Primary School Report
September - November 2000
The School is continuing to develop according to
the goals it has set for itself. This year, as in previous years,
it increased its enrollment by another forty students. This
process is not to be taken for granted, and it is not sure that we will
be as successful in the next school year. The process also
involves absorbing new teachers, and adding students to classes where
children have dropped out.
The important development this year was the
change of the school’s status from that of a recognized, but
non-official school to that of an multi-regional official school.
This has had important implications for the school in various
areas. Eventually, we hope that it will afford greater funding and
security for the school.
Among the organizational implications for the
school are that teachers are now fully employed and paid by the
State. This gives them greater job security. On the other
hand, not all of the teachers have proper certification. Although
this is not acceptable to the Education Ministry, it has agreed to a
transition period in which the teachers will go about obtaining
certification. For this purpose, it is willing to assist them in
the completion of the required courses.
The fact that some of the staff must take time
off during their teaching schedule to take enrichment courses presents
an organizational difficulty for the school, despite the longer-term
benefits. It also means that the staff is not free to study
material that is more central to the challenges of a bilingual,
binational educational system. The teachers benefit from the
assistance they receive in completing their certification requirements
but in the short term, this also results in a salary reduction until
their certification is complete.
Another consequence of the change in status is
that the management staff must spend time in meeting with officials and
clerks of the Education Ministry, in order that the school will receive
all of the financial benefits that are due to it. State money is
available for various items, but is not given automatically without
filing applications and requests. One example is the assistance
for the tuition fees of teachers studying in order to achieve their
certification. Another is the funding for construction of a new
school building (about which, more below).
One of the more intractable problems may prove to
be funding for transportation of the pupils. The state guarantees
transportation only for pupils from the same regional council. The
problem is that only a small percentage of the pupils come from our own
Mateh Yehuda Regional Council. The majority comes from other
councils, and the law does not require such local councils to pay
transportation fees to schools outside the area of their own
council. This year, the State agreed to continue funding for
transportation as before, but what will happen later is unsure.
One area of possible state funding for which we
hope to benefit is the construction of a new school building. The
Ministry has expressed willingness to consider funding for the
construction, however we first need to complete a process whereby the
land for the new building will be requisitioned by the State into its
ownership. We are currently working on this issue with the
Regional Council, with the hope of making a quick application to the
Ministry, in order to be considered for its 2001 budget.
Besides the other current challenges, the School
has had to contend with difficulties arising from the events shaking the
region since the end of September. These have produced tensions
among the students and staff, as well as worries among the
parents. The staff considered together how to approach the
situation in the classroom, and found various ways of allowing the
pupils to express their feelings and concerns. Many told stories
and related their impressions of what they were experiencing or had been
hearing from adults and the news, and were therefore able to process
their experience without undue difficulty. The success of this
approach gave us confidence that the school was able to deal with the
situation as a whole. At play, the children often can be seen
enacting the scenes they see on television. They build “road
blocks” and throw pinecones at each other. But when they split
into groups it will be boys against girls, and one class against
another, rather than Jews against Arabs. In general, the level of
violence is quite low at the school.
The staff too experienced tension. One Arab
teacher who lives in West Jerusalem returned home one day to find her
windows broken and appeared at the school badly shaken. She told
the staff that they were not sufficiently sensitive to the
situation. Meetings between teachers have continued during this
period, and once every two weeks they meet with a professional
facilitator, Dr. Israel Katz.
Reactions from parents were initially
characterized by worry over the well-being and security of their
children. In spite of such worries, not a single child has been
withdrawn from the school. One parent, with a child in the NSWAS
School and an older child in another school, told how the younger child
seemed to express more awareness towards the situation than the older
The management has organized meetings for
parents, to be facilitated by Dr. Ariella Bairey-Ben Yishai and Dr.
Marwan Darwish. At first, uninational meetings are taking place,
to be followed by binational meetings.
The School is to continue as an Experimental
School until the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year. During this
period it is committed to work on curriculum development and to produce
a book for the benefit of educators. We have the goal of
transforming the school also into an institution that will allow teacher
training in the field of bi-national education. To advance the
school towards these objectives, we have regular meetings with an
employee of the Education Ministry. A small team from the school
also sits with an Education Ministry consultant on the subject of values
education, in order to work on syllabi dealing with the subjects of
identity, peace and equality. In addition, staff from the NSWAS
School are invited to the steering committee of a Van Leer Institute
project which is working to crystallize approaches by the Education
Ministry to the current conflict.
Several persons are currently doing research on
the school. One is a staff member, Bob Mark, who is doing research
for his Masters Degree on education at the Hebrew University.
Another is Prof. Ruth Gabizon, who has done research on school together
with an assistant. She has submitted a draft of her findings to
the school for comment. Her research dealt with divisiveness
within Israeli society and the subject of equality. She considered
whether in Israel, unlike other places in the world that struggle with
minority-majority issues, it may be necessary for the two peoples to
work upon such issues separately, due to the intensity of the national
conflict. Her conclusion, on the basis of witnessing the work at
the school, was that there was a basis for cooperative work, and that
the NSWAS School provided an important model for this.
The time invested by the management in dealing
with government bureaucracy (to obtain funding), with the media (who
have visited the school recently in great numbers), with teachers and
parents on the difficult political situation, and with researchers and
consultants, is that there is often less time to supervise and manage
the daily workings of the school. This is an area of equal or
greater importance, since it directly influences the professional level
of teaching, the attainment of pupils and the satisfaction of
parents. We constantly face the challenge of needing to work in
several directions at the same time and often are required to make
difficult decisions on where it is more important to put our efforts.