Northern Ireland students who attend “integrated” schools—those with both Protestants and Roman Catholics—display less-sectarian attitudes and are possibly more likely to foster political common ground, concludes a study released last month.
In Northern Ireland, students have historically attended either a state-run Protestant school or a grant-maintained Catholic school. The first integrated school, Lagan College, opened in Belfast in 1981, and by 2004, 57 integrated schools with more than 17,000 students were operating, the report says. (“And the Walls Come Tumbling Down,” Aug. 6, 2003)
Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast found that attending integrated schools can affect students’ attitudes later in life. For instance, Protestants who had attended an integrated school were less likely to identify themselves as British or unionist, the term for those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, than those who had attended a segregated school, and Catholics were less likely to endorse an Irish identity. The integrated Catholic students were also more likely to say they were neither unionist nor nationalist.
A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2006 edition of Education Week