State Supported Segregation? Examining Migrant Clustering in Primary Schools in Ireland

Authors: Valerie Ledwith*, National University of Ireland, Galway
Topics: Social Geography, Migration, Ethnic Geography
Keywords: School choice, segregation, Ireland
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In Ireland, research on school ethnic and/or racial composition has been relatively sparse, with recent education policy debates focused on whether the dominance of the Catholic Church in primary school provision is an appropriate model for an increasingly diverse population. These debates are clearly informed by and reflective of increased diversity in the school population as a result of increased immigration to Ireland in the last 3 decades; however, the emphasis is on increasing the types of school available to provide a variety of options for parents to choose from. While efforts to ensure that students from a range of religious or non-religious backgrounds are catered for in education contexts are to be lauded, this research shows that an unintended consequence of this approach is increased ethnic segregation as a result of school choice. This is not surprising, given the evidence from research on school choice which highlights how school choice exacerbates socio-economic and demographic segregation. In effect, school choice in Ireland is deepening the potential for ethnic and/or racial segregation, even though the primary aim of choice policy is to remove religion as a selection criteria for schools. As such, this research suggests that enshrining parental choice as the corner-stone of school provision in Ireland is flawed since it, intentionally or otherwise, builds an educational infrastructure that encourages school segregation.

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