WHenza The fall semester begins and a school on the northeastern tip of Northern Ireland makes a small history. The Seaview Primary in Glenarm, a coastal village whose accents always remind us of the proximity of Scotland, will be the first institution in the state to leave the Catholic education system, independent of the state and supervised by the Catholic bishop. Small schools are “integrated” and seek to attract students and teachers from both sides of the division between state denominations. “We have taken courageous steps to enable children of different traditions to learn and play together at the same school every day,” said Liam Neeson, a movie star who grew up nearby and now holds American citizenship. I praised his ex-brother.
The task of healing the deep social rifts of Northern Ireland is becoming more urgent and more difficult. When both Britain and the Republic of Ireland were members of the European Union, the practical issues of trade and borders were not important.when United Kingdom Left in January, they became almost insoluble. The deal was virtually closed in Northern Ireland EUCustoms and trade unions to avoid trade borders on the island of Ireland. That meant creating one in the Irish Sea, dividing the state from the mainland, and increasing tensions in politics and on the streets.
As both Northern Ireland and Westminster politicians discussed the details of customs and standards, they lost focus on the bigger issue. The uncertain ceasefire that has continued since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 is under pressure. March was the most troublesome riot in the state for many years. Prior to Brexit, establishing Northern Ireland’s ultimate position would be shelved for future generations where decades of peace would have washed away centuries of hatred heritage. Seemed to be. That happy self-confidence has been erased.
All of this adds new importance to the question of who should educate and with whom Northern Ireland’s children should be educated. About 90% go to school where one religious tradition controls both intake and atmosphere. The Catholic system makes up about half of the students. Protestants dominate state-owned schools. Only about 7% attend about 60 integrated schools and 2% attend Irish languages. Most areas are isolated, so children rarely meet anyone from outside their religious community. Even people in mixed classrooms return home where one camp dominates the street and perhaps a non-functional paramilitary organization still has great influence.
Education is also the epitome of mutual resentment that fosters tribalism. An increasing proportion of Northern Ireland adults, especially young adults, say they feel neither a “Protestant unionist” nor a “Catholic nationalist” in their culture or identity, but still strongly equate with one or the other. Those who do tend to vote accordingly. When it comes to school education, many of them are under pressure.
Some Protestants say that “our school” (where the Queen’s picture adorned the wall and the British national anthem was sung) was Catholic, even though the Catholic school was devoted and therefore did not welcome them. He complains that he has adapted to his sensibilities. Some nationalists are resisting integrated school education because they believe it will obscure the history of British colonization and oppression. Meanwhile, with the opening of a few Irish language schools, they are more confident that the tide is heading in their direction, making union members even more defensive.
In a recent fierce debate in the Northern Ireland Parliament, a bill to make integrated education the default for new schools was passed in a second reading and sent to the Commission. But the largest Democratic Unionist Party, which supports the coalition with Britain, has accused it of attacking parental choice. The Sinn Féin party, the largest party seeking United Ireland, half-heartedly endorsed it, saying that integrated schools were too few to promote Irish, or Gaelic music and sports. (Proponents say they teach both tradition and history of the community, but neither.)
More than half of the integrated schools are new institutions established by parents who see them as an integral part of a racist, more peaceful future. However, if 20% of parents request a ballot, existing schools can participate in that number. If half of all parents with children in attendance vote and half of them answer “yes”, then the Minister of Education depends on whether the new form of school attracts enough students to survive. Has the final say.
Recently, two small Catholic schools failed the test. However, there is a clear desire for integrated school education. When Grenham announced plans to switch, the number of students doubled from 40 due to Protestant enrollment. The charity, the Integrated Education Fund, says it set a precedent for schools in many other small villages to follow.
Incorporating an integrated spirit is a “long but valuable process,” says Sean Pettis of the Northern Ireland Integrated Education Council, a government-funded organization. But it won’t soon become the norm. Some Catholic schools seeking to switch have decided to either consolidate or close. Large and prosperous institutions are unlikely to follow their example.
These include top-notch grammar schools that have selected students by competitive exams until covid-19 makes it impossible, and are near the top of the National League table. For example, St. Columbus in Delhi counts two Nobel laureates among the old man. Others in poorer areas have records of improving academic failure and thereby increasing social mobility. Of the state schools not selected by academic ability, Catholic schools produce the best results. All of these institutions are highly regarded by graduates who, even if they lose faith, tend to think that their alma mater helped keep the culture of the poor community alive in the dark ages.
“In a mixed system, we only want a table location,” says Donal McKeon, a Delhi-based bishop who chairs the Catholic Education Authority. He and others say Catholic schools are already doing their bit for community relations. Some of the famous ones are religiously and racially diverse. Many share classes in several subjects with nearby schools that are primarily Protestant.
Northern Ireland schools themselves do not foster prejudice between denominations. But it misses an important point. They are part of a system in which cross-cultural ignorance thrives on prejudice. The school cannot fix it alone. But while children live and learn apart, it will certainly be difficult to tackle. Theologian and poet Padraig Otuama recalls a classroom discussion at a Catholic school in Belfast. A serious girl asked him a difficult question: why did the beloved God make Protestants? ■■
This article was published in the UK section of the print version under the heading “Pick and mix”.
Northern Ireland Schools Are Gradually Less Separated
Source link Northern Ireland Schools Are Gradually Less Separated