PositionEducation opportunities and mobility for Arabs in Israel

Education plays an important role in shaping the mobility patterns of individuals and groups. For minority groups, which lack access to some of the mobility paths that are available to the dominant group, the education system may serve as an extremely important avenue of mobility.

After the 1948 war, the Palestinian minority in Israel had no access to mobility paths such as military service, civil-service jobs, and industrial development. In contrast, the education system was essentially universalist by virtue of two education laws -- the Compulsory Education Law of 1949 and the State Education Law of 1953 -- and, therefore, could be viewed as a potential conduit to mobility for all under equal terms.

However, for some time, it has been patently clear that the Israeli education system falls far short of serving as a viable channel of mobility for Arab youngsters.

The education system in the Arab communities of Israel has undoubtedly improved since 1948. especially over the past decade: this improvement is part of a general improvement in the circumstances of the country's Palestinian minority. However, if we view education as a major means of socioeconomic mobility in modern society and contemplate the system from a comparative point of view, we find that Arab education still lags far behind Jewish education. One of the major parameters of the performance of the Israeli education system, as a whole and within specific sectors, is the percentage of students within the relevant age group who pass the matriculation exams. A matriculation certificate is a passport to university, attendance at which is deemed to be proof of social mobility. The following table shows the percentage of matriculates in the Arab and Jewish sectors.

As the above table shows, the matriculation rate is much lower in the Arab sector than in the Jewish sector. Moreover, Arab students also evince high dropout rates before twelfth grade. In the 1992/93 school year, the average enrollment rate of the 14-17 age cohort was 93 percent in Jewish localities and only 70 percent in Arab localities. (2)

The Arab education system succeeds in leading only 44 percent of the twelfth-grade age cohort to twelfth grade. Of those who make it, only 33 percent, or one-seventh of the age group, pass the matriculation exams. In 1993/94, 53,245 Jewish students took the exams and 31,404 (59 percent) passed: in the Arab sector, 7,402 students took the exams and only 2.992 (40 percent) passed. (3)

Furthermore, many of those who passed the matriculation exams hold certificates that do not admit them to university, either because the number of units they took in the main subjects -- mathematics. English and Hebrew language -- did not meet the universities' requirements, or because their scores in these subjects, due to poor teaching, were inferior to those of their Jewish peers. In 1993/94, only 5.3 percent of 85,000 university students were Arab. (4)

Finally, many of those who matriculated and are attending universities graduated from a small number of schools affiliated with Christian orders, such as St. Joseph and the American School in Nazareth the Orthodox School in Haifa, Mar Elias School in I'billin, and the Christian Galilee Gymnasium in Eilabun.

The Study

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