Difference and Diversity in Higher Education Classrooms
Edited By Elisabeth Lillie
Part I Northern Ireland
Seamus Dunn and Valerie Morgan 1 Ulster and the Legacy of Divided Schooling Background to the System before Partition The familiar description of Ireland as the ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’ sug- gests a positive and benign role for education in Irish history; the reality, at least since the sixteenth century, is that education, politics and religion have been locked in a series of problematic and almost inevitably divisive relationships. The Penal Laws of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries lim- ited the rights of Irish Catholics in many areas of economic and political life but in this context one of their most significant ef fects was in restrict- ing access to education. Successive British governments and the ruling Protestant elites in Ireland sought to prevent inf luential Catholics from gaining an academic education, as part of their strategy of marginalizing and reducing the inf luence of groups seen as hostile to British rule. Catholics in turn sought to circumvent these restrictions and maintain their identity by educating their children in Catholic schools across Europe. By the early nineteenth century, with unrest in Ireland seen as a major threat to British security in the wake of the American and French revolutions, education in Ireland was again perceived to be a serious political issue. The response of the British government was the introduction, in 1831, of a ‘National Education System’ in the form of what became known as ‘National Schools’. The actual shape of the system resulted from a letter (known...
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