Education that divides

Education Funding and Policy: Week 36 of Kumi Now is now available on the website

In April of 2019, Adalah reported that “Israeli authorities are requiring all high school students—Jewish and Arab—to pass an online government propaganda course that promotes racist ideology before they are allowed to participate in overseas class trips.” According to Adalah, “One question asks, for example: ‘How do Palestinian organizations use digital social networks?’ The correct answer of four possible choices is ‘encouraging violence.’ Another question asks students to identify the origins of modern anti-Semitism. The exam’s correct answer is ‘Muslim organizations and the BDS movement.’” 

This is one example of anti-Palestinian bias in the Israeli school system and a reminder the road to peace requires participants on both sides to be educated in a truthful manner and taught to be critical, caring thinkers. 

The Palestinian Authority is equally guilty of bias within the school curriculum. For example, in 1999, Nadia Nasr wrote that a review of the Palestinian curriculum found “it is gender-biased and reinforces the traditional roles of females and males” while only hinting at the issues regarding the teaching of Israel.  

Researchers at Bethlehem University, Tel Aviv University, and Harvard worked to measure the bias level of each curriculum and in 2013 published the report “Victims of Our Own Narratives? Portrayal of the ‘Other’ in Israeli and Palestinian School Books.” They found significant issues on both sides, including:

  • “Both Israeli and Palestinian books present unilateral national narratives that present the other as enemy.”
  • “Historical events, while not false or fabricated, are selectively presented to reinforce each community’s national narrative.”
  • “There is a lack of information about the religions, culture, economic and daily activities of the other, or even of the existence of the other on maps.”

However, bias in the curriculum is just a portion of the education puzzle, and minority students within Israel are often faced with a system that ignores or is hostile to their own backgrounds and further discriminates based on funding, while students in East Jerusalem are denied the classrooms they need to learn; West Bank students face threats to their schools, settler violence, and checkpoints; and Gazan students suffer huge class sizes and facilities damaged by war and blockade.  

Please read the essay on this issue and the story of the 2015 Christian School Strike. 

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