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Education in Occupied Palestine

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Education in Occupied Palestine - by Stephen Lendman

A 2007 UNESCO/Save the Children UK report titled, "Fragmented foundations: education and chronic crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" addressed issues "in emergency and reconstruction situations, as well as in chronic conflict." It explained that in 1994, the Palestinian Authority established the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) with formal responsibility for the system, including planning, budgeting and coordination throughout the Territories.

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Through at least 2007, it administered about three fourths of OPT schools, handled two-thirds of its students, and, as able, requires 10 years of basic education, two additional non-compulsory ones, then higher education for those qualified. See below.

UNWRA runs 13% of schools for 24% of the students, the private sector another 11% of schools and 6% of students as of 2006, according to World Bank figures. Israel maintains authority in East Jerusalem although MoEHE supports a number of its schools.

In the 1990s, school enrollment increased substantially. A priority was placed on new construction and rehabilitation, and efforts toward greater inclusiveness was stressed, especially for girls and children with disabilities. Technical, vocational, and early childhood education were also addressed, as well as a curriculum reflecting Palestinian history and heritage, culminating the the final year Tawjihi (university entrance) exam that assesses student readiness for higher education as well as their qualifications in certain fields.

An education system depends, of course on the quality and number of good teachers, the report saying that under the PA, "teacher training has been relatively piecemeal, with no concrete standards or coordination mechanisms for higher education institutions engaged in teacher training." A number of teacher strikes earlier also took its toll.

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The second Intifada especially impacted education, the result of Israel's harsh response and its human and structural toll. Earlier momentum was lost. As a result, educational access and quality suffered, and the more repressive Israel becomes, the more adaptive MoEHE had to be to function under conditions of chronic instability, conflict and crisis.

Throughout decades of occupation and dispossession, education has been a bedrock of survival, for youths and the nation. Yet as long as occupation continues in a conflict-plagued environment, normal OPT functions will be severely impeded, including for education. The report drew conclusions but no solutions or condemnation of Israeli practices.

Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) on Palestinian Education

IMEU asked "What kind of education do Palestinian children receive," then gave a capsule account of its state, explaining that students at all levels comprise over one-third of the OPT population. In addition:

-- among the 15 - 24 year olds, literacy is 98.2%, and overall adult literacy is 91.1% - both figures much higher than in America, the National Right to Read Foundation reporting in September 2007 that:

-- 42 million American adults can't read at all;

-- 50 million read at a fourth or fifth grade level;

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-- each year, over two million adults swell the illiteracy ranks; and

-- 20% of high school seniors are functionally illiterate at graduation.

In addition, America ranks low in math and computer skills, and given an agenda to privatize public education, these numbers will grow because millions of kids won't be educated - what the Bush administration called reform and Obama's "Race to the Top" will continue.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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