Northern Ireland

Queen's University academic given new Unesco education role

Queen's University in Belfast
Image caption Prof Joanne Hughes works at the Centre for Shared Education at Queen's University, Belfast

A Queen's University academic has been appointed to a prestigious post by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Prof Joanne Hughes works at Queen's Centre for Shared Education in Belfast.

She has been appointed as the first ever Unesco chair in "globalising a shared education model for improving relations in divided societies".

She will help other countries develop shared education programmes, based on her experience in Northern Ireland.

Together

Prof Hughes and her team have already advised education authorities in divided societies like Cyprus, Israel, Palestine and Macedonia on how best to educate children from different backgrounds together.

Shared education's aim is to enable more children and young people from different community backgrounds to be educated together, but it falls short of full integration.

For instance, pupils from separate schools can be taught in some joint classes, or share some facilities.

Education Minister John O'Dowd has said he wants "all children and young people" in Northern Ireland to be involved in shared education projects.

International

Prof Hughes said: "Shared education has appeal in divided societies because it offers opportunity for sustained interaction between members of different groups, without compromising their right to separate schools.

"Shared education has been shown to reduce prejudice and promote more positive social attitudes.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity through Unesco to extend our work internationally and to access those networks that will allow us to contribute to policy making at an international level."

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