Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Leave emotions aside to learn a lesson in reality

The subject of integrated education can, understandably, be an emotional one which attracts plenty of debate.

While it's very difficult to remove such strong feelings, much of the emotion can be set aside from the discussions if you look at it from a purely business point of view.

Imagine then that you're a business consultant sent into Northern Ireland to assess whether the education system here is appropriately set up to supply a suitable workforce.

You've no preconceptions, no underlying agenda other than your client's (the Northern Ireland economy) wellbeing. The first item to probably raise your eye is the cost of running separate education systems.

It's clear that the mooted £300m a year is a hefty sum and one which you, Mr, Mrs or Miss Consultant, would tackle first on your report back to the client under the heading "Why?". Next you would speak to business people and canvas their views on the current system. By doing that you'd find out, much as we have here, that integrated education is needed to make sure students are ready to work in diverse environment found in businesses up and down the land.

They'd also tell you that potential inward investors need to see that we can work together across divides and by presenting a divided education system that can't work together we're not offering the best impression. These are the economic reasons why Northern Ireland needs integrated education and are, ironically, very black and white.

The issue of emotion is more complex but that doesn't mean it can't be overcome.

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