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While there are many qualified and dedicated teachers in the Arab school system, teachers in Jewish schools have, on average, a higher level of education and more years of teaching experience. This is attributable in part to the fact that Palestinian Arab teachers have had fewer opportunities to obtain academic credentials: a self-perpetuating cycle, discrimination against one generation produces less well-trained teachers in the next. Moreover, Arab teacher training colleges were accredited to provide academic degrees only in the last five years, and the Education Ministry provides more in-service training to Jewish than to Palestinian Arab teachers. International law specifically prohibits discrimination in "training for the teaching profession."95

Teachers' wages are determined both by their teaching experience and their level of education.96 Because teachers in Jewish schools have, on average, a higher level of education and more years of experience, they are, on average, paid more than teachers in Arab schools.97 Thus less money in the form of teacher salaries flows to Arab schools. 


Individuals may become certified teachers either by attending a university or a teachers' training college, or by being certified as "qualified" without a formal degree by Education Ministry officials. Not all teachers, however, are certified, and there is a separate salary grade for uncertified teachers.98

Teacher training colleges award certifications and, in some cases, academic degrees. In 1990-2000, there were forty Jewish teacher training colleges and three Arab teacher training colleges, with only two Arab teacher training colleges accredited to award an academic degree (B.Ed.).99 Some Jewish teacher training colleges reportedly exclude Palestinian Arab students. For example, the Ohalo College of Education and Sports in Katsrin only allows non-Jews to study physical education, excluding them from studying kindergarten or primary education. "The Arab College in Haifa does not offer a course in physical education and therefore we are obliged to accept the non-Jewish students for this path of studies," Hagit Harel, the head of student administration, told a journalist. Although Harel stated that the policy was based on a directive from the Ministry of Education, the ministry denied that it had issued such an order.100

There is evidence that the quality of education at Jewish teacher training colleges is higher than at Arab ones. On average, the Jewish colleges were smaller and had the equivalent of more full-time teachers per student than the Arab colleges.101 In addition, some Palestinian Arab instructors complained that the level of teaching in programs for Palestinian Arabs is lower. "Jewish programs are more like university, and we are more like high school," an instructor at Haifa Arab Teachers' College told us.102 "The problem begins with teacher training," said a former instructor at a program for Bedouin at a Jewish teachers' college. "They treat students like they are in secondary school. Notes were sent to the women's parents about dress and modesty."103

In 1997-1998, a lower proportion of teachers in Arab schools than in Jewish schools had academic degrees, a higher proportion were rated only as "qualified," and a higher proportion were rated "not qualified."

Table 17: Teacher Qualifications: Primary, Intermediate, and Secondary Schools 1997-1998
Jewish schools
Arab schools
Teachers with an academic degree (B.A., M.A., or Ph.D.)
Teachers rated "qualified"
Teachers rated "not qualified"

Source: CBS, Statistical Abstract of Israel 2000, no. 51, table 22.28.

Thus, 59.5 percent of teachers in Jewish primary and secondary schools had a degree of B.A., M.A. or Ph.D., compared with 39.7 percent in Arab schools. In Jewish schools, 4.1 percent of teachers were on the "not qualified" salary grade, compared with 7.9 percent in Arab schools. The discrepancy was worst at the lower grade levels. The majority of "not qualified" teachers were primary teachers: 6.3 percent of primary teachers in Jewish schools fell into this category, compared with 10.7 percent of teachers in the Arab system.104 In a 1993 survey of 121 Arab preschool programs in ten localities, the nongovernmental organization Shatil found that "40.1% of the teachers had no structured and defined training. Some studied in courses organized by the program operator or by a local institution. Some had no training at all. . . . Only 3.4% of the teachers employed in pre-school programs which were surveyed were graduates of accredited institutions."105 Also, the lack of preschool teacher training programs in the Arab sector acts as a barrier to preschools obtaining a license.

Human Rights Watch visited an Arab primary school in Um El-Fahm with twenty-six teachers, including six half-time teachers and the principal, who also taught. Of these, four had university degrees, three were still studying at the university, and the rest had attended a teachers' training college.106 In Haifa, we interviewed a kindergarten teacher who told us she was "certified through experience."107

In-Service Training

The Ministry of Education provides less in-service training to teachers in Arab schools than to teachers in Jewish schools. In a survey of 404 Arab primary and intermediate schools and 1,467 Jewish primary and intermediate schools, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics found that the following "programs to improve teaching" were offered in schools at the following rates:

Table 18: Programs to Improve Teaching: Primary and Intermediate Schools 1994-1995108
Jewish Schools
Arab Schools
Voluntary school-based training
Preparing and administering tests to measure achievement
Other programs to improve teaching
Offered no programs at all

Source: CBS, Survey of Education and Welfare Services 1994/1995: Primary and Intermediate Schools, Hebrew and Arab Education (Jerusalem: CBS, October 1997).

Thus, Jewish schools had much higher rates of school-based in-service training, while Arab schools had somewhat higher rates of programs on preparing and administering achievement tests. Of Arab schools, 21.5 percent offered no programs at all to improve teaching, while 6.4 percent of Jewish schools had no such programs.

One reason for this difference may be that in-school programs are frequently administered at ministry officials' discretion and that their curricula are not always appropriate for Palestinian Arabs. As explained above, this results in fewer programs reaching Arab schools. Another reason is where some classes are held. Shlomo Swirski, coordinator of the Adva Center's Budget Analysis Project, explained: "in principle [the classes] are open to everyone, but fewer of the special programs get to Arab villages . . . One could argue it's not discrimination, it's geography, since most courses are in Tel Aviv and most Arab settlements are in the north or south. Outlying Jewish villages suffer from the same."109

A Palestinian Arab high school English teacher in a mixed city told us that she participated in in-service training both for Palestinian Arab teachers and for Jewish teachers. She concluded: "They have more serious lectures. The Jewish training is provided on a much higher level. Things are taken more seriously."110 Human Rights Watch also interviewed the principal of an Arab primary school in Nazareth who said that as part of an experimental program, the school had received a special budget for teacher training for the past five years that would end in 2001.111

In-service training of teachers tends to improve students' performance, according to a study published in 2001, which found that in secular primary schools in Jerusalem, an in-service training program "raised children's achievement in reading and mathematics."112


Teachers in Jewish schools had a median of 14.8 recognized years of teaching in 1997-1998, with 17.8 being the median in secondary schools. Teachers in Arab schools had a median of 10.8 recognized years, with 11.0 years being the median in secondary schools.113

Special Education

Special education teachers had the highest rate of uncertified teachers in Arab education--19 percent in 1995-1996.114 In that year, 64 percent were certified and 17 percent held academic degrees.115 A greater proportion of teachers in the Negev were uncertified. The nongovernmental organization Shatil reported in 2000 that:

Of ninety special education teachers in special education schools in Southern Arab areas, 40 or 44 percent are not certified. In the school in Kseife, eleven of twenty-eight teachers are not certified. In the school in Rahat, only three teachers gained certification. . . . Of six paramedical workers in physiotherapy or speech therapy in the Southern Arab areas, five work without certification from the Health Department. . . . Two of the speech therapists do not speak Arabic.116
The government acknowledged this gap to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2001: "Many special education teachers [for Palestinian Arab students] lack appropriate training, although their number is diminishing due to the opening of suitable frameworks of study."117

In-service training for experienced special education teachers is also lacking. Human Rights Watch visited a school for physically disabled children that conducts its own in-service training because its teachers get no additional training from the state. A teacher of blind and low-vision students explained: "If teachers specialize in special education at the university and then come here, they need more courses, for example Braille, so we do special courses here and sometimes other places for newcomers. When we hire new teachers, it stops there--the ministry doesn't give additional training--we have to train our new teachers."118 A municipal employee in the town where the school was located confirmed that there was "no budget for additional training."119 According to the principal, "it's not enough--we can't teach everyone here. This year we gave a general course about language. The teachers teach each other--there's no money to bring teachers from outside. They do it on their breaks, teach Braille for example. At the end of the day it is hard for them to stay."120

Israel's Special Education Law explicitly requires special education teachers to be qualified and to have special education training or a temporary permit from the Ministry of Education.121 Likewise, psychologists, paramedical professionals, and other non-teachers employed in special education must be qualified or licensed according to the standards of their profession.122

Negev Bedouin

While there is a surplus of Palestinian Arab teachers in northern Israel, there is a shortage of local Bedouin teachers in the southern part of the country. The Ministry of Education has addressed this problem by bringing teachers from outside the region to Bedouin schools. In 1995, only about 60 percent of teachers in Bedouin schools were Bedouin.123 Human Rights Watch visited a secondary school in a recognized Bedouin locality where half of the forty-four teachers were from outside of the Negev.124 As teachers gain more experience, they frequently return to their own communities. Accordingly, teachers in the Negev are generally more inexperienced, and the turnover rate is very high. 

The ministry recruits teachers for the south both by requiring Palestinian Arab graduates of teacher training institutions to work in Bedouin schools in the Negev for several years following graduation and by offering teachers various financial incentives. However, a recent comparative study found that "bonuses given to Jewish teachers who work in national priority development areas are almost twice as lucrative as those which go to educators who teach in Bedouin communities in the Negev."125

A high proportion of teachers in Negev Bedouin schools are uncertified: 23 percent in 1994.126 A 1993-1994 study also found that the proportion of uncertified teachers was twice as high in unrecognized as recognized localities and the proportion of teachers with academic degrees much lower.127 According to the 1998 Katz Committee Report, the number of teaching positions in the Negev is expanding at a rate faster than Bedouin teachers are being trained. The committee called for "serious intervention, and all efforts . . . starting with high school students, to identify and support potential local candidates for teacher's education."128

95 Convention against Discrimination in Education, art. 4(b), (d).

96 See Ministry of Education, "Criteria for Assigning Salary and Seniority," (accessed on June 8, 2001).

97 According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, "the grade according to which the teachers' wages are calculated is generally determined by the teacher's educational attainment and pedagogical qualification." CBS, Statistical Abstract of Israel 2000, p. (104).

98 Ministry of Education, "Criteria for Assigning Salary and Seniority."

99 The accredited Arab teachers' training colleges are Haifa Arab Teachers' College (accredited in 1996) and a program for Palestinian Arab teachers at Beit Berl Teachers' College (accredited 1998). A few Jewish teacher training colleges offer programs tailored for Palestinian Arabs. For example, Kaye College in Be'er Sheva offers a special class to train Bedouin teachers.

100 David Ratner, "College Bars Non-Jews from Education Studies," Ha'aretz Daily Newspaper (English Edition) (Israel), July 16, 2001. Harel subsequently affirmed that the Ministry of Education had issued the order and elaborated: "The directive of the Education Ministry is not new and stipulates that Arabs should study education at the Arab College because of the language and the fact they go back to teach in their own places and do not need to learn about Passover and Hanukkah with us. They learn about their heritage and things." Ibid.

101 There were 4,338 full-time equivalent teaching posts and 28,442 students at Jewish teacher training colleges in 1999-2000. In the Arab colleges there were 288 full-time equivalent posts and 2,621 students. CBS, Statistical Abstract of Israel 2000, table 22.31.

102 Human Rights Watch interview with Hala Espanioly, Haifa, December 4, 2000.

103 Human Rights Watch interview, Haifa, December 6, 2000.

104 Ibid.

105 Ghada Abu Jaber, A Survey of Early Childhood Education in the Arab Sector of Israel, ed. Hamutal De-Lima (Israel: Shatil, January 1994), pp. 21, 45.

106 Human Rights Watch interview with primary school principal, Um El-Fahm, December 6, 2000.

107 Human Rights Watch interview, Haifa, December 4, 2000.

108 It should be noted that a small number of teacher training programs-between 0 and 6.3 percent of programs, depending on the type and grade level-in both Jewish and Arab schools were primarily funded by parents. CBS, Survey of Education and Welfare Services 1994/1995, pp. 80-81, 100-01, 110-11, 118-19, 154-55, 166-67, 190-91, 196-97.

109 Human Rights Watch interview with Shlomo Swirski, coordinator of the Adva Center's Budget Analysis Project, Tel Aviv, November 30, 2000.

110 Human Rights Watch interview, Israel, December 10, 2000.

111 Human Rights Watch interview, Nazareth, December 7, 2000.

112 Joshua D. Angrist and Victor Lavy, "Does Teacher Training Affect Pupil Learning? Evidence from Matched Comparisons in Jerusalem Public Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, vol. 19, no. 2, April 2001.

113 CBS, Statistical Abstract of Israel 2000, table 22.28.

114 Yosef Khory, Economic Advisor, Mossawa Center, Information Book: The Education System in the Arab Sector, April 1998, p. 15 (citing CBS).

115 Ibid.

116 Parents' Committee for Special Education for Arabs in the Negev, Shatil, Arab Special Education in the Negev: Discrimination in Affirmative Action (Hebrew), 2000, p. 7 (translation by Human Rights Watch).

117 Ministry of Justice, Initial Periodic Report, p. 311. The government also stated that the Ministry of Education's Department of Manpower in Education had allocated NIS 10 million ($2.5 million) annually from 2001 to 2006 to train teachers and staff working in Arab special education. Ibid., p. 312. Like other allocations to Arab education, it remains to be seen whether these funds will actually be allocated in annual budgets.

118 Human Rights Watch interview, Israel, December 11, 2000.

119 Human Rights Watch interview, Israel, December 11, 2000.

120 Human Rights Watch interview, Israel, December 11, 2000.

121 Special Education Law, sec. D(16) (1988) (English translation downloaded from the website of the Special Education Department, State of Israel Ministry of Education, (accessed on April 6, 2001)).

122 Ibid., sec. D(18).

123 Katz Committee Report (citing a 1995 study).

124 Human Rights Watch interview, recognized Bedouin locality near Be'er Sheva, December 14, 2000.

125 Algazy, "What About the Bedouin?" According to news reports, the study found that:

The Jewish teachers have their seniority status accelerated by three or four years (meaning that their wages are higher), and the worker's share of payments in "retraining and further study" funds (keren hishtalmut) are subsidized for these teachers. Nothing like that is provided to teachers who head south to teach Bedouin pupils in Negev schools. Teachers who work in Jewish schools in priority development areas receive rent subsidies worth NIS 12,000 ($3,000) a year; and they can receive an additional NIS 8,000 ($2,000) for travel expenses, and higher education tuition fees. Teachers who go south to work in the Negev Bedouin schools are eligible for annual rent and travel expense incentives worth just NIS 10,000 ($2,500) total.

126 Ministry of Justice, Initial Periodic Report, p. 313. See also, Katz Committee Report (citing 1994 Ministry of Education records).

127 Abu-Rabiyya, "Survey of Bedouin Schools in the Negev," pp. 25-27 (using 1993-1994 data).

128 Katz Committee Report.

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