The DICE Project is a national strategic educational initiative funded by Irish Aid, which works with four colleges of education and one University-based department of education in the Republic of Ireland: The Church of Ireland College of Education, Marino Institute of Education, Mary Immaculate College, St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra and the Froebel Department of Early Childhood and Primary Education at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
The DICE Project provides support to these institutions to utilise, develop and further extend staff capacity and expertise in integrating development education and intercultural education into existing initial teacher education programmes. The DICE Project aims to equip student teachers with the necessary values, skills and knowledge to integrate development education and intercultural education across all relevant areas of the Primary School Curriculum.
As such, the DICE Project represents a unique and distinctive inter-institutional entity. It comprises specialists in development education, intercultural education and human rights and citizenship education who have close links with students, teachers and lecturers, and also with the non-formal sector. The DICE Project is a significant contributor to national debate on development education and intercultural education within primary education in Ireland. For further information, please see www.diceproject.ie.
Section 1: Language and Terminology
While it is accepted that not everyone may be satisfied with the final terminology language chosen in any policy paper, the DICE Project strongly urges the Minister to critically reflect on the language which will be used throughout any updated strategy document. Migration Nation utilises phrases such as such as ‘non-national’ and ‘non-Irish’ which define people in terms of what they are not, rather than who they are. This does not show any respect for the complexity and intersectionality of the multiple identities of people living in Ireland. Additionally, using terms such as ‘new communities’, ‘newcomers’ and ‘new Irish’ as ways of describing the diverse migrant population is now problematic. This is indicative of a tendency among policy-makers to theorise diversity as something ‘new’ or ‘sudden’, or ‘exotic’ which only warrants being itemised on the department’s agenda in the last ten years. It is suggested that ‘migrant’ is considered a less problematic umbrella term for describing people from other countries who are now living or working in Ireland.
Positioning diversity as something ‘new’ is a misrepresentation of the Irish cultural narrative, within which immigration, emigration and diversity have always co-existed. Multi-ethnicity in Ireland is not a new occurrence; Irish Travellers, black-Irish people, Jewish people and other immigrants have been part of Irish society for decades (Lentin and McVeigh, 2002). Furthermore, there have been distinct religious and linguistic traditions in Ireland which have played a significant part in our history for generations.
Finally, the subheading of Migration Nation is ‘Statement on Integration Strategy and Diversity Management’. DICE would urge the Minister not to position diversity and integration as things that needs to be ‘managed’, but rather to regard them as normal and enriching parts of everyday life in Ireland.
Migration Nation heavily references the involvement of several specific stakeholders in the development and implementation of its content. These include the Office of the Minister for Integration (OMI), the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism in Ireland (NCCRI), the National Action Plan against Racism (NPAR), as well as the Commission on Integration, the Ministerial Council on Integration and the Task Force on Integration. It is important to note that the current government discontinued the OMI in 2011, the NCCRI was disbanded as a result of Budget 2009 and NPAR finished in 2008. It is not clear what stage the Commission on Integration was at when the OMI was discontinued or who took over the work of the Ministerial Council or Task Force at this time. This clearly contextualises the statutory vacuum in which work on integration has been happening in Ireland since approximately 2011. The DICE Project is nonetheless hopeful that the Minister will use this Review as an opportunity to reach out to her colleagues in other departments, for example, the Department of Education, to fill this void and establish coherent inter-departmental collaboration on integration policy in the future. Migration Nation very clearly recommends a ‘whole of government’ approach to integration and it is hoped that this line of thinking will be brought forward into any new policy document that is developed.
Section 3: Centrality of Intercultural Education
The DICE Project appreciates the rationale for prioritising the target areas of language training, interpretation provision, funding arrangements and housing policy in Migration Nation (2008). However, DICE would strongly argue for the inclusion of education, namely support for intercultural education, as an additional strategic direction in any future policy paper. This is supported by the references included to the European Common Basic Principles of Integration, which highlight the criticality of efforts in education in preparing immigrants and their descendants to be more successful and active participants in society.
This review of the Integration Strategy can be cognizant of the fact that the last decade has seen the emergence of key policy documents which articulate a vision for intercultural education - Intercultural Education in the Primary School: Guidelines for Schools (NCCA, 2005); National Action Plan against Racism (Government of Ireland, 2005); Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School: Guidelines for Schools (NCCA, 2006); Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy (Government of Ireland, 2006); the Intercultural Education Strategy (Government of Ireland, 2010). It is also important to note that recently, the DES have asked schools to update their codes of behaviour to include measures against racist bullying as part of the new Action Plan on Bullying (Government of Ireland, 2013).
In a broader context, a review of national and international policy literature around intercultural education reveals a number of common themes. These include: Intercultural education as a method to raise children’s awareness of other cultures and to attune them to the fact that there are multiple ways of living (Government of Ireland, 2002; NCCA, 2005; UNESCO, 2003), to respect, appreciate and ‘celebrate’ diversity, (CRC, 1992; NCCA, 2005), and the guiding principle that all children have a right to intercultural education, regardless of their age, ability or ethnic background (NCCA, 2005; Government of Ireland, 2002). It is significant to note that many of these legislative and policy documents also go further with their conceptualisation by framing intercultural education within a Human Rights perspective and affording intercultural education the responsibility to support students to both identify and learn to challenge, racial prejudice and unfair discrimination in their lives (UNESCO 2003; NCCA, 2005; Government of Ireland, 2002; Government of Ireland, 2006).
Intercultural education will be an important touchstone for this review of the integration strategy because of the breadth of its scope and its wide benefits to young people. Intercultural education is not an ‘add on’ or ‘afterthought’ subject in the daily life of the school (UNESCO, 2003; NCCA, 2005). Intercultural education is an attitudinal education, a transversal discipline and one which should be infused naturally throughout all areas of life.
Finally, it is important to note an additional benefit of Intercultural education is its inter-sectionality with some other ‘adjectival’ educations such as development education and human rights education. These are also educations which advocate a child-centred and world-minded approach to education and stress the importance of attitudinal and skill development. Intercultural education draws on a myriad of perspectives and wealth of cross-disciplinary knowledge for its pedagogy and the DICE Project believes that this richness should be reflected in future developments of Integration policy in Ireland. Having a strong basis in education for social justice will benefit the long-term success of any Integration Strategy in Ireland. The DICE Project, with support from Irish Aid, has been working in intercultural education since 2003 and is well placed to support integration across both the primary education sector and in initial teacher education.
Section 4: Nature of interculturalism and integration
The DICE Project is concerned about the limited conception of interculturalism which underpins the discourse in Migration Nation. The policy is almost exclusively targeted at migrants, and in one sense, migrants for whom English is not a first language. It focuses on proficiency in the English language as a key acquisition for migrants and envisages citizenship and long-term residency to be contingent on proficiency of skills in the spoken language of the country.
In comparison with more common understandings of interculturalism and integration, in particular some EU policies which are even mentioned in the report, Migration Nation adopts a very narrow understanding of these terms. It makes no attempt to engage with the complexity of identity of people living in Ireland, choosing to view residents of the country within a binary spectrum of ‘Irish’ or ‘not Irish’. As a result, there is no scope for self-identification, or dual or multiple identities within the policy, whether they be along religious, ethnic, cultural or linguistic lines. It is hoped that in future developments of the strategy a more holistic approach to interculturalism will be adopted, whereby integration strategy will be seen as a vehicle for challenging all types of prejudice and discrimination in Ireland. It is hoped that throughout the consultation period, the department will cast the net as wide as possible and in addition to targeting migrant-led organisations, also talk to groups who undertake broader intercultural work, such as Traveller organisations and asylum advocacy groups. The DICE Project believes this will result in a more coherent integration policy which responds more meaningfully to the challenges and opportunities of living in modern Ireland.
The DICE Project welcomes this review of Integration Strategy in Ireland and commends the Department of Justice for moving forward with the review at a time of immense upheaval and change. We would like to thank former Minister Alan Shatter for commissioning the review at this important juncture and also to wish Minister Fitzgerald well with her new brief.
We would be pleased to consult with the Department of Justice and Law Reform and to assist with any further phase of consultation or programme of activities which may be set out in future developments of the strategy. Staff connected with DICE support students and educators who work in diverse settings in Ireland and we are well aware of both the challenges and opportunities such teachers encounter on a daily basis. As a result, we believe we are in a unique position to contribute to this debate in both a theoretical and a practical way and are pleased to contribute to the review at this stage.
Government of Ireland. (2010). Intercultural Education Strategy. Dublin: Stationery Office
Government of Ireland. (2006). Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy. Dublin: Stationery Office
Government of Ireland. (2005). National Action Plan against Racism. Dublin: Stationery Office
Lentin, R. & McVeigh, R. (2002). Racism and Anti-Racism in Ireland. Belfast: Beyond the Pale