Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Tackling school segregation is test for Northern Ireland Assembly

The people of Northern Ireland want to escape from their sectarian past. They made that abundantly clear when they voted by a huge majority in favour of the Belfast Agreement.

Our divided and divisive education system is part of that sectarian past. It is part of the problem - not part of the solution.

Our children need to mix together and learn how to get on together. They have to meet people from across the sectarian divide and, hopefully, make friends.

They cannot do that in a religiously segregated system. Those who support segregation do so for a variety of reasons, some understandable, some deplorable.

But surely the needs of our whole society and the general desire to ensure a lasting peace must take priority?

What we must create is a shared education system, one which acknowledges the social and cultural needs of all our children.

Instead of segregation and monoculture in separate schools, our education system should deliver skills, knowledge and experiences which will enrich the pupils' lives and teach them to value the culture and aspirations of others - not just 'the other side', but all the outlooks and ways of life found in our society.

Our schools should offer all our children the opportunity to learn about Irish, British, European and world cultures.

The Assembly will prove its worth if it rises to this great challenge.

LES REID

Chair, Belfast Humanist Group

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