Update on the Children's
Educational System

(from January 1999)

We are now in the second school year since the Ministry of Education recognized our Primary School as an experimental school. This year we will specifically address some of the issues related to this status. In addition, the Ministry of Education is in the process of performing its own comprehensive evaluation. The process includes meetings with the primary school management, educators, the parents committee, the students? council and others. Questionnaires were distributed to all the teachers, the parents and the children of the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.

In accordance with our role as an experimental school, our main objective this year and in the following year is to mould and regularize the educational content and methodology. This should be an organic development, based upon the principles with which we started, some 15 years ago. At that time we were a tiny unrecognized school. Now we have to apply the same principles to a model school whose enrollment is twenty times larger.

This year, (the 1998-9 school year) we have 220 children in the Educational System as a whole. These are divided according to the following age groups:

Age group

Number of children

Nursery

6 (by the end of this year).

Pre-kindergarten

11

Kindergarten

27

Total pre-school

44

1st grade

40

2nd grade

32

3rd grade

43

4th grade

25

5th grade

19

6th grade

17

Total Primary School

176

Total educational system

220

The number of children has increased, in comparison to the previous year, especially from the first grade on. Last year?s sixth graders have graduated, while, out of 220 children, 70 are new children that have joined our Educational System this year (more than 40%). We are very proud of this achievement, and are willing to invest our efforts to meet the challenges of this new situation.

The large number of new students forced us to deal more specifically with the language element in our education. Out of the 70 new students, only a small number are bilingual in Hebrew and Arabic.

After rounds of discussions and consultations, and after consulting professionals in the field from Israel and abroad, we are now prepared to implement a bilingual, multicultural model, which we hope will be more suitable to our system.

This model is suitable for all subjects except math and languages. It works by dividing each double lesson (80 minutes) in the following way:

20 minutes

40 minutes

20 minutes

Uninational introduction:

All children learn the relevant lesson?s vocabulary in the second language:

Arab children learn the Hebrew vocabulary; Jewish children learn the Arabic vocabulary.

Discussion:

The class is divided into two binational groups, while the lesson?s subject is divided into two sub-topics.

Each group studies one sub-topic in Arabic and then the other sub-topic in Hebrew (or vise versa).

Uninational summary:

The children summarize the lesson and share their experiences, in their first language:

Jews in Hebrew; Arabs in Arabic.

In order to implement the model we need to renew the form and content of studies. We plan to start using this model in the kindergarten and in the first grade, during the second half of this school year.

As mentioned, a quite different model is required for the teaching of math and languages. We are now in the process of developing such a model, which is based on work with small groups. According to it, the classroom will be divided into a number of "study centers." A group of six children will work with one teacher to learn new math or language material. The other children, while they are not directly engaged in new learning, will practice what they have learned or work independently in the study centers, with the guidance of the other teachers. After 20 minutes, a new group of six children will be invited to learn new material, while the other children practice independently.

This model requires four teachers for a class of 40-44 children, which is the number of children in our first grade. (In regular schools this method of instruction will rely upon two teachers and two assistants).

We are putting much energy and effort into implementing these new models and methods. We hope this will eventually result in the development of our unique methodology into curriculum units that could be used in other schools as well.

Facilities

The large increase of the Educational System also means that we do not have enough rooms and other areas for all the activities. For this school year, we met the challenge in the following ways:

  1. We refurbished a prefabricated residential house to accommodate the pre-kindergarten group. This required a large investment in air-conditioners, a play area, internal changes and so on.
  2. We converted the existing pre-kindergarten building for use as two primary school classrooms.
  3. We installed an acoustic partition in the Niwano Room (the school assembly hall), in order to split it into two classrooms, while leaving the option to continue to open the entire space as an assembly hall. This proved to be expensive (about 50,000 NIS).
  4. We moved the computer room to the library. The old computer room became an auxiliary room for music lessons.
  5. We created another classroom by building a partition using book-shelves in the library. This halved the size of the library.

All of the above represent temporary solutions to our serious problem of space and facilities. We are now planning a new building, which, hopefully, will serve all of our needs. Not least among these is the provision of working rooms for the teachers. The existing teachers? room, accommodated in a windowless basement air-raid shelter, is small and inadequate for staff meetings, or meetings of teachers with parents and students.

In the new building we plan a hall sufficiently large for weekly assemblies of all the school children, and other important activities. The plan also calls for a dedicated medical room for visits by the school nurse, who now must share a room with the psychologist.

We will also need to make substantial changes and renovations in the existing kindergarten and primary school buildings. These will include:

  1. A new playground.
  2. Repair-work.
  3. Enclosure of a veranda.
  4. Connection between buildings.
  5. New toilet facilities.
  6. Changes in room divisions.

As a spin-off of these renovations, we will be able to implement an idea that we have been considering for some time to combine the kindergarten and the first grade into one learning area. This will enable the young children to make a slower and softer transition into the framework of the school, with its stricter demands.

In the year 2002 we plan to open the Junior High school. The first students will be those who are now in the third grade. We hope that by then we will have a larger enrollment, a more organized staff, better conditions and adequate facilities.

In the meantime, we have applied to The Institute for the Development of Educational Buildings, in order to plan the junior high school building, which will constitute a part of the Peace Campus.

Personnel and Development of Human Resources

Today, we have 42 full-time and part-time staff members. These include:

  1. School teachers and kindergarten teachers, on a full-time and a part-time basis.
  2. Three psychological advisors (One for each age group, 4-8 weekly hours, 4 hours per fortnight in the primary school).
  3. Two guides for implementing learning methods
  4. A Ministry of Education representative for accompanying experimental schools
  5. A school nurse, one day per week.
  6. A Maintenance person.
  7. Two secretaries.
  8. Executive director, on 75% salary
  9. Educational director - 50% salary
  10. Fund-raising & public relations person - 1 salary.

From the above list, the NSWAS educational system must provide funding for 27 full-time salaries and for additional consultants and advisors. One kindergarten teacher and two advisors are paid by the Ministry of Education; two half-time salaries are funded by The CRB Foundation.

Of the staff, 27 have been working with us for less than three years. Nine senior staff members live in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. The rest commute from towns in the area.

Our intention to provide a model "Jewish-Arab educational system" can be successful only if we translate theory into practice, with the aid of competent staff members. Therefore our most important task must be to provide additional training for our teaching faculty. In a school like ours, every teacher needs to be trained as a teacher of Hebrew or Arabic as a second language. Only a few of the teachers currently have such training. Unfortunately, financial considerations obligated us to reduce this year's intended budget for teacher training. We still plan to invest efforts so that every teacher will be bilingual, by asking every teacher to study (if necessary) the other language to a level of basic communication.

The teachers experience an on-going Jewish-Arab encounter. Such an encounter, without guidance, can easily develop negatively, increase the level of distrust and misunderstanding, and lead, in fact, to a dead end. Such a process is evident in relations between the two peoples in the country as a whole. In order to prevent it from happening in the school, we find it necessary occasionally to conduct structured workshops for the staff. Now, with so many new staff members, it is time for another one.

The workshop will be intended for those staff members who did not have the opportunity to participate in previous workshops. Its objective will be to impart a deeper understanding of the Jewish-Arab conflict and to open new ways of dialogue. As previously, the workshop will be conducted by the School for Peace, as the most appropriate organization for this kind of work. The workshop is scheduled for the near future.

Expenses and Income

Expenses: Our new status as an experimental school, together with the increase in our enrollment, has resulted in an increase also in our overall expenses, though the costs per child are significantly lower.

Income:

Income from sources other than donations, increased:

Tuition fees grew from 513,000 NIS last year, to 700,000 NIS this year.

Payments from the Ministry of education totaled 541,000 NIS last year. This year, in the first quarter, already 267,000 NIS were received.

Thus, income from 'local' sources accounts for about 55-60% of our general expenses. We hope to continue with this parallel trend of reducing costs per student, while increasing the overall income from 'local' sources, so that eventually we will reach a point where we can allocate all donations for development, enlargement and new projects, rather than use such funding to pay operational expenses.

Organizational changes

Our organizational structure today is hierarchical. It comprises a Palestinian executive director (the overall director of the school and pre-school frameworks) and a Jewish educational director (in charge of programming, educational content, teacher supervision, etc). The directors are assisted by a steering body which discusses and recommends educational policies, and implements these policies together with the larger coordination and teaching staff.

The educational system decision-making body is its board of directors, which is composed of representatives of the faculty and parents and other members of the village. The board meets on an occasional basis to decide upon overall educational policy.

We are currently involved in a process of intensive discussion about major organizational changes. We are seeking to establish an organizational structure that will better suit the needs of the growing educational system. This may involve the separation or merging of some of the various departments and branches.

Special projects

Language Center:

The 'Golder-Goodwin Language Center' is fully operational. There are 38 language study groups in the school alone, not including the kindergarten. The Center is actually able to accommodate only 34 weekly one-hour sessions.

Since its inception, the center has been a focus of interest for teachers from other schools and interested groups. This year, the center's activities have been partially supported by The Abraham Fund.

Plant Nursery

The plant nursery (greenhouse) has been in operation since last year, and a growing number of children have been participating in lessons there. We are assisted in the project by a part-time teacher from outside, who has much experience in greenhouse development. Hopefully, next year, regular teachers will be able to conduct the activities there.

Eighty percent of the working hours in the greenhouse activities are funded by The CRB Foundation. The plants are supplied by the Ministry of Education.

Computers

This year we are trying to increase the time spent in computer studies. Each student participates for one hour per week in activities of the computer center, as part of his/her 'personal subject.' A specially qualified teacher comes for this purpose. Her salary is paid by the CRB Foundation.

Languages

As in previous years, Hebrew is taught as a first language to the Jewish children and as a second language to the Arab children and vice versa: Arabic is taught as a first language to the Arab children and as a second language to the Jewish children.

English is taught as a foreign language to all.

It is a continuous struggle to place Arabic on an equal footing with Hebrew in the educational system, so that the Jewish and Arab children will be equally competent in the two languages. There are certain objective difficulties. For instance, the complication caused by differences between written and spoken Arabic and by the existence of various localized Arabic dialects. However, the cultural dominance of Hebrew in Israeli society, and the inferior position attributed to Arabic by the Jewish majority, play a substantial role. To contend with the disparity in the use of the two languages at the school, some changes have been adopted in our way of working with them, as described earlier in this report.

Mathematics

The math lessons are given in uninational groups, with an option for each student to learn mathematics in the second language. In practice, each Jewish study group has one or two Arab students.

One of the difficulties we face in teaching math at the school is the existence of two different systems of numerals; those used today in the Arab world and those used in western countries and Israel. (This system too was originally borrowed from, and has equal historical legitimacy for, the Arabs).

We are gradually moving over to the common international system of numerals in all of our math classes, both for the Jewish and the Arab students. Texts will continue to be in the original language of each student.

Summary

As a whole, the 1997-98 school year was a success, despite the effects of the poor political situation in the region. The peace process was (and continues to be) stalled, and distrust between our two people is growing. Both the Jewish and Palestinian societies are suffering their own deep internal crises.

In educating the Jewish and Arabic youngsters together, we are swimming against a tide of racism. The teachers themselves, Jews and Palestinians, spend much time together creating and learning from each other, trying to build a bridge of understanding across the abyss. Despite all of our efforts to build a more equal society, politicians continue to make irresponsible and uncontrolled statements. This is an election year, and in Israel this usually means a violent competition for votes. Even those who campaign on a 'peace' platform tend to phrase their statements in a violent way.

In conclusion, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all of the Friends' Associations from abroad and from Israel.

My special thanks go out to Mr. Jesse Zel Lurie, who has never tired, through all these years, of being a true friend and an ardent supporter of our school.

Thanks also go to Mr. Richard Goodwin, who continues his enthusiastic support and is now putting a great deal of effort into helping us to build a new school house.

My thanks also go to all those others who are supporting the construction of new building, or who give ongoing support to the school as a whole.

Thanks to the Rissho Kossei-Kai Foundation, which has remained a loyal supporter since its sister organization, the Niwano Peace Foundation, awarded NS/WAS its Peace Prize.

Thanks to The Abraham Fund, The CRB Foundation, The Jewish Agency and to everyone else who has played a role in our success.

Anwar Daoud
Executive Director
Educational system NS/WAS

 

howtosponsor.jpg (43476 bytes)The NS/WAS Kindergarten and
Primary School invite you
to sponsor a child


 

a110.gif (1488 bytes) The Children's Educational System

a110.gif (1488 bytes) Homepage

Copyright ' 1999 by Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.
All rights reserved.      Revised: 17-Dec-2001 .