Sa’ar pledges to increase Arab enrollment in universities

Arab population suffers underrepresentation in country's higher education; Tibi: Numbers show us a sad picture.

Saar 311 (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Saar 311
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
The Arab population of Israel suffers from underrepresentation in the country’s higher education system and the government will take efforts to remedy this situation, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) said Monday.
Sa’ar’s comments came during a hearing held by the Parliamentary Committee on Absorbing Arabs into Public Service, where figures were presented that revealed a disproportionately low percentage of Arabs in Israel’s academic system.
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Head of the committee, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) presented a number of findings, including that out of 10,500 higher education faculty members in Israel, only 280, or 2.7 percent are Arabs, a number far lower than their percentage in the general population, which stands at around 20%.
The figures also showed that there is only one Arab employee out of 85 workers in the Council for Higher Education.
“The numbers show us a sad picture,” Tibi said during the meeting. “We must affect an immediate change in this embarrassing representation.”
Sa’ar told the committee that “an increase in the accessibility of higher education for the Arab sector is a goal of the Education Ministry. The Arab population suffers from under-representation in the higher education systems but I have no doubt that increasing the accessibility [of higher education] will increase the percentage of Arab students and faculty members,” he said.
“I am optimistic and convinced that the coming years will see a marked improvement in this. The Education Ministry will compile a work plan in cooperation with the country’s academic institutions to improve the representation of the Arab sector [in higher education].
During the meeting, head of the Higher Education Council Moshe Vigdor said the percentage of Arab citizens of Israel who have completed a first degree has risen over the past decade from 6.7% to 10%, and the percentage that have finished a graduate degree has risen from 3.3% to 6.6%.
In order to continue this upward curve, Vigdor said the council “will build counseling centers in the villages and local councils and we will reach potential students at the high schools and show them the opportunities that are available to them.”
Vigdor added that the council will invest “tens of millions of shekels in order to prevent Arab students from dropping out during their bachelor degree studies and to provide them transportation [to and from university].”
During closing remarks, Tibi called on the Higher Education Council to hire at least three more Arab employees by the end of 2012 and to ensure that Arabs make up 6% of the university administrators by the end of 2013.
He also called on the state to launch efforts to increase the percentage of Arabs among university faculty to 8% in the coming years.
“Higher education is a way to acquire knowledge, culture, thinking and values, but Arabs have been relatively excluded from contributing to the higher education system.”