An extension of the free books scheme to secondary schools would give students 'as close to equality of opportunity as possible.'
That's according to Newstalk Breakfast host Ciara Kelly, who was speaking as a free books scheme for secondary school students is being considered by the Government as part of next year's Budget.
Education Minister Norma Foley is said to be keen to extend the scheme for free primary school books, which will be in operation from September, to secondary-level students.
Ciara said this approach would make sense.
"We can't provide people with equality of outcome, that's an impossibility however much certain people would love to see it happen," she said.
"We can provide people we as close to equality of opportunity as possible.
"Free education, you've got to remember, is a gamechanger.
"Free education, and the widening of the access to it in the '70s and the '80s, changed this society.
"It created a sort of a social mobility - back in the first part of the last century, hardly anybody went to secondary school.
"Hardly anyone was able to afford to go to secondary school, nevermind university.
"Secondary school was the proviso of the rich: that has all changed and it is massively important".
Ciara said she had "no idea" how expensive it was until her children went to secondary school, and that books cannot be passed down.
"Secondary school books, if you haven't got kids who've done it yet, are really expensive," she said.
"I have four kids - never once, has anyone I don't think, passed a book to each other".
'Equal access to education'
Co-host Jonathan Healy said he likes the idea, but noted it is coming close to Budget 2024.
"This is a kite-flying exercise, a budget is coming up in October and all the departments want to get out there," he said.
"The one thing that can be said about the Department of Education is that if you were to sit back and look at the work that has gone on there in recent years - with school building programmes, with the free primary school books - in terms of looking after kids, the department isn't doing a bad job.
"But there are areas that could definitely do with improvement.
"I forked out nearly €800 with two young lads in secondary school - one in First Year, one in Transition Year.
"It is an astronomical amount that we have to pay on school books every year.
"The point is these books are not for me: these books are for the children.
"Every child in Ireland should be given equal access to education," he added.