He thought that instead of letting children waste their time in learning Irish it would be better to let them learn French and Gorman, or something that would do them some good. As for the statement that the teaching of Irish was desirable on account of its necessity in the investigation of old documents, surely it was rather trifling with a serious debate to put such an argument forward. There were not three of the Irish Members in that House who, in addressing their constituents, could speak fifteen words of Irish. [Several HON. MEMBERS: It is not true.] Hon. Members said the statement was not true. He always liked things to be brought at once to the test. His test was this. Let hon. Members representing Irish constituencies who did speak the Irish language write letters to the newspapers in the Irish language contradicting the statement. A statement of that sort made across the floor of the House did not mean much, and recoiled upon the gentlemen who made it. He recalled to the recollection of hon. Members the statement made only a few weeks ago by the Lord Chief Justice as to the inutility of trying to learn the Irish language. As regarded the Commission, one recommendation was certainly of extreme value. He referred to the recommendation with regard to having a modern school course and a grammar school course. The hon. Member for North Louth had said he did not see very much objection to cramming. He could not help thinking that the hon. Member must attach a different meaning to the word from that which was usual. The word education meant the drawing out of the mental powers, but cramming was the very opposite. What did they mean by cramming as understood technically in 512 schools? They meant that educational pills were prepared, and that they were; swallowed. A portion of history was taken, and a few questions were drawn up and tabulated with the answers. The pupils, without understanding the bearing; of the matter at all, had to commit these questions and answers to memory. They knew that was the way preparation was, done by cramming. The same thing applied to languages. In connection with Latin or Greek, for example, certain catch words, very odd forms of expression, were picked out. They were of very little value to the scholar, but they were generally nicked out as catches, and put down in the examination paper. Reference was made in the debate by the hon. and learned Member to the system of. teaching and examining in modern languages. Anything more futile than that system of teaching could not be imagined!. It was a fact that the pupils were not allowed to pronounce the word at all, lest the attempt to pronounce the word should have an evil effect on their spelling. That was cramming. He advised the hon. and learned Member to look into the meaning of the word cramming. It was a word which was perfectly well-known in the educational world. When a tutor was being employed at present to prepare a pupil privately for the intermediate course he had known the question asked, "Is he a good crammer?" They all knew that cramming was a means of stunting and dwarfing the intellect. If any one wanted to encourage cramming there was no. better means by which it could be done than by the intermediate system as it had existed hitherto. Many Irishmen considered that it would have been better if not a single farthing had been spent on intermediate education since 1879, and. that a vast number of shattered constitutions and early graves were the result of the system. Now a change was to be made, but it was impossible to say whether it would be one atom better. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University said the rules would be made by very able men. But they did not know what the rules would be. It was said that a Report would, be laid on the Table, and that they would have time to consider and discuss the rules. They might be discussed after twelve o'clock, and, of course, if the discussion took place then there was no possibility of teaching the constituencies 513 on one of the most important Bills which had been before this Parliament. To say that the members of the Board were well meaning, conscientious men who would do their best and so forth, did not meet the case. No doubt the Government of 1879 were most anxious to leave on the Statute-book an Act that they themselves would feel credit in afterwards; but it seemed to him that the Act was worse than useless. There was nothing more deplorable in education than to be perpetually changing the system. They must give a plant time to grow before they pulled it up by the roots. He was not in favour of the proposal presented by the Bill; he would rather see the question postponed, or the Commissioners allowed to exercise whatever powers they now possessed at their discretion without the Bill, than that the whole matter should be shelved, as it would be if this Bill was passed, for a very considerable time. The hon. Member for East Mayo had, as usual, made use of the Bill to make some reference to Home Rule. It was, however, rather unfortunate that he did not look more carefully at the result of his argument. He said:—"Why is not this matter left to the Irish and the different denominations? Leave the Irish to manage their own affairs." But that was exactly what was done by the Intermediate Board. [" No."] The Board was composed of seven gentlemen, every one of whom was Irish.
§ MR. RENTOUL
What does that matter? They were seven men of great distinction, and what did it matter if they were nominated by Dublin Castle, so long as the right men were nominated? If there had been a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin they would in all probability have nominated these very men. There was not one of them who could possibly have been objectionable to such a Parliament.
§ MR. DILLON
explained that his point was, that whoever was nominated or elected should be responsible to a body representing the people.
§ MR. RENTOUL
This Intermediate Education Board is responsible to this House. ["No."] Then what does this Bill mean?
§ MR. RENTOUL
contended that if the House had power to disestablish the Board at any moment, to take away its emoluments, and to change its functions, surely the Board must be responsible to the House. The hon. Member for East Mayo was therefore only weakening his argument by bringing in Home Rule by such a side wind. It would be fair enough to say that these seven gentlemen, having acted on a system for twenty years, had become more or less wedded to that system—
§ MR. DILLON
I am sorry to interrupt, but I do not want to be misrepresented as to my attitude towards these gentlemen. These gentlemen have acted on a system imposed upon them by this House. They are not wedded to that system, because they are now seeking power to depart from it. The hon. and learned Gentleman is therefore misrepresenting me in this matter. What I was trying to bring out were the evil results of not having some administrative body conducting the education of the country responsible to public opinion in Ireland.
§ MR. RENTOUL
would not willingly misrepresent the hon. Member, but that was how he understood his argument. The position taken by the hon. Member for Waterford in support of the Bill was not one in which he would be backed by the public generally. The question was whether this large grant of money was well or ill spent. Opinion upon that subject varied along a considerable line. Some people held that the Intermediate Grant had been the greatest educational curse of any land or age. That was one extreme. The other was that the grant had been the greatest possible boon to the people of Ireland. Moderate people, however, who had studied the matter had come to the conclusion that the grant as at 515 present administered was of no value to the country, and that a complete and drastic change was needed. The question was, would that change be made by the Report which would be laid on the Table? And if it was not, would there be any opportunity in which the matter could be fully discussed, so that something might be done which would be of permanent value to the country?
§ * SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I shall not detain the House at any length, but I must express my agreement with one observation, and only one, of the hon. and learned Member for North Louth. I believe this is one of the most important Bills that has been introduced by the present Government or could be introduced by any Government. It is a Bill which will materially affect the education of the youth of Ireland of every class and denomination; and anything that controls and affects the education of the youth of a country determines more than anything else can do the future destiny of that country. I have been a close observer of the working of the Intermediate Education Act, living as I have done in Ireland all my life, and being brought into contact with youths who took advantage of the Act and with youths who were educated before the intermediate system came into operation. The result of my experience is that the Intermediate Education Act was, on the whole, a benefit to Ireland. It was not an unmixed boon, but it was very far from being an unmixed evil. I cannot agree with those who think the general education in Ireland has not progressed under the influence of the Intermediate Education Act; but in saying that I am far from contending that the system is not capable of very great improvement. I may say in passing that it is perfectly vain to expect that youths can be stimulated to a great amount of work and exertion unless some species of prize or inducement is held out to them. There may be individuals of such very superior temperament and constitution as under the ideal of the celebrated Dr. Arnold might enter the arena of study and reach the goal without any material inducement being hold out to them. But such are the few and the exception, and we must legislate for the 516 average of human nature. This applies not merely to youths, but also to men in every stage of life. The majority of mankind are striving for garters, stars, ribbons, or decorations, and they undergo great risks and perils in the anxious struggle. I have often heard it said with regard to examinations of all sorts, "Oh, what a desperate system cramming is!" Cramming may be abused, but cramming really is nothing but devoting; yourself night and day to certain subjects of study which are set before you. Afterwards, when you are subjected to examination, the result of that toil and labour comes forth, and the industrious boy is singled out from the idle boy.
§ * SERJEANT HEMPHILL
We will not dispute about words. I do not understand cramming to mean anything drawn out of a man, nor do I understand education to mean anything drawn out of a man. If that were so, what would be the use of education, the object of education being to improve the intellect and the morale which are essentially bound up in the man? But to come to the Bill itself. After the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford I should be very sorry indeed to throw any difficulty in the way of the Second Reading, but whether the Bill will be a good or a bad Bill depends altogether upon the rules which are made under it. I myself would have preferred that it was postponed; I would like to have seen it brought in as a part of a great scheme regulating the entire system of the education of Ireland. The whole system requires overhauling. This is only a step towards reaching a system of education which is so much wanted in Ireland, and on which the prosperity of the country so much depends. If the rules are framed in such a way as to hold out, equal advantages to all classes of the community, and if the House has a proper-opportunity for discussing and amending those rules, I see in this Bill the nucleus of what may turn out to be a very useful measure, and in that view I shall support the Second Reading.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
The hon. and learned Member for East Down said that he did not know what 517 rules were going to be made by the Commissioners if this Bill passed. If I was in a similar state of ignorance I would vote against the Second Reading of the measure; but I wish to state in the presence of the Government what I understand to be the actual state of the case. The Bill in its present form would enable the Intermediate Board to make any rules they liked at any time in relation to the duties they have to perform. To that proposition I offer the strongest possible opposition. The hon. Member for Waterford stated, however, that the Government had agreed to accept an Amendment limiting the power of the Commissioners to make rules on the lines of the recommendations contained in their Report. That being so, we are not in ignorance of what the Commissioners are going to do. We may not know exactly what they are going to do, but we do know the main lines upon which their work will proceed. If I am wrong in that, I will vote against the Second Heading, but otherwise I shall vote for it. I have no hesitation in saying that if any rule is made contravening the general recommendations of the Report it will be a breach of faith on the part of the Government and of the Commissioners. If, however, as the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, it will be absolutely illegal to make any rubs contrary to those recommendations, I have the strongest reason for supporting the Bill, because I approve of those recommendations. I think there is no difference of opinion on that point. Nobody, except the hon. and learned Member for North Louth, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, has defended cramming, and I am not sure that either of those two Gentlemen would defend cramming properly understood.
§ * SERJEANT HEMPHILL
I do not defend cramming. I gave a definition of what I understood cramming to mean.
§ MR. CLANCY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not defend the system by which at present subjects of comparatively little use are taught, and he does not defend the physical injuries resulting from overwork in connection with examinations. Nobody in the House de- 518 fends those things, and the recommendations of the Report go to remedy those defects, and when I know that the Bill will simply enable those recommendations to be carried out I have no hesitation in supporting the Second Reading.
§ SIR JAMES HASLETT (Belfast, N.)
cordially agreed with nearly all that had been said by the hon. Member for Water-ford, understanding that all that was intended was to give the Board power to carry out the unanimous recommendations of the excellent Commission that took so much evidence in connection with intermediate education. He looked with a certain amount of fear upon the tremendous power put into the hands of the inspectors to say whether or not the quality of the teaching given by a particular teacher was efficient. He freely admitted that if any consultative system could be married to the existing system, if the Commissioners could come down more immediately to the parties who were to be educated, if they could see more to the detail of the work, if they could appreciate the difficulties of the teachers and thoroughly understand the educational work from that point of view, a very great advance would be made, and he hoped the day was not very far distant when that would be done, and there would be a union or fusion between the governing body of the Education Department in Dublin and the general working body in the particular districts. He was deeply interested in the vexed question of the Irish language. He was in favour of it being taught, but it must be subsidiary to the language which would enable the youth of the country to compete in the struggle of life. Care must be taken that the education given did not in any way interfere with the broadening of the horizon of the youth of the country. By teaching them Irish only, the sphere of their labour would be circumscribed; but if the language were taught as Latin was taught—as a means of understanding the records of the country and the beauties of its literature—it was desirable that every Irishman should have a smattering of his own language. Higher marks, however, must not be given for Irish, and lower marks for Euclid or for French or German—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
drew the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that he was now getting into a discussion of the merits of the Irish language.
§ SIR JAMES HASLETT
thereupon concluded his remarks by saying that he supported the Bill, believing that the rules to be made would be rules to carry out the unanimous recommendations of one of the best Commissions which had ever sat upon this question in Ireland. As the Bill merely empowered the Board to give effect to those recommendations, he thought it was a measure which should receive the sanction of the House.
§ MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
While I quite agree that the promised acceptance of the suggested Amendment of my hon. friend has completely changed our attitude towards this Bill, I think it is nevertheless our duty to protest against this system of treating so important a question as the education of the Irish people by a Bill which on its face really discloses none of its main features, as such a measure should do under the circumstances. It is a very deplorable thing that when a Bill was being introduced the rules in accordance with the Report should not have been presented to the House. I also agree with the hon. Member for East Down that it is much to be regretted that we should enter upon a system of education as an experiment, and that after a year or two the whole system should be completely changed again. As the whole value of the Bill depends upon the rules which will be made under it, it is an extraordinary thing that we are precluded from considering those rules in the present debate, and that we should be precluded in all future debates from considering this entire question of the system of education in Ireland. This Bill enables the Commissioners to do a certain thing, and but for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Waterford, which has been accepted, we should have been hopelessly in the dark, and we should have had no future opportunity of reviewing the system set up by the new rules. I quite agree in the general condemnation of the system of intermediate education as practised up to the present time, but I must confess that I cannot go to the whole 520 extent of entirely condemning the result system. I believe a judicious system should combine both the stimulus to the individual pupil and the stimulus to the efficiency of the school as a whole. I could not go at all with the hon. Member for East Down in condemning as demoralising the giving of prizes as a stimulus to study. I think the hon. Member has gone too far, and I do hope that, in the rules which are to be adopted, the general efficiency of the schools will be very carefully considered, while at the same time means should be found of inducing individual pupils to strike out to obtain those marks of distinction which, after all, have not been injurious to the result system. I think when this House gives its approval to these new rules we should have the full means of ascertaining whether the measure is suitable to the country or not; and though I am prepared to support the Second Reading upon the promise which has been given, I do protest against the system of introducing a complete change in the system in the manner which has been adopted, for it commits the House to rules without our knowing exactly what those rules are.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I think it is very unfortunate that these rules wore not presented along with the Bill. I understand that the Government, while not in a position to state the exact rules, have pledged themselves that the money shall be laid out on the main lines of the recommendations of the Commission, and that promise meets our view. I think, however, that it is scandalous that we are asked to pass a Bill of this importance in this way. We hope an ample opportunity will be given by the Government to discuss this question, not after midnight, but at a proper and reasonable hour. As far as educational matters in Ireland are concerned, owing to the way in which the Irish Estimates are arranged, we never have an opportunity of discussing the educational policy of the Government. In my district I may say that the gravest disappointment will be evinced at the way in which this subject has been dealt with.
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
I have no intention of delaying the House, but it appears to me that a subject of this importance deserves the serious 521 attention of the House of Commons. The education of the people is really the most important subject that could engage the attention of the legislature at the present time. What do we see when we look around to other countries, such as the United States, Germany, or Franco, or any other great legislative bodies? Can any Member of this House imagine that a subject of this importance would be brought in by such a skeleton Bill, pledging us to principles of this kind, in any of the Parliaments in the countries I have alluded to? I am not going to enter into detail, but as an Irish Member I protest against this system, for it is not treating a great subject with that attention which it deserves. This question of intermediate education is one which requires immense care and debate by trained educationists. To expect a Bill like this to be accepted practically without debate is not treating respectfully this great subject of education. I think the Bill ought to contain something more than the carrying out of the recommendations of this Commission. The National Board of Education should not be constituted as it is at present, for it is really an irresponsible nominated Board with extraordinary and extensive powers of expending money which is contributed by the ratepayers, who have no control whatever over that expenditure. As a taxpayer and as a representative of the city of Dublin, I object entirely to that principle. I say that the people should have some control over the Board of National Education, who really govern the whole system of education in Ireland. It may be alleged that the House of Commons has a certain control over this expenditure. I deny that, because, owing to the way the Votes are taken for national education, the question does not come within our purview. We have no opportunity whatever given us of controlling the actions of these gentlemen, and the result is that we have a system of so-called national education which is anti-Irish, and which omits to teach the principal thing which an Irishman ought to know. The Irish language is not taught, and I have been requested to ask that Irish should be taught in every national school, and more particularly in the southern districts of Ireland, where the Irish language is still partially spoken. I cannot understand why the Commission omitted any 522 reference to a matter upon which there is such a large amount of popular feeling at the present time, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give us some gleam of hope that this matter will receive attention. I am prepared to vote for the Second Reading, but I do so very unwillingly. I say that the manner in which education in Ireland has been carried out is exceedingly unsatisfactory, and we have no definite guarantee as to what improvement is going to take place except the recommendations of the Committee. These recommendations do not satisfy me, for I think the Irish people ought to have some control over the National Board of Education, and the people should have some control over the funds which they provide. They have neither control nor influence under this Bill, and in this respect it is very unsatisfactory. I have no intention of further delaying the House except to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to give a favourable answer to the request which has been put forward in regard to the teaching of the Irish language. The present system of intermediate education in Ireland has done much harm to the rising generation, because, instead of being given a useful education, they have been taught something which has not enabled them to obtain employment, and the system has been manufacturing an article for which there was no demand. Manual instruction has been altogether neglected, and undoubtedly the results have not been satisfactory. I have no faith in the system of cramming. There was no intermediate system where I was educated, but there was cramming, and I confess the result was that I forgot all about the subject in a very few weeks. The system of cramming is altogether wrong. There is one other matter which to my mind is a very serious defect. Under the present system the smart children are taken out of certain schools and placed in bettor schools, and I think that is a wrong system. I think every boy and girl ought to get equality of treatment. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give some expression of opinion as to the constitution of this Board of National Education, which I trust will be made responsible to somebody, for at present they are responsible to nobody. I hope that an opportunity will be given to the House to discuss and debate these rules 523 so that we may know exactly what system of education is to be introduced in Ireland in the future. Our educational system means either the ruin or the prosperity of the country, for education is the main factor in progress, and a more important thing could not be discussed in this House. The question is non-political and non-sectarian, and every man must be affected by the intellectual progress of the community amongst whom he resides.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Cork)
said that the refusal of the Government and the Education Commissioners to give to Ireland the bilingual system which had been given to Wales was an infamous conspiracy against the Irish language. The Government and the Commissioners appeared to have as much terror of the Irish language as they would have if Mauser Rifles were to be placed in the hands of the people.
§ MR. SHEE (Waterford, W.)
In regard to the Amendment which the Government have agreed to accept, I think it will be very necessary for us to first get the assent of the Government to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for East Mayo in reference to the desirability of giving the House an opportunity of discussing the rules, although they are restricted to the recommendations made by the Commissioners. There is one very important pecuniary question which may arise in regard to the rules which are to be made. Under the system which has hitherto existed the amount given to masters of schools and colleges for results has averaged £50,000 a year, while the amount given to students as prizes has been something less than £18,000 a year. It should be quite possible in making the rules to reduce to a much smaller proportion than £18,000 the amount devoted to prizes for competitors in the class examinations which it is proposed to substitute. I altogether disagree with the right hon. Gentleman in his view that intermediate system has resulted in cramming, because anyone who knows the nature of the questions set in examination papers could not possibly make this mistake, for those questions could not be answered effectively by anybody who had been crammed. The effect of cram- 524 ming depends upon the kind of question the examiner puts, and examiners can to a great extent prevent or mitigate the existence of the evils of cramming by the nature of the questions they set. I think it would be a great misfortune for intermediate education if the annual grant which has hitherto been given in prizes, should be reduced. Undoubtedly it is not the amount of these fees which have been given to the masters of colleges that has produced the success in the system, but it is the amount given to the pupils which has induced them to pay more attention to their studies than they did under the old system of education which existed in Ireland before the Intermediate Education Act was passed. I believe the result of increased grants to the masters would have a tendency to increase cramming, for it would then be to the advantage of the masters to prepare a certain number of pupils, and so prepare them that they would get as the result of the examination a very large proportion of the result fees. The recommendations of the Committee will prevent the adoption of a general pass examination and the possibility of cramming. There is another question which has been mentioned as one of the evils of the intermediate system. I believe that there is real ground for the assertion that there has been over pressure, which is a different thing to cramming. Over-pressure has existed to a very great extent in the intermediate schools, and the result has been that a great many pupils have been practically ruined in sight and in other ways. Possibly the new system will to some extent diminish this over-pressure. I think the Government ought to consent to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for East Mayo that when the rules have been drafted and laid on the Table of the House we should be given an opportunity of discussing them, because it is possible, with the very wide discretion the Commissioners possess, that they may make rules which would be very objectionable to the people mostly interested in the system. For that reason I think the House ought to have an opportunity of discussing the rules. It is also very desirable that every year the House should have an opportunity upon the Estimates of discussing the question of intermediate education, and of dealing, for the public benefit, with the manner in which the Commissioners carry out 525 their duties under the Intermediate Education Act.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)
said he wished to know whether the superannuation proposed in Clause 3 was to come out of the Irish Church Fund or out of the money set aside for the benefit of intermediate education in Ireland.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN
Then you are diverting the money sot aside by this House for education, and you are handing it over to a certain class of officials. This money was granted for a special purpose, and you are devoting it now for a purpose entirely different. That is not a matter which Member's of this House ought to pass. The amount of money for encouraging intermediate education is small enough already, and for this House to take away any large portion of that amount would be a very unfortunate matter. I think the Government might find a sum somewhere else instead of putting their hands upon the fund at the disposal of the Intermediate Commissioners. I have heard a great deal about cramming, but I do not know what is meant. If you do not hold out some promise of a reward to students for their industry and perseverance, they will not apply themselves so much to their studies. I hope the Commissioners will not believe that the majority of the Irish people are opposed to any efforts they may make to encourage pupils to put themselves to the test and bring out to the very full their mental capabilities. I have no sympathy at all with the remarks which have been made upon this question of cramming. I think, however, that this proposal is running in a wrong direction, for it is diverting the money which should be given to those who apply themselves to study, and the money should be used as a stimulus in this direction. I think it is unfortunate that this Fund should be cut into by the Government in order to grant annuities to these officials. I think the Government might very well let the Fund stand for the purposes for which it was intended, and that they 526 should have taken the money for these pensions from some other source.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed, for Monday next.