I recently returned from a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland in the UK where I began a project on Integrated Education. Here in the US, the word "integrated", in relation to education, probably conjures up thoughts of the racially separated schools in our past. However, in Northern Ireland, a school is "integrated" if it enrolls students of Catholic AND Protestants faiths, as well as those of other or no faith.
"Integrated Education can best be described as the bringing together in one school of pupils, staff and governors, in roughly equal numbers, from Protestant, Catholic, other faith and no faith backgrounds. It is about cultivating every individual´s self-respect and therefore their respect for other people and other cultures." - NICIE
The goal of these schools is not only to put students of different faith backgrounds into one school, but also to actively promote dialog about their similarities and to build respect for those of other faiths, beliefs, and cultures. There are currently only 61 integrated schools in all of Northern Ireland.
I will begin to share a little about my trip and the project as I dig into the photographs, video, and audio I captured from the three integrated schools I visited in Belfast. I'll also explain how I latched onto the idea of this project and why I am so interested in what these integrated schools are doing. Along with those posts, I'll share a little about what I've learned about this amazing country, their Troubles, and the hope they have for their future. I hope you'll find these things interesting and inspirational since I've discovered that many people I talk to here in the US don't know a lot about Northern Ireland. All the information l share will be from one person's perspective, but I hope to share a little about how these integrated schools are working for a better future.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with this image above. I walked up to a mural on one of the "peace walls" in the city and almost immediately saw this message. I don't know "Elizabeth" from Arizona, but her comment, "Peace Through Education" is a good summary of what I hope to share with this multimedia project.