No Jobs for Thousands of Arab Teachers in Israel, Official Figures Reveal

Not enough teaching spots are available in the Arab education system to employ all the qualified teachers, and skills did not match up for employment in Jewish schools, the Education Ministry says

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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A bilingual school in Jaffa, January 22, 2018
A bilingual school in Jaffa, January 22, 2018Credit: Mikaela Burstow
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

Thousands of Arab teachers who sought jobs in the education system were turned away this year, according to Education Ministry figures published by the Knesset research center on Sunday. Out of approximately 9,400 qualified teachers, only 2,400 were hired by the Education Ministry, mainly because of a lack of teaching positions in the Arab school system. Attempts to employ Arab teachers in the Jewish school system, according to the figures, failed because the areas of Arab teachers’ expertise were not those needed in the Jewish schools.

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The oversupply of qualified Arab teachers has grown in recent years. A decade ago, 38 percent of Arab teachers who sought jobs in the Arab education system were hired, as opposed to this year, when less than 25 percent found jobs. The government has tried in recent years to reduce the number of Arabs seeking teaching certificates by tightening entrance criteria into teacher-training programs, and the Education Ministry is trying to promote the hiring of Arab teachers in the Jewish state-secular public schools. This year, there are about 1,000 Arabs teaching in Jewish schools – which represents about 100 more Arab teachers hired per year in Jewish schools.

The most common specialties of Arabs seeking teaching jobs are history, religious studies, Islamic culture, literature and physical education – but the Jewish system needs English, math, science, grammar and technology teachers.

According to the Knesset report, commissioned by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), the Education Ministry has been unable to reduce the number of Arab teachers by raising entrance to teacher-training programs because of the “inability to apply separate measures for the Arab and the Jewish society and in light of the lack of teachers in the Jewish sector specifically.” Nevertheless, last year it was agreed to raise the acceptance standards for Arabs in teacher-training programs by means of tools like language proficiency. However, at the moment the implications of this move are unclear, because the students now in the programs have not yet attempted to enter the workforce.

Unlike other education systems, where a teacher undergoes an interview with the school principal before being hired, in the Arab education system the Education Ministry places teachers in jobs according to their place on a waiting list. The place on the list is determined by a point system based on various criteria – marital status, years of teaching, academic achievements and graders on internal exams. When a teacher is needed in a specific subject in an Arab school, the teacher hired is the one who scored highest among all the suitable candidates. Last summer, following a decline in achievements of Arab students in the international PISA exams, the Education Ministry decided to add to the criteria the results of a candidate’s testing at an assessment center. The ministry used this method to fend off complaints that irrelevant reasons were brought to bear in hiring candidates.