Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
REPORT II: Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum
Reviewing Palestinian Textbooks and Tolerance Education Program Grades 4 & 9
The idea of designing a curriculum that prepares students for the future is not new. After all, education is not only for the present. Students will be living in a world different from the one they now occupy, and schools should enable them to deal with that world. Thus, what policymakers and educators should aspire to do is an education process that is genuinely meaningful to students, challenging them with problems and ideas that they find both interesting and intellectually demanding. To achieve this, educators need to equip students with certain types of knowledge, abilities, life skills and strategies. In addition, they need to provide learners with an educational setting that enhances a positive attitude towards learning. Among the most important of these abilities are judgment, critical thinking, collaborative work and service learning.
Educators believe that the best way to prepare students for the future is to focus on the present in a way that enables them to deal with problems that have more than one correct answer. The problems that matter most cannot be resolved by formula, algorithm or rule. They require the exercise of a human capacity that is called judgment that requires the ability to give reasons for the choices that individuals make.
A second ability that schools need to develop in students is the ability to think critically, to critique information and ideas and to enjoy exploring what one can do with them. To develop this ability, students must be presented with information and ideas that are relevant, provocative and worth exploring and investigating.
Collaboration, in the form of learning to work with others collectively, cooperatively and in harmony, can make a big difference in studentsí lives and experiences. The process of collaboration is thought to give birth to new ideas and develops social skills that are essential for democratic life.
The Palestinian education system has made strides in the direction of achieving some of these goals. The new curriculum is one example of a coordinated effort exerted in that direction. However, curriculum designers and materials writers, historically, have been more exclusive than inclusive of the wide range of ethnic and cultural diversity that exists within a particular society, nation, or region. In the haste to promote harmony and avoid controversy and conflict, they gloss over controversial and sensitive political and social problems and the realities of racial, ethnic, national, civil and religious identities. They sometimes romanticize racial, ethnic and religious relations, and ignore the challenges of coexistence and a regional perspective.
For Palestinian students to be able to compete at the local and regional and levels, more needs to be done along the path of education reform. In particular, the Palestinian experience should be, now more than ever, an interaction with the region, including Israel, and the world. After all, Palestinian students are also going to need to be citizens of this planet and neighbors of the State of Israel. This means that new curricula need to take a look at increasing studentsí regional and global knowledge. It will be their world.
In addition, and in spite of the obstacles, it would be unwise for the Palestinian education system, curriculum being an integral part of it, not to have as its central mission educating the young in the democratic ideals of humankind, the freedoms and responsibilities of a democratic society, and the civil and civic understandings and dispositions necessary to democratic citizenship. Palestinian education should encourage pluralism and should prepare their pupils to know themselves as well as their neighbors.