Centre for Shared Education hosts UNESCO event

Representatives from UNESCO sites and projects across the UK gathered at Queen’s University on 31 January to mark Northern Ireland's connection with the UN body.  Events opened with a reception in the Great Hall, celebrating UNESCO heritage sites and the two UNESCO Chairs in Northern Ireland, including the UNESCO Chair on Globalising a Shared Education Model for Improving Relations in Divided Societies, awarded in 2016 to Professor Joanne Hughes, Director of our Centre for Shared Education (pictured with Professor Alan Smith (left) and Zamila Bunglawala (centre)).

The following day Queen's hosted a colloquium at its Riddel Hall complex where UNESCO Chairs from across the UK and colleagues from UNESCO's UK National Commission explored the UN Sustainable Development Goals and related policy issues.  The event was deemed by UNESCO to be a huge success.  Participants were extremely complimentary about the welcome and facilities they experienced at Queen's and looked forward to opportunities to return.

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‘Respect for Diversity’ initiative in Macedonia

As part of a UNICEF project 'Respect for Diversity and Multiculturalism in Early Childhood', a team from the Centre of Shared Education visited Macedonia in 2014 to lead a workshop on respect for diversity in the early years. Inspired by this, colleagues from the Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR) in Skopje created a series of resources to stimulate learning about diversity among pre-school children. These have been shared across schools in Macedonia and are now a mandatory part of the early years curriculum.

Professor Violeta Petroska-Beshka, co-director of the CHRCR, explained the development of these resources:

'A team from Northern Ireland, led by Queen’s University professors Joanne Hughes and Ruth Leitch, carried out a workshop for participants in Macedonia at which they shared their experiences and findings from research with young children. They emphasized that children are aware of diversity from a very early age and it is important that they learn how to respect. The learning should be based on clear messages that can address stereotypes and prejudices directly. The research team exposed the participants to the model of Early Years - Media Initiative for Children (MIFC), developed in Northern Ireland. This was used by the CHRCR team as the basis for developing the original approach that uses children books, workshops and posters to teach respect for diversity to pre-school children in kindergartens.'

The resources from Macedonia are available through the UNICEF website:

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Centre’s work showcased at the IADA Conference, Bologna

Research by staff in our Centre for Shared Education was presented at the 2017 conference of the International Association for Dialogue Analysis, at the University of Bologna on 11-14 October.

In their paper “Fostering interaction and dialogue through shared education”, Rebecca Loader and Ruth Leitch (pictured) explored the role of language and intercultural dialogue in shared classes in Northern Ireland and Macedonia. Drawing on interviews with teachers and programme staff, they examined the tensions that exist between promoting positive encounters and engaging with reconciliation issues.

A paper by Joanne Hughes and Danielle Blaylock, “Shared education in Northern Ireland: a school-based initiative for the promotion of intergroup dialogue”, charted the evolution of shared education and presented research demonstrating its positive impact on intergroup attitudes.

In her presentation, “Do you see the difference? Changing points of view in university classroom talk”, Aisling O’Boyle examined the construction of disciplinary knowledge in university classrooms. Using dialogue from English literature seminars and architecture ‘crits’, she explored how students’ understanding of subject content and norms is developed through interaction with teachers.

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Centre colleagues present new work at major education conferences

Colleagues from the Centre for Shared Education presented new research at two large education conferences. In August, Joanne Hughes, Director of the Centre, and Andrea Furey from Ulster University presented a paper entitled ‘Social identity and outgroup attitudes amongst Northern Irish school children of mixed denomination and same denomination parents’ at the European Conference on Educational Research in Copenhagen. Drawing on a study involving almost 3000 pupils, this paper highlighted differences in levels of identification with traditional community and national and political identities between respondents whose parents were from the same religious group as one another (who identified more strongly with these identities) and those whose parents were not.

At the same conference, Caitlin Donnelly, Deputy Director of the Centre, presented a paper entitled ‘Teaching citizenship in the faith school: qualitative evidence from separate schools in Northern Ireland’, based on research that she and colleague Stephanie Burns conducted over the past 18 months. This paper explored differences in the delivery of citizenship education across separate denominational schools and sectors, which the authors suggest reflect differences in the development of Catholic and Protestant identities in the post-Agreement period. 

In September, Rebecca Loader (pictured above), Research Fellow in the Centre, presented insights from a comparative analysis of shared education initiatives in Northern Ireland and Macedonia at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Brighton. Charting the implementation of shared education in Northern Ireland and its subsequent introduction in Macedonia, this paper explored similarities and differences between the programmes in each country and examined the influence of the local context in shaping their development.

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First meeting of international networks in Belfast

With colleagues from Bosnia and Hergezovina, Croatia and the Republic of Macedonia, the Centre for Shared Education is developing a series of networks to explore and advance shared education within divided societies. The networks include stakeholders whose work contributes to peacebuilding through the promotion of intergroup contact and intercultural dialogue in education. Drawing on the experience of the shared education model in Northern Ireland, these networks will consider how best to promote more positive intergroup relations in participant contexts.

The first stage of this ESRC-sponsored project brought together the networks for a three day symposium in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the end of April 2017. Over the course of the three days, participants visited shared education school partnerships and had the opportunity for engagement with the key stakeholders involved in the mainstreaming of shared education. Subsequent stages will involve the development of in-country interventions and an associated research and evaluation proposal.



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Joanne Hughes keynote address in Moscow

Professor Joanne Hughes, UNESCO Chair and Director of the Centre for Shared Education, delivers a keynote address at the City of Moscow University, where an international conference on Education and Tolerance for the Multicultural Society is taking place between 14-16 February.  The international conference, sponsored by the Tempus Programme of the European Union, brings together academics, practitioners and public sector officials from countries across Europe to explore issues relating to cross-cultural communication and integration. Joanne’s talk focused on the shared education model in Northern Ireland and efforts to develop similar initiatives in other divided regions. 

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