First Day of School 1999-2000
Arab / Jewish balance by Grade Level
Model of the New School Building
Distribution of children by religion
Bilingual study class method
Ludmilla with students
Children according to place of residence
Update on the Neve Shalom / Wahat al-Salam
Prepared by Bob Mark to the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam,March, 2000
The NS/WAS Bilingual Educational System continues to develop in many directions.The number of pupils is growing according to objectives that we set four years ago and the planning and fundraising for facilities to accommodate our growth is also in pretty good shape. This means that we are still on schedule in our plans to open a junior high school in Sept. 2002.
The dynamic educational program of the school continues to develop as we experiment with new solutions to old problems regarding language, cultural, and political issues of Jewish – Palestinian education.
With relatively little initiative on our part we continue to respond to an increasing interest in our work that comes from a variety of groups. We are regularly visited by teaching staffs from all over Israel, teachers colleges, academics in education and other related fields, and by groups of people exploring possibilities of creating similar educational frameworks elsewhere in the country. In addition to being received by the Minister of Education, we find ourselves receiving visits from several of the ministry’s highest officials, both on a national and regional level. The NS/WAS School was recently nominated as our region’s candidate for a national education award after which we hosted Prof. Michel Abutbul, head of the Pedagogical Executive of the Ministry of Education, along with several of his colleagues. Prof. Abutbol has been given the task of introducing peace education into the Israeli school system and it appears that our experience is becoming essential to anyone studying the field.
While educators are knocking at our doors trying to gain an understanding of what is going on in our school, it is still up to us to formulate our educational programs and to develop our own abilities to conduct accredited in-service training courses for teachers. If plans work out, all of this will lead to the opening of our future resource and training department, or center, for Jewish - Arab bilingual education.
In the 1996 – 97 school year we had, for the first time in our history, enough first grade children to open two classes in the same grade level. On the other hand our seventh and eighth grade levels numbered only a handful of children and it was a struggle to convince these older students to stay in such a small framework. At the end of that school year we decided to close our seventh and eighth grade – or junior high school levels, and to target those first graders as the pupils who will reopen the junior high in the year 2002. The first condition to making this work was to continue to receive enough children to open two first grade classes each year from then on. So far it’s working. Today there are 210 children in the primary school. There are two classes per grade level from first to fourth grades, as well as one fifth grade class, and one sixth grade class. Our ideal class size is not to exceed 24 children. That is to say that each year we are prepared to receive two new classes totaling 48 first graders – 12 Jews and 12 Arabs in each class.
There are also a total of 40 children in the pre-school frameworks. Though this number has remained fairly stable in recent years, there are now plans to integrate the final year of kindergarten into a joint program with the first or perhaps even second grade. This would set for us the ambitious objective of creating two classes of 24 children already in the final pre-school year. The joint kindergarten to first or second grade model is used in several schools in Israel. The idea is to develop more of a transition stage to school exposing capable kindergarten children to new challenges that may interest them. The joint class also creates a friendlier atmosphere for first grade children for whom the change to a more rigid classroom setting is sometimes too abrupt.
New School Building
The above expansion plans have required of us to double our primary school facilities. We will soon embark upon the construction of a new building that will serve the Kindergarten through third grade (2 classes in each level X 4 grade levels X 24 children = 192 children). The present primary school building will then serve fourth through sixth grades (144 children). The new building will also include administrative functions that will serve the entire education complex.
Once the new building is constructed we will be able to vacate a number of pre-fab buildings that presently serve the kindergarten and primary school. These buildings will then become our junior high school for the next few years. It is hard to anticipate whether all or most of our primary school children will remain with us for the junior high school and whether we will end at 8th or 9th grade in the first stage. In any case the junior high will probably not exceed 4 classes, or 96 children. This brings the total estimated number of children that we will reach from kindergarten to eighth or ninth grade to approximately 330, not including age levels before kindergarten.
Once we decide to continue our school to the twelfth grade we will then build a permanent construction to accommodate both junior and senior high schools. The high school would be situated such that the students would benefit from other planned educational facilities in NS/WAS such as a library and a number of other initiatives on the drawing board.
The dominance of Hebrew among the staff and children continues to be one of the school’s greatest challenges. In recent months we have seen signs of improvement in the Jews’ level of Arabic as we have begun to introduce a number of changes in our approach. We recognized the need to create separate frameworks that enable the teachers to give more time to the teaching of spoken Arabic to the Jews. Maisoon Karaman, a teacher and member of NS/WAS who joined the staff two years ago, has taken responsibility for developing the school’s program of teaching Arabic as a second language. We now hear much more positive feedback from Jewish children who are simply enjoying learning Arabic more than ever before. With a little success and a more positive attitude towards learning the spoken language, we can assume that we will see more progress in the children’s literary Arabic as well. The Jewish teachers in the school are now obliged to take part in Arabic courses and this too contributes to an improving learning atmosphere. The small number of Jewish teachers who can speak or understand Arabic well has been a serious pitfall in our work since we have not been serving as the kind of role models that the children should have.
Regarding the system as a whole, we still have a great deal of work to do in order to reach the level of Arabic that we want to see in the school. Jews and Arabs alike pay a price for the dominance of one language over the other. In a country dominated by Jewish language and culture many Arab children already come with problems of low self esteem, and if they do not find an equal place for their language in our bilingual school, we face the danger of reinforcing problems that we are trying to address.
The school’s steering committee recently held a meeting (attended by teachers, parents, a Ministry of Education representative and SFP staff members) in which these problems were discussed. We considered the desirability and the requirements of adopting a model in which, at least in the early years of school, 70 % of the program would be conducted in Arabic and 30% of the program would be in Hebrew. The spirit of the meeting was favorable to setting this model as a long-term objective. As an immediate step we will reevaluate the existing program to ensure that Arabic really makes up at least 50% of the program. In order to implement the 70 – 30 model our staff as a whole would have to be much more bilingual than it is today. This is likely to influence our choice of teachers in the coming years as we enlarge the staff and it will certainly increase our efforts to improve the level of Arabic among Jewish teachers already in the school.
Other outstanding additions to the school program:
Recognition from the Ministry of Education
Diana Shaloufi – Rizek, the new Palestinian co-director of the school and Boaz Kitain, the Jewish co-director, were joined by the head of our regional council for a brief and very encouraging meeting with the Minister of Education, Yosi Sarid. The Ministry of Education is now in the hands of a party that is as sympathetic as we can expect to find in a government coalition, and we struck while the iron was hot. Our school is about to be granted regular official recognition. So far our fears about the price of this recognition appear to be unfounded. The Ministry will not prevent us from receiving children from outside of the region thereby enabling us to maintain a numerical balance between Arab and Jewish children. We will also maintain the autonomy to teach according to the programs that we have been developing.
Financially our situation with the Ministry will improve, but we still do not know by how much. The official position is that our special status until now entitled us to receiving funds to cover two thirds of our recognized expenses. Regular official status entitles us to another 50% of what we have already been receiving. This could roughly amount to an additional $ 150,000 per year from the State. Since our recognized expenses are far from our real expenses we are still not at the stage at which we can declare ourselves free from fundraising. Most of the special needs of a bilingual school are not among those expenses that the Ministry recognizes.
There are other benefits that are hard to quantify at this point. Official recognition opens up channels of support that were closed to us until now. These are channels that will require work on our part and will not come to us automatically. Questions remain regarding the very large burden of transportation expenses that come with bringing children from 25 communities from every different direction around NS/WAS. The Ministry promised to provide us with a pre-fab classroom in order to accommodate the additional class that will come with the next school year. Official recognition even opens up options to look for major support to help build the new school building.
Resource and Teacher Training Center for Jewish – Palestinian Bilingual Education
Hopefully the combination of State funding, tuition fees and perhaps sponsorships will provide us with a stable source of support that will allow us to focus our fundraising efforts on programs of the school to which donors and foundations are more interested in contributing. For years we have dreamed about having adequate resources to invest in our staff, to document and research the work that we have been doing, and to prepare ourselves to conduct accredited in-service teacher training courses. Regardless of the increasing demand from others in Israel and abroad who want to learn about our work, this investment is an elementary need for our own development. As an experimental school we do get some support from the State to formulate our programs, and over the last year Ety Edlund and Maisoon have been devoting time to curriculum development. However this task should be tackled as a staff effort involving teachers who have been developing innovative methods in their teaching to address many different cultural and linguistic aspects of work with children at different ages. While we have a great deal to offer, the paragraphs on program development also demonstrate how much we have to learn in order to meet the educational challenges of our school. This requires funding for research and for our own study of our work. We have already begun to cooperate with Dr. Zvi Bekerman and Dr. Gabriel Horenczyk, researchers from the Hebrew University who received a Ford Foundation grant to study the bilingual Jewish – Arab first and second grade classes in the Galilee. We have a mutual interest to incorporate our school into this research once funding is made available.
As mentioned above we have been receiving an increasing number of visiting teaching staffs. We will soon be conducting our third workshop for teachers from the NS/WAS School and from the Jewish – Arab classes in the Galilee and Jerusalem. These workshops and visiting programs are always in response to initiatives from outside. Once we regard these programs as a part of our school objectives, we will begin to take an active part in advancing Jewish – Palestinian bilingual education in Israel. This direction of work with teachers also has the unique advantage of advancing cooperation between the Primary School and the School for Peace, creating the first program in NS/WAS that benefits from the rich and very different experience of each branch. Ultimately there may be other initiatives in the village that will also have something to contribute to this program. As an experimental school we would be expected to open our resource and training center in September, 2003. However we hope to be able to announce the opening of this center a year or two earlier.
The Children's Educational System
Annual General Meeting 2000
Copyright © 1999 by Neve Shalom/Wahat
All rights reserved. Revised: 17-Dec-2001 .