Published Wednesday, 06 March 2013
The studies found inter-sectoral classes reduced prejudiced attitdues. (© Getty)
Two separate studies found that sharing classes with pupils from schools with different backgrounds made children more likely to have positive attitudes towards the other community.
Queen's University and the University of Oxford teamed up for the research and which also found children in shared education had more friends from different backgrounds.
More than 10,000 children in 150 schools across Northern Ireland are taking part in Queen's Sharing Education Programme, which aims to promote understanding and reconciliation.
The second study looked at the experiences of more than 3,500 pupils in 51 Catholic, Protestant and integrated secondary schools in the region.
Joanne Hughes, from Queen's, was a lead researcher. She said the study tested that positive contact with people from different backgrounds can improve prejudiced attitudes.
"Our studies found that attitudes towards the 'other' communities were greatly improved as a result of participation in Shared Education and that levels of inter-community anxiety and prejudice were reduced.
"Many people in Northern Ireland value their own schools as they are important symbols of community identity, but this research shows the value of the Sharing Education Programme in recognising this concern for identity while also maximising contact and therefore improving community relations," she explained.
Ms Hughes believes the studies are a boost for inter-sectoral sharing - holding classes with pupils from different backgrounds, and urged the NI Executive to encourage schools to take on the practice.