Politics and Education in Israel

By Shlomo Swirski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

From Separate Schools to Hierarchical Tracks: The Israeli School System, 1948-1968

This chapter will examine the way the school system established by the Zionist civil-society-turned-state operated during the 1950s and 1960s, after two large new pupil populations, Palestinians and the children of the Jews from the Arab lands, came under its jurisdiction. The chapter shall concentrate on the schools in Mizrahi and Israeli Palestinian villages and towns. In Chapter 4, it was noted that both Mizrahim and Palestinians studied in separate schools, separate from the veteran Ashkenazim and separate from each other. We also pointed out that it was not the schools, but rather the military, that played the central role in the Israelization of the new groups, and more precisely, of the Jews among them. This chapter will look at the internal functioning of the schools: the curriculum, the books, the teachers, and the physical plant.

The schools serving the children of the veteran Israelis continued along the well-trodden pre-1948 path. The main change that took place was the extension of the normative schooling career, first into high school, and at a slower pace, into university. In those early years, high schools still charged tuition. In 1957, the Ministry of Education introduced high school scholarships, conditioning receipt on success in a scholastic aptitude test administered at the end of the eighth grade. A full 81 percent of the Ashkenazi pupils passed the test, with a good average grade; but of Mizrahi pupils who took the test, only 46 percent passed, the great majority of them with the lowest grade (Smilansky, 1957:147). A survey conducted the same year found that 82.3 percent of all Jewish high school students were Ashkenazim; in the twelfth grade, their proportion reached 92.2 percent (ibid: 140). At the two universities, the picture was much the

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