07 SES 01 B, Students' Perceptions on (Inter)nationalism
It is generally accepted that education has a significant role to play in any society transitioning from conflict to a more peaceful dispensation. Indeed, some have argued (Petroska-Beska & Najcevska, 2004) that the education system potentially represents the single most effective agent of social change with the capacity to bridge ethnic division in conflict affected countries. Despite the potential, educational policy makers grapple with the dilemma as to precisely how school systems can best facilitate this agenda. Nevertheless, the prevailing view is favourably disposed to integrated rather than ethnically separate education systems in post conflict societies.
This view is reflective of recent educational initiatives in both the Northern Ireland and Macedonian school system. In the former, there is a predominantly monolithic education structure underpinned by the separation between maintained (predominantly attended by Catholics) and controlled schools (attended primarily by Protestants) (Duffy, 2002). 95% of children are educated in this way. The main alternative to this separate system is in the form of integrated education. First introduced as an option in 1981, integrated schools constitute the remaining percentage of children’s school attendance in Northern Ireland. Similarly, in Macedonia, education is primarily ethnically segregated with respect to the country’s two main ethnic groups; Macedonians and Albanians. Here, the former receive educational instruction in Macedonian while the latter are mainly educated in Albanian. This ethnic division exists at every level of the school system from preschool to high school level. A recent and less opted alternative to this traditional educational approach is Macedonian/Albanian bilingual coeducation. In Northern Ireland, Macedonia, and conflictual societies elsewhere, the motivations for advocating educational integration opportunities are complex and multifaceted. At the same time, such motivations are undoubtedly predicated upon theoretical contributions from the literature on intergroup relations with the most notable being the contact hypothesis (Allport, 1954), and social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978).
The contact hypothesis proposed by Allport (1954) maintains that interaction between two opposing groups under optimal conditions should lead to reduced prejudice. This hypothesis is supported by meta-analytic research (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2000), and consequently many educational efforts to improve intergroup relations rely on some variant of this approach. It is also well recognized in the research literature that identity plays a pivotal role in conflicting and divided societies (Kelman, 2001). Against this backdrop, ideologies of identity assume an importance that is without equal elsewhere in the world. This is exemplified within both Northern Ireland and Macedonia where national identity lies at the heart of division between Catholics and Protestants (Moxan-Brown, 1991) and Macedonians and Albanians (Myhrvold, 2004/2005) respectively. It has been suggested that, amongst other things, a primary function of education systems is to foster shared cultural values and national identity (Bettelheim, 1981; Ullah, 2012). Arguably, this function has the potential to further reify division in conflict affected societies. In light of this argument, and drawing on the conceptual framework of both ‘contact’ and ‘identity theory’, we set out to explore student narratives on national identity within different educational contexts in both Northern Ireland and Macedonia. Specifically, we anticipate variation among educational contexts in precisely how national identity is constructed, evaluated, and subsequently impacts upon intergroup relations. Although we focus upon school settings in Northern and Ireland and Macedonia, we also anticipate that our findings will offer valuable insight into identity issues in educational systems elsewhere within Europe and at an international level.
Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Reading: Addison-Wesley. Bettelheim, B. (1981). What Happens When a Child Plays?. Growing through play: readings for parents & teachers, 88(11), 102. Kelman, H. C. (2001). The role of national identity in conflict resolution. Social identity, intergroup conflict, and conflict reduction, 3, 187. 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. Myhrvold, R. (2005). Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: education as a political phenomenon. Nordem Report. Petroska-Beska, V., & Najcevska, M. (2004). Macedonia. Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2000). Does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Recent meta-analytic findings. Reducing prejudice and discrimination, 93, 114. Tajfel, H. (1978). Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. (London: Academic Press).
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