Dáil Éireann - Volume 282 - 12 June, 1975

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - School Books Costs.

41. Mr. Tunney asked the Minister for Education the expected approximate cost of new school books, copies, materials, and so on, for a student entering on a two-year leaving certificate course in September, 1975 and pursuing the subjects English, Gaeilge, Mathematics, History, Geography, French, Physics and Science, higher course or lower course.

Mr. Bruton: Textbooks for the leaving certificate course are prescribed only in the case of certain language tests. In the case of non-prescribed textbooks teachers are free to choose from a wide range of publications. Copy books, materials, and so on, are normally chosen by the pupils themselves.

Textbooks are provided through the activities of the various private commercial publishing companies and copybooks, materials, and so on, are provided through the activities of educational stationers. As the cost per student depends on such factors as [332] the freedom of choice exercised by teacher or pupil I am not in a position to indicate the approximate cost involved.

Mr. Tunney: Is the Parliamentary Secretary, on behalf of the Minister for Education, indicating to the House that he is not in a position to give to the parents of a student who may be considering taking the leaving certificate examination over a two year period even an approximate cost of the books required?

Mr. Bruton: I imagine that different books would be prescribed in different schools and these would cost different amounts of money. Therefore, a figure of the type the Deputy wishes would necessitate exhaustive investigations in relation to the practice in this matter by every school and class in the country. It is not information which is readily available.

Mr. Tunney: I have not got the services of the Department at my disposal, but, if I tell the Parliamentary Secretary that, from superficial research I have done, the approximate cost is £25 to £30 is he in a position to say that is average, below average, above average or that it is not true?

Mr. Bruton: For a start, I am not in a position to say it is not true. I am sure the Deputy, who is a teacher, is in a position to get reasonably accurate——

Mr. Tunney: I am not teaching; I am a politician.

Mr. Bruton: I am sure the Deputy is in a position to get reasonably accurate information. I have no wish to question what he has said but I am not in a position to give a definitive national figure.

Mr. Tunney: Is the Parliamentary Secretary really serious when he tells us that the Department of Education, with all their resources, is not in a position to counsel parents in the matter of what schoolbooks and copies would cost for the leaving certificate course?

[333] Mr. Bruton: The teachers are in a position to take these factors into account also in prescribing the textbooks they will use on particular courses. If they feel that prescribing a particular textbook would impose undue hardship on parents, or a number of parents of children in a class, they would have the option of seeking a less expensive textbook. But it varies from one school to another.

Mr. Tunney: Could we have it in respect of the minimum book requirements?

Mr. Davern: Could the Parliamentary Secretary say how the Department arrive at the allocation of money for free books?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That would be a separate question.

Mr. Davern: It is all part of the assessment of the cost of the books.

Mr. Bruton: It is arrived at on the basis of the moneys available. Incidentally, I can say that the moneys made available for free school books have been increased substantially.

Mr. Davern: The Parliamentary Secretary has not given one positive or informative reply to the House today.

42. Mr. Tunney asked the Minister for Education if he will ensure that anthologies of prose and poetry costing £3, most of which are irrelevant and unnecessary to the examination course, will not be prescribed for future leaving certificate examinations.

Mr. Bruton: A restriction of the type implied in the question would be educationally undesirable since it would withhold from the pupil the facility for immediate literary and cultural comparison and seriously inhibit the scope, breadth and value of the teacher's work in class.

Mr. Tunney: Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware—and he indicated earlier that he has a function in the matter of prescribed anthologies—that, in respect of the anthology of Irish poems and prose, prescribed by the Department, the cost of the book is £3?

Mr. Bruton: I have no information about the cost of that book.

[334] Mr. Tunney: But the Parliamentary Secretary indicated earlier this was one area in which the Department had a function. Is he telling me now he is not aware of the fact that, in respect of pass leaving certificate, a book containing 217 poems and notes has been prescribed, which costs £3, and the total number of poems to be studied for the pass course is only 12?

Mr. Bruton: I will have the Deputy's suggestion in the matter conveyed to those responsible for drawing up the curriculum in relation to this matter.

Mr. J. Lynch: The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are responsible.

Mr. Bruton: However, I have indicated that it is considered desirable that a book of this sort should not be confined solely to those poems or items of literature which are being included in the course but that others could be available so that comparisons can be made; indeed, so that those comparisons may be drawn on in relation to examination answers given by pupils.

Mr. Tunney: Is the Parliamentary Secretary serious when he indicates that, if 12 poems are prescribed for the pass leaving certificate course, 12 of the simplest poems in the anthology, the anthology which must be prescribed for that course is one containing 217 poems and notes?

Mr. Bruton: On the face of it, that does appear somewhat strange. I shall have the matter looked at.

Mr. Tunney: I thank the Parliamentary Secretary.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The remaining questions will appear on next Tuesday's Order Paper. Deputies who require answers may obtain them in the General Office.