20 SES 07 A, Learning for Peace and Citizenship
Northern Ireland (NI) has experienced a resurgence in civil unrest with a new generation participating in sectarian rioting despite decades of educational interventions aimed at promoting a more tolerant society. During the political conflict, Northern Ireland was an overwhelmingly homogenous, if divided society. However, after decades of political conflict the Belfast Agreement of 1998 was followed by an increase in immigration, and NI society embarked on the project of engaging with peace while simultaneously grappling with relationships between more than two communities. Recent census statistics indicate that the ethnic minority population has doubled since 2001, to around 1.8% (NISRA 2012). Unsurprisingly in light of the theoretical relationships between racism and sectarianism and increased ethnic minority numbers, racism has been recognised as an issue in NI with some dubbing it the ‘race hate capital of Europe’ (Knox 2011). In contrast to some of the Balkan states, Northern Ireland did not radically restructure the education system as a result of the peace agreement, and education remains largely segregated by religion (with Catholic maintained and Protestant controlled primary and post-primary schools), as well as by ability (with secondary and grammar post primary schools) and sometimes gender as well; only a small number of pupils (6.5%, Nolan 2012) are educated in integrated schools catering for both communities. Instead, a common curriculum and a variety of voluntary cross-community interventions were preferred to promote a more peaceful society, such as Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage (Smith & Robinson 1996), Local and Global Citizenship (LGC) which aimed to underpin the entire curriculum, (Niens & Chastenay 2008) and a DfID funded Global Dimension (NI) project similarly aimed to infuse all subject areas (Niens & Reilly, 2010). Development of critical literacy and dealing with diversity are part of most such initiatives although the latter has been interpreted variously by schools, which often address it indirectly to avoid causing controversy (Smith 2003). Many of these initiatives have sound theoretical underpinnings; cross –community contact programmes derive from Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis which has generated research confirming that increased contact between the two communities can reduce anxiety and thus potentially reduce sectarian attitudes (Pettigrew & Tropp 2006). Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) is implicit in programmes such as LGC which encourage pupils to consider and identify with a range of communities, to take different perspectives and to consider issues of equality and rights (Niens et al 2012). Most research exploring the impact of such initiatives has focused on the religious divide and sectarian attitudes and despite increasing acknowledgement of the importance of teaching and learning about racism in NI (CCEA 2006), there is no guidance of how they interlink and concerns raised that either topic may be used to avoid the one considered most controversial in the particular school context. This paper will explore the theoretical potential of a range of educational initiatives for a peaceful society and refers to relevant empirical findings by illuminating the role of children from ethnic minority backgrounds in divided societies.
Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CEA) (2006) Local and Global Citizenship at Key Stage 3, Preliminary Evaluation Findings. Ulster: University of Ulster. Niens, U. & Chastenay, M.H. (2008). Educating for peace? Citizenship education in Quebec and Northern Ireland. Comparative Education Review, 52(4), 519-540 Niens, O’Connor & Smith (2012) Citizenship education in divided societies: teachers' perspectives in Northern Ireland. Citizenship Studies. DOI:10.1080/13621025.2012.716214 Niens, U. & Reilly, J. (2010) Global Dimension in the Northern Ireland Curriculum: School approaches, teaching and learning. Belfast: QUB/UU Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (2012) Statistics Bulletin, Census 2011: Key Statistics for Northern Ireland. Belfast: NISRA. http://www.nisra.gov.uk/Census/key_stats_bulletin_2011.pdf [accesssed 21 January 2013] Nolan, P. (2012) Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report: Number 1. Belfast: Community Relations Council. Pettigrew, T.F. & Tropp, L.R. (2006) A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(5), 751-783. Smith, A (2003) Citizenship Education in Northern Ireland: beyond national identity? Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(1),15-31 Smith, Alan and Robinson, Alan (1996) Education for Mutual Understanding: The Initial Statutory Years. Department of Education for Northern Ireland. Centre for the Study of Conflict, University of Ulster. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 33–47). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole
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