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

Tali Tadmor-Shimony

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.

Article

Schooling and Equity in Israel  

Yariv Feniger, Yossi Shavit, and Shir Caller

Education in Israel is compulsory and free, from the age of three to the end of secondary school (12th grade). Compulsory education culminates in matriculation examinations that serve as the main criterion for enrollment in higher education. Although Israel is geographically small, and ethnic and religious subpopulations live in close proximity to one another, they are highly segregated both residentially and in schools. The Jewish and Arab school sectors are almost completely separate. Most Arab students study in Arab state schools, where the language of instruction is Arabic and the staff are Arab. Jewish students study in state, state religious, or independent ultra-Orthodox schools. The high degree of economic inequality in Israel is reflected in educational inequality, which is the highest among the countries participating in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Inequalities between social strata are affected in part by the economic circumstances of families in early childhood. Inequality in educational achievement is particularly evident between Jews and Arabs but it is also prominent within each of these two societies. The public educational system is centralized and curricula are standardized, but religious Jewish groups enjoy considerable organizational and curricular autonomy. Arab state schools, in contrast, do not enjoy similar autonomy. Rapid expansion of higher education has contributed to a dramatic increase in graduation rates in all social categories but large gaps remain, especially along ethnoreligious lines, in graduation rates, fields of study, and quality of institutions attended.