The 2011-2012 North-South Student Teacher Exchange involveD 13 students from six colleges of primary education: Stranmillis University College and St Mary’s University College in Belfast; St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Church of Ireland College of Education, Coláiste Mhuire Marino and Froebel College of Education, all in Dublin. The aim of this project, which began in 2002-2003, is to create a cohort of young teachers, North and South, who have had experience of working in schools in the other jurisdiction as part of their teaching practice, and will thus be able to influence future generations of pupils in prejudice reduction and greater mutual understanding, both vital for long-term peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.
2012 brought to 170 the number of students who have participated in the exchange. This year’s exchange is being funded by the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) which has took over funding the exchange from the EU Peace Two programme three years ago. A longitudinal study of the first five years of the programme (2002-2007), and its impact on the personal attitudes and professional practices of the participating students, by Dr Maeve Martin of NUI Maynooth, was published in October 2008 She called the project ‘a courageous, inclusive and groundbreaking exchange’ and ‘an experience that has been transformational’ for the student teachers involved.
In an evaluation of SCoTENS between 2003 and 2011, Dr John Furlong, Professor of Educational Studies at University of Oxford, wrote of the North-South Student Teacher Exchange:
There was strong agreement among a number of our respondents that the Student Teacher Exchange scheme was one of SCoTENS’ most significant contributions to the peace process. By giving the next generation of teachers the opportunity at first hand to experience a very different educational, social and political setting, the scheme was actively promoting the objectives of peace and reconciliation.