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date: 18 April 2024

Immigrant Teachers in Israel as Newcomers and Educators (1949–1966)locked

Immigrant Teachers in Israel as Newcomers and Educators (1949–1966)locked

  • Tali Tadmor-ShimonyTali Tadmor-ShimonyResearch Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Summary

Most research on education and the migration question assumes that schools function as the social agents of the host society. Teachers are supposed to disseminate their society’s dominant norms to influence future generations. Ever since the implementation of compulsory education laws, teachers have been asked to function as social agents of two major processes: nation-building and the integration of new immigrants. An interesting situation arises when the teachers are newcomers, as was the case during the nearly two decades of compulsory education law in Israel (1949–1966). Immigrant teachers comprised more than a fifth of the teachers during the 1950s. They worked in an educational system where over two-fifths of the students were immigrants who had arrived during the mass migration. Due to the need to address the shortage of teachers, the Ministry of Education lowered the professional standards and employed a lower proportion of certified teachers. The teachers’ training program was drastically shortened, and its level of standards was reduced to crash courses, which the Ministry of Education initiated in the early 1950s, as it was necessary to recruit many teachers in a short time.

The entry of immigrants into the ranks of teachers slowed down the process of feminization in primary education for a few years because the male share among the immigrant teachers was almost twice that of old-time teachers already there. The teaching profession assisted the immigrants in improving their economic status compared to their immigrant colleagues. The immigrant teachers were placed in a unique situation. On the one hand, they were newcomers who struggled with the difficulties of integration, while on the other hand, they were supposed to serve—as did their colleagues—as representatives of the state.

Many studies have shown the cultural conflict between society and immigrant students through the curricula. In the Israeli case, some of the immigrant teachers shared this conflict too. The immigrant teachers had to deal with the experiences of immigrating, just like other immigrants, while teaching in a language that was not their mother tongue, as many were not fluent in Hebrew. The lack of social workers and consultants resulted in many immigrant teachers working as social workers. These teachers had to impart knowledge and provide support for their students’ families. One way to understand the immigrant teachers’ activities is by applying the analytical tool of teacher empowerment. This empowerment, the appreciation of their functioning by their surroundings, in some way compensated for their difficulties. The research argues that the teaching profession was a key element in the social mobility of immigrant teachers and enabled them to become a part of the host society.

Subjects

  • Educational History

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