§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £617,101, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, including a Grant in Aid of the Teachers Pension Fund, Ireland."
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
called attention to the state and situation of some of the buildings of the Marlborough Street Training College, Dublin. There were four colleges—three of them 1169 were denominational, and one was a Government concern and was undenominational. The denominational colleges in 1891 were first put on a proper footing and endowed by Parliament. They were then all freehold, and large grants were made by which the freeholds were granted to the denominations. A very large sum of money, something like £80,000, was spent on the denominational colleges at the time, but when they came to the undenominational college it was a different thing altogether. The undenominational and Government buildings were in a locality part of which was haunted by some of the worst characters of the city, from whom blasphemous and immoral language was heard. This, surely was not a fit residence for students who would become teachers in national schools. A deputation waited on the Chief Secretary in 1901 with regard to the matter, and the Chief Secretary practically supported their demand. In 1902 the Treasury expressed regret at being unable, in consequence of the pressure on the finances of the country, to place the money on the Votes, but in 1903 a wholly different position was taken up, and the Treasury then stated that they had given careful consideration to the application, but had not been convinced that such expenditure was necessitated by the actual condition of the college, and that, even if it were otherwise, the danger of the precedent would be so great that they were not prepared to take the matter up. In view of the facts which he had stated, he submitted that the Chief Secretary ought again to approach the Treasury, declaring that these students were housed in insanitary dwellings in the centre of an immoral district. That was not a fit position in which to place the men and women who in the future would be the national teachers of Ireland. Without going into the question of denominationalism, he contended that the college in Marlborough Street had a right to be put in a position of equality with the denominational colleges.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL (Kerry, W.)
desired, as one who had spent two years in the college referred to, to associate himself with the remarks of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The 1170 neighbourhood was certainly not a proper one in which to train those who had to discharge the all-important national duty of educating the boys and girls of the country. The college, which had done excellent work in the past, was undenominational; it might almost be called a national institution. Students of all classes and creeds had gathered there, and had found that, though they might differ politically and theologically, they could work together in the great national work of improving the condition of the country. He believed that if Irishmen could only meet together more, and discuss in an intelligent and reasonable manner various subjects which now engendered heat, they would soon rise above many of the prejudices which tended to injure the character of the country. The question of the better training of teachers was a very large one. The people of Ireland were hoping soon to have placed before them a great educational scheme which would enable the children of the peasantry to pass from the national school, through the intermediate institution to the University In such a, scheme—and until it was established Ireland would never advance to the position warranted by the genius and intelligence of her sons—one of the most important features would be the establishment of the best means of training the men into whose hands would be placed the teaching of 90 per cent. of the children of the country, and no system would yield the best results which did not bring the young men into some connection with the University. It was not to the benefit of education that teachers should be trained Catholics and Protestants separately; they ought to be brought into touch with the higher thought, wider views and greater tolerance afforded by the University. His idea would be to have a great national University, to which all classes in the country could go without any sacrifice of principle and secure the highest education possible; and in such a University special provision should be made for the training of teachers.
With regard to the general question of education in Ireland it was felt that the present system had lamentably failed; instead of enabling those who were taught to advance in trade and com- 1171 merce its result had been to turn Irishmen away from all knowledge of or interest in their own country. The Board in Dublin consisted of twenty men—ten Catholics and ten Protestants—selected with little or no regard to their qualifications for the office. Too many had been selected because they were political partisans. That was not a proper way in which to form a Board by which the education of a country was to be administered. The members were not representative of the people; they were not responsible to or officially represented in Parliament; and they were able to disregard the demands of those entitled to speak for the educational needs of the country. He desired to make a direct attack on the National Board, who, he contended, had done little or nothing during the sixty years of their existence for the real benefit of education. This National Board had had a free hand with full powers to do as they pleased two or three years ago, but after the Commission had sat and various discussions taken place in this House, they found that at last they must change the old system in order to keep abreast of the times. When the merest smattering of science was introduced where had they to go for the men to teach science? They had to come across to England and Scotland. He blamed the men of the past whose system was so utterly wanting that no men were trained in Ireland capable of taking up these positions. It was a disgrace to the educational institutions in Ireland that a few years ago when the technical department was established they had to go across to Scotland and England in order to find men to fill the highly salaried positions in that department. That was a proof that those institutions had totally and wholly neglected the work placed in their charge. There was not in England, Scotland, Canada, America, Germany, France, or any country in the world, a system of education administered like the Irish system. Many members of the National Board only came to the meetings whenever there was a "job" on, in order to vote their men to these positions. Until some change was made which would place the education of Irish children in the hands of the Irish people, the Irish child would never make any progress. He hoped the National Board 1172 would very soon cease to mismanage the work of Irish education. He trusted the Chief Secretary for Ireland would see that the day had passed when such Boards should be entrusted with important work like the education of the Irish children.
With regard to education itself, how were they to get in Ireland a system of education which would enable the child of the peasant to take its place in the life of the country. How were they to get a system which would enable Irish children to come forward in the industrial and commercial world to compete with Englishmen, Scotchmen, Germans, and Americans? How were they to raise the Irish peasant child; from the position in which a bad system of education had placed him? They must first of all place the management of the educational system in the hands of the people themselves. It was useless to his mind to bring forward systems of education if they had not at the same time a well trained, a highly qualified, and a well paid body of men to administer that system. By this arrangement alone could they secure that Irish boys and girls should rise in the future to that eminence to which he thought their natural ability and genius entitled them. He only wished on this occasion to deal with the main points and policy of the educational system, leaving the details for the present. He had already suggested that it would be absolutely essential if they wished to improve the educational system of Ireland to give the future Irish teachers an opportunity of being trained in contact with University men where their education would be improved, and when they would become better citizens. He wished to impress upon the Chief Secretary that it was absolutely necessary that the men in whose hands would be placed the daily lives of half a million of Irish children ought to have everything that was possible done for them in order to give them a good education. They had already discussed the subject of the National Board. He had that day put a Question to the Chief Secretary in reference to the delay in regard to the oral examinations in Irish as compared with the written examinations, and he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had given him a satisfactory reply. An attempt was made in regard to Colonel Moore's school to prevent the teachers being paid the salaries due to them for the year's work. 1173 Colonel Moore said that 600 pupils had been attending the evening school and great enthusiasm was aroused in the work. Here was the one thing which brightened the lives of young children and made their evenings more entertaining, and yet the National Board tried by every means in its power to check such a system and refused to pay the salaries of the teachers. He hoped the Board would never again take up the absurd and untenable position which they took up in regard to this matter.
He wished to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to a few important matters which he hoped would tend to improve the educational life of the children in Ireland. He would give some striking extracts from the Irish inspector's reports dealing with the statffing of the Irish schools, heating, sanitary accommodation, and other matters, and when the right hon. Gentleman heard them, he thought he would agree that a strong case had been made out for doing something to improve the conditions which existed at the present time. Mr. Downing, chief inspector, reports—(1) Cabins of the rudest type are still to be met with as the habitations of national schools. There remain numerous cases of uncomfortable school houses and insanitary and inadequate premises.(2) Complaints are frequently made of the discomfort of school rooms in winter from want of proper heating.(3) The entire absence of a playground is a common defect.Those who had seen the Irish child coming barefooted into a school with an earthen floor, broken windows and skylight, where the child had to stand shivering the whole day long, knew the necessity for something being done immediately. How was it possible that such a child could give his attention to educational work. It was an absolute waste of time to attend school under such conditions. It was cruelty that a little Irish boy should be subjected to such conditions, which would be a dis- 1174 grace even to a barbarous nation. It would be a disgrace to those who were sent to the House of Commons to discharge national work if they did not do everything in their power to make the conditions under which Irish boys spent their tender years better and more favour able than they were at the present time. Mr. Dalton says—(1) There are no local organisations, no funds, and consequently no regular arrangements for the periodical and timely renovation of the large majority of school houses.(2) No regular provision is made for the heating of the schools during winter. I was surprised and pained during the last three months to witness the total disregard of the most elementary claims of the health and comfort of the children that prevails in this respect. During the month of October last I visited over sixty schools of the district, and everyone knows that the weather throughout the month was exceptionally wet and inclement, yet, in the schools visited incidentally, I came on only three that had got fires.What did hon. Members think of only three schools out of sixty having fires on a bitter cold winter's day. They might spend money on education and new systems for the training of teachers, but under the conditions he had mentioned education was impossible, He had numerous other extracts from the reports of inspectors, who came into contact with the lives of the children, and almost all referred to the entire absence of proper sanitary accommodation. Dr. Moran stated that—The out offices, instead of being an advantage, are in some instances a dangerous source of disease and death.This was a condition of things that ought not to prevail in connection with the Irish educational system, and he trusted that the Chief Secretary would consider these matters now that he had money at his disposal which could be devoted to Irish national education. England was last year voted £1,400,000 additional for improving the education of the children of the country. Scotland, as a result, without any trouble got a further grant of £212,000, and Ireland 1175 £185,000. Already a considerable portion of that had been allocated. He did not wish to say one word offensive of Trinity College, Dublin, but it had been pretty well looked after in the past. Fancy a great institution like Trinity College, with all its vast resources, coming forward and, with beggarly words on its lips, claiming money that ought to go to improve the conditions he had described! It claimed that £5,000 more should go to the outdoor relief, in the matter of education, of the aristocrats who attended Trinity, while the country was denied a national University. He must say that Trinity College had failed in its duty as an Irish educational institution. When a technical department was established two or three years ago, those at the head of the College had to go all over the world looking for men to do the very ordinary work of managing the department. Fancy Germany going over to America or England to look for men in that way when starting a new department! Trinity had been held up as a University with an honourable educational record. It had done nothing whatever to increase the industry and commerce of the country, or to raise the national life. It might have afforded a few aristocrats an opportunity of getting their livings in various parts of the British Empire, but, outside that, it had done nothing to raise the national life. It was an absolute blank and nullity in the country. With regard to the equivalent grant due to Ireland, it might be said that they wanted £210,000 to bring the education of Ireland up to a proper standard. If he were to go into details, he should say that they wanted not only £210,000 but £500,000, to place Irish education on a proper footing. He thought he was right in saying that the Education Department in Dublin had already sent in estimates for £300,000. In the face of that fact, and what had been said by inspectors, teachers, and managers of schools, he thought it would be admitted that the larger sum which he mentioned would be wanted. He had received numerous letters from managers of schools. One of his correspondents had urged him to endeavour to get an equivalent grant 1176 for primary education, which would meet present wants. The wants were principally two—in the first place to get the average attendance, which qualified for an assistant, reduced to fifty, and secondly to have the schools vested in trustees, kept in repair by the Commissioners, and supplied with fuel in the winter. The custom of bringing a sod of turf under the arm was barbarous. Many of the schools would go to ruin unless they were kept up by the National Board. The people were too poor to contribute to their maintenance. Many of the letters he received demanded that this money should be devoted to proper teaching, and to improving the sanitary, conditions of the schools.
Contrasting the position in England with that of Ireland, he pointed out that in England the cost per pupil in average attendance was £3 0s. 2d., apart from the £1,400,000 voted last year. In London it was £4 0s. 5½d. per pupil in average attendance, while in Ireland it was £2 7s. per pupil. He thought every Member must agree that these figures showed the great necessity that existed for doing something to improve the condition of the Irish schools. He thought that the Chief Secretary had admitted that it was necessary to do something in regard to reducing the average attendance to fifty. The managers of schools throughout Ireland, and the teachers, had unanimously demanded this, and he thought the National Board had also demanded it. The only question remaining was that of money. Now there was money at the disposal of the Chief Secretary, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman could not possibly say that so important a question should be deferred further. The head of the Irish Education Department had stated that it was absolutely impossible for any one teacher to do really effective work with an average attendance of sixty pupils. That average attendance would often mean a maximum attendance of ninety. These were divided into six, seven, or eight grades, and it was absolutely impossible for a teacher to devote his time to the whole of the children. It was necessary that a second teacher should be appointed when there was an average attendance of fifty pupils. In England they did not 1177 require more than an average attendance of fifty pupils. The Irish schools were small and scattered, and the attendance must of necessity be very poor. If Ireland was denied the proper number of teachers, the children must suffer in the education they received. When the land question was under discussion, he tried to get a little for the Irish boy while he was at school. It was really pitiable to see the little boys when they went out travelling with their bare feet over the gravel roads, and trying to amuse themselves. If they wished to develop the physique of the people they should provide the boys with proper playgrounds where they would be under the supervision of the teachers. If the landlords had any interest in Irish education, the very least they might give would be an acre of land to every school on their estates. He trusted that something would be done in that direction.
Dealing with the question of pensions paid to Irish teachers, the hon. Member said £1,300,000 was voted some twenty-two years ago for pensions. Before that period between £10,000 and £20,000 was given yearly to the payment of the equivalent of pensions The £1,300,000 was not Imperial, but Irish money. It was invested at 3 per cent., and the income went to pay pensions to teachers. From 1879 to 1888 not one penny of Imperial money was given to pensions for Irish teachers, though previously £10,000 was given yearly as a contribution for retiring allowances. The system under which the pension scheme was worked was disgraceful and discreditable. He knew of a teacher, who had passed first, was an LL D. of the Royal University, and had spent forty years in the service, who only got a pension of £34 a year. Why, an ordinary policeman, with only twenty-five years service, got a pension of £50 a year! A short time ago the Chief Secretary, in reply to a Question he put as to whether the Pension Fund would be revised in the near future, said that it was not at present under investigation; that the last revision had been in 1901, and that there would not be another until 1906, He had the strongest reason for believing that that was hardly 1178 correct. The Education Office in Dublin never heard one word of revision in 1901, nor had the heads of the Department, nor the teachers. He was assured that the last revision was in 1897–8. Another matter to which he wished to call the serious attention of the Chief Secretary was the purchase and sale of the stocks of the Pension Fund by the men in charge of it. In 1899 stocks were sold at a loss of £13,739, and in the very same year they had an income of £127,791 over and above what was required to meet the expenditure of the year. Rumours were afloat that the money was taken away by some gentleman connected with the fund. He could understand selling stocks if money was required to meet current expenses, but when there was a surplus that year of £127,000 the matter required the very serious consideration of the Chief Secretary.
He wished to touch on the question of the inspectorate. The inspectors had very important duties entrusted to them. They had to see that the teaching was good and efficient, but there was also something to be said as to the manner in which they carried out their work in the schools. He was sorry that he was constrained to mention one inspector, whose conduct in Dublin was simply disgraceful. He had heard of cases where that gentleman had examined convent schools, during which his behaviour was so disgustingly rude to the nuns that they had to retire and leave him to examine as he pleased. In another case he had been so rude that the managers who visited the school a short time afterwards wrote to the Board of Education that that inspector would not be admitted to the school again. The gentleman in question was named Mr. Dickie. A man who set such an example of boorishness was unfit for the work, and it was to be hoped that he would be made to feel that that was not the way to conduct himself. He had had numbers of letters from teachers in evening schools complaining that they had not been paid for the results of their teaching in these schools, which had done excellent work. They in Ireland hailed the establishment of these schools with pleasure, and every Irishman wished to do everything in his 1179 power to facilitate the work done in them. Young boys had often to leave the day schools at a very early age, and the evening schools afforded them an opportunity of continuing their education. He trusted the Chief Secretary would consider this matter, and do away with the dilatoriness in the payment of the teachers. Now that they were about to settle the land question and get the land for the people, it was absolutely essential to the future progress and prosperity of Ireland that the boys and girls should be afforded every opportunity of being trained for the battle of life when they came to manhood and womanhood and of being fitted to compete with Scotchmen, Englishmen, and Germans. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £617,001, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Thomas O'Donnell.)
§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
said he wished to associate himself in the strongest possible manner with what the hon. Gentleman had said as to the constitution of the National Board of Education. The system of a nominated Board which consisted of men chosen, not for their educational acquirements, but because they were Protestants or Catholics, was such an absurdity in these days that he hoped that the Committee would thoroughly disapprove of it before the debate was closed. He insisted that a revision should be made of the staffing of the schools, by which there should be one teacher for every fifty children. In Ireland, where emigration was going on to such a great extent, and the difficulties of the children attending school were great, the school population was declining. These facts should be recognised by varying the staffs; otherwise, not only would Irish children lose the advantages of a proper education, but the services of many of the teachers who had done good work in the past would have to be dispensed with. Again, it was not possible for the children in the country districts in Ireland to readily attend these house—hovels, some of them—which stood in the place of schools, if they were kept in an insanitary and 1180 ruinous condition, and with no proper heating apparatus. The children had to come to school often in wet clothes, sit all day in them, and then go back home in teeming rain. He hoped this serious condition of things would engage the attention of the Chief Secretary. Again, he believed the National Board of Education could improve their position in the eyes of the people if they would do something to associate themselves with the industrial development of the country. They should organise Arts and Crafts exhibits in different districts of the country, and by that and other means show a real interest in the awakening of the industrial life of Ireland which was so happily evidencing itself.
Dr. Starkie, Resident Commissioner for Education in Ireland, delivered an address last year before the British Association on education in Ireland. He was not concerned much with that gentleman's position in the educational world, though he gave him credit for great ability, which he believed had been shown in his grasp of great educational problems. To show the methods employed by Dr. Starkie as regarded his own countrymen, he would read one or two extracts. Referring to the application of compulsory education in Ireland, Dr. Starkie said—It is my duty to point out that the methods of enforcing the Act are ludicrously unsuited to this country, where, as a celebrated writer has put it, 'from the highest to the lowest, forget-fulness to public duty is the rule of life.'It was most unfortunate that a gentleman in the position of Resident Commissioner should allow himself, before a meeting of the British Association, to attempt to lower the esteem of his own countrymen in that manner. He desired to bring before the Committee some of the extracts quoted by Dr. Starkie, which reflected on Catholic school managers in Ireland. He did not say that in reading those extracts Dr. Starkie intended to mislead his audience, but it was most unfortunate that he had not given the extracts in their entirety, as they led people to imagine that they were confirmation of the character of the supervision exercised by the Catholic managers over their schools. The following was one extract—With a few conspicuous exceptions, managers take no active part in the inner working of the schools; and, viewed as a whole, the 1181 interest which they manifest can scarcely be said to be practical.What the Report actually said was—The managers as a body show considerable concern in the welfare of the schools. They are naturally anxious, of course, to promote the educational progress of the pupils; and, as a rule, they give cordial support to the suggestions and recommendations which it becomes my duty to make.Then the Report proceeded with the extract quoted. Another extract read by Dr. Starkie was—Practical supervision of the schools is not habitual amongst the managers.The Report stated—The managers' attitude in this district in reference to the present system has been very satisfactory. A friendly disposition and an inclination to give every opportunity of success, even in branches to which some of them felt personally hostile or indifferent, seemed to pervade their ranks. In the beginning, when, in certain quarters, opposition was made at its introduction, some of them used their personal influence strongly in their favour.Then followed the extract quoted. He read those extracts fully to show how very unfair, in his opinion, it was for the Resident Commissioner in a public address to read them partially, and to convey a totally wrong impression to his audience. The unfortunate thing about it was that not a tenth of his audience would ever have an opportunity of reading a refutation of Dr. Starkie's statements. No one except those deeply interested in Irish education would study the Reports for themselves; and the English and Scottish members of the Association returned to their own countries with an unfair opinion of the Catholic managers. It was to put the other case that he had read the full extracts to the Committee.
There were two other subjects to which he desired to direct attention. There had been great delay in forwarding building plans for national schools in country districts. The Chief Secretary might reply that the reason was that the Government were considering a larger scheme for education in Ireland; but it was most unfortunate that where the locality concerned desired to have a new school it should not be provided. The hon. Member for South Tyrone alluded to training colleges in Ireland. He would not discuss the Marlborough Street Training College, because he was not 1182 acquainted with it; neither would he deal with the equivalent grant. Three training colleges had been established in Ireland since 1890—viz., at Belfast, Waterford, and Limerick. He would not now say what, in his opinion, should be the proper arrangements in those colleges, if they had Catholic University education in Ireland. That was a very much larger question; but seeing that there were no University facilities for the majority of the Irish people it was a most unfortunate thing that the Government were so niggardly in regard to maintaining the training colleges that they could not be carried on in an efficient way. He believed that a sum of £ would put those colleges in the same position as the training colleges in Dublin. Although he was not prepared to say that if Ireland had further educational facilities he would approve of their position, still he hoped some attempt would be made to put them in an efficient position. He and every other Irish Member were delighted to hear that in reference to the evening school established by Colonel Moore in Connaught for the teaching of Irish language and Irish history the National Board had seen the error of it and had climbed down. In that respect, at least, Dr. Starkie had, to some extent, looked on the national requirements of the people. He certainly hoped that the National Board, instead of trying to handicap men like Colonel Moore, who desired to revive the Irish language and the teaching of Irish history, would lend them every assistance in their power. Many of them held that the best means to promote continuation schools was to excite the interest of the population; and there was nothing better qualified to excite that interest than the teaching of the Irish language. If the managers desired to have Irish classes let not the Board obstruct them in any way; and where, by means of those classes, the intellectual energies of the people were raised, new subjects would be introduced and the evening schools would be as successful in Ireland as they were in this country.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said that the Committee would agree that very able and interesting speeches had been delivered on the subject of education in Ireland. Irish Members on his own side of the House were also interested 1183 in the subject. The hon. Member for West Kerry in his interesting speech, which was listened to with great attention, mentioned that he was in favour of denominational education.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL
said he did not state what he was in favour of, and what he was not in favour of.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said that the hon. Member stated that he was trained at Marlborough Street College; and he certainly gathered that the hon. Member was in favour of all teachers being trained together. A great many people, especially in his part of the country, thought that if they could have a system of education properly administered a great deal would have been done to settle other social questions in Ireland. The national system was originally intended to be undenominational, but by a tacit understanding it had been allowed to drift in the opposite direction; and he felt that that was responsible for the tension and friction which, he was sorry to say, existed between the various religious bodies in Ireland. He thought the Chief Secretary should do something to take up seriously the question of the national schoolhouses throughout Ireland. In the north of Ireland a large number of the schoolhouses were not tit places for children to be confined in for so many hours at a time every day. The principal fault of these houses was want of proper heating and ventilation. The houses were badly constructed, and in winter, when the windows had to be kept closed in order to keep out the cold, the atmosphere was extremely injurious. It seemed to him that very little would be required to properly heat and ventilate them, as they were more or less perfect in other respects. Another important question was the question of play grounds. It was the duty of the education authority to see that the children had proper places to play in when they were let out during school hours. That was most important, and he was very glad the hon. Member opposite had called attention to it. With regard to the Marl-borough Street College the hon. Member for South Tyrone had drawn a sufficiently touching picture of the college, but there was one point he had not touched upon which showed the inadequate provision in this college 1184 for exercise in wet weather. The residence of the students ought certainly to be improved, and seeing that this was the parent college of the three denominational colleges which had branched out of it, it was clearly not right that it should be in such a dilapidated condition while its children should be so flourishing.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said the question of the schools was one on which all Irish Members were united. The great difficulty with regard to the schools was the heating, but he should have thought 1s. a head on the average attendance would secure a sum amply sufficient to cover the cost of the heating arrangements. It was worth while to see that the children when they went into school were warm. When people were not properly warmed by artificial means they tried to keep up the warmth by stopping up the ventilation, which must be injurious. What the Board had to do was to ask itself would it find the money to put these schools in order or were they going to leave matters as they were. He agreed with the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Kerry that the national teachers of Ireland should be brought into touch with University life and training. As regards the proposal to spend £50,000 on the Marl-borough Street Training College that was one which should be well considered. He would not grudge any money so spent if it was treated as undenominational, and provided a proportionate amount was spent on the Catholic colleges of Ireland.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
desired to associate himself with the appeal which had been made with regard to the Marlborough Street College. He felt it was unnecessary to attempt to convince the Chief Secretary of the justice of the claim; the right hon. Gentleman had, made himself thoroughly acquainted with the details of the question, and was convinced of the absolute need for something being done. The difficulty lay with the Treasury. During the past few weeks, however, the Committee had witnessed striking examples of the wonderfully persuasive powers of the Chief Secretary, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would exercise those powers on the Treasury so that the necessary policy in connection with this college 1185 might be carried out. It should be borne in mind that it was an undenominational college, and that out of 294 students only 162 were Presbyterians.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E)
said it was rather late in the day for the hon. Member for South Antrim to advocate undenominational education in primary schools. On the establishment of the present system an attempt was made to introduce undenominational teaching, but Presbyterians and Irish Churchmen were as vigorously opposed to the idea as were Catholics themselves. In fact the system had no friend at all except Archbishop Whately, who, under the guise of undenominationalism and mixed teaching, sought to proselytise the Irish people. All were agreed, however, that something ought to be done to improve the condition of the schools. In many places the state of the buildings was nothing short of a scandal; it was not only a hindrance to education but a danger to the health of the children. As to the lack of heat, of which complaint had been made, it was simply a question of fires, and the supply of fuel. As to ventilation, many of the country schools were in an appalling condition. A further evil was the lack of sanitary accommodation, and the ruinous state into which some of the schools had been allowed to fall. It might be asked why the localities did not do more. Two systems of education were possible—one based primarily on local control, with local contributions, and the other based on central control, the State bearing the cost. Each system bad advantages and disadvantages which did not belong to the other. For good or for evil the Irish system had been so completely one of central control, with practically the whole cost coming from the National Exchequer, that it was idle to speak of local contributions. With local contributions there must be some kind of local control, and the question of local contributions would not arise as long as the centralised system was in full possession. But that system involved central responsibility for the condition of the schools; hence they had a right to complain of the present state of affairs. As to the whole system of education, he did not believe there was any other civilised country in the world which possessed so wretched and 1186 rotten a system as Ireland. The Board was an unpaid body, and its members were appointed without any reference whatever to their educational capacity or interest in the work. The only guiding principle in their selection was that there should be an equal number of Protestants and Catholics. The system of so-called national education was in reality a reversal of everything national. It was only within the last year or two that the Board, bowing before a great national agitation, had allowed some breath of nationalism to creep into the system. But even then they had recently distinguished themselves by refusing to Colonel Moore the grants which they had themselves promised to continuation schools in which Irish history and language were taught, and declaring they would not waste public money on the teaching of such a pack of rubbish. The body was really an intolerable one. There were rumours in the air that its days were numbered, and that a new system was to be established. He hoped that was the case, for the sooner the Board was destroyed the better it would be for the cause of education. It had a most ignoble record and he did not envy the Chief Secretary who had to set up its successor. A more difficult and thorny task could not be imagined, and this was a standing example of the difficulties of Irish Government which was based upon the principle that the Irish people should not have any voice in the management of their own affairs. That being so, when the Government were driven into a corner they took refuge in the appointment of a Board which must consist half of Catholics and half of Protestants, and by that method they considered the problem solved. The only remaining principle to be observed was not to allow any Nationalists on the Board, and that was a good specimen of Irish Government. This National Board was absolutely indefensible, and he hoped it would be followed by some system which would bring education more into unison with the people of Ireland.
With regard to Dr. Starkie, that gentleman had some very interesting projects with regard to education in Ireland, but there never was a greater scandal than the oration he recently delivered in Belfast. Having read that oration and the corrected 1187 edition of it, if every word was absolutely accurate and true—as it was not—the delivery of that speech before the British Association marked Dr. Starkie as a man disqualified to retain his office. Dr. Starkie was charged with administering this extraordinary system of education in Ireland, and under his control there were a large number of managers and many Catholic priests among them. The first duty of a man in Dr. Starkie's position with any proper appreciation of his responsibility would be to endeavour, as far as was consistent with the due discharge of his duties, to make things work smoothly with the managers of the schools. Dr. Starkie went to Belfast, and before a large body of distinguished men from England and Scotland, who were mainly unacquainted with the details of Irish administration, delivered a most violent and outrageous philippic indicting the whole body of clerical managers of Ireland as being scandalously negligent of their duty, and as being guilty of the meanest selfishness in the discharge of their work. He was practically denouncing the whole body of managers under him, and he based his oration upon a series of reports he had received from his managers which he said had not been published. Therefore, the reports from which he quoted were confidential up to that time and were not in the hands of the managers who were attacked. When those reports were made public it was found that from the beginning to the end of his speech his extracts were garbled, and where there was anything favourable to the managers it was suppressed and only the sentences unfavourable to the managers were selected. A more grotesque parody upon public documents he had never seen in his life. Dr. Starkie's conduct in delivering such an oration became far worse and worthy of much greater censure now that they had proved beyond all question that the reports upon which he based his speech did not bear out the state merits made in his address. He thought this matter demanded the attention of the Chief Secretary. Dr. Starkie stated that the inspectors reported that the majority of the managers were quite indifferent to education, and that in many cases the schools were well-nigh 1188 derelict, and the only supervision given to them was that afforded by the Board's inspectors. When the reports were published it turned out that there were sixty-five inspectors' reports, which embraced the whole of Ireland. No less than forty-three or forty-four of those reports were diametrically opposed to Dr. Starkie's statement, twelve were doubtful, and only some nine or ten bore out his statement. Was not that a monstrous state of things? The worst of it was that all of that great body of men who attended the meeting of the British Association returned to England and Scotland with his statement, and had never seen the correction. Consequently, the whole public mind of those scientific men who were present had been poisoned against their system by a method which he could only describe as a "cooked" and twisted version of the reports of the Irish inspectors.
The question of the model schools had not been raised for a number of years, but six or seven years ago had repeated debates upon this question in the House. The predecessor of the present Chief Secretary, finding that the model school system was absolutely and totally indefensible, promised an inquiry, and it was commenced. He recollected asking a Question upon the subject some five years ago, and the answer he got was that the Board and Resident Commissioner were occupied with a great inquiry as to the new method introduced into primary education in the model schools. Since then the subject appeared to have been lost sight of. What had become of that inquiry, and what did the Government intend to do in reference to it? It was unnecessary to give all the figures, but he might add that the present system was scandalous. In some of the schools the children were now educated at the cost of about £10 per head, and the attendance in some of them was absurd. There was a school in Cork built to accommodate 1,220 pupils and the attendance there was about 240 and the cost £7 per head. He understood that the Galway model school had been closed, and he did not think any one was attending it. In many other parts of Ireland these 1189 schools were a perfect scandal, and were kept up merely for a small number of the population, most of them being children of the well to do class. This money was consequently diverted from the teaching in the ordinary national schools and used in a most disgraceful and wasteful way upon the teaching of the children of people who did not require it. This system had been kept up against the constant protests of the Nationalist Members and he thought they were now entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he intended to do in the matter.
§ *MR. SAMUEL YOUNG (Cavan, E.)
said he had heard with regret the observations made by the hon. Members for South Down and South Antrim with reference to the desire which pervaded the North of Ireland for a united education. He felt that as a Belfast man there never was a greater misrepresentation than to suppose that Presbyterians, Episcopalians, or Methodists, had any desire for mixed education. He scarcely knew a single Presbyterian church that had not attached to it a Presbyterian school with a Presbyterian master, and the same was the case in the Methodist and Episcopalian Churches. The claim for united education put forward was to prevent the Catholic people from getting their fair share of the money granted for this country. To-morrow a Bill would pass its Third Reading which would produce a marvellous revolution in Ireland. The next important step was to educate the people. The system must be reconstructed. The dominant minority had had their way so far as education was concerned, and it appeared to him that in order to elevate and improve Ireland it was essential that they should reconstruct the education of the country. Three-fourths of the people were discontented with the present system, and they must have a Catholic University for themselves. The Queen's Colleges were admirably adapted for the Presbyterians, and the Episcopalians were pleased with Trinity College. There were three-fourths of the people of Ireland who were discontented in regard to higher education, and a University should be provided for them. There were four 1190 Universities in Scotland, where the population was similar in size to that of Ireland. He could not see any reason why there should not be three Universities in Ireland. Elementary education must be improved and the teachers must be elevated, so that the parents might be satisfied that they were entrusting the intellectual and moral training of their children to an educated class of men. The Catholics of Ireland would not send their sons to a Protestant university. That was out of the question. They were denominational to the backbone. The lines of demarcation were quite too marked for them to mix. He could see no reason why Catholic teachers should not get higher education, and be fitted to take in hand the teaching of the youth of the country. One or two bold measures such as that which would pass the Third Reading to-morrow would bring loyalty and contentment to the people of Ireland. It appeared to him absurd for hon. Members from Ireland to talk of mixed education at this time of day. Now that the land question had been settled, he hoped for ever, the question of education was the most important the Government had to deal with in Ireland
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said the sanitary condition of the schools in Ireland had been fully gone into by hon. Members on both sides of the House. His own opinion was that the condition of things was such that a protest should be entered against it whenever opportunity arose. The hon. Member for East Cavan had made a speech that filled him with amazement, in so far as it related to the question of mixed education. The hon. Member said that the members of all denominations should be able to consolidate in getting a system of national education. While they were agreed in urging that the schools should be put in proper sanitary condition, he thought the hon. Member should also cultivate good feeling on the part of the people, so that they might mix together in the different colleges, and receive the education which would qualify them adequately for their career in life. Reference had been made to Marlborough Street 1191 College, where the dining room was also the study. This particular college had been ignored notwithstanding the undertakings given by the Government as far back as 1891. There was a specific pledge given that the thing would be remedied, and now in 1903 the old complaints still survived. The teachers in Ireland had many grievances. If there were fifty-nine children in a school the teacher could not get an assistant, but if there were sixty or sixty-one he could. Surely the fact that there were one or two pupils short of sixty was not a sufficient excuse for not giving the teacher an assistant. Was it reasonable to expect a teacher to give proper attention to the children in the First to the Sixth Standard, and to be responsible for an infant class also, unless he had assistance in the work? He trusted that the result of this debate would be that these matters would be carefully looked into.
§ *MR. YOXALL (Nottinghamshire, W.)
said that while listening to the debate certain famous Parliamentary words came to his memory, and he felt disposed to paraphrase them by saying—"If I were an Irishman, as I am an Englishman, I would never, never, rest until the Irish system of education was thoroughly reformed." So far as he could make out there was no system of education in the British Isles that needed reform anything like so much as that of Ireland, and in deed outside of Spain, Turkey, and Russia there was no system of education in Europe that needed reform so much. It was a disgrace to the United Kingdom and to Parliament that this system should be allowed to go on. The schools in Ireland required more money, teachers, books, buildings, and fuel. It appeared to him that to blame the National Board, so long as the lack of money was the real cause, was to begin at the wrong end altogether. There must be more money spent on the Irish educational system. If money was provided to meet its requirements the results would be more satisfactory than at present. He supposed that then, placing the three kingdoms in the order of merit in the matter of education, Scotland would be first, England a very good second, and, he was afraid, Ireland would 1192 be for many years a very bad third. Now that there was a new hope with regard to the Irish land system it was more important than ever that something should be done for the Irish schools. In the Irish schools lay the hope of Ireland in the future. If the elementary schools were not efficient what was the use of spending money on continuation schools and secondary schools? The Reports of the Commissioners year by year and the communications he frequently received from the teachers in Ireland showed that the schools were sadly lacking in every respect. The schools were cold, badly ventilated, and comfortless. Mechanical arrangements for the supply of air to school buildings were entirely out of the question. The best ventilation for a school was a good draught from the window to the fire-place. Again and again on the bitterest winter day there was no fire in the schools. In the present case, owing to the lack of State aid, the duty fell upon the managers and teachers. The managers were too poor and the teachers were even poorer. The consequence was that the schools were unheated and unventilated; and altogether in a very unhappy state. Then as to the question of books. There was a time when the books published by the Irish Education Committee were a model for the whole country; but that time had passed away, and these books had been long outstripped in this country and in Scotland, both in quality and quantity. At present the teachers in Ireland had to work without a proper supply of books, stationery, pens, and all the requisites for good school work.
Then as to the question of staffing. If there were sixty children in a small school one teacher must do all the work owing to the maintenance of the old system. The standards had not been abandoned and the teacher's work was still cut up into six or seven water-tight compartments with an infant class, and under these conditions the work could not be done efficiently. It would be superficial and was bound in the long run to fail. It had been suggested that there should be an assistant teacher in every school where there were fifty scholars; and he was told that that would cost no more than £9,000 a year. That was a reform, therefore, which would not demand a large sum of money, and he hoped that something would be done to secure it. 1193 It was said that the supply of students in the training colleges had fallen off 43 per cent. and it would fall still more until the teachers were made more comfortable and their position made more assured. The male teacher only got £56 a year and the female £44 to commence with, and additions to these small incomes were uncertain, while the maximum, which was attained by very few, was only £175 a year. Under these circumstances it was no wonder that the supply of teachers was falling off. The debate had shown that there was a great deal of responsibility on the Chief Secretary. The power was largely in his hands. Was he going to do for education what he had done in another Department, when, by his skilful management of a great Bill, he had brought about a feeling of friendship, not only between all classes of the Irish people, but a feeling of friendship in England towards Ireland. Let the right hon. Gentleman turn his attention to education. They all knew how busy he must be just now in connection with imposing functions in Ireland; but nothing could be more imposing or of more real importance to Ireland than the education of her children. Let the right hon. Gentleman ascertain for himself the condition of education in Ireland and then come back to signalise his term of office by another patriotic and practical reform. The money was there in the equivalent grant, and the question related to the United Kingdom as well as to Ireland, for the Irish children came over to this country, which had therefore an interest in their education.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would not take too lightly the reference to the serious condition of the Irish national schools. In point of fact Dr. Starkie had himself made the strongest statement about them that he had ever heard when he said in his Report that—He had prepared an official list of 1,000 schools which might be described as scarcely habitable.That showed that really something must be done to cure what was nothing less than a regular scandal. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not say, as some of his predecessors had done, that the Irish people ought, by local rates or something of the kind, to supply these defects. 1194 The Irish people would do nothing of the kind as long as the control of the national system of education was not in their own hands. As soon as they got their national system put on the same footing it was in other countries, the Irish people would under take the necessary financial responsibility. A good deal had been said about the Board of Education. It was quite true that this Board was not constituted from an educational point of view. No doubt most of the members were educated men, but they were not selected for that reason, but to satisfy certain religious claims. Whatever might be the case in England, he was right in saying that both the Protestants—even the Presbyterians—and Catholics in Ireland, were in favour of denominational education, and would not have anything else. It was to satisfy this demand for a denominational system of education that this miserable device was adopted of having the National Board half Catholic and half Protestant.
There were two faults to be found with that system. Firstly, it was a Board which acted in secret, and secondly, Dr. Starkie, in the address which had been alluded to, stated that every civilised country in Europe had a single central authority for national education, but in Ireland they had nothing in that direction; and if they could not profess anything else they were fertile in school authorities which exercised their independent functions with all the security of constant change. It was irritating to the Irish people in the highest degree to find that one of the most important of their domestic concerns, as a nation, was disposed of behind their backs in a back street in Dublin, by ten or twenty men appointed by a Government over whom they had not the least control. That was the cardinal defect of the national education system; and the result of it had in all times been the same. Archbishop Whately carried on a religious and political campaign against the Irish people by means of the Education Board, but he was beaten on the religious issue. Archbishop Whately, in his own words, tried to uproot the gigantic fabric of the Catholic Church in Ireland but failed, and the attempt had never been repeated, and if it were repeated, it would meet with the same 1195 result. But from the time of Archbishop Whately to the present hour the political campaign had never been abandoned, and it was now in full swing, so far as modern conditions allowed. They all knew what Archbishop Whately did to edit the reading school books of the Board. He was afraid of allowing to be instilled into the minds of the Irish children a single word about freedom, and struck out the word "freedom" from Campbell's poem containing the line, "And Freedom shrieked as Kosciusko fell." Why not have Irish history taught in Irish schools? Think of France, or Germany, or England allowing a system of education to be conducted in their schools without the history of their country being taught in them! But the children of Ireland, one of the most freedom-loving nations in the world, were absolutely denied any know edge whatever of the facts of Irish history. It was even worse now in the national schools than it used to be when he was a student at one of the Queen's Colleges. In his time they were allowed some glimpses of the history of Ireland down to the invasion of Henry II. It stopped at the year 1172; and what happened after that? What the relations were between England and Ireland from 1172 to the present day were a perfect blank and mystery to any student who received no other knowlege of Irish history besides that embodied in the text books used in the Queen's Colleges. It was worse in the case of the national schools, which did not teach either ancient or modern Irish history, and he was perfectly certain that no person who proposed to teach modern Irish history from the days of Cromwell to the present day and applied for a grant would receive it. That was quite right on the part of the authorities, who were put there to denominationalise the people. The Board was an institution composed of men who had no sympathy with the aspirations of the people, but were controlled by the Chief Secretary of the day. If the National Board attempted to conduct their system on principles that were really in consonance with the feelings and convictions of the people of Ireland, that moment steps would be taken by the Government in England, by its representatives in Dublin Castle, to stop them. He had no hope that the Board would be changed until they had Home Rule, but he 1196 hoped that during the coming recess the Chief Secretary would be able to devote some portion of his time to remove what was nothing more nor less than a scandal.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he did not remember a session since 1871 when this subject of Irish education had not been discussed. They had now arrived at a period when the question really ought to be taken in hand by the Government. This was practically a session when an Irish Parliament was sitting at Westminster. There were not more than half-a-dozen British Members who had taken the trouble to listen to the present debate, and that state of things would continue—at least until they went to a division. What was the question that ought to be faced in discussing national education in Ireland? The education in that country was controlled by a Board that was not responsible to Parliament in the same way as were other Boards, because over and over again the Chief Secretary had admitted that he had no power to make the Board do certain things. Why should that Board be allowed to exist outside the region of Parliamentary control? If they stopped the Vote they would stop education; and the real truth was that these sixteen or twenty gentlemen were absolutely masters of the situation, and, short of stopping their supplies, there was no control whatever over them. He was not inclined to deny that the National Board of Education had done good work in the past; but they were now hopelessly out of date, and the sooner their system was changed the sooner would education have a chance in the country. The Chief Secretary had got rid of a good deal of trouble by his dealings with the land question, and if he desired further conquests probably he would find the education question would be as tempting a field for conquest as the land question was when he first surveyed it. There were signs in Ireland, and especially in the North of Ireland, that the hard crust of the earth was breaking, and if the Chief Secretary liked to try his hand he might get a conference something like the land conference which would help him in arriving at a conclusion on this difficult question. 1197 There would be no zones on this question and there would be no matter of money.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he had no desire to enter into a question of denominational versus mixed education. All his life, in the abstract, he had been in favour of mixed education, higher and primary. He had always considered in the abstract that the children of the country should be educated together and should grow up children of that country. He had always, in the abstract, believed that such a state of things should prevail. But the abstract was not of much use for anything in Ireland. Whatever their opinion might be in the abstract they had to give way to the hard facts of the situation, and the hard fact of the educational situation in Ireland was that the overwhelming majority of the people in Ireland—Roman Catholic and Protestant—would not have mixed education. They were all in favour of it in the abstract but they would not have it in the concrete, and it would be found that in every Presbyterian congregation where it was possible there was a school under Presbyterian auspices; in every Episcopalian congregation would be found a school under Episcopalian auspices; and in every Methodist congregation there would be a school under Methodist auspices. He had always been in favour of mixed education, higher and lower, bit there was no use in kicking against the pricks or in forcing abstract ideas upon people who did not believe in them as realities. He was, however, perfectly convinced that they were close to the time when this whole educational system must be grappled with, both higher and primary; and it would be found, if the Chief Secretary did take it up, not so very difficult of solution after all, because there was a great deal to give people hope in Ireland at the present time. Old ideas were passing away and people were beginning to agree with each other, work with each other, and feel with each other, and he believed they were close at hand to the time when the education question could be solved, and solved 1198 satisfactorily to all classes of the country. He rather regretted the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway, who was the first to drag the denominational question into the debate. It was not, so far as the training college was concerned, a question of denominaticnalism at all; it was a question of common decency, and it was on that ground that he put it before the House. He used the word "denominational" colleges no doubt because that was the only word to describe the situation. The facts were simply that the denominational colleges—two Catholic and one Protestant Episcopalian—had all satisfactory homes and satisfactory appliances, and the sum of £100,000 had been spent upon them. He did not object to that expenditure in the least, but there was another college actually in existence. They were not setting it up, it was a Government college acting with their own institutions; to that college went Presbyterians, Methodists, and a small minority of Catholics; and so long as the Government maintained that college they were bound to maintain it adequately and decently.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that when he found this debate was coming on he thought that if he looked up the Report of the Royal Education Commissioners he would be able to see something of what was being done. He had spent an hour looking for it in the library and then discovered that it was only presented to the House on Friday last and was not yet printed. It was most desirable, when there was so much talk about education and this revised programme, that the Committee should know what was being done. Education was being very much spoken of, but he wanted to know what it was that was being done in these unhappy institutions known as the national schools, and what the unfortunate children went into this penal servitude to learn, and when they were voting £1,500,000 for education in Ireland they ought to be able to go to the librarian of the House and get at the curriculum that was being taught in the country, so that they might be able to know what these unfortunate little creatures were imbibing under this system. It was exceedingly strange that although this system was so departmentalised he was able to get no idea whatever from the records of the 1199 House of what was being taught, but it was a remarkable thing that he had been able to ascertain what the teachers had to learn, and, having arrived at that, he had been able to gather in some measure what the children were allowed to learn. He turned up the Papers (and let the Committee imagine a little Munster child being taught geography by his master). He had to pass an examination. There were ten questions—(1) Draw a map of the six northern counties of England showing the mountain ranges and general drainage system of this part of the country. (2) On the outline map supplied to you indicate by shading or colouring the insular possessions of Great Britain and mark the position of Olga Bay, Ashantee, the Swan River, Port Elizabeth, Adelaide, Zanzibar, and Durban. (3) Name the principal mineral products of England, and the districts where they are found. (4) What tracts of country are included in the great European plain. Mention any barren regions to be found in Europe.Not in Connemara. That was not brought in to the European plain.(5) Name the principal British ports and those on the other side of the water for our Atlantic and South African trade. How are those trade routes protected?What a lot of Atlantic and South African trade there was from Bantry Bay and Connaught.(6) Account for the great commercial and industrial activity along the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the Thames.They were not to account for the want of it along the Shannon, the Lea, the Boyne, and the Black water.(7) Compare the highlands and lowlands of Scotland as to climate, natural features, and industrial resources. What forms the boundary between the two. (8) Give an account of Western Australia with reference to its climate and natural products, and to its development within the last few years. (10) Give a full account of the south-west monsoon, and of the causes producing it. In what way does it affect India?That was what the teacher had to pass in geography. He looked further and he found ten questions which the teachers had to pass in the "History of Great Britain and Ireland," and this was what they were paying to have Irish children taught. One would have thought there would be something of the history of Ireland; there was one question. These were the questions which had to be answered—(1) Describe the advance in power made 1200 by the English House of Commons under William III. (2) By what measures was the Irish wool trade destroyed? (3) Name the different candidates for the English crown at the death of Queen Anne, and describe the claims of each. (4) Describe the Annersley Case and the Act of Parliament to which it led.That was a good question.(5) Give a full account of the Earl of Mar's Rebellion. (6) Write a short description of the plan of operations of the South Sea scheme and give its history. (7) Describe the state of the English Press at the beginning of the 18th century. (9) What were the principal resolutions adopted by the convention of delegates from the Ulster Volunteers which met at Dungannon in 1782. (10) Write a short biography of Chatham or of Clive.He would much prefer them to write a short biography of the right hon. Gentle man the Chief Secretary or Lord Edward Fitzgerald. That was what was called national education, and that was what they pumped into these unfortunate teachers, and they were expected to pump into the children. It would be more important to the Irish people if they were taught the cultivation of the potato. When there was all this talk about education and they were spending money for it he would like to see a practical scheme administered by practical people. How could they have a practical scheme under this.
The right hon. Gentleman was invited to consider Irish education. He had looked up the number of Chief Secretaries in the last few years, and he found there were fourteen in the last twenty-five years—giving an average tenure of office of less than two years—each of whom only regarded his position as a spring-board to some Imperial promotion—he was not speaking of the last two or three incumbents of the office—and, so far from considering themselves bound in any way to look at the position from an Irish point of view, their one idea was to scurry out of the country at the earliest possible moment. They knew that the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary was not only master of his duties, but was in thorough sympathy with the people he had to rule, but it was hopeless to suppose they could have any reform in the elementary education of Ireland until the members of the Board appointed for that purpose were selected for their knowledge of the subject. The eminent gentlemen who 1201 composed the present Board were too eminent for him; they knew too much. What interest did such men take in what children ought to know, what children in kindergarten or children of an older age ought to be set to. They were men who had become eminent in various walks of life, and who were the last men to know what was practical with regard to education. They were Edmund G. Dease, Esq., Sir Malcolm J. Inglis, Sir Percy R. Grace, J. Morell, Esq., Sir Henry Bellingham, K. H. Christopher Palles, Esq. Rev. Henry Evans, Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, His Honour Judge Shaw, Rev. Hamilton B. Wilson, Stanley Harrington, Esq., William R. J. Molloy, Esq., Very Rev. John Henry Bernard, Right Rev, Mervyn Archdale, William Joseph Miles Starkie, Esq., Right Hon. Justice Gibson, Anthony Traill, Esq., Right Hon. Lord Frederick Fitzgerald, and His Honour Judge Carton. A more impracticable Board for the purposes of elementary education could not be created. Was it to be expected that the Chief Secretary, whose duties were mainly concerned with carrying on the King's Government from a political point of view, and who was not selected for his knowlege of education or of the educational problem—was it to be expected that he, in his necessarily brief term of office, would attempt to reform this Board of fifty years growth, when he knew very well that any such attempt would simply land him in hot water? That was the chief indictment of English rule in Ireland. English Members were perfectly well intentioned, but they could not get at what the Irish people wanted in these respects. A foolish Minister started a system fifty or sixty years ago when times were altogether different, and that system, of its own vis inertice, continued simply because the English Government could not make up its mind what to put in its place.
It was a most deplorable thing that so able a man as Dr. Starkie should have embroiled himself as he had done by his foolish speech, and set in opposition to himself the general body of the managers of the country who had charge in some form of the national schools. These managers, who did not trust the Board as a whole, and who were necessarily brought more into touch with its official, 1202 had been assailed by him as the propagators of ignorance and the abettors of darkness. How, under such circumstances, could they be expected ever again to have any sympathy with Dr. Starkie, or any trust in the Board? It was an extraordinary doctrine Dr. Starkie had laid down. These men were appointed managers largely on spiritual and religious grounds, to act as the spiritual custodians of the distric, to prevent any contamination of the pupils, and to see that there was none of that proselytism which Dr. Whately admitted this Board was founded to set on foot. It was absurd to expect them to go into questions of what might be called the lay curriculum, to brighten up the schoolmasters, or to insist on new methods. A priest, parson, or Presbyterian minister was not necessarily an educationist at all. His function was largely negative. He had not to see whether or not free-hand drawing was properly taught, or to examine in men suration or cube-root, or to see that the teaching of French or German was efficient. Those duties were no more cast upon him than upon the first doctor or barrister that could be met. Of course most of them, because of their position as managers, did take an interest in lay subjects, and were most anxious,—as their results depended upon it—that their pupils should be proficient; but to say that these men, perhaps in small, desolate, and poor parishes, with the humble resources at their command, were to be responsible for the education of the children, which the Government of Great Britain had taken out of their hands, and to attack them if that education was deficient, showed an utter misconception of the position of these managers, and proved that Dr. Starkie understood neither their position nor his own. He was afraid that Dr. Starkie—he regretted having to say it as he had hoped much from that gentleman's originality of thought—could not in the future be a success in his present position. He was a civil servant of distinction, and was entitled to some recognition from the Government, and there were great educational posts which he was well qualified to fill. But when Dr. Starkie selected Belfast as the venue, and the British Association as the audience, for giving an inaccurate and misleading account of 1203 parochial and national education in the country, it was idle to expect that anything he did in the future in the discharge of his functions would regain for him the confidence of the managers which it was essential that a man in his position should enjoy. He hoped that the Government, without in any way injuring Dr. Starkie's future, would be able to make some arrangement whereby he would be provided with a post in which he would be more calculated to enjoy the confidence of those whom he might have under him.
With regard to the Marlborough Street Training College, he and others did not desire that it should be deprived of the ordinary amenities, the enjoyment of which should be the lot of everyone who was trained in such a place, but this was not a question which could stand by itself. There were four or five training colleges in the country not richly endowed or efficiently equipped. The Protestant and the Catholic Colleges in Dublin were, he believed, fairly well oft in that respect. Ten years ago the Prime Minister made the important declaration that the training colleges then in existence should be put on the same financial footing, whether Catholic or Protestant; but that pledge, though possibly it was not the fault of the Prime Minister, had not been fulfilled, and although training colleges had been established in Belfast, Limerick and Waterford, the provision made for them had fallen lamentably short of the necessities of the case. One of the best means of improving the position of the children in Ireland was to see that the teachers were properly trained, and he deplored that teachers, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian, should be brought up in insanitary and unsuitable surroundings, and as might be said of the Marlborough Street College, in an almost pagan quarter. What was the remedy? A remedy would be to provide all classes with suitable training equipment. The central institutions for Protestants and Catholics in Dublin were fairly efficient, but Belfast, Limerick and Waterford were anxious to train their own teachers, and it was not too much to ask that those institutions should have some further assistance from the State. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to apply the development grant to this purpose, but some portion of the money might very well be used in that 1204 way. As to the remaining portion of the money, the teachers of Ireland had undoubtedly put forward an unselfish claim. They did not want any of it for the purpose of increasing their salaries, or enhancing their pensions, or improving their present position, but they did point out that the money if spent amongst them would be a very great boon. As far as he could make out, if distributed, it would not mean a £10 note per annum, and it was not desirable that it should be spent in dribs and drabs, as the best use would not then be made of it. He was very anxious that the money should be effectively spent, and the responsibility for it must largely be on the Minister of the day. He felt considerable personal sympathy with the demand that had been made, and it was only the knowledge that the Chief Secretary was about to leave the House which prevented him enlarging on the matter.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
said lit did not feel competent to deal with the hon. and learned Member's amusing analysis of the syllabus of the subjects taught to teachers in Ireland, although he thought Members would agree that the syllabus showed some advance on the days of their own pupilage. On the merits, he thought Irishmen might do worse than devote a great deal of attention to the ocean trade routes of the world, as they had a considerable interest in the subject. Irish, children of all denominations heard a great deal about William III., though what they heard was not always the same. He doubted, too, whether the hon. and learned Member was accurate in suggesting that the demise of the Crown on the death of Queen Anne was a matter which had no importance in Ireland. But passing from that point, he desired to take a bird's eye view of the debate as a whole. It was two years since they debated the Irish Education Votes, and those Votes, as was pointed out to-day, and also two years ago, gave an opportunity for the general discussion of the whole subject of education in Ireland, an opportunity which was a very valuable one. Hon. Members representing Irish constituencies had indulged in a great latitude of criticism and suggestion, and they were quite right. Such a debate as they had just had was most informing, and it would 1205 be madness on the part of any Government to attempt to touch the question of education in Ireland unless it had such guidance as could only be given by such a debate as that to which they had just listened. But the Minister of the day could not himself indulge in so great a latitude of criticism, and still less of suggestion. If he ventured to criticise the system, which might be considered antiquated, it might be thought he was criticising the gentlemen who gave their time and services to education in Ireland. That would be both unjust and ungenerous. Whatever quarrel they had with education in Ireland it must be recognised that men of distinction did there for nothing work which in every other country in the world was highly paid. Therefore, they ought not to look in an unfriendly spirit at the work done by those gentlemen who offered their services to their country, and got no reward of any sort or kind or description. He could not follow the example of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who hold out the expectation that the Government would forthwith set its hand to some reform of education in Ireland. It would not be proper for him to holdout that expectation, because his views on the subject were crude and immature. He know it was difficult, and no man would even hold out the faintest promise of any great reform upon this subject until he bad devoted at least six months or a year to the almost exclusive study of some of the difficulties involved. Those difficulties were very great, and the speeches they had heard that afternoon illustrated the magnitude of those difficulties.
The hon. Member for East Mayo in particular sounded a very definite note in regard to this problem when he said that the denominational system was a necessity, and the great majority of hon. Members who had spoken agreed him. The hon. Member for South Tyrone stated quite clearly that although he preferred an undenominational system he despaired altogether of ever seeing an undenominational system in Ireland. He thought the denominational system was suited to Ireland, and it would be absurd for anyone to attempt to uproot that system which in the main he thought was a blessing to Ireland. The denominational system 1206 worked well in Ireland but not in other countries. An important section of the people preferred undenominational education and they must be allowed to hold that view, and they ought not to chop logic over words upon this question. If they were to assist Education in Ireland he thought it must be in the spirit which had prevailed that afternoon which distinctly declared that denominational it must be, but they were willing to show toleration towards each other. What filled him with most hope in the course of the debate that afternoon was that while great insistence was laid upon the necessity of preserving the denominational system, there seemed to be a general desire to assist all denominations alike in certain respects, for almost every speaker spoke in favour of improving the sanitation of schools, and, he thought he ought to add the improvement of training colleges. In 1891, the Marlborough Street Training College was the only training college which had any status at all, and the present Prime Minister levelled up three other training colleges to the level of the Marlborough Street Training College. It had been said that the Marlborough Street Training College had not such a good free-home as the three denominational colleges. He came to that conclusion, and he held that it was not proper that a training college cherished by a great section of opinion in Ireland should have a building in which it was not desirable that young men should be put. For his part he thought that the change in the site of the Marlborough Street Training College would be a proper charge to put upon the Irish development grant. He thought that much that had been said upon this point would justify him in expecting that it would not be considered a very controversial charge. They ought to look to sanitation, decency, and propriety in all public buildings erected in the cause of education.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said that under the arrangement of 1891 the other three colleges received a great deal. The hon. Member opposite spoke of Limerick and 1207 Waterford. He thought something could be done with respect to those colleges, but he had not yet gone sufficiently into the question to be able to say what should be done. Looking at the problem generally an easy solution had been offered to them by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, and all they wanted to accomplish it was money. If they had unlimited money they could make the Irish system of education, even with its admitted defects, a very popular one. The trouble was that the system must be denominational, and consequently they had to have a large number of schools, more proportionately even than in England, where there was an undenominational system. Ireland in many districts was a very poor country, so poor, in fact, that they could not expect to get any substantial contribution from the rates, if indeed they could expect to get any contribution at all. Consequently the system became on this account an expensive one, and if they had to spend a good deal of money upon training colleges they could not spend money without limit upon the erection of schools and supplying them with all modern appliances. It was difficult for him to proceed along that path unless it had been carefully reconnoitred in advance. He did not wish to say a word which would justify any hon. Member of the Committee believing that he was blind to the present conditions of the schools in Ireland, or that he was opposed to Irish children having brighter surroundings during their school days, and more warmth, or that he wished that they should be exposed to insanitary surroundings. He would remind the Committee, however, that the question of finance had to be faced. He would give one illustration to show knew a case in which a woman was the mistress of a school attended by thirteen children, and consequently that school was entitled to a capitation grant; but out of the thirteen of those children, nine were her own. [An HON. MEMBER: You ought to give her an extra grant.] In the days of ancient Rome she would have received a reward from the State, not on educational, but on 1208 other grounds; but he did not think it would be fair to introduce the jus trium liberorum, especially if the payment would have to be made thrice. The preservation of the denominational system in Ireland brought up the expense because of the increased number of schools required, and therefore they could not have so much money to spend upon other aspects of the educational question. He agreed that the question of the proper heating of the schools and sanitation was one that ought certainly to be considered. He was glad to hear from several hon. Members that they did not entertain the hope of putting in the most expensive modern heating appliances. Certainly Ireland was not rich enough for that. It was much better that she should have the denominational education she desired than that she should have the latest electrical appliances, which might be needed in Liverpool for ventilation, but which were not required on the mountain side where there was a good deal of natural ventilation. It was the same in regard to playgrounds. In a town or large village a playground was a very proper provision, and most desirable. For his part, when he was a boy he would much sooner have gone out on to the bog to amuse himself than do as the children did in an English school, that was, play in a sanded yard with railings round, which reminded one forcibly of the Zoological Gardens. Where these was not the open countryside an effort should be made to secure a playground, provided they had some regard to economy, not so much for the sake of the general taxpayer, but for the sake of Ireland. Ireland could not afford the gilt-edged education which London and Liverpool thought they could afford, and pay for very largely out of the rates.
He had endeavoured to deal with this question in a general way. The hon. Member for West Kerry took them seriatim through certain questions. His own views in regard to the teachers of Ireland were well known, and they remained what they were before. The particular question of the night schools conducted by Colonel Moore had been brought up, but the grant had been 1209 made, and why should they reopen the controversy. The hon. Member dealt chiefly with building grants, playgrounds, and sanitation. He was quite clear that a portion of the Irish grant ought to go towards levelling up these schools, but it should be upon an Irish scale, and not upon the scale of great industrial cities. As the hon. Member had stated, if they were to accede to all the requests made they might spend another £500,000 a year on education, and he thought that justified him in advocating a certain amount of caution. The next specific point urged upon the Committee was the propriety of reducing the average attendance which justified the appointment of two teachers to fifty. He would give that his earnest and favourable attention. He thought it was a proper reform and one of manageable dimensions. The hon. Member for South Kerry, who also took a great interest in education, was the first of several speakers who criticised the address made by Dr. Starkie. Dr. Starkie was an educationist who was deeply keen on the subject of education, and on that occasion and others he had expressed his conviction with a good deal of vehemence. He knew as a fact that Dr. Starkie was not criticising, as the hon. Member for East Mayo thought, the priests or Catholic managers, but all managers indiscriminately. In so far as Dr. Starkie went in that direction he held that the management of many of these schools left much to be desired. He knew that Dr. Starkie did not intend that to be a charge specifically levelled against Catholics.
§ MR. DILLON
said in that case Dr. Starkie's language was most unfortunate, for he conveyed quite another impression to his audience and to others who read his address in Ireland.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he was unfortunate in his language, as many hon. Members in this House often were when they used language which did not express what they meant. The real point was what did the man mean? He did not mean it to be a charge directed specifically against schools under Catholic management. Dr. Starkie had rendered yeoman service to the course of education 1210 in Ireland, and he did not know what they should do without him. The rest of the debate had been directed against the National Commissioners. It was true that they were appointed to see, if he might put it so, fair play between the various denominations in Ireland, but they did a good deal of other work. In the absence of Dr. Starkie that Board would feel that it could not continue the arduous work imposed on it. The Committee were aware that he himself, in common with others who had studied the question, saw the great disabilities involved under the present system and would desire to see changes carried out if they could be carried out without striking at denominational education, on which Ireland set such store.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said the model schools were somewhat in the same position as the Marlborough Street Training College. They represented a certain section of teachers whom it was strongly desirous to maintain, for if the considerable hinds which were now at the disposal of the Government were devoted, as in the main they would be, to the assistance of education in Ireland in consonance with the wishes of the majority in Ireland, he was clear that it would not be proper at the present time to strike a blow at certain institutions on which a certain section in Ireland set great store.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he was not aware whether that inquiry had been carried out, but at the present moment an inquiry was being carried on which would embrace the model schools and all other parts of Irish education, in order that such changes as they should undoubtedly have, to make, might be economical changes and might not involve public money when there was not public money to carry out all that they should wish to see carried out in connection with Irish education. Further than that he did not think he could go at present.
§ MR. DILLON
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could tell the Committee what the nature of the inquiry was to be. Was it to be a private inquiry?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said it was a private inquiry. He did not wish hon. Members to think that he thought it possible to carry out a great revolutionary change in Irish education, but recognising, as he did recognise, that in respect of accommodation and other even more important respects Irish education hit a great deal to be desired, the first step, in his opinion, was to measure the size of the problem, and to measure the amount of money required. For that purpose an independent inquiry was being conducted into Irish education, and when he had the results of that inquiry, as he hoped to have in the course of a month or two, he would be in a better position to consider what changes could be introduced into the system believing that some changes could be introduced and that delay was undesirable.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said the right hon. Gentleman made some allusion to training colleges, and among others to the training college at Waterford. He asked whether he understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly as saying that some portion of the grant was due to assist the Waterford Training College, which was built by the De Sales Society and which had received little or no assistance.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said his recollection of the request put before him by the hon. and learned Gentleman was that it was not for a grant, but to raise the number of pupils. He did consider that the raising of the number of pupils was one of the objects contemplated.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of some sort of inquiry into the working of the model schools. He wished to point out that the amount spent on these schools was largely disproportionate to the results obtained. The natural consequence was that if so large an amount was spent on one section of primary education in Ireland, the rest, of course, 1212 must to some extent be starved. In the model schools the cost per head was considerably more than double what it was in the first class and efficient national schools, and therefore he trusted the inquiry would be pushed forward with energy. He hoped it would not be one of that class of inquiries about which nobody could get any definite information whatever. In the model schools the average cost per head was £4 17s., while in the ordinary national schools it was £2 6s. This seemed to indicate that there was a wasteful expenditure in giving education to the children of parents who could very well afford to pay for education out of their own pockets. The Attorney-General had admitted that the cost per head in the Cork model school was £7. That was a monstrous waste of money. The school was built to accommodate 1,226 pupils, and last year there were only 260 in average daily attendance. The expenditure was £1,819. Of the 260 in average attendance thirty-two were infants or children in the lower standards. He had intended bringing before the Committee what he believed to be the unwise and injudicious treatment meted out to the Cork Technical Instruction Committee, but as the right hon. Gentleman had said that he would endeavour to find a modus vivendi he would not make any observations on the subject.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
expressed satisfaction at the fact that the Chief Secretary had acknowledged the necessity for improving the condition of the schoolhouses in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they could not expect in Ireland what he called gilt-edged education. Of course they did not, but the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that there was a long way indeed between gilt-edged education, whatever that might be, and proper conditions in many of the schools in the country-districts of Ireland. There was the greatest need for many of the school-houses being put in a proper state of repair and made comfortable both for the children and the teachers. The right hon. Gentleman did not 1213 deal with the complaints made against the National Board, but there seemed to run through his speech an admission of the necessity for overhauling the system of national education in Ireland generally. The right hon. Gentleman said it was a question of money. There was, at any rate, a large sum of money available now, and it would be most disappointing and unsatisfactory if a large portion were not devoted to the purpose of improving the national schools and doing what was necessary for the welfare of the children throughout the country.
§ MR. GILHOOLY (Cork Co., W.)
said that down to 1900 the classification of teachers in Ireland had been accomplished by study, examination, and successful professional work, but in that year, by a despotic order of the Board of Education, or of the Treasury, the classification was stopped and what was called a system of grading was substituted. By that alteration first class teachers had been degraded to third class teachers, and they had been deprived both of their status and their emoluments. If education was to be a success in Ireland, the teachers must not be discredited in their work. When the alteration was made, he believed it was promised that no teacher would be deprived of his emoluments, and he thought inquiry should be made into this matter by the Chief Secretary, who should also consider whether some improvement should not made in the salaries of instructors in needlework and in kindergarten work. These were supposed to give all their time to their work, and their salary was only £24 a year.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £530, to complete the sum for Endowed Schools Commissioners, Ireland.
§ 3. £707, to complete the sum for National Gallery of Ireland.
§ 4. £2,300, to complete the sum for Queen's Colleges, Ireland.
§ Resolutions to be reported.