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Published On:11 November 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Israel to Test Arab Students on Zionism

By Omri Meniv

According to a director-general's circular issued by the Ministry of Education this week [of Nov. 4], all Arab and Bedouin students in Israel will have to study the history of Zionism in the period prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in preparation for the matriculation exam in history.

While a detailed curriculum in Zionism for the Arab sector was released in 2007, Education Ministry officials claim that less than half the students in the Arab sector have actually studied the subject matter. So far, 47% of the students in the Arab sector who are studying in the [vocationally oriented] technological education system have been required to pass the one-unit matriculation exam in history to be eligible for a matriculation certificate. [Note: Israeli courses are categorized from one to five "units of study," with the five-unit course and its corresponding exam being the most difficult.]

The topic of this mandatory “unit of study” is Arabic and Islamic history. However, according to the Education Ministry officials, in many of the academically oriented high schools in the Arab sector, where two “units of study” in history are mandatory [as in all academically oriented high schools in Israel], the study of the history of Zionism has been evaded.

The initiative for the reform was led by former chairman of the Education Ministry’s Pedagogic Secretariat Dr. Tzvi Tzameret, who called for the introduction of a mandatory question on the Holocaust into the matriculation exam in history in the Arab sector. Although the Holocaust was included in the history curriculum for the Arab sector even prior to the reform initiative, it was not a mandatory topic and students could exclude it from their list of preferences and choose not to be tested on it.

As said, Arab students could avoid dealing with the Zionist issue altogether, even in schools where they were required to pass the two-unit matriculation exam in history. However, the reform led by Dr. Tzameret was aimed at enforcing mandatory Zionism studies in the Arab sector, as a precondition for eligibility for a matriculation certificate.

Criticism in the State Comptroller’s report

The first to experience the reform are eleventh grade students, who are about to graduate from high school next year. “The mandatory two-unit matriculation exam in history as a precondition for eligibility for a matriculation certificate will apply to all students in the Arab and Bedouin sector as of the 2013/14 school year,” the circular states.

In the framework of Zionism studies for the matriculation exams, students will learn the history of the people of Israel in modern times, until the establishment of the State of Israel. The subject matter outlined in this part of the new curriculum includes explanation of the circumstances that led to the emergence of the Zionist movement and review of the characteristics of the Zionist movement and the differences between the diverse trends in the movement. Students will also learn about the various waves of Zionist immigration to the Land of Israel, the implications of the [Jewish] settlement in the Land of Israel and the formation of the Zionist institutions. Another key module in the curriculum deals with the British Mandate and covers the [1917] Balfour declaration, the [British] white papers [of 1922, 1930 and 1939], the impact of the British policy on the establishment of the state of Israel and the significance of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. The connection between the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel will also be covered in this framework.

[Offering a rationale for the reform,] Dr. Tzameret told the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv: “After assuming office [as chairman of the Education Ministry’s Pedagogic Secretariat], I noticed that in a large number of schools in the Arab sector, matriculation exams were conducted contrary to the rules. Thus, while under the law, a minimum of 21 “units of study” are required in all matriculation exams taken to receive a matriculation certificate, quite often students [in the Arab sector] took only the one-unit matriculation exam in history, so that the total number of “units of study” was less than the mandatory number. We decided to put an end to such practices and bring about a change.”

Education Ministry officials note that in recent years, various flaws have been found in the teaching and study practices in the Arab sector, at times, even in blatant violation of the law. A case in point is that of the single “unit of study” taught in preparation for the one-unit matriculation exam in history. Another apt example is the avoidance of Holocaust studies, contrary to the Israeli parliament legislation. The failure has even been criticized in the State Comptroller’s report.

Reactions vary among Arab school principals. On one side there are Arab school principals who, being familiar with the Zionist subject matter, maintain that there is no reason for concern as long as the topic is taught in its appropriate context. On the other side, there are those who are worried over what they deem the disproportionate emphasis put on Zionist and Jewish issues at the expense of issues pertaining to Arab and Palestinian nationality, which is an inseparable part of the students' identity.

Amran Dwabeh, who serves as a school principal in [the Galilee Arab town of] Kafr Kanna says: “The emphasis put on the Zionist issue is motivated by irrelevant considerations. I for one cannot understand the need for the curriculum reform. Of course, the history of the Jewish people too should be taught; I have no problem with that. However, Jewish history studies should not overshadow Palestinian and Arab history studies; the two should be given equal attention and equal place in the curriculum, the way it has always been.”

“An agreement can be reached”

A principal of an Arab school in Northern Israel who asked to remain anonymous said yesterday [Nov. 7]: “I believe that the program [proposed by the Education Ministry] is appropriate. However, it’s one thing to ask [Arab] students to explain the justifications for Zionism, which is taking it a bit too far and is impracticable, and it’s another thing to teach the factual historic events — there is no problem with that.” Echoing Dwabeh’s words, he adds: “Dictating from above is not going to work. An agreement can be reached among the majority of schools, to the benefit of us all.”

(Courtesy: Al-Monitor)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on November 11, 2012. Filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on November 11, 2012. Filed under , , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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