Education across divides

Establishing shared spaces is an essential component of peace-building. The benefits can be transformative, not only for the children themselves, but also for their teachers, parents and wider communities.

The way to break through fear is to see people’s faces. Not think about individuals a certain way just because they are part of a certain group.
Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN 2013-17

Pears Foundation supports two education organisations that work in divided societies – Israel and Northern Ireland – educating children from diverse backgrounds together in the same classroom. This is part of our long history of creating spaces that foster mutual respect and shared understanding within communities.

Hand in Hand

Hand in Hand is building inclusion and equality between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel through a growing network of bilingual, integrated schools and communities.

The Israeli education system is divided into secular Jewish schools, religious Jewish schools and Arab schools with the result that Jewish and Arab children are often educated separately. Hand in Hand believes that enabling children to learn together can break the cycle of misunderstanding, hostility and negative stereotypes and teach them to relate to each other with mutual understanding and respect.

There are currently seven Hand in Hand schools educating over 2000 Israeli children including Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze. Students learn both Arabic and Hebrew with lessons taught in both languages by Jewish and Arab teachers working together as co-teachers, each speaking in their mother tongue.

Each school follows a shared calendar that includes Muslim, Jewish, and Christian holidays and differences in culture, religion and historical narrative are discussed openly in an atmosphere of respect and coexistence. The specially designed multicultural curricula in core subjects such as literature, history, civics, art, film, and religion, expose students to multiple perspectives and teach them critical thinking skills.

Through their daily interactions, Hand in Hand students learn how to negotiate difference, complexity and contradiction. They develop the ability to be flexible, solve problems, make themselves heard, and listen respectfully to others.

The schools aim to create communities that extend beyond the classroom to parents, families and neighbours. Hand in Hand’s communities have a major effect on their local areas, for example helping to spread bilingual children’s programming to libraries, day care centres and community centres.

Partner since: 2008
Funding invested: £817,000


Integrated education

Pears Foundation supports the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) in their work to increase access to integrated education in Northern Ireland.

Integrated education brings children and staff from Catholic and Protestant traditions as well as those of other faiths, or none, together in one school. In a divided society, integrated schools have provided an important alternative to an educational system in which most children attend religiously separated schools.

The IEF believes that educating children from diverse backgrounds together every day in the same classroom is an essential part of the reconciliation process and of building a society that celebrates respect, understanding and friendships across traditional divides. Being an integrated school means pupils, staff, governors and the wider school community regularly have to engage with difficult and challenging situations. Embedding and living out an integrated ethos is something that needs to be nurtured, celebrated and promoted.

We support IEF’s Trust Programme, a grant-making programme that enables integrated schools to undertake projects aimed at promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and a shared understanding between people of different backgrounds and cultures.

Partner since: 2014

Funding to date: £360,000


Pears Foundation is also a founding funder of The Linking Network, an educational programme which supports schools and communities to develop a positive, cohesive ethos through teacher training, resources, schools linking and intergenerational linking.