In the Israeli education system, there is a large gap between the number of matriculation study tracks in the performing arts (music, theater, and visual arts) in Arab high schools compared to Jewish high schools. Before Merchavim’s establishment of the Arts Matriculation Pilot Program for Arab high schools in 2017, a collaborative initiative with The Morningstar Foundation, prestigious arts programs existed almost exclusively in Jewish schools. Opportunities that do exist are found in socioeconomically strong Arab regional councils/cities and are offered at a considerable expense to parents. In comparison, there are hundreds of these programs in Jewish schools (approx. 130 music matriculation programs).
While this situation has complex causes, its effect is deeply corrosive. It fuels feelings of alienation and marginalization and reduces the ability of young Israeli Arab citizens to integrate and contribute to society. Under-resourced/funded Arab schools find it a real struggle to establish arts studies, and many schools are unable to meet the Ministry of Education’s core curriculum requirements.
We facilitate this program to provide an institutionalized opportunity for artistically gifted Israeli Arab youth to study towards matriculation exams in the arts formally and to act as a bridge between Arab and Jewish students. Arab/Jewish student program encounters provide a safe and nurturing space for exploration, artistic exchange, and a joint creative process from which more profound respect for one another matures. Through their participation, students change their perceptions of the ‘other’ and by this tighten the fabric of civil society. This study program is an opportunity to foster the talents of Arab students who will become the next generation of contemporary artists enriching the Israeli art scene.
Arts study makes a significant contribution to students’ overall development, academic successes, and makes an impact that is carried over to adult life. Students who participate in arts learning experiences improve their achievement in other realms of learning and growth and it makes a significant contribution to helping all students achieve success in school, work, and life. Every Israeli student should have access to this opportunity.
Merchavim partners with the Ministry of Education (MOE), and the MOE’s Headquarters for Civic Education and Co-existence, to provide Israeli Arab schools (Arabs, Druze, and Bedouin), paired with Jewish schools, a unique arts curriculum and shared society encounter program based on Merchavim’s shared citizenship paradigm.
An integral part of the establishment of these art programs is the shared society element of the program in which the participating Arab schools are matched with Jewish schools with art study tracks (nearby) for joint learning opportunities and shared society engagement. These encounters provide an excellent solution to the institutionalized separation between school systems based on language and national identity and create opportunities for youth to meet and interact.
Over the school year, four reciprocal day-long school visits build familiarity between the matched Arab/Jewish student groups and their teachers. There are also two, day-long meet-ups for all the program participants during which students attend art-focused workshops and take part in shared society exercises. There is one annual culminating event (exhibit, performance, etc.) for each of the paired schools. Through these encounters, the students develop a common artistic language and personal relationships with their counterparts, and by this strengthen mutual respect for diversity while contributing to changing perceptions among all the youth, school communities, and the broader community about the ‘other.’
In addition to the smooth running of this program, an essential program-related advancement was the MOE support of our establishment of a team of music professionals to work on the revision of the existing music curriculum and matriculation exam to reflect Arabic musical heritage. The new study materials are to be presented to the MOE in late Aug. 2020 for approval and will be used by senior Arab high school students for the very first time over the 2020- 2021 school year. These materials will also enrich Jewish students during their joint meet-ups. A culturally appropriate exam and curriculum is a big step towards the institutionalization of the “Promoting Diversity in Israel’s Formal Educational System Through Performing Arts” program in Arab schools and at the MOE.
Arab Musical Heritage
We see writing such a program as essential to the recruiting of new Arab schools to the program as school principals will understand the requirement for opening a music matriculation study program. The curriculum will emphasize Arabic music in all its nuances and will also address the different identities that exist between Arabic speakers in the country, Druze, Bedouin, Arab, and Christian.
Watch a program video here.