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The Structure of Schooling

Smith argues that states can shape the basic structure of the education system in three ways. They can promote ‘conformity to a single set of dominant values (assimilation)’ through a system of mandatory, state- sponsored, standard institutions; they can permit ‘the development of identity-based institutions (separate development)’, legitimising the authority of communities upon their children; and they can ‘encourage shared institutions (integration)’, by promoting, alongside other institutions, common schools.151

The relationship between separate institutions and the development of differentiated identities is more ambiguous than that between curricular contents and exclusive identities, especially after a violent conflict. In particular, the literature distinguishes between the impact of separate schools and of segregated schools. Separate schools may be requested and voluntarily chosen by members of a particular community who ‘have access to an appropriate form of education for their young people’. In contrast, segregated schools are imposed legally as part of a wider system of institutionalised discrimination in which ‘the state decides on the appropriate form, with or without the consent’ of communities.152

Equally funded and legitimate parallel institutions may succeed in accommodating different cultures and allegiances in deeply divided societies.153 ‘Communitarians’ also argue that ‘wider cultural tolerance’ is rooted in specific communal values and is best promoted in separate schools, while ‘culturalists’ argue that shared schools cannot ensure the fair and equal representation of all communities and group identities.154 The promotion and equal funding of a plurality of separate schools resonates with Lijphart when he observes that ‘the voluntary self-segregation that [autonomous communal] schools entail is acceptable as long as the option of multicultural and multiethnic education is also made available and provided that all schools are treated equally’.155 Yet, Chap. 3 shows that the distinction between imposition and demand for separate schools is ambiguous in deeply divided societies, where communities often create separate institutions as a response to institutionalised discrimination and socio-economic exclusion.

Moreover, Gallagher contends that ‘whether schooling systems are segregated or separate, there is evidence that such systems can have a detrimental impact on social cohesion’.156 Separate schools may exacerbate inter-group conflicts by reinforcing socio-economic cleavages, harden group boundaries by socialising children into opposing myth-symbol complexes, or ‘initiate pupils into conflict’ by validating group differences and furthering mutual ignorance and suspicion.157 Conversely, mixed schools which do not deal with diversity and the roots of conflict, and which do not promote cooperation between children from different backgrounds, may exacerbate inter-group hostility.158

Chapter 7 considers in more depth the theoretical debate over whether separate schools further or hinder conflict resolution, and goes on to compare initiatives to promote inter-group contact through schools in consociational Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia. In fact, Davies argues that unlike curricula, the structure of the education system tends to go unchallenged in the aftermath of violent conflicts.159 This is the case for Macedonia, whose Ohrid Agreement does not mention structural reforms to schooling. In contrast, the Taif Agreement calls for expansion in state education provision and envisages the establishment of state control over private schools. Similarly, the Belfast Agreement calls for promotion of integrated education to further a ‘culture of tolerance at all levels of society’. Chapter 7 comparatively traces these initiatives to determine whether political consociations affect the structure of education systems, and generate ‘consociational’ education systems.

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