'We must address needs of Jewish and Arab students'

Knesset Education Committee hears from officials over efforts in schools to promote existence.

November 3, 2015 02:20
3 minute read.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett with his family on the first day of school, September 1, 2015

Education Minister Naftali Bennett with his family on the first day of school, September 1, 2015. (photo credit: COURTESY EDUCATION MINISTRY)

The Israeli education system must implement year-round programs addressing coexistence and not only during times of stress, said MK Ya’acov Margi (Shas) on Monday.

He made these comments at a Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting on how the education system is coping with the recent terror wave.

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The committee heard from representatives of the Education Ministry and NGOs on the pedagogical programs being implemented in schools to promote coexistence and acceptance of the other.

There was a consensus among the representatives and the committee members that there is a greater need to develop and implement such programs yearround and not only discuss their importance during times of crisis, as is currently being done.

Joint List MKs also addressed the committee, citing a “one sided” Israeli education system that does not address the needs and fears of Arab students.

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said the Education Ministry “sees only the needs of the Jewish students,” while dismissing the effects of the recent tension on Arab students.

He cited the fact that a Hebrew language hotline was established to help Jewish students cope with the situation, but no such hotline was provided in Arabic. In addition, he said additional security measures were only provided to Jewish schools and not to Arab schools.

MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said the Israeli education system was promoting a one sided agenda, and the real question that needs to be addressed is not “what is being done now, but rather what the education system provides students [year-round]?” “Citizenship classes have turned into Zionist classes... even democracy lessons have turned to Zionist curriculums” she said.

Zoabi said that teachers in Arab schools are afraid to discuss or provide any opinion on these issues or to “stray from the right wing consensus.”

“The education system has the responsibility to counter this atmosphere,” she added.

MK Masud Gnaim (Joint List) added that the majority of programs aimed at addressing coexistence in schools are developed by external NGOs. He said the Education Ministry should be the main body responsible for promoting these educational and pedagogical programs as a state policy.

MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) responded that on social media, Arab students see only one side of the picture and this can lead to confusion and a feeling of asymmetry. “Arab students will see a policeman shooting a child without seeing the other side or the whole story and so they are afraid,” he said.

“Within the Israeli system there is not a culture of hate, but rather one that values life,” he said. “In this asymmetry there should be more models for dialogue and [there is a] need for coexistence programs by the Education Ministry.”

MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) said that the issue of language was “critical” to coexistence and praised the ministerial decision last month to make Arabic studies mandatory in schools.

However, Forer added, “The values of equality must include both rights and duties. You can’t ask for rights but then refuse to serve your country, and students need to see this and the teachers need to serve as an example.”

At the end of the meeting, Margi called on the Education Ministry to also implement a hotline in Arabic and make its existence known to the Arab public.

In addition, he called on the ministry to hold dialogues between professional staff and school principals to implement the various programs presented by NGOs to promote coexistence, as well as hold dialogues between Jewish and Arab students.

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