Study: More east J’lem students opt for informal education over formal education frameworks

Formal education systems refer to publicly recognized, funded, and operated schools. In the informal schools, infrastructure and classrooms often do not meet minimum safety and health standards.

August 31, 2016 02:02
3 minute read.
Pro-Palestinian demonstration

Wafa Hussein,a Muslim elementary school teacher of English and Arabic in a Jewish school in Safed who is loved by her Jewish students and strives for coexistence. (photo credit: IGAL HECHT)

The number of east Jerusalem Palestinian students studying in informal education systems has exceeded the number learning in formal education systems, according to a new report.

A report on education in east Jerusalem issued on Tuesday by Ir Amim found that 43,102 east Jerusalem Palestinians studied in informal education systems, 43,074 in formal education systems and 19,035 in private education systems in the academic year of 2015-2016.

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Formal education systems refer to publicly recognized, funded, and operated schools, whereas informal education systems allude to publicly recognized and (partially) funded, but third-party operated schools. In the informal schools, infrastructure and classrooms often do not meet minimum safety and health standards.

The report concluded that authorities thus far have not implemented the February 2011 ruling of the High Court of Justice, which instructed the Education Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality to integrate all students interested in transferring into formal education systems.

“While the ruling of the High Court of Justice should have led to building of classrooms and a significant increase in students transferring into formal education system in east Jerusalem from informal education systems, data shows that the exact opposite has taken place,” the Ir Amim report said.

The report added that the shortage of classrooms in east Jerusalem has grown to 2,672 classrooms, stating that authorities have perpetuated the classroom shortage by not allocating sufficient land to build more classrooms in east Jerusalem.

“There is a shortage of land allocated to public building in east Jerusalem because of discriminatory planning [policies],” the report asserted, adding, “Planning for public buildings allocated for Palestinians living in east Jerusalem constitutes 2.6 percent of all of east Jerusalem’s land.”

For example, the report points to Sheikh Jarrah, where authorities have allocated only 4.3 dunams for building public structures for “the local population.”

Moreover, the report determined that 36% of students in east Jerusalem drop out of school before completing high school. In particular, the report stated that 1% of student drop out of ninth grade, 21% of tenth grade, 13% of eleventh grade, and 9% of twelfth grade, adding that approximately 1,300 students drop out of school annually.

The report argued that authorities have not established enough dropout prevention programs in east Jerusalem, stating there are 21 dropout prevention programs for Jewish education systems and 8 for Arab education systems in Jerusalem.

A Jerusalem Municipality spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that Mayor Nir Barkat has made special efforts to improve education in east Jerusalem.

“Mayor Barkat, who holds the education portfolio in the Jerusalem city council, has made education is a priority in his administration. During his tenure, the Municipality has dedicated unprecedented resources to bridging the gaps he inherited in east Jerusalem’s education system,” he said.

The spokesperson added that the municipality monitors both the students mentioned under formal and informal education system in the Ir Amim report: “Contrary to the reports, only 20,000 out of 110,000 students in the Arabic education system are currently enrolled in institutions not monitored by the Municipality or the Ministry of Education.”

He also admitted that there is a shortage of classrooms in east Jerusalem, but said that it is decreasing.

“While there is a 1,500 classroom shortage in the Arabic education system, the gap is rapidly shrinking.

Since Mayor Barkat began his time in office, more than 800 new classrooms have been constructed out of spaces that the Municipality has rented and repurposed, with 1,000 more classrooms in planning and construction stages.”

The spokesman stated further that the municipality has calculated a different dropout rate than the one mentioned in the Ir Amim report. “The dropout rate in schools monitored by the Municipality in the Arabic education system is 29, not 36 percent,” he remarked.

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