New Paper – Education across the island of Ireland: comparing systems and outcomes


The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has welcomed the publication of the latest briefing paper from the Ulster University UNESCO Centre that looks at Education across the island of Ireland: comparing systems and outcomes.

Stephen Roulston School of Education, UNESCO Centre Ulster University says;

There are certainly serious failings within the education system of Northern Ireland (NI) and structural issues that should be addressed, albeit with no little difficulty. However, while they may be less challenging than those in NI, Ireland too has its issues with education. There is a need for both jurisdictions to learn from other systems and to move towards systems of education which meet the needs of all, and not just a privileged few.

NI has, until recently, looked east to follow closely the shifting educational policies emanating from Westminster, but there may be much to learn from looking south as well. There is a pressure not to diverge too far from Great Britain (GB) which might disadvantage NI students in applying for GB universities. Depending on the political party which holds the Minister of Education brief, the idea of divergence from GB and some adoption of educational policies which have worked successfully in Ireland may also be more or less sympathetically considered.

A lot, however, comes back to the community divisions in NI’s education system and the dogged retention in NI, thus far, of an 11+ system despite the accumulating evidence which suggests that it contributes to generating inequalities across the system. Arguably, that may be the biggest structural barrier to making positive change to education in NI.

Should political developments result in NI’s and Ireland’s two education systems becoming more closely aligned again, considerable work would be required as education structures on both sides of the border have evolved significantly in the century since partition. There are disparities in school structures, in teacher pay, in school governance and in assessment, for example.

There are certainly advantages to be gained in each education structure adopting successful approaches used in the other, but the perceived threat to some communities in NI in doing that may militate against the potential benefits that might accrue in a closer alignment.”

Commenting on the paper, IEF Chief Executive, Tina Merron said;

“This study is an important examination of the different approaches to education in Northern Ireland and Ireland. The IEF supports any review of education that will bring young people and schools together and provide a better education system.

There is an urgent need for the review of education within Northern Ireland at all levels including area planning, school goverance, the multi administrative bodies and school choices offered to parents.  This paper is timely as it will feed into the review of education been undertaken by the Independent Review of Education.”

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has welcomed the publication of the latest briefing paper from the Ulster University UNESCO Centre that looks at Shared Education and Integrated Education in the Northern Ireland education system.

Transforming Education Briefing Paper 14 Education across the island of Ireland: comparing systems and outcomes will be distributed to politicians and influencers on Tuesday 14th December and can be accessed on line at https://www.ulster.ac.uk/research and at www.ief/org.uk