Arab citizens of Israel comprise approximately 20% of the population in Israel, and 25% of the country’s school students. Throughout their schooling, from elementary to high school, Arab and Jewish students primarily attend separate schools. The education system in Israel is a centralized system administered through the Ministry of Education. Among the main responsibilities of the Ministry of Education are the development of curricula, the supervision of teachers, and the construction of school buildings. Local municipalities are primarily responsible for the maintenance of school buildings and their equipment. For the academic year 2000-2001, the government invested a total of NIS 534 per student on average for Palestinians, compared with NIS 1,779 per Jewish student.
While Thousands of Classrooms are Needed, the State Builds Only Dozens Each Year
- The accumulated shortage of classrooms in the Arab education system is estimated at 5,000:
- 2,000 classrooms are needed in schools (the Ministry of Education recognizes only 1,650);
- 2,000 classrooms are needed for kindergardens; and
- 900 classrooms are needed in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev)
- Rented Classrooms: hundreds of millions of shekels (NIS) are spent each year on renting classrooms. Although the cost of each hired classroom is NIS 30,000 per year, the Ministry of Education allocates only NIS 8,600 per classroom per years. As a result, every hired classroom creates a deficit of over NIS 20,000 in the education budget of each Arab local authority (many of which are on the verge of financial collapse).
- In 2005, the Ministry of Education and the state lottery built only 180 classrooms in Arab towns and villages.
- Since 2000, fewer than 200 classrooms on average were built per year in the Arab education system. This rate of construction even fails to meet the natural rate of population growth.
- According to the Ministry of Education, 40% of its building budget will be allocated to Arab municipals in 2006. However, the Ministry neglected to disclose that this budget supports the building of merely a few dozen classrooms, thereby once more disregarding the needs of the Arab education system.
- A significant number of Arab schools are operating under sub-standard physical conditions, including safety and health-related hazards, which cause accidents and pose a real threat to pupils’ lives. In our estimation, there are currently around 2,000 hired classrooms and regular classrooms which are not suitable for learning in the Arab education system.
- A detailed and budgeted governmental plan, with a precise time schedule, which aims at addressing the deficit in the Arab education system in terms of classroom construction, for the building of 5,000 classrooms.
- The adoption of a policy of prioritization in a budget for construction based on needs.
- The immediate allocation of NIS 60 million to eradicate safety and health hazards in Arab schools.
- In the absence of adequate work on classroom construction, the Ministry of Education must finance the entire cost of hiring classrooms (NIS 30,000 per year per classroom).
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