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Integrated Education in Conflicted Societies

reviewed by Jeff Aguiar - July 11, 2014

coverTitle: Integrated Education in Conflicted Societies
Author(s): Claire McGlynn, Michalinos Zembylas, & Zvi Bekerman (Eds)
Publisher: Palgrave/MacMillan, New York
ISBN: 1137280972, Pages: 316, Year: 2013
Search for book at Amazon.com

Integrated Education in Conflicted Societies is a collection of essays resulting from the inaugural conference on integrated peace education, hosted by Queen's University Belfast, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and the Open Society. The work features reflections from educational practitioners in the field from various areas of the globeNorthern Ireland, Israel, Cyprus, Croatia and so onand a subtle challenge, as McGlynn, Zembylas, and Beckerman outline, to mainstream ideas of integration and inclusion being a unidirectional practice (p. xii). Integrated education is shown to be a broader concept than simply placing individuals in the same educational setting; integrated education creates shared space and invites everyone to participate in knowledge formation and acquisition. Though there is no pat answer to the inherent questions of integrated education as an act and a policy, McGlynn, Zembylas, and Beckerman provide an honest, intent look at what is happening and why, in classrooms across the globe involved in "a long-term, systemic approach and its innovative pedagogies in a range of conflicted societies" (p. xv).

Divided into four sections covering leadership in the movement, starting integrated schools, curriculum and pedagogy issues within integrated education, and the development of sustainability, McGlynn, Zembylas, and Beckerman show readers the potential, the process, and the pitfalls of integrated peace education. While not an instructional text, through the collected stories and reflections of practitioners, close reading reveals necessary processes in creating educational institutions that "are expected to help overcome social divisions and thus contribute to social stability and peaceful development" (p. xiii) in conflicted societies.

Leadership in the movement hints at the need to inspire direction as well as define the problem: what is at stake? What are the constraining forces? How can new communities navigate a foundational change in education, a cultural institution? Of particular import, as touched upon by essays in the first section, is the conflict extant between integrated education as transformational practice and current educational practices which often seek to preserve cultural norms; integrated education involves all parties challenging their cultural experiences, in part to deepen individual connection to culture but also to create space for other narrative threads, vital to the development of the new self in society. Such deep, structural change must be agreed upon, built on trust, and motivated by constituents within engaged communities.

These conversations, hinted at in the first section, grow into contemplation on curriculum and pedagogy within newly formed integrated schools and current institutions moving toward integration. In this section, Kevin Lambe, a principal in Northern Ireland, asserts that "the way we structure our education shapes our reality and our future" (p. 89) but that societies should "never attempt to solve one dimension of segregation through settling for another" (p. 91). This principle, aimed at empowerment for all, remembers that giving up segregated educationlines drawn through ethnicity, ability and cultural membershipfor selective education, shackles communities just the same. Maria Asvesta, a teacher at the English School in Cyprus, reminds readers that "there is no magic formula for creating an inclusive integrated school" (p. 104) but the entire section calls for a re-evaluation of pedagogy and practice in teacher training programs across the globe.

On a functional level, integrated education practitioners must encourage diversity in educational experiences serving personal, social, and philosophical learning for all students. Integrated education is a call to teaching the entire person, something lost in current trends toward standardized, quantitative education. Denying the existence of conflict and conflicted communities through a drive toward a pre-determined standard fosters the divide, reinforcing systemic and structural wounds as an underpinning for future interactions. This is particularly true of multi-lingual, post-conflict societies as is evidenced in Cyprus and Israel: if all facets of the individual as s/he interfaces with the world are not considered, addressed and included, it is not, theoretically, integrated education.

The scope of this idea and the potential ambiguities of its application in the classroom seem to have stumped teacher training programs worldwide. Outside of McGlynn, Zembylas, and Beckermans work, there is evidence of an existing and growing body of literature and practice contemplating the pedagogical implications of integrated education. Systematic attempts at narrative incorporation (Zheng, 2009) illustrate the potential for political and policy reform within conflicted societies, along with the pitfall of a top-down approach to reform. Other integrated education experiences not fully realized, either through lack of communities-based planning or structural support (Abdi, 2001; Arbeiter & Hartley, 2002; Wong, Pearson, Ip, & Lo, 2012), illustrate the necessities McGlynn, Zembylas, and Beckerman highlight throughout the book: define and address both practical and philosophical problems surrounding integration across all levels of society and the vital responsiveness of teacher training and professional development programming for practitioners. Echoing this idea in a research study surrounding LGBT inclusion, Kintner-Duffy, Vardell, Lower and Cassidy (2012) focus on creating new narratives about the role of teacher and the definitions of family, classroom inclusion and social justice with a call to engage learning through efficacy, ethics and compassion (p. 209). In many ways this engagement of efficacy, ethics and compassion creates the foundation upon which integrated educational theory and practice are built.

Michalinos Zembylas, editor and contributor, leaves readers with a list of questions to guide the development of integrated education if it "is to be a genuine, dynamic, multilevel process that involves all stakeholders" (p. 262), spanning the inception, implementation and execution of integrated education as a transformational social tool, designed to empower, enrich and enliven all communities devastated by conflict in its many forms. Integrated Education in Conflicted Societies provides a rich backdrop for discussion and analysis surrounding the development of integrated education as a grassroots movement, a sustainable educational model and a tool for peace building.


Abdi, A. A. (2001). Integrated education and black development in post-apartheid South Africa: Critical analyses. International Journal of Disability, Development and International Education, 31(2), 229244.

Arbeiter, S. & Hartley S. (2002). Teachers' and pupils' experiences of integrated education in Uganda. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 49(1), 6178.

Kintner-Duffy, V., Vardell, R., Lower, J. J., & Cassidy, D. (2012). The changers and the changed: Preparing early childhood teachers to work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 33(3), 208223.

Nomura, Y. (1998). Lifelong integrated education as a creator of the future (Vols. 1 & 2). Staffordshire, England: Trentham Books.

WebsiteNI. (n.d.) Integrated peace education: Global network for practice and research. Retrieved from http://www.nicie.org/projects/integrated-peace-education-global-network/

Wong, D., Pearson, V., Ip, F., & Lo, E. (1999). A slippery road to equality: Hong Kong's experience of unplanned integrated education. Disability & Society, 14(6), 771789.

Zheng, Wang. (2009). Old wounds, new narratives: Joint history textbook writing and peacebuilding in East Asia. History & Memory, 21(1), 101126.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 11, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17598, Date Accessed: 10/25/2021 10:23:24 AM

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About the Author
  • Jeff Aguiar
    The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    E-mail Author
    JEFF AGUIAR is completing his Master's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at The University of North Carolina Greensboro, where he is particularly interested in identity and how that plays out in the areas of education. Hawaiian by birth and a teacher by training, Jeff's expertise also includes theatre, arts administration, marketing and non-profit management.
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