This article presents findings of a study of the experience of ethnic diversity in a selected sample of primary and post-primary schools. Much of the research in the area of ethnicity and schooling is conducted in countries with a long tradition of immigration. The rapidity of social change in Ireland at a time of unprecedented economic growth is such that many schools, while still mainly white, are grappling with the particular challenges that are posed by new patterns of immigration. How these schools, and indeed the state, adapts to this changed social context has important implications for the transition of Irish society to a more multicultural state, which values and respects cultural and ethnic diversity in all its forms. This article considers these issues by exploring the responses of a sample of teachers to immigrant students in their schools. Central to the analysis is the role of the state through its action or inaction, in framing teacher discourses in inclusionary or exclusionary terms. State policies, it is argued, are underpinned by a particular conceptualisation of Irish and national identity which positions minority ethnic groups as other, with direct implications for both teacher perception and practice with immigrant students in schools.
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