Hebron city divided between jews and arabs.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Among hundreds of illustrations, photographs, names and citations in the study of science, math, Hebrew and English, no mention of Arab images or Arab places appear, according to a report published recently by Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civil Equality.
This lack of representation in education contributes to a feeling of alienation, fear, suspicion and hatred by Jewish and Arab children toward the other group, according to the study.
“A Jewish schoolchild in Israel can graduate from high school without ever having met a single Arab student in person, or virtually, and the reverse is also true,” read the study. “This vacuum has fostered distorted group perceptions on both sides, impairing the children’s capacity to deal with prevalent negative stereotypes of the other group.”
Though the study focuses only on implementing changes within Jewish Israeli schools, the idea is to start promoting awareness on both sides in hopes of reducing negative perceptions in the long-term.
The report recommends including a greater presence of Arab society in educational and instructional materials in Jewish schools in order to avoid stereotypes, and prepare Jewish children for the reality of sharing public space with Arabs, studying at university together, and working side by side at shared workplaces.
“Jewish students in Israel need up-to-date, authentic and complex representations of Arab society to help prepare them for life in a country in which both Jewish and Arab citizens are living,” it explained.
In the study’s analysis of educational materials, it found that printed maps did not depict Arab cities in Israel, and passages discussed Jewish holidays and events but did not mention holidays celebrated by Arab society.
“It is important to understand how minority group members choose to be represented,” added the report. “Another important factor is that various groups also be fairly represented among those who write, edit, and approve the teaching and learning materials.”
The study suggests that at least 20% of the names of people and towns discussed in textbooks should be Arabic, literary materials should include the work of Arab authors and poets, and mathematics textbooks should include the role of the Arab world in the evolution of science.
In order to ensure the success of these policies, the study calls for the Ministry of Education to implement a standard certification that will be applicable to all types of instructional materials, and invest in public outreach messaging about the importance of the process and its outcomes.
“A good-faith investment in today’s instructional materials, revised and monitored to emphasize positive representation and mutual respect, can play a pivotal role in moving us closer [to a more tolerant] society,” it said.
Ya’ala Mazor, co-author of the report, explained that the goal of the study is to serve as a starting point to share awareness about these issues.
“Adults come to this world very ignorant, and this ignorance could be dangerous in the end,” she said. “We believe that we need to prepare our children for the reality – Jews and Arabs working and studying shoulder to shoulder in every field.”
Mazor added that she sees great potential for feasible change within the curriculum.
“Even before we can talk about coexistence, both groups need to acknowledge each other,” she said, and that education “is the first step and it’s not hard. Of course, the changes should be thoughtful, but it is something very feasible, inexpensive, and can be done with the new edition of textbooks.”
The Education Ministry has been receptive to the report, according to Mazor.
“The minute we faced them with this mirror, they acknowledged what we are saying, and they want to figure out the best way” to implement the changes.
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