Schools: Lessons from the Agreement
Fordham International Law Journal
Copyright c 1998 by the authors. Fordham International Law Journal is produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress). http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj
This article discusses how education will help lead to the success of the Multi-Party
Negotiations, which attempt to resolve the conflict in Ireland. Citizenship development can teach values
such as tolerance, care, and respect for others as equals. Education can promote movement from
the rhetoric to the practice of collaboration and encourage participative democracy. Education can
also be a foundation for social harmony.
I never cease to be amazed by the Peer Mediation
Programme of the EMU [Education for Mutual Understanding]
Promoting School Project at the University of Ulster. I often
think if we as present day political negotiators had
experienced the programme how much more quickly we could
have reached an inclusive accommodation.
But there is still a long way to go for us. It may well be that
these young mediators will be the negotiators of the future.
We will be better off for it. We need confident young people
who are willing to take risks for peace, be it in the
playground, the classroom, or in politics. This programme
equips them to do just that.1
Monica McWilliams' testimony emphasizes the role that
education has, or can have, in creating the post-Agreement society
necessary to build the peace of the future. The Agreement itself
stresses the importance of education:
An essential aspect of the reconciliation process is the
promotion of a culture of tolerance at every level of society,
including initiatives to facilitate and encourage integrated
educa* Jerry Tyrell, M.A. (Director, Magee College, EMU Promoting School Project,
Centre for Study of Conflict, University of Ulster, Derry). Mr. Tyrell was born in
London and came to live in Derry in 1972. He was honored with an Ireland "People of
the Year Award."
** Brendan Hartop, B.Sc., M.Ed. (Advisory Teacher, EMU Promoting School
Project, Centre for Study of Conflict, University of Ulster, Magee College, Derry). Mr.
Hartop was born in Belfast. He taught for 17 years in the United States, Germany, England,
and Northern Ireland, and a class of his won a Gulbenkian Citizenship Foundation
Award for its peer mediation programme.
*** Seamus Farrell, B.A. (Research Coordinator, EMU Promoting School Project,
Centre for Study of Conflict, University of Ulster, Magee College, Derry). Mr. Farrell
was born in County Derry. He spent time in Nigeria and in South Africa before the
ending of apartheid. Currently, he is writing a book with Jerry Tyrrell and Brendan
Hartop, "Peer Mediation-A Process for Primary Schools" to be published by Souvenir
1. See Letter from Monica McWilliams, Women's Coalition Northern Ireland
Assembly (Nov. 1998) (on file with the FordhamInternationalLawJournal).
SCHOOLS: LESSONS FROM THE AGRMENT
tion and mixed housing. 2
When the British Labour Government was elected in May
1997 it said that its first three priorities were Education, Education,
Education. Thus, as far as the policy makers are concerned,
education is a priority in general, and Northern Ireland education
as a means towards reconciliation is a priority in particular. In
the context of reconciliation, or at least the improvement of
community relations, two parallel tides have been influencing
education in Northern Ireland during the past twenty years.
These are Education for Mutual Understanding ("EMU") and
Frances Donnelly stresses that the idea of integrated
education is at least 160 years old.4 In 1831, National Schools were
established throughout Ireland to provide education for
Protestant and Catholic children, to unite in one system children of
different creeds.5 The intervening history of education,
however, reveals differing, and at times conflicting, needs of various
Christian denominations, and indeed of church and state.
When the Northern Ireland state was formed in 1922, despite
some attempts to "establish new educational structures that
might serve the whole community .... Northern Ireland [was
left] with an almost totally segregated education system. "6
For fifty years, schools remained either controlled or
maintained. Controlled schools were by and large state schools,
ostensibly open to all, but with one or two notable exceptions, they
were all being attended almost exclusively by Protestant
students. Maintained schools were church schools, usually
exclusively Catholic schools, attended by Catholic students. This
separation only heightened the suspicions in a people divided on the
issue of political identity.
By the 1970s, the social impact of this education system on a
divided society was the subject of a number of academic studies.
School-based projects, which looked at ways in which children
from the two communities could be encouraged to look at their
differences, were established.7
Meanwhile, there was a growing movement of individuals
who were beginning to lobby for a space for integrated schools
within the existing school system. These initiatives were taking
place at a time of escalating violence in Northern Ireland.
It seemed unlikely that any existing schools would become
integrated, so a voluntary group, All Children Together, decided
to set up such a school itself, and in September 1981 Lagan
College was opened. By the beginning of 1999, twenty-six
integrated primary schools and seventeen integrated secondary
schools had been established; but even the strongest advocates
of integrated education acknowledge that only a small
percentage of children are able to attend integrated schools. In 1998,
the reality was that only three percent of school age children
were attending such schools.
It was this reality that provides the context for EMU.
8 writing in 1992
, traced the history of EMU,
noting the importance of a 1982 Department of Education
advisory paper that was distributed to every teacher in Northern
Ireland and stated that everyone in the education system "has a
responsibility for helping children learn to understand and respect
each other .... And of preparing them to live in adult life."9
EMU has been variously defined as being about:
" developing knowledge and understanding about self and
relationships, interdependence, culture and conflict,
particularly in relation to Northern Ireland;
" fostering appropriate attitudes, values, interpersonal and
conflict management skills; [...]
* engaging in interactive classroom methodology and the
exploration of controversial social and political issues, both
local and general[; and]10
* developing self-interest and respect for others and the
improvement of relationships between people of different
The EMU Promoting School Project was established as an
action research project at the Centre for the Study of Conflict at
the University of Ulster in 1995. The long-winded project title
was chosen deliberately, reflecting the view that all schools,
regardless of ethos, or religious background, should be about
EMU, and therefore arguably should be promoting it.
One of the objectives of EMU is:
students should have opportunities to develop knowledge
and understanding of conflict in a variety of contexts and of
how to respond to it positively and creatively. 12
The Project identified Peer Mediation, a process whereby
children help other children to resolve their own conflicts, as
complementing EMU's objectives, particularly understanding
conflict. In 1993, the Ulster Quaker Peace Education Project
introduced Peer Mediation into two primary schools in Northern
Ireland. Peer Mediation has an established pedigree in the
United States, as well as in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, and
other parts of the world.
Since 1995, the EMU Promoting School Project has been
developing the peer mediation program in Northern Ireland;
and after three years a dozen State, Catholic, and integrated
primary schools 13 throughout Northern Ireland have worked in
partnership with the Project, training over 1000 children.
When questioned, children said that the qualities required
of a mediator include: listening skills, a sense of humor,
patience, and fast handwriting.14 This last comment was inspired
by the writing speed needed for mediators to be able to keep up
with disputants when recording the issues for them.
11. See NORTHERN IRELAND CENTRAL COUNCIL FOR EXAMINATIONS AND ASSESSMENT,
MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND CULTURAL HERITAGE 5 (1997).
13. U.K. Primary Schools' equivalent to elementary schools are as follows: P1 (age
4-5) until P7 (age 10-11) when they transfer to Secondary Schools orJunior High/High
Schools Year 8 (age 11-12). School-age education is divided into four Key Stages: Key
Stage 1 (P1-P4), Key Stage 2 (P5-P7), Key Stage 3 (Year 8-Year 10), and Key Stage 4
(Year 11-Year 12).
14. See Videotape: Peer Mediation (EMU Promoting School Project 1996).
Teachers have noted the very real educational benefits of
the program in terms of communication, oral and written, as
well as the development of cognitive thinking skills. In addition,
teachers were reporting that the children took the time to listen
to the disputants, whereas teachers were often too busy to be
able to deal with what were often seen as trivial problems in
adults' eyes. It would, however, be precisely these so-called
trivial problems, of friends failing out, of lunch boxes being stolen,
or name calling that interfered with the disputants' ability to pay
sufficient attention to the lessons that followed such incidents.
In response to the question, "Would you rather have a
mediator than a teacher deal with your dispute?," a majority of pupils
would express a preference for mediation. When questioned as
to why this was so, children would regularly answer, "because
children understand children." This thought-provoking
response deserves further research, but it does provide evidence to
the difference between an adult and a child-centered
engagement to problem-solving of children's issues.
Children have given demonstrations of their skills in
roleplays to groups of interested adults in such diverse settings as the
British House of Lords, and the Irish President's home Aras An
Uachtarain. President Robinson stated at the time, "[I]f [peer
mediation] works in the playground, there's no reason why
adults can't learn a lesson from what after all isn't just child's
play. 1 5
Almost universally, the response of adults to these
demonstrations by children of peer mediation was one of amazement
and wonder. The self-confidence, skill, and ability of the
children to practice mediation and understand the theory of it
inspired most adults. A small minority of adults were dismissive,
describing the children as being precocious-"the little boy
knows all the jargon. '"16 Most adults not only recognized the
value of the children's skills, but also made the link between the
skills that the children were illustrating and the ongoing Peace
Meanwhile, politicians were acknowledging the nature of
the skills needed in peacemaking. At an October 1998
confer15. See President Robinson (Radio Telefis Eireann radio broadcast, Sept. 25, 1996).
16. Interview with a teacher at an In Service Training session in Belfast (1997).
ence in Belfast,1 7 Mo Mowlam outlined the lessons that she had
learned from her role as broker in the peace talks.'" She listed
confidence and respect as being vital, that they required a great
deal of time, that you had to keep the momentum going,
concentrate on day-to-day issues, take risks, and acknowledge history
but don't live in it.
Peer mediation, thus, was one of the programs that was
delivering the very skills that Mo Mowlan identifies as crucial to the
Peace Process. Parents also commented on how articulate and
mature their children were in dealing with conflicts. So with all
this going for it, why is peer mediation not taking root in schools
throughout Northern Ireland?
Our research has raised questions about the readiness of
schools for such a radical program-and peer mediation is a
radical program. It is about changing the ethos and the nature of
relationships as much as it is about teaching discrete skills in the
natural steps of a workshop program.
These types of programs raise a multitude of issues about
how education is conducted and about what ought to be
retained or changed in the context of citizenship development. It
raises issues about policy and practice-that of the teacher, the
school, and the education system. As an -action/research
project, we have endeavored to raise questions and to listen to the
Action/research and EMU are ideal companions: they
share the core values of tolerance, care, and respect for others as
equals;. both have an explicit social intent; they are about
transformation and change; they seek to promote movement from
the rhetoric to the practice of collaboration; and they are about
As an action/research project, the EMU Promoting School
Project had sought to investigate the propriety and feasibility of
conflict resolution skills training programs in primary education.
It viewed work with young children as being foundational if
controversial issues are to be handled in later schooling. It aimed to
explore not just their benefit to recipient children, but their
potential to enhance the teaching and learning environment of the
classroom and school, whole-school and school-community
relationships, staff morale, and good practice.
The underpinning values of the EMU educational theme,
besides being the foundation for social harmony, are equally the
basis for good education. It is self-evident that children learn
best, and teachers teach best, in an environment in which they
feel valued and respected, are full participants in the teaching/
learning task, and have the opportunity to work together. It is
also a model of democratic participation. It is equally obvious
that it is owed to children, in personal development terms, to
equip them with relationship skills for their exploration of the
dynamics of human interaction, and it is owed to society to
resource children for adulthood in a post-Agreement society with
the skills of social engagement. A continuing objective,
therefore, is to sell the idea that EMU belongs, not on the periphery,
but at the heart of the curriculum.
Peer Mediation seemed an ideal vehicle for an investigation
because, following a specific package of training, the children
could practice their newly-acquired skills through offering a
mediation service to their peers. Its potential as a proactive strategy
for addressing issues of indiscipline, bullying, the effects of
disruptive behavior on teaching, and the absorption of teachers'
time in dealing with children's conflicts, could serve to interest
schools. The Primary 7 teachers and children of two schools
were engaged as partners in developing and testing the training
program and the mediation service.
Significant findings emerged from this pilot venture and its
extension in the following years to several other schools. These
findings had to do with the crucial importance of a supportive
principal and of adult relationships throughout the school,
being such as to provide a congruent environment for relationship
skills programs for children. It was of demonstrable benefit to
the children in terms of their self-confidence and enhanced
peer relationships and had proved transformative of teachers
involved in respect of their practice and enthusiasm for teaching.
It had benefited both children and teachers involved in terms of
the teaching and learning environment in their classroom.
At the same time, the anticipated catalyst-effect of the
program on the rest of the school did not occur to any significant
extent; often, insofar as other teachers or ancillary staff knew
anything about it, it was assessed, positively, negatively, or
neutrally, as something in which older classes were involved. Some
schools have, on their own initiative, developed foundational
relationships and conflict-handling skills programs for younger
classes. Apart from making good educational sense, this
approach has begun to address the problem of the current P6/P7
training program being excessively demanding of time and
other resources in an already overloaded period of primary
schooling. But it cannot be said that the program has had any
travel-out effect in terms of inter-adult or adult-child
relationships within the school, or of school-community (parent)
relationships. Some schools have achieved self-sufficiency with
regard to the program, but it has to be acknowledged that in such
schools the program has contributed to what was already there:
a child-centered vision and a proactive engagement in
promoting an ethos of positive whole-school relationships. It can claim
to have been transformative as a catalyst at the institutional level,
especially with the individual teachers and the classes directly
The relationship between researcher and school needs to
be such that the teachers involved can transcend the
conventional relationship of teacher with visiting researcher, or with
school inspector. They need both to see themselves as equal
partners in the research process, whose open and honest
reflections as practitioner-researchers are listened to with total respect
and to recognize that their opinions will have equal status with
those of researchers in influencing future action. To an
important degree, the same applies to outside agency relationships
with principals, other adults, and children. Such relationships
are essential to ensure that both school and external agency
have a shared understanding of the purposes of the venture and
are working on the same agenda. Again, this attempt is to model
the participative democracy that children will be encouraged to
join when they leave school and experience whilst still at it. As
with any partnership, it is sometimes too readily assumed that
there is a consensus between outside agencies and schools as to
the program's objectives.
A fundamental issue that became conspicuous by the end of
the third year of the program was the lack of shared
ing about the program's central purposes. Given its title, The
PeerMediationProgramme,it seemed that teachers felt under
pressure to meet the perceived objective of the Project-the
establishment, following training, of a formal peer mediation service.
As a result, they either felt a sense of personal failure if there was
not a peer mediation service established, or reported in
unrealistically glowing terms the extent of usage and the outcomes of
the service. This tended to obscure the fact that they justifiably
valued the educational goals and values of the program
itselfthe enhancement of children's self-esteem, understanding, and
competence in dealing with emotions and relationship skills. It
should not be assumed that the agenda of a peer mediation
project is necessarily commensurate with that of schools; the former
is quite specific, whereas for schools, the agenda must
encompass the broad objectives of schooling and the varied, and often
conflicting, objectives of a diverse society. There is common
ground between these, but it must be clearly identified.
The following, in brief, would seem to be the respective
* Peer Mediation Agencies
A primary focus for such agencies is conflict-its resolution
and the skills, structures, and strategies needed to prevent
its occurrence or escalation. The emphasis is not primarily
on the needs of education, rather the need for conflict
An objective of education is the development of children's
abilities and knowledge in terms of both cognitive and
affective intelligence. Good practice recognizes the centrality of
positive classroom and whole-school relationships in
achieving this objective. It acknowledges self-esteem of both
adults and children; as critical to their teaching and
learning to their best potential. Work in this area is therefore
intimately related to the curriculum and cannot be pursued
in isolation from it or on its periphery. Good education
practice identifies such a proactive approach as a more
appropriate way to address discipline and behavioral issues
than reacting to problems as they arise.
" Common Ground
Relationships are a central issue in achieving the goals of
both education and democratic participation. In terms of
education's mandate to equip children to become both
constructive and competent citizens, training in social
engagement skills, of which mediation skills are a component,
ought to be at the heart of the curriculum.
Mediation training offers concrete skills that children can
use in their day-to-day relationships and, perhaps formally on
occasion but more frequently informally, in dealing with their
conflicts. Not surprisingly, however, teachers value the skills
acquired as providing the building blocks for learning; that they, at
the same time, lay the foundations for addressing the
controversial issues of the society that the children inherit reinforces its
There are unavoidable questions around the training of
teachers and the school ethos that such programs demand.
Teachers and schools carry the scars of having their history in a
divided conflictual society. What is beyond question is the
immediate relevance of such programs to good educational
practice and, provided that they are located within and throughout
rather than appended to the curriculum, their relevance to its
We would question whether civic, social, and political
education can be effectively and progressively pursued throughout
schooling without social engagement skills training from the
earliest years of primary schooling-located in the social realities of
the children themselves. Another issue concerns the
methodologies and strategies to implement the training. It would
certainly seem of dubious value to construct a scheme, especially if
using a subject level of operation, that pays inadequate attention
to the affective dimension that is central in all relationships, to
the learning process, and to the importance of context and
process; effective transmission of the values and skills of tolerance
and respect depends on their being lived out at the level of
reallife experience by both teachers and students, in staff rooms,
classrooms, and elsewhere.
Peer Mediation is just one strategy for assisting the
implementation of EMU. It is to be regretted that action research
strategies have not, until now, been adequately utilized in
assessing the practice and implementation of EMU. Existing research
into the failure of EMU tends to find against teachers and to
identify training needs as paramount in addressing the problem.
Such conclusions overlook crucial questions about context,
policy, and definition for which training alone cannot provide
* Context The need of EMU for an ethos of positive
wholeschool relationships, as against the realities of most schools.
* Policy The factor of education policy objectives being in
fundamental conflictwith those of EMU.
* Definition A set of objectives view of the curriculum which
clashes with the educational values of teachers - who rightly
resist being identified as the deliverers of same.
The challenge for schools is to become environments where
the values, attitudes, and practices of democracy are fully in
place, and the challenge to external agencies supporting schools
is to foster ownership by schools so that their program can
continue to exist after the agency has left. The alternative is for the
success and continuity to depend on an enthusiastic teacher and
a supportive principal, without any real sense of a whole-school
approach. The reasons why Peer Mediation is not appropriate
in the majority of schools, however, go deeper than the support
necessary to sustain the program. Mediation is based on a
restorative justice model, and although it is not intended to
replace the school's discipline policy but complement it, its
philosophy runs counter to most such policies.
After a presentation to a group of staff at one primary
school, a teacher asked, "What about blame and punishment?"
The assumption being that without those two elements,
discipline cannot be established. This highlights the current wider
debate between retributive justice and restorative justice.
Retributive justice dictates revenge, not healing, and
demands punitive sanctions instead of addressing the needs of
the victim, the offender, and the community. ...
Seeking justice according to a restorative model leads us
to a new set of assumptions
= offenders accept responsibility for their criminal behaviour
= recognition of harm done to the victim
= opportunity for reconciliation through direct interaction
between victims and offenders
= offenders are not punished, but supported to repair the
harm done and to seek help for their problems19
19. See A Statement on Restorative Justice, Friends World Committee for
An analysis of peer mediation illustrates how it reinforces
the validity of these assumptions. Usually, each of the disputants
has offended the other, though not always. The process of
mediation with each side telling, and being fed back, their story and
then saying how they are feeling is often sufficient for each
offender to take responsibility and -to 'acknowledge the hurt that
they have caused. Particularly, in primary school mediation, the
whole process is an opportunity for the restoration of
friendships-reconciliation through direct interaction. Once the
issues have been listed, and the solutions have been brainstormed,
an agreement is drawn up by the disputants that is designed to
repair the harm done.
Of course, it is not that simple, the process can be
circuitous, and often the mediators need to take risks. On one such
occasion, when a mediation seemed to be going nowhere, and
the disputants were constantly bickering, the peer mediators
became so exasperated with their attempts being rebuffed, that
they said to the disputants, "Okay we're going to leave the room
for five minutes, we think you can sort this out by yourselves."
When they returned, the disputants were writing up their
Above all, peer mediation is a creative process that focuses
on the future. Significantly, it is our experience that adults in
the school community have been reluctant to put it into practice
to address their own conflicts. There have been a few notable
instances when adults have been willing to have a conflict
mediated by a student. By and large, however, the hierarchy within
the school militates against a system where disputants are treated
as equals, and the school's discipline policy usually requires
some form of punishment. Against this background, the
instances of the success of peer mediation as an alternative form of
dispute resolution is all the more encouraging.
There is a contrast between the school as an institution and
the participative democracy for which it is preparing its students.
In many cases, this contrast represents a contradiction. In
Northern Ireland, as elsewhere in the world, there is a debate
about citizenship education. There is concern about the lack of
tion, William Penn House, Bying Place, London (1990), quoted in Quaker Social
Responsibility and Education, Repairing the Harm: Friends and Restorative Justice (June
1995) (on file with the Fordham InternationalLaw Journal).
participation in democracy, and policy makers are being
encouraged to look at ways of including personal, social, civil, and
political education in the curriculum.
This begs the question of how democratic schools are.
During the past two or three years, legislation has come into being
requiring schools to be more accountable to parents. However,
parents, rather than the students, are perceived as consumers;
the latter still have little say in their learning and very little
participation in the decision-making of school as an institution.
In a recently-published report on citizenship education,
Prof. Bernard Crick and his colleagues make the point that:
all formal preparation for citizenship in adult life can be
helped or hindered by the ethos and organization of a
school, whether pupils are given opportunities for exercising
responsibilities and initiative or not, and also whether they
are consulted realistically on matters where their opinions
can prove relevant both to the efficient running of a school
and to their general motivation for learning. In some
schools, these are already common practices, while in others
absent or only occasional. 20
To try to introduce peer mediation, or a program that
requires interactive learning, and a restorative justice approach,
piecemeal into schools is not tackling the key question of how
best to inform and to support formal education structures to
fulfil their role in equipping young people with the skills, values,
and attitudes needed for democratic participation in a
It is a moot point to which this can be meaningfully done in
an exclusive and undemocratic education system. Whilst the
effect of segregated education has been a subject of universal
debate, another aspect of the Northern Ireland education system
that has had an arguably more pernicious effect on the collective
self-esteem of students has gone relatively unchallenged. This is
the 11+ transfer system. Its role is to sustain the elitist grammar
school system whereby children are selected in their final year of
primary school on the basis of two fifty-minute exams that test
their convergent intelligence.
These tests are graded A, B, C, and D. Originally, they were
20. Prof. Bernard Crick, Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of
Democracy in Schools (Report of Advisory Group on Citizenship) (Sept. 2
graded with a number of pass marks, and then a fail mark. This
led to people being effectively branded a failure at 11. Our
experience is that time and again adults refer to the fact that they
failed the 11 + as having had a profound and long-term effect on
their sense of worth.
Today, children do not fail the 11+ test, they just don't get
into grammar school unless they pass at a high enough grade.
The pressure to pass the 11+ is so great that parents feel obliged
to arrange private tutoring for their children. Two terms of the
final two years at primary school are taken up with practicing for
the exam-it completely skews the curriculum and is in itself of
little, if any, educational value. It encourages the idea that there
is only one right answer to a question, and our personal
experience is that preparing for the transfer test is a stressful and
traumatic time for children and their parents, regardless of how well
they do in it.
Nevertheless, as all parents want the best for their children,
and the conventional wisdom is that grammar schools are best,
few parents are prepared to opt-out of the system. Even parents
of children at some integrated primary schools want their
children to take the 11+ transfer test, despite the fact that integrated
secondary schools take children of all ability and therefore do
not require children to take the test.
In a recent article, Chris Moffat argues that the existence of
the 11+ transfer test is a contradiction of human rights.2 1 The
Children's Law Centre in Belfast is to carry out a separate
Northern Ireland review of the influence of the U.N. Convention of
the Rights of the Child. She makes the point that even modern
constitutional theory stops short of according citizenship rights
to children 22 and that the Government of the United Kingdom
has not complied with Article 12 of the convention that asserts
the right of children having their view on education taken into
account. She maintains that the 11+ transfer test discriminates
unfairly between pupils, and does not conform with Article 28,
which affirms children's rights to education "on the basis of
equality." 23 The rationale for this is that most parents and
schools approve of the 11+ transfer test. Nevertheless, there is
21. Chris Moffat, Educationand Democracy, FORTNIGHT (Belfast), Nov. 1998, at 19.
evidence to suggest that it discriminates on class grounds,
against the working class. Eamon Baker, using the 11+ transfer
results from one school in the Creggan district of Derry/
Londonderry, illustrates this point:24
Of Childrenfrom Privately Owned Houses:
Grade A 37% Grade B 17% Grade C
Grade D 31% Opt Out 6%
Of Childrenfrom Publicly Owned Houses:
Grade A 0% Grade B 6% Grade C 10%
Grade D 50% Opt Out 34%25
From this, he deduces that a child's address seems to have
significant bearing on the type of school that he/she will attend
at secondary level.2 6 He argues for a more inclusive form of
education that does not disadvantage already disadvantaged
children. He makes the point that a lot of European Funding
for Peace and Reconciliation is to help counter social exclusion.
This is deeply ironic when we systematically construct our
education system to legitimize exclusion. 7
Our experience has been that it is difficult to get time to do
EMU work with classes while they are preparing for the 11+.
Where we were able to incorporate the peer mediation program,
we received feedback that the half-day workshop each week was
one time when children were able to focus on cooperation and
self-esteem, and to help them to deal with the demands of the
preparation for the 11+ transfer.
Community relations has been defined in terms of equity,
diversity, and interdependence.28 Philosophically, the 11+
transfer test undermines community relations work as it is
socially divisive. Relying exclusively on competition, the 11+ test
is the antithesis of a cooperative and equitable process. In the
new dispensation, there is a strong argument for its removal.
If we are to teach young people about citizenship, the
practical application of what they learn cannot wait until they
leave school. It is incumbent on schools to provide
24. Eamon Baker, 11 Plus - Time to Call Time, FINGER POST (Derry), Nov. 1996.
28. See KARIN EYBEN ET AL., A WORTHWHILE VENTURE? TACTICALLY INVESTING IN
EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INTERDEPENDENCE IN NORTHERN IRELAND (May 1997).
opportunities for participative democracy while they are still
students. The Peace Education Network in Britain has outlined
values and attitudes required for Peace Education.2 9 They
include respect for others, empathy, a belief that individuals and
groups of people can make a positive change, appreciation for
and respect for diversity, self-esteem, social justice, nonviolence,
concern for the environment, and a commitment to equity.
These values and attitudes should also be the basis for
citizenship and tolerance.
There is a strong argument for these values and skills to be
identified and made relevant to the youngest of school-age
children. The growth of "Circle of Time," a process whereby a
regular time is given over to the children and their teacher to
share ideas, feelings, and listen to each other in a circle, is an
example of an innovative way of establishing participative
democracy with younger age-groups.
A "Towards a Culture of Tolerance" working group has
recently been established to advise the Minister of State for
Education at the Northern Ireland Office on the strategic
promotion of EMU. In the aftermath of the Agreement, a new
executive will be established with a new Northern Irish Minister
for Education. This working group, informed by practitioners in
the classroom, has a golden opportunity to urge release from the
stranglehold of a subject-based cognitive approach to education,
and give sufficient cognizance to the need for emotional
intelligence and problem-solving to be part of the strengths of
children during and after school.
If we are to have confident young people who are willing to
take risks for peace, be it in the playground, the classroom, or in
politics, as Monica McWilliams advocates, then it will require
major changes in the structure, and values of education, and a
greater emphasis on participative democracy in the classroom, as
well as in society.
2. See Agreement Reached in the Multi-Party Negotiations , Apr. 10 , 1998 , 13 .
3. See Speech by Catherine Coxhead, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (May 12, 1997 ) ( on file with the Fordham InternationalLaw Journal) .
4. See Frances Mary Donnelly , Transforming Integrated Education: An Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Developments in Integrated Education ( 1998 ) (unpublished Master of Education dissertation , University of Ulster).
5. See id. (quoting D.H. ATKINSON, EDUCATION AND ENMITY.' THE CONTROL OF SCHOOLING IN NORTHERN IRELAND 1920 - 50 ( 1973 )).
6. See VALERIE MORGAN ET AL., BREAKING THE MOULD: THE ROLES OF PARENTS AND TEACHERS IN THE INTEGRATED SCHOOLS IN NORTHERN IRELAND ( 1992 ).
8. See Norman Richardson , Roots If Not Wings! Where Did EMU Come From? (May 19 , 1992 ) (unpublished keynote paper at EMU In Transition Conference). This keynote paper was presented at the conference "EMU in Transition," in Newcastle, County Down , Northern Ireland, on May 19 , 1992 .
10. See Education for Mutual Understanding (EMU) and Cultural Heritage (draft document) (on file with the Fordham InternationalLawJournal) .
17. See Fourth European Conference on Peace Making and Conflict Resolution (Oct . 1998 ).
18. See Susan Gascho & Paul Wahrhfatig, Northern Ireland: Mo Mowlam Finds 10 PeacemakingLessonsfrom the Good FridayNegotiations , in CONFLICT RESOLUTION NOTES , vol. 16 , no. 3 ( Jan . 1999 ).