Background to the Research
- The education system has
always played a key role in debates on public policy in NI. Education
has also featured in issues related to the conflict.
- In particular, three key
themes have taken prominence within these debates:
- The selective system of
secondary and grammar schools.
- De facto religious schools.
- Curriculum initiatives to
promote tolerance and reconciliation.
- Reflecting the high level
of public interest, as well as ongoing research and policy discussions,
the Education module of the 1999 NILT survey incorporated these three
- The chapter outlines the
policy context for each theme, and then discusses the attitudes of
the public towards them.
- The data used by the authors come from
the 1999 NILT survey which began in 1998 and is carried out annually.
- Each year, interviews are carried out with
a random selection of adults (aged 18 years and over) who live in
private households in NI.
- In most years, the NILT sample size is
1,800 respondents; however, in 1999 the sample size was 2,200.
- Most respondents agree that the 11+ tests
put too much pressure on young people (78%), that children are too
young at that age for selection tests (70%) and that the 11+ means
that most children feel they are failures (61%).
- However, most respondents also feel that
selection has to happen at some time (82%) and that children who do
not get to grammar school still get a first class education (75%).
- Most respondents tend to favour a change
in the selection system; only 37% say that the system works well enough,
while 55% say it should be changed.
- 42% of respondents who feel that some
aspects of the current system should be changed say that the 11+ tests
only should be changed, 49% that both the 11+ and the system of secondary
and grammar schools should be changed and 9% that the system of secondary
and grammar schools only should be changed.
- Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents
say that the government should encourage more integrated schools.
This level of support is somewhat higher among Catholics (80%) than
- The vast majority (86%) of respondents
who are parents of school-age children say that none of their own
children has attended an integrated school.
- Protestants are more likely than Catholics
to say their children have attended an integrated school (16% and
- The main reason that parents give for not
sending their children to an integrated school is that there is none
- Many more Catholics (61%) than Protestants
(13%) believe that all pupils at secondary-level schools should learn
about Irish language and culture.
- Similarly, 28% of Catholics and only 12%
of Protestants say that all pupils should learn about Ulster-Scots
language and culture.
- Three quarters of all respondents support
the teaching in schools of general religious beliefs.
- Only 38% of respondents agree that 'it
isn't the job of schools to teach about politics and human rights'
and 58% agree that 'it's about time schools started to openly tackle
such difficult issues'.
- Almost half (48%) of NILT respondents believe that schools
should be a place where children are able to get away from the political
problems of NI, while 42% doubt whether people teaching this kind
of thing would do it fairly.