Plan to Hire More Arab Teachers Falls Far Short

Education Ministry’s goal at this point was 250 new hires; only 50 found.

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Arab high school students in Israel lag behind their Jewish peers.
Arab high school students in Israel lag behind their Jewish peers.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

A plan to bring 500 Arab teachers into the school system in five years has fallen far short of its goal. The plan, which Education Minister Shay Piron has touted as a flagship program for the ministry, has so far hired only about 50 Arab teachers of core subjects (math, English and the sciences) over the past two years.

Despite repeated requests, the ministry failed to provide precise numbers of teachers the program has hired. According to information obtained by Haaretz, only 10 Arab teachers were hired this year for the core subjects. Education Ministry personnel initially confirmed that number, but other officials subsequently claimed that 27 teachers had been hired this year. In any case, if the five-year goal is 500 teachers, 250 teachers should have been hired by now.

According to one of the officials implementing the program, the particularly low number of Arab teachers hired in Jewish schools stemmed from the Education Ministry’s difficulty in marketing the program, especially in light of the summer’s fighting in Gaza and from the many manifestations of racism toward Arabs in Israel.

“When the ministry saw what was happening this summer, it did not really try to market the program and place Arab teachers. Instead of fighting against the public atmosphere, it accepted it and waited for the storm to pass. So as not to anger anyone, they did not continue to try to place more Arab teachers,” said the official.

Nevertheless, when the ministry realized the program was not going forward, it took steps to give schools an incentive to hire Arab teachers. The ministry allocated approximately 2 million shekels ($570,000) so that every school hiring an Arab teacher for core subjects will receive eight more classroom hours. A position of adviser was also added in every district to assist the teachers and promote the program in the districts.

Originally, the program was to have helped provide jobs for some 10,000 Arab college graduates who are trained teachers but have not been hired as such, while helping fill the great need for teachers in the Jewish schools, especially in math, English and the sciences.

The program came under fire last year when it became clear the ministry would not propose to state religious schools that they hire Arab teachers. An official involved in the program told Haaretz at the time that the ministry never intended to bring the program to the state religious schools because it was “too complex.” This offical also said Piron was concerned that “incorporating Arabs in the religious school system could end in failure, which would paint the entire program as a failure.”

Dedi Komem, director of educational initiatives at the Abraham Fund, which operates an elementary school curriculum taught by Arab teachers in Arabic, said: “In our experience, incorporating Arab teachers in Jewish schools (and vice versa) is an important and effective step in promoting coexistence in a reality of separate education systems. We welcome the Education Ministry’s work in this direction and hope it succeeds, despite the difficult time in Jewish-Arab relations after this past summer.”

The Education Ministry responded that it “attributed great importance to incorporating Arab teachers in the Jewish school system and the ministry would continue to work to expand the circle and allocate the necessary funding. So far, the ministry has hired approximately 50 teachers, with 25 more now in the process of being hired.”

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