In 1981 Lagan College was opened as the first integrated school in Northern Ireland, with the purpose of educating Roman Catholic and Protestant children side by side. Today some 22,000 children attend over 60 integrated school across Northern Ireland, at both primary and secondary level. The issue of integrated education has become prominent once again in the media over recent months, and all of the main political parties in Northern Ireland have come out in favour of a single educated system. Whilst some have described their preferred option as being shared education, as opposed to integrated education, the differences between the two are minimal for they both have the same purpose, to break down barriers between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. It is clear that the future of education in Northern Ireland will be strongly influenced by the shared/integrated model with more children being educated this way.
On face value such a vision may appear to be extremely positive; for the two opposing communities in Northern Ireland to live together peacefully, helped by their being educated together. Can there then be any reasonable objection to integrated or shared education? Will it not be of benefit in the lives of children growing up in Northern Ireland? On the grounds of Scripture we believe that there is a great objection to be made against integrated education, indeed we believe any promotion or advancement of such an education system will be made to the detriment of biblical Protestantism within our province.
Integrated schools advance the cause of ecumenism
In it's Statement of Principles the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education says that 'The integrated school provides a Christian based, rather than a secular approach' to their education. A Christian approach to education seems to be beneficial, yet this can only be true where a biblical definition of Christianity is used. Christianity as defined by the NICIE is far from biblical, but ecumenical, making no difference between the error of Rome and the truth of the gospel, but regarding both as equally valid forms of Christianity. The governors and directors at the head of the NICIE are drawn from both Roman Catholic and Protestant communities and as such the 'Christianity' which provides the basis for their educational model will often not be truly Christian at all, but Romish. Yet under their integrated approach it is all 'Christian'. This blurring of the lines between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism is the very heart of the ecumenical movement. It's purpose is to bring Protestants back once again to unity with Rome. Integrated education helps to achieve that goal with Protestant children being taught that there is no real meaningful difference between their beliefs and those of their Roman Catholic neighbours. What sort of Protestantism will we have where children have been taught from their youngest days that there is no difference between their church and the chapel down the road, where their school friends just do things slightly differently in their church. In truth it will result in a Protestantism which is not Protestant at all but it will be 'another gospel which is not another'. The advancement of a single education system will not simply enable Protestant and Roman Catholic communities to live side by side, but will result in a greater prevalence of unscriptural ecumenism in our land. The true believer, and by extension any true Protestant can have no union with the darkness of Rome but is to obey the command of 2nd Chronicles 6:17 to 'come out from among them and be ye seperate'. It is not to be accepted as another form of Christianity but rejected for the idolatry that it is.
The liberal agenda of integrated education
The liberal outlook of Integrated Schools in Northern Ireland is evident not only in its approach to religious matters, but also in it's approach to other matters of morality. In 2010 Shimna Integrated College, a secondary school in Newcastle, County Down, set up a 'Gay Straight Alliance' to promote equality and diversity in the school. Students in the school testified of how after the group was set up they were able to feel more comfortable and accepted in the school as homosexual students. It is a sad reflection of society in general that the approach of so many today when confronted with the sin of homosexuality is to make them feel more comfortable in their sin. The integrated education system may pride itself on being strong on diversity yet it is weak on morality. Yet when the Word of God is removed from life of our nation as the absolute standard for truth what else can we expect but a more liberal, and in truth, sinful view of life. Where children are brought up in such a liberal environment it is sure that they will take those views with them into the world, our next generation of leaders have less time than those before them for the principles of the bible. The prevention of a gay marriage bill in Northern Ireland will be short lived where children are taught from a liberal agenda like this. It is true that all school, even state schools, are becoming more liberal in the outlook, particularly in matters of morality, yet Integrated School seem to take a special pride in their being accepting of all views and lifestyles. Whilst they may make such a claim it can be certain that there will be no place for the promotion of true biblical standards in this environment where all views are equally valid.
The impressionability of children
The greatest danger posed by the integrated education system is that their philosophy is aimed at children. There is no more impressionable stage in someones life than their childhood, that is when they will form the views that will shape how they live their life. The child has fewer pre-conceived ideas than an adult and so will be more open to receiving those views to which they are exposed. Where a child is taught from primary school age that their Roman Catholic classmate is as Christian as they are, that view will likely stay with them throughout their life and to convince them that all views are not equally valid will be nigh impossible when that is the mantra they have heard throughout their schooldays. As the child trust the teachers when they explain maths and geography to them, so they will also trust them when they speak of matter of religion and ethics. The liberal ecumenical agenda is dangerous enough when taught to adults, but almost deadly when taught to children. The more children who attend integrated school in Northern Ireland the more likely it will be that we will see another generation lost for Christ. Our desire should be that we would reach them with the truth of the gospel before the devil reaches them with his lies. If we fail to do this then Protestantism in Northern Ireland will to many mean nothing more than a tick on a form. Let it not be true of our land 'that there arose another generation after them which knew not the Lord'.