Dáil Éireann - Volume 421 - 25 June, 1992

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Gender Equality in Education.

[1434] 5. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education if his attention has been drawn to the contents of the Second Report of the Third Joint Committee on Women's Rights under the title Gender Equality in Education in Ireland; if he will outline the action, if any, he proposes to take in the light of these observations and recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. S. Brennan: I would like to congratulate the Third Joint Committee on Women's Rights on their excellent report. The contents of the report have been extremely relevant in the context of the proposals for the campaign for gender equity in education which are an important feature of the Green Paper to be launched later today.

As the Deputy will be aware from the introduction to this paper, which I published at Easter, the issue of gender equity pervades all aspects of the paper and includes the following six points programme to address imbalances: the development and publishing of a policy of gender equity in every educational institution and the reporting of progress in this area in the annual report; a gender balance being sought on all boards of management, staff selection committees and all other committees and boards in the education sector; a systematic examination and modification over time of all teaching materials, with priority given to materials for the younger age groups; a broadening of the education available to all students through the sharing of resources and in general greater linkages at local level leading to improved education for life, for work and for national and international citizenship; extension of co-education at primary and secondary levels; and greater participation by women at all levels of management in the Department.

Mr. J. Higgins: May I join with the Minister in welcoming the report of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights and paying tribute to those who put so much [1435] work into it? This is a very comprehensive report but it has not received the level of public acknowledgement it deserves. In his reply the Minister referred to his introduction to the Green Paper and to the launch later this evening of the Green Paper. Is the Minister aware that the education spokespersons have not been invited to the launch of the Green Paper even though it has been preempted by several newspaper articles and is in the hands of a considerable number of people? This initiative was to herald a new era of partnership and dialogue in education, and not to invite the education spokespersons, apart from others interested in education is a very a bad start and has soured things considerably.

Mr. S. Brennan: It was not intended to be discourteous to anybody. On Tuesday the Government approved the final document and I announced that it would be launched at 5 o'clock on Thursday evening. The normal arrangements for launching the document were undertaken and the Deputy and his colleagues are very welcome to attend. I have arranged a copy of the Green Paper to be made available in advance of the 5 o'clock deadline to all the education spokespersons in the House. Educationalists from around the country have been invited to attend the brief launching of the document. No discourtesy was intended. As Minister for Education I will present the document to the education world and the Deputy is very welcome to drop in if he is free to do so.

Mr. J. Higgins: Does the Minister recall the fact that when I asked why I was not circulated in advance with the introduction to the Green Paper, I was told on that occasion that I had ample opportunity to read it in the newspapers. It seems to be virtually the same on this occasion.

Mr. S. Brennan: As the Government approved the document on Tuesday and set the launch for 5 o'clock on Thursday, it was not really appropriate for me to [1436] disseminate the document widely in the meantime. This is a discussion document and we can debate it for six months or so.

Mr. J. Higgins: This is the place where that should start.

Mr. S. Brennan: In effect the Deputy is asking for a copy of the document to be given to him before 5 o'clock.

Mr. J. Higgins: RTE had it last night.

An Ceann Comhairle: The time for priority Questions is clearly exhausted.