On December 10th, Dirasat, together with the Arab Minority Rights Clinic at the Law Faculty at the University of Haifa released its most recent research report. "Education on Hold: Israeli Government Policy and Civil Society Initiatives to Improve Arab Education in Israel" summarizes the state of Arab-Palestinian education over the last decade. It found that although a number of new and promising ideas have been initiated by the Ministry of Education and by NGOs, their potential remains unrealized and Arab education continues to be in a state of crisis. The report is authored by Dr. Yousef T. Jabareen and Dr. Ayman Agbaria of Dirasat and the University of Haifa. The Hebrew report will be sent to influential officials and policy makers in the field education.
The Arab-Palestinian education system in Israel is plagued by a multitude of problems: primary among them are poor student achievement, discriminatory funding allocations and lack of values education which reflects the history, culture and narrative of the Arab community.
It is well known and widely accepted that Arab-Palestinian student achievement lags far behind that of students studying in Jewish schools. The most recent figures from the Program for International Student Assessment re-affirmed the achievement gap; it found that Arabs, generally speaking, are about 2.5 years behind their Jewish peers in terms of academic achievement.
Various surveys continue to point to significant gaps in allocation of funding. A joint committee of Ministry of Education and Arab civil society representatives (including members of Dirasat) found that as of 2009, Arab schools lacked 500 million NIS in funds for curricular and pedagogical programs, 300 million NIS in rent for Arab kindergarten,9,236 classrooms, 200 school psychologists, 250 guidance counselors and more.
Unlike the Jewish education system which reflects the religious and national ethos of those studying within, Arab-Palestinian education has been stripped of all national content; Arab students learn more about Jewish culture and religion than their own. This stymies the development of healthy identity and weakens the formation of a sense of collective responsibility which is crucial for dealing with the multitude of social problems plaguing the Arab-Palestinian community.
“Education on Hold” outlines in great detail recent initiatives – both governmental and non-governmental – to improve Arab education. It finds that while increasing there is recognition of the problem on the national level, inaction, and even regression – partially in the shadow of recent changes of government – continues to plague efforts to improve Arab education. Against this background, the authors of the report call for the following:
Full equality – and even affirmative action – in resource allocation, in order to close gaps in infrastructure, budgeting and human resources, as well as to realize pedagogic needs.
Recognition and realization of programs which foster the collective identity of Arab-Palestinians. Such programs would focus on their shared and diverse values, cultures and collective memory, along with the distinctive and shared social problems of the Arab population such as chronic poverty, domestic violence and environmental hazards.
Full and meaningful participation of Arab-Palestinian professionals and public leaders in the formulation of pedagogic and curricular policies, and in the administration of Arab-Palestinian education.
Improvement in the quality of instruction within the Arab education system in order to elevate academic achievement and promote social advancement. This includes, but is not limited to, curricular quality, the learning environment, teacher training and Arabic language proficiency. It would also encompass a re-evaluation of the role of parents, community members, local authorities and civil society organizations in Arab schools, and the communication between these various interest groups.
This report presents a comprehensive overview and a critical analysis of Arab-Palestinian education in Israel today. Its findings indicate that without a serious overhaul of the system in accordance with the recommendations above, Arab education, and indeed, Arab society in Israel will continue be seriously challenged in the achievement of meaningful social advancement while social crises which plague the Arab sector may continue to worsen. The authors call on the authorities – and particularly the Ministry of Education – to implement, without delay, various initiatives outlined in the full report along with the recommendations above, in the spirit of full and genuine cooperation.
For the English executive summamry
The full [Hebrew] version of the report, and the English executive summary can be downloaded and read here: