In Northern Ireland’s post conflict state, education is looked to as a means of contributing to social capital and societal harmony. Northern Ireland’s education system is still, however, overtly segregated in structure. Children from the two main religio-political communities in the Province attend separate schools and often live in segregated housing conditions. In an attempt to work towards a ‘Shared Future’ (OFMDFM, 2005) a review of the current education system is underway to increase ‘sharing in education’ (p.18). Unfortunately, with the protracted inter-community discord, this task will not be easy to achieve. All is not bleak, however, the Integrated Movement has been established since the early 1980s. It has sought the co-education of Catholic and Protestant pupils within the same environment. The Movement now provides over six percent of Northern Ireland’s schooling. There is also a growing sector which experiences a natural integration. These schools are either traditionally Catholic or Protestant in ethos and governance, yet are admitting increasing numbers of pupils from the ‘other’ community background. These schools, however, are still relatively few in number yet could prove a valuable source of expertise for a possible future integration of the whole education system. It is thus vital to determine to what extent these institutions are integrated, (if at all) and what lessons can be learned for future endeavours in contriving social harmony. This paper is particularly concerned with how children in the few schools which experience a ‘mixed’ or integrated enrolment feel excluded or included in their school and community. This study is the first investigations into schools that are not intentionally designed as integrated learning environments. Lessons drawn from this research will have possible implications for future educational provision for Northern Ireland’s children and the Peace Process itself.
|Keywords:||Inclusion, Integrated Education, Multiculturalism in Education|
Part-time Lecturer, UNESCO Centre, School of Education, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK
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