We were recently informed that the Ministry of Education implemented a welcome initiative to reduce gaps in education and launched a new educational portal that provides free online tutoring for core subjects. But the ministry forgot about a quarter of the students and pupils in Israel — Arab students. Development of the entire site required the investment of a great deal of resources, and is somehow solely in Hebrew.
As with similar cases of discrimination, we appealed to the Ministry of Education to file a complaint about violation of the right to equality and the right to education, and demanded that the portal be adapted for Arab students. But how can we ensure that this disregard does not continue to recur, time and again? How can a new generation of decision makers be educated so that an entire population won't go under their radar?
In our view, educators must be exposed to training and supplemental education in order to obtain tools for addressing racism in the classroom. We have already offered teacher trainings in practice, and uphold that supplemental education about the struggle against racism is vital for all educators. The state comptroller agreed with us, and in a 2016 report found that only 1% of teacher trainings addressed racism, among other shortcomings on behalf of the state in contending with this complex issue.
One of the most important audiences to work with in this context are students of education and instruction. Over the past three years, we have been teaching a full semester course on "Education against Racism" taught by Dr. Roi Silberberg, our moderator. In the coming semester, Juhaina Sefi, another moderator of ours, will conduct a similar course for the Faculty of Education at Tel Aviv University. In light of the course's success and with an understanding of the situation on the ground, we appealed to the Council for Higher Education and the Ariav Planning Committee to propose that an educational course on coping with racism be mandatory for all students in Israel.
The following is some of the feedback we received: "The course was interesting, sometimes rattling, and it was worth it"; "The most important tool I took from the course was dialogue"; "The course must be compulsory for every student of education"; "The existence of articles in Hebrew and Arabic is not self-evident, it gave me a sense of belonging"; "I was exposed to racism for the first time in the study materials, it opened my mind"; "Now I have another eye through which to see the students."
The content of the courses is only part of the story. Equally important is that teacher training institutions promote an atmosphere of equality, recognition, intercultural dialogue, a genuine encounter between Jews and Arabs, and an equal and respectable public space. We recently published a document written by Dr. Wurud Jayusi and Dr. Galia Zalmanson-Levy, which contains a variety of recommendations and ideas for programs and initiatives to promote multiculturalism and coexistence in teacher training colleges, which may be implemented and expanded rapidly.
Institutions of higher education, especially teacher training colleges, can and should play an important role in creating social change, in hopes that graduates will be agents of change within the educational systems into which they integrate, and help develop a more egalitarian society.
ACRI Education Department Director