Only a third of junior high schools in Israel teach geography for two hours a week over the course of three years, as the Education Ministry requires. A third of the schools don't teach the subject at all, while the remaining third teaches the subject to a lesser extent. The average score on the national standardized final exam in the subject, which is taken by roughly 7,000 students annually, is not particularly high. Last year, the average score was 71 out of 100.
Education Ministry officials in charge of the subject are convinced the only way to make geography relevant and strengthen the subject's standing is to add current issues to the lessons - for instance, by marking the Green Line in school textbooks and on maps.
The issue of the Green Line, as well as the general issue of Israel's borders, is currently addressed in geography classes in a limited manner. "In the junior high schools and high schools, the existing curriculum addresses the issue primarily in relation to the historical changes in Israel's borders," said the Education Ministry's supervisor-coordinator for geography studies, Dalia Panig. "The Green Line is not debated, but [the classes] generally limit themselves to a historical survey."
A new curriculum for 10-12th graders, which addresses the Green Line much more extensively, is set to be introduced in the next school year. In the new curriculum, students will discuss "the factors in the delineation of Israel's borders," including the 1967 Six-Day War, as well as "different approaches for delineating final borders." The curriculum will present three primary approaches: a return to the 1967 boundaries, preservation of "Greater Israel" and various proposals for border adjustments and compromise. The students will be expected to recognize and understand the "different approaches for defining the borders of the Land of Israel and the State of Israel."
"When I teach about the Green Line, I try not to anger anyone," said a geography teacher from northern Israel. "This is a very charged subject among the students. The best way is to stick to the facts, even at the price of having a 'dry' lesson. Nobody would like to get in trouble."
The new Education Ministry policy, it would seem, is slightly different. "The question of borders will become an issue that is debated in the classroom," said Panig. "The education system should not bury its head in the sand. There is a constant debate in Israeli society regarding the different approaches to determining the borders, and there is no reason it shouldn't take place in the classroom. It is unacceptable that a student should hear terms like 'the Green Line' and not recognize them.
"The objective is to have a discussion that will accommodate differing opinions: The teacher will use the map that is acceptable to the most right-wing elements, along with the pre-1967 map and compromise proposals," said Panig. "This is also the way to teach the students tolerance and to accept other opinions."
The Education Ministry began formulating the new curriculum under the former education minister, Likud MK Limor Livnat, and the former Education Ministry director general, Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh. Tirosh harshly criticized Tamir yesterday, saying her decision was political and overstepped her authority.
However, during Tirosh's tenure the ministry intervened on the issue in a far more direct manner, forcing the Center for Educational Technology to remove a map that contained the Green Line from one of its textbooks. Education Ministry sources confirmed the incident, saying textbooks are obligated to use official maps.
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