07 SES 10 A, Diversity and Belonging. Different Research Methodologies
The first integrated school opened in Northern Ireland in 1981, offering an alternative to the existent education system wherein Catholic and Protestant children, for the most part, attended separate schools. In a society characterised by conflict and division, integrated education was promoted as having an important role in the facilitation of better relations between the deeply divided communities. Although the idea of establishing particular schools to educate Protestants and Catholics together is probably unique to Northern Ireland, the concepts on which integrated education is founded are resonant throughout the UK, US and other Western democracies which are currently grappling with the tensions and opportunities of the multicultural society (Osler, 2000). Schools are considered critical sites for the shaping and development of children’s identity, and in Northern Ireland the integrated school is said to provide a unique space for the fostering of esteem in one’s own identity whilst similarly promoting a respect for others who have different identity allegiances. At present there are 62 integrated schools, comprising 20 secondary level and 40 primary schools (NICE, 2013). Thus, approximately 93% of children in Northern Ireland continue to be educated within the segregated system. Furthermore, more than 15 years after reaching a peace Agreement, identity continues to represent a significant source of division between Catholics and Protestants. Against this background, the present study aims to explore variations in perceptions and interpretations of identity in both integrated and various segregated school settings in Northern Ireland. We do so within the theoretical framework of social identity theory (SIT).
According to this theory, identity emanates from an awareness of membership to a social group, combined with the subjective interpretation of that membership in relation to value and emotional significance (Tajfel, 1978). The processes described by SIT are believed to be especially crucial in situations like Northern Ireland where, membership of the two main identity groups is virtually inescapable and group boundaries are relatively impermeable. Under these circumstances, the orientation of an individual to his / her in-group typically involves some simultaneous psychological relationship to the out-group (Mummendey et al., 2001). At the same time, one of the main attractions of social identity theory is its acknowledgement that identities are by no means static. Rather the need for and expression of social identities involve a series of complex and dynamic processes. People simultaneously identify with numerous social groups. Consequently, different identities are activated and take precedence at different points in time. The particular identity, which takes precedence at any given time, is thought to depend upon the situation or social context an individual finds himself / herself in. Hence, social identities are situationally determined or contextually based. This variable nature of identity is thought to be particularly intriguing when considering ascribed social identities such as nationality and ethnicity. In contrast to achieved social identities for example, ascribed identities are believed to be relatively enduring. The dependence of national and ethnic identity on social context has raised important questions regarding what precisely happens to identity when contexts change. Taking account of the above theory, we set out to explore the concept of identity in schoolchildren in Northern Ireland, with a focus upon analysing the underlying subtleties intrinsic to interpretations of identity. We do this within two unique situational contexts; Northern Ireland’s post conflict transitional status and the different school settings within Northern Ireland. At the same time, it is anticipated that our findings will also offer valuable insight into identity issues in educational systems both within Europe and at an international level.
Cassidy, C., & Trew, K. (2004). Identity change in Northern Ireland: A longitudinal study of students’ transition to university. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 3, 523-540. Gallagher, T. (2004). Education in divided societies. (London: Palgrave/Macmillan). McGlynn, C. W. (2001). The impact of post primary integrated education in Northern Ireland on past pupils: A study, Unpublished PhD thesis, Belfast: University of Ulster at Jordanstown. McGlynn, C. W. (2003). Integrated education in Northern Ireland in the context of critical multiculturalism, Irish Educational Studies Journal, 22, 3, 11-27. McGlynn, C. W., Niens, U., Cairns, E., & Hewstone, M. (2004). Moving out of conflict: the contribution of integrated schools in Northern Ireland to identity, attitudes, forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal of Peace Education, 1, 2, 147-163. Muldoon, O., Trew, K., Todd, J., Rougier, N., & McLaughlin, K. (2007). Religious and national identity after the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. Political Psychology, 28, 1, 89-103. Mummendey, A., Klink, A., &Brown, R. (2001) Nationalism and patriotism: National identification and outgroup rejection, British Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 2, 159-172. Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (2013). http://www.nicie.org.uk (Accessed December 2013). Tajfel, H. (1978). Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. (London: Academic Press).
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