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Right to Education

Israel’s textbooks in Arabic are full of mistakes, study finds

Written by admin  •  Monday, 09.05.2011, 12:05

Lebanese school girls check books during an all-day Arabic language festival entitled 'We Are Our Language' in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: AP

Anyone who examines textbooks approved by the Education Ministry finds the ministry’s authorization alongside a list of experts who were responsible for the process of proofreading and copy-editing. Even if they do not necessarily agree with their content, most people sense that they are at least written correctly, whether that be in Arabic or Hebrew.

However, an examination of many textbooks used in Arab schools reveals concerning information about mistakes in language, syntax and grammar.

According to a report by the Arab Cultural Association, based on a comprehensive study of the language and contents in third grade through ninth grade textbooks, it emerges that there are at least 16,255 mistakes.

For example, the word for traffic light is written the way the Hebrew word sounds and not like the term in Arabic. The same applies to the word for health maintenance organization. The phrase for commercial center is rendered by the name of an Israeli department store.

The report is based on a study and examination of textbooks in all subjects written by a professional committee, headed by Dr. Elias Atallah, an expert on the Arabic language. From the data presented at a conference held by the association in Nazareth last Friday, it emerges that in math books for 8-15-year-olds there are at least 7,532 mistakes; in three geography and history books there are 3,939 mistakes. Hundreds of mistakes were also found in textbooks for the study of the Arabic language.

Association director Dr. Rawda Atallah says the findings were not surprising, since they are a direct continuation of the findings of an examination performed by the association and published in November 2009. In that study, more than 4,000 mistakes in language and syntax were found in textbooks for second grade students in Arab schools.

The publication of those findings elicited many responses at the time. The Education Ministry said the Arab education division and the textbook approval division at the ministry would examine all the textbooks intended for the Arab sector. They also noted that all textbooks approved for the sector had undergone a professional pedagogic assessment but they had not been checked for language under the ministry’s auspices.

At the association, however, they say that the ministry only disqualified the books without introducing any systematic changes to them, and did not bother to re-examine the books intended for the other grades.

Representatives of the Arab Monitoring Committee, parents’ associations and the Committee of Local Arab Council Heads participated in the conference in Nazareth.

Iyad Barghouti, the coordinator of the project, said that the association has already contacted Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar about the establishment of clear criteria for approving textbooks in the Arabic language intended for the Arab education system. The association also wants the participation of Arab organizations and Arab educators in determining these criteria and in the writing of new, mistake-free textbooks.

According to Barghouti, the study shows that the procedure for approving textbooks for Arab schools is flawed, and is damaging – both educationally and culturally – to Arab students. The association is deliberating on whether to apply to the courts and has recently consulted organizations and lawyers about the matter.

Syntax and grammar weren’t the conference’s only concerns: Researchers also spoke about the contents of the textbooks and the way they deal with Arab students’ cultural and national identities. For example, it is stated that Jews and non-Jews live in the Galilee but the word “Arab” is never mentioned.

Dr. George Mansour, who examined the history textbooks, found that the books ignore the presence of the Arab-Palestinian people in Israel and the stress is on the Promised Land of the Jewish people:

“There is a process of de-Palestinization, instilling of the Zionist narrative and minimizing of Arab culture,” reported Dr. Mansour.

The Ministry of Education says it has not received the results of the study. The ministry also noted that this year the Arab education division and the textbook approval division have begun the process of examining books with respect to the language, in addition to the pedagogic assessment, before issuing authorization for a book.

Previously, every textbook authorized for the Arab sector underwent a pedagogical assessment, whereas the author of the book was obligated to present certification of the correctness of the language in the book. Notification of the new procedures has been sent to all of the books’ authors.

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