‘Car­rot, not stick’: Is­rael pushes its cur­ricu­lum in Pales­tinian schools

Is­rael of­fers in­cen­tives to adopt its cur­ricu­lum

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Young Pales­tinian Faris AbuMayyaleh will soon find out how he did in his fi­nal high school exams, in which he an­swered ques­tions about Is­rael’s found­ing fa­thers and the his­tory of Zion­ism. Faris, 18, chose to study the Is­raeli cur­ricu­lum in­stead of the Pales­tinian equiv­a­lent in the hope that it will open more doors at col­leges in Is­rael and help him get work there. “I know it’s the ‘Oc­cu­pa­tion’. But Pales­tine, Is­rael-I don’t care. I just want to go to univer­sity,” said Abu-Mayyaleh, who lives and stud­ies in East Jerusalem, an­nexed by Is­rael af­ter the 1967 Mid­dle East war.

Is­rael hopes many other Pales­tini­ans will share his at­ti­tude af­ter of­fer­ing ad­di­tional fund­ing to Pales­tinian schools in East Jerusalem if they agree to teach the Is­raeli cur­ricu­lum. The aim, it says, is to help young Pales­tini­ans gain the qual­i­fi­ca­tions they need to find work in Is­rael more eas­ily. It also of­fers Is­rael a chance to steer some Pales­tini­ans away from a cur­ricu­lum it says is rife with anti-Semitism and in­cite­ment. It is a loaded is­sue for prin­ci­pals, par­ents and pupils.

Many Pales­tinian schools badly need fund­ing, but em­brac­ing the Is­raeli ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram­in­clud­ing sub­jects such as Is­raeli civics and his­tory-is seen by many Pales­tini­ans as tan­ta­mount to adopt­ing the his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of the en­emy. Only 10 of the city’s pub­lic Pales­tinian schools have so far agreed to the change on of­fer since last year, and only about 5,000 of the 110,00 Pales­tinian pupils of East Jerusalem’s 185 pub­lic and pri­vate es­tab­lish­ments study the Is­raeli pro­gram. “It’s not easy,” said a Pales­tinian mem­ber of staff who teaches Is­raeli civics at a Pales­tinian school.

“The chil­dren want to learn about their own peo­ple. I teach a lot of things I don’t be­lieve in, but I have no choice.” Not ev­ery school uses the same text­books but the Pales­tinian and Is­raeli pro­grams dif­fer widely on some his­tor­i­cal events. Un­der the Is­raeli cur­ricu­lum, pupils are taught that the Arab-Is­raeli war of 1948, the year Is­rael was cre­ated, was a bat­tle for in­de­pen­dence for a state that would be a haven for Jews af­ter cen­turies of per­se­cu­tion. The Pales­tinian cur­ricu­lum teaches it as the Nakba, or Catas­tro­phe, when hun­dreds of thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans fled or were driven from their homes dur­ing the fight­ing.

Staff at the East Jerusalem schools who spoke to Reuters asked not to be iden­ti­fied be­cause they did not have per­mis­sion to be in­ter­viewed and feared for their jobs. The head of one East Jerusalem school who re­jected the Is­raeli cur­ricu­lum said author­i­ties had of­fered to triple the an­nual bud­get for each pupil, from about 500 shekels ($144) to 1,500. An­other Pales­tinian head­mas­ter said: “They of­fered me more money, but I said no. The par­ents here don’t want it. It’s not our story, we want to teach the Pales­tinian story.”

Is­raeli Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Bennett, head of the re­li­gious-na­tion­al­ist Jewish Home party, said the pro­gram was meant to close gaps in ed­u­ca­tion, poverty and un­em­ploy­ment that have af­flicted Jerusalem’s 320,000 Pales­tini­ans for decades. “A young man from East Jerusalem who has an Is­raeli diploma has a much higher chance of get­ting a job. Our aim is to spur eco­nomic progress-that’s why we’re us­ing a car­rot, not a stick,” Bennett said. The Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry did not pro­vide full de­tails of the ex­tra bud­get and in­cen­tives these schools have re­ceived, beyond fund­ing for ex­tra teach­ers and teach­ing hours. Asked whether fund­ing could be tripled per pupil at schools that adopted the Is­raeli cur­ricu­lum, an Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry source said it was “cer­tainly pos­si­ble” but the of­fers of ex­tra fund­ing var­ied from school to school. The As­so­ci­a­tion for Civil Rights in Is­rael (ACRI) and other rights groups say the pro­gramme is dis­crim­i­na­tory. They say Pales­tinian schools in East Jerusalem are un­der­funded and the Is­raeli author­i­ties should fund all the city’s schools equally.

“Is­raeli author­i­ties have for years ne­glected the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in East Jerusalem,” said Nis­reen Alyan, head of the Jerusalem Pro­gram at ACRI. “While it is the first time the gov­ern­ment and mu­nic­i­pal­ity see a need to close the gaps in East Jerusalem, the pro­gram is de­signed ac­cord­ing to a po­lit­i­cal agenda.” Bennett re­jected the crit­i­cism. “I’m not forc­ing any­thing on any­one. I’m say­ing ‘make it avail­able’,” he said. “I be­lieve mar­ket forces will do the job. Ul­ti­mately, par­ents will tell their chil­dren: ‘I want you to get the Is­raeli diploma so you get a job in pro­gram­ming, not clean­ing’.”

Class­room short­age

Is­raeli author­i­ties rec­og­nize that gaps in ed­u­ca­tion deepen a chasm be­tween Jerusalem’s east-which Pales­tini­ans want to be the cap­i­tal of their fu­ture state-and pre­dom­i­nantly Jewish west, mak­ing it harder for Pales­tini­ans to get ahead in life. More than a third of Jerusalem’s Pales­tinian chil­dren drop out of high school. Among Is­raelis only about 2 per­cent do so. Al­most 80 per­cent of the city’s Pales­tini­ans live be­low the poverty line and just 40 per­cent are em­ployed, mostly at the lower rungs of the labour mar­ket lad­der, ac­cord­ing to the Is­raeli Cen­tral Bureau of Statis­tics (CBS).

The Is­raeli na­tional em­ploy­ment rate stands at 64 per­cent, and in Jerusalem 58 per­cent of Is­raelis are em­ployed, ac­cord­ing to the CBS. Supreme Court pe­ti­tions and re­ports by rights groups in­clud­ing ACRI show con­sis­tent gaps be­tween Jerusalem’s Pales­tinian and Is­raeli schools, in­clud­ing al­lo­ca­tion of staff and fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams. There is a short­age of 3,800 class­rooms, dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect­ing the poorer Pales­tinian and ul­tra-Or­tho­dox Jewish sec­tors. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has rented apart­ments in some ar­eas to cre­ate space, or sup­plied mo­bile shacks to serve as class­rooms.

In the Ja­bel Mukhaber neigh­bor­hood of East Jerusalem, the Al-Sawa­hereh pri­mary school for boys is housed in a con­verted two-storey apart­ment build­ing. Pupils are crammed, mostly in groups of 25-30, into six class­rooms of about 12 square me­ters, and fa­cil­i­ties are poor. When the bell sounds at the end of the day, 150 boys in bright blue uni­forms run through a sparse, nar­row yard and pour out of a drive­way gate into a bumpy, bro­ken road lined with over­flow­ing rub­bish con­tain­ers.

Res­i­dents see a stark con­trast with the wellkept streets of Ar­mon Hanatziv, the Is­raeli neigh­bor­hood across the street. “I see nor­mal schools there,” said Mah­moud Awis­sat, a father of six from Ja­bel Mukhaber who drives a school bus in west Jerusalem. “It’s worlds apart.” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat ac­knowl­edges gaps in the qual­ity of schools. “But we’re catch­ing up. We just took a loan of a bil­lion shekels ($284 mil­lion) to build 1,000 class­rooms, and half of that will be in East Jerusalem,” he told Reuters.— Reuters


JERUSALEM: Young Is­raelis dive into a nat­u­ral pool in the vil­lage of Lifta, which was aban­doned dur­ing fight­ing in the 1948 Arab-Is­raeli war and lies on the north­west­ern out­skirts of Jerusalem.

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