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.

 

The Political Situation

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 child.

 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.

Research and Development

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.


Basic Education

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.

 

(Report prepared by Howard Shippin on basis of interviews with Boaz Kita'in, Diana Shalufi and Maisoon Karaman. Feb 2, 2001)