Its almost a cliche that American academics who compare the American and Norn Iron Civil Rights struggles do not understand that Education (and access to it) was not a major issue here.
Catholics and Protestants had (in American terms) “segregated” education. But Catholics did rather well out of it. The ethos of Catholic schools in the North was that Catholic chidren were being trained for an unequal society.
It was not enough to have the same qualifications as Protestant school-leavers. It was necessary to have better qualifications.
Of course in the days when Belfast was a major industrial city, jobs were practically guaranteed in the Shipyard, Mackies, Sirocco and Belfast Corporation…if you were Protestant.
Frankly Protestant working class boys did not actually need an education.
And Unionists had a vested interest in keeping their voters “stupid”.
Of course in the bad old days, Queens University was a cold place to be a Catholic. Under -representation and an over-arching British tradition.
Graduations…where the British National Anthem was played and the RUC band entertained on the Quad…persisted until maybe two decades ago…despite the best “Rosa Parks” moments in the lives of Catholic graduates.
Things started to change. The Catholic students may not have achieved numerical equality but flexed their muscles in the Students Union. I was on a part-time course in 1992-93 when the nationalist-dominated Students Union had signage predominantly in Irish.
These were later ruled to be outside the “neutrality” concept.
Certainly, when I was at QUB 2005-2009 there was actually a majority of nationalists. Its been the case for many years now that Protestant and Unionist students go to…or are sent to universities in England, Wales and Scotland.
Whether this is defined as the “Brain Drain” or the “Chicken Run” is problematic. But the point is that a lot of these graduates will settle in Britain.
Their talents are lost to the Norn Iron Economy and Electoral Register of Voters.
With the Census showing figures of 48% Protestant and 45% Catholic and a majority of school children being “Catholic”…this demonstrates the need for LetsGetAlongerists to deal with the demographic time bomb and keep Norn Iron safe for liberal unionism.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Queens University (Catholics currently estimated at around 57% of Northern students) is that it is extremely egalitarian…much more so than any other Irish or British university. Perhaps as few as 5% of Irish and British QUB students have had private education and the vast majority would have received that private (and expensive) education in Republic of Ireland or in Britain.
Or arguably the most striking feature of QUB is that female students seem to outnumber the male students.
Or maybe it is that the students from Derry, Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh who live in and around the Holy Land (streets accomodating students) are stridently nationalist.
So we have Norn Iron where Primary Education to age 11 is Free.
And we have Norn Iron, where for the most part, secondary education is decided by Academic Selection and the scholarship winning students go on to Grammar Schools and those who fail are sent to Secondary Schools.
With “better”, facilities, teachers and pupils, the Grammar Schools perform better…and its from the Grammar Schools (mostly) that the university students come.
“Catholic” Grammar Schools attract a more (economically) diverse student body than their “State” (de facto Protestant) schools. Proportionately Catholic children are more likely to be entitled to free school meals than Protestants.
But the graph above shows actual performance with GCSEs…at usually age sixteen.
It divides schoolchildren into those who PAY for school meals and those who are subsidised. Traditionally, this is a convenient marker which shows Deprivation.
Among those who ARE NOT entitled to Free School Meals:
1 Catholic GIRLS perform best.
2 Protestant GIRLS perform second best.
3 Catholic BOYS.
4 Protrstant BOYS.
Among those who ARE entitled to Free School Meals:
5 Catholic GIRLS.
6 Catholic BOYS.
7 Protestant GIRLS.
8 Protestant BOYS.
And a recent report into Performance of “Grammar-Secondary” Education reveals the equally interesting statistic that the five leading schools in Norn Iron are Catholic Schools. (Indeed EIGHT of the TEN leading schools are Catholic).
The narrative is that after years of deliberate neglect, there is a sense of disenfranchisement among the Protestant-Unionist population.
Of course, those who previously celebrated their sense of Entitlement in unbalanced societies, always struggle to cope with EGALITARIANISM.
In England…under-educated (white) men go on radio phone-ins to plead their case that Migrants do better.
In USA… under-educated (white) men are encouraged by FUX (sic) News to believe that Society favours black people, migrants and of course…women.
The situation in Norn Iron is that generations of unionist politicians have encouraged generations of “their” people to believe that they had “Entitlement” born of a sense of Superiority.
That this has produced a sub-culture of sectarian, racist, knuckledraggers is hardly a surprise.
Yet there is an odd situation in Education.
Even those who have long since outgrown Catholicism, would probably agree that the Catholic system does allow for a certain questioning attitude to life,as well as producing an interest in (local and International) Social Justice. It produces a disproportionate amount of people who happily embrace the left-leaning politics of Sinn Fein and SDLP.
Perhaps even more surprising is that SF and SDLP policy (endorsed by their voters) is for the abolition of SELECTION at Secondary Level.
And yet the Unionist politicians in DUP and UUP actually favour SELECTION. Their policy is to maintain the Grammar Schools.
Of course, it can be argued that non-church going Catholics do not send their children to Catholic Schools for a “Catholic” education. Rather, they send the chikdren to “Catholic” school for access to Republican values of Egalitarianism.
With most members of the DUP actually believing in the LITERAL Biblical explanation of the World…Creationism….then ot seems unionist politicians are condemning their own voters to a lifetime of Stupidity.
So ironically…politicians in SF and SDLP (whose voters benefit most from the system) are in favour of Egalitarian Change. And DUP and UUP cant overcome their enthusiasm for Elitism, even when their own voters are clearly suffering most).
People talk about Nationalism-Republicanism versus Unionism-Loyalism or even Irish versus British…..but we are really talking about Egalitarianism versus Elitism.
It is really Republican Enlightenment versus an Ancien Regime.
Integrated Education and LetsGetAlongerism.
Well, its little morre than an attempt to frustrate the Demographic Time Bomb.
And somewhat ironically the greatest advocates of Catholics and Protestants being educated together are occasionally the biggest advocates of SELECTION.