Although the Jerusalem Municipality is investing massive resources in east Jerusalem education, including enrichment programs, a poll in the city’s Arab schools reflects a spike in preference for Israeli curriculum, rather than the Palestinian’s.
By Yori Yalon
Forty-eight percent of parents whose children are enrolled in schools in east Jerusalem do not want them studying the curriculum provided by the Palestinian Authority, according to a recent poll conducted by the Jerusalem Municipality.
The city, which polled hundreds of parents of east Jerusalem students, found a sharp decline in parents’ satisfaction with the Palestinian curriculum, which is used in Arab schools in the east of the city, as well as a notable rise in demand for the Israeli curriculum. For decades, as part of the status quo in the city, students in east Jerusalem studied the Jordanian curriculum. When the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, its leadership had pressured Jordan and the residents of east Jerusalem into using the PA’s curriculum for students in east Jerusalem.
But now more and more residents of east Jerusalem are pointing out the failures of the Palestinian curriculum and expressing a desire to use the Israeli curriculum, which is used by Arab public schools elsewhere in Israel.
Just before the school year opened on Sept. 1, some east Jerusalem parents put up posters that read: “Our Arab Israeli brothers study the Israeli curriculum and they are no less loyal to their people than we are. … We encourage students’ and parents’ right to choose. Whoever wants to study the Palestinian curriculum will, and whoever wants to study the Israeli curriculum is fully entitled to do so.”
The poll is backed up by facts on the ground. According to the Jerusalem Municipality, the number of east Jerusalem students who have opted for the Israeli curriculum jumped by 20% this year, compared to the 2016-2017 school year. Moreover, seven years ago, only some 300 students in east Jerusalem were using the Israeli curriculum, and the number now stands at some 5,800.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told Israel Hayom that “in recent years, we [the Jerusalem Municipality] have been leading the Israeli education revolution in the east of the city, and for the first time are providing tools for [east Jerusalem students] to integrate into Israeli society, higher education and the workforce.”
“This is an enormous national and municipal challenge, meeting the demand for the Israeli curriculum in the east of the city. Today, we are providing resources for some 6,000 of the 50,000 students who want it. We are making a big city-level effort, both on the pedagogical level and in terms of infrastructure, to make the necessary adjustments and close the gap,” Barkat said.
This year, Barkat and head of the city’s education division, Aviv Keinan, launched an innovative 25 million shekel ($7.1 million) program that will help close the educational gaps in east Jerusalem and promote a higher level of study. As part of the program, all middle schools and high schools in east Jerusalem will move to an extended school day that will include study centers and enrichment and supplementary courses that will stress life skills and Hebrew language study. Hundreds of additional hours of enrichment and private tutoring will also be added to the program to provide the students with specific instruction ahead of employment and higher education.
The city will also expand this year the activity of kindergartens and elementary schools in east Jerusalem and will expand after-school programs, which currently run in over 130 kindergartens and 40 schools. Four new schools and 79 new classrooms weree also opened this school year, including the Ibdaa Performing Arts High School in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which employs the Israeli curriculum and is the third magnet school to open in east Jerusalem in recent years. All three are in high demand by parents.
“We’re not just talking about a united Jerusalem, we’re working to unite the city through action and by giving all students from all sectors equal opportunities,” Barkat said.
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