Arab Teacher Integration in Jewish Schools
Arab Teacher Integration in Jewish Schools (ATI)
The Arab Teacher Integration in Jewish Schools program (ATI) is a collaborative initiative between the Ministry of Education (MOE) – Teaching Workers’ Administration, The Ministry of Social Equality, and The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Since 2014 over 500 Arab teachers have been directly placed in Jewish school by the ATI program and through the ripple effect hundreds more have found placements bringing the total number of Arab teachers in Jewish schools to just over 1000 (among ATI placements, 88% of integrated Arab teachers are women).
In 2014 the Ministry of Education (MOE) established a joint initiative with Merchavim to increase the placement of Arab teachers of core subjects (English, math, and science) in Jewish Schools as they were experiencing a lack of Jewish teachers for these positions. The program was designed to be a five-year plan to place 500 Arab teachers. As we have successfully reached this goal, the program is now open-ended. The parameters of the joint initiative include annual funding provided directly to Merchavim to facilitate an all-encompassing program to place Arab teachers; direct financing to participating schools, funding allocated to schools represents ‘teaching hours’ and subsidizing part of the teacher’s salary. The program has since grown to include Arab teachers of all study subjects (excluding Special Ed.).
While the MOE recognizes the societal impact of Arab teacher integration, a more significant contributing factor to supporting and funding Merchavim’s ATI program is the severe shortage of core subject teachers in Jewish schools and an ever-growing surplus of Arab educators who are unemployed/underemployed or who are working in fields other than education (Yes, We Can! Palestinian-Israeli Teachers in Jewish-Israeli Schools, Wurud and Bekerman, 2019, Journal of Teacher Education). The placement of Arab teachers in Jewish schools provides part of the solution to the teacher shortage, it provides employment, and it serves to increase respect for diversity by creating opportunities for engagement with the ‘other.’
Goals and Objectives
Our goal is to create greater diversity among teaching teams in all Israeli schools. Our long-term objective is to ensure the full and successful implementation of the MOE integration plan for Arab teachers in Jewish schools. Our work has a significant impact on entrenching a diverse teacher integration policy and ensuring its implementation at the Ministry of Education.
While the MOE leads the program and remains deeply involved in every aspect, Merchavim provides the professional input and resources for project implementation and management. This translates into leading the process of recruiting candidates, advancing them along the placement process, and recruiting new participating schools, as well as even greater involvement in policy discussions, teacher training, and support. One of the components of this role has been the development of the “Integration Manual,” which highlights best practices in teacher integration, is published in Hebrew and Arabic, and is disseminated to integrated teachers, school principals, educational professionals, and other stakeholders. See here in Hebrew and in Arabic.
Getting to Know the Other
ATI provides an opportunity for Jewish and Arab citizens to get to know and learn about each other. The Israeli school system is separated for secular Jews, orthodox Jews, Muslim Arabs, and Christian Arabs. As a result, it is rare for Jewish students and teachers to come into sustained and substantial contact with Arab citizens. Lack of both knowledge and familiarity is a fertile breeding ground for fear and suspicion, undermining the civic fabric and threatening democracy. According to research conducted by Merchavim, 80% of Israeli Jews believe the Arab-Jewish cleavage threatens the country’s very existence and more than half view it as a serious existential threat (Public Opinion Research for Kulanana Initiative, February – March 2010, Research designed, conducted and analyzed by Dahlia Scheindlin). The majority of Israeli Jews fear the Arab minority, and among young Jews (ages 16-29), two-thirds fear their Arab fellow citizens.
Young people, until actually building a relationship with an Arab citizen, intuitively revert to stereotypes and preconceived ideas they have cultivated from subliminal or supraliminal messages received during their lifetimes about Arab citizens (Personal, National and Societal Attitudes of Israeli Youth, Nathanson and Gazala, 2016, The 4th Youth Study of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Kupermintz et al., 2007). Creating opportunities for Jewish students to meet Arab citizens in their schools and as authority figures standing in front of their classes is an excellent way to facilitate this introduction and begin the work of negating stereotypes. The placement of an Arab citizen to a teaching role in which they are an authority figure, a role model, and an educator creates an exceptional opportunity to convey the values of shared citizenship and respect for diversity. It establishes a foundation for improving inter-group relations within Israeli society.
Fostering a Shared Society
Jewish students, the entire school staff and administration, parents, and community are positively impacted by the presence of Arab teachers in their schools. Merchavim’s evaluation study (Even and Lavon-Gilat, 2017) on the impact of Arab teachers of Arabic language in Jewish schools (in Merchavim’s Let’s Talk program), found that students formed more positive attitudes towards Arab citizens after participating in the program. “Studies conducted by social organizations promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence have found that integration of Arab teachers in Jewish schools was followed by a decrease in alienation between the populations, higher satisfaction, and have even suggested that a shift in social consciousness has occurred”
. Arab teacher integration is an effective tool and strategy for fostering respect for diversity among majority group students (Jewish) and school communities. Teacher integration also contributes to strengthening social cohesion in Israel. Additionally, minority group teacher integration contributes to the empowerment and increased self-esteem of the integrated teachers. These teachers also become visible role models for other girls/women in their family and their community circles (among ATI placements, 88% of integrated Arab teachers are women).
Watch a clip on the program here.
Read research on teacher placement and integration here.