In Reversal, Israel Lets High School Students Submit Research Proposals in Arabic

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A Hebrew class in the northern village of Sallama in February 2020
A Hebrew class in the northern village of Sallama in February 2020Credit: Rami Shllush

The Education Ministry announced on Tuesday that students in Arabic-language high schools writing a final paper as part of their matriculation exams may submit research proposals for final papers in Arabic, rather than in Hebrew only, starting in the 2021-22 school year.

The change in policy was announced in the wake of a Haaretz report in January that such proposals needed to be submitted in Hebrew, even though the papers themselves could be written in Arabic. The proposal accounts for a significant proportion of the grade given to the project as a whole.

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In a written response sent on Tuesday to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which had contacted the Education Ministry following the Haaretz report, the ministry's legal adviser said it will train people to evaluate the research proposals submitted in Arabic.

A final paper is equivalent to a 5-point matriculation exam and can be written in a variety of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, exact sciences and life sciences.

Of 1,222 final papers submitted in the 2019-20 school year, 342 were written by Arabic-speaking students, including 22 Bedouin and seven Druze students.

Education Ministry documents describe the final paper as a unique project that enables outstanding students to learn in a meaningful way and to develop high-level academic skills, calling it a “lighthouse for meaningful learning.”

The preparation of the paper is based on the principles of authentic learning, in that it enables independent handling of an in-depth and challenging learning task and engaging in an issue that goes beyond what is studied in school and in the curriculum and the testing.

In preparing the paper the student relies on up-to-date scientific knowledge, and scientific research and work methods. This is done with the accompaniment and guidance of researchers and scientists.

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