The history of Palestinian education is complicated because so many empires have controlled Palestine not only in ancient times, but in medieval and modern times as well. The Caliphate controlled Palestine with the Arab outburst fro Arabia. As far as we know the only schools were those attached to moaques. There was also a brief Egyptian period. While the mosques controlled education, the number of children receiving an education were very limited. The Ottomans conquered the Levant (16th century). They introduced the Empire-wide school system which was not just limited to the mosques, but still quite limited. Standards were not equal to the developig schools in the West. While the Caliphate had some important institutions of non-religious learning, nothing like the developing universities in the West existed in Palestine or anywhere else in the Ottoman Empire. The British seized Palestine in World War II (1918). Mandatory Palestine lasted only 30 years. The United Nations partition led to the First Arab-Israeli War As a result, the term Palestine took on a whole different meaning. Before Palestine was a geograhic/political term for the southrn Levant, a part of the Ottoman Empire with a majority Arab population (Muslims and Christians) and Jews. Palestinian now became Arabs of both Islam and Chrstianity, although in recent years the Muslim Arabs have taken to driving out the Christian Arabs. Palestine became the areas that both Arabs and Jews claimed and fought. Israel was founded as an independent country. The rest of Palestine was annexed by Egypt and Jordan. The Israelis founded a modern education system. The Egyptians and Jordanians although annexing the West Bank and Gaza did not make the Arab Palestinians citizens. The Palestinians at this time begin to found their own school system with support from the United Nations. Although many Palestinians lived in refugee camps, they soon became one of best educated Arab groups. Today there are two Palestinian education systems. One operated by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The other operated by Hamas in Gaza.
The history of Palestinian education is complicated because so many empires have controlled Palestine not only in ancient times, but in medieval and modern times as well. The location between Mesopotamia and Egypt meant we are talking about the area of the world with the longest history of civiization.
The Caliphate controlled Palestine with the Islamic outburst from the Arabian Peninsula. As far as we know the only schools were those attached to mosques. There was also a brief Egyptian period. While the mosques controlled education, the number of children receiving an edication were very limited. Thus the literacy rate was low. This was not different thn Europe. In fact it may even had been higher until after the Renaissance began to take hold in the West at which time a weakened Caliphate ws destroyed by the Monguls.
The Ottomans conquered the Levant (16th century). They introduced the Empire-wide school system which was not just limited to the mosques, but still quite limited. Standards were not equal to the developing schools in the West. While the Caliphate had some important institutions of non-religious learning, nothing like the developing universities in the West existed in Palestine or anywhere else in the Ottoman Empire. During the 19th century a four tier school systems developed. These was a Government operated Arab-Muslim public school system with instruction in the Turkish lnguage. Missionary and foreign groups ran a Christian school system. The mosques operated aind of private school system. Jews had a searate school system of their own. One source reports Arab resentment about the use of Turkish as a 'flagrant violation of their sense of dignity and attachment to their own language." [Jabareen] They also reportedly questioned the quality of the education offered by the Ottoman system. The Ottoman Government only took responibility for education late in the Empire's history, presumably a belated effort at reform and competition with the West (1846). [Some of our sources have chosen to use the Arabic form of Arab mumbers. We have attemted to convert them ino the European form, but caution there may be errors.] A new Ottomam law mandated free public education education and the employment of professional secular teachers to supplement clerical teachers. [Al-Hag, p. 38.] The Goverment never made the financial commiment to make this possible. Both resources and commitment were involved. Arab nationalists reportedly argued for a greater educatioal effort. We are unsure just what the community support for education was. As best we can tell itwas far less than the level of priority given to education by the Christian and Jewish community, even though Government support for these schools was not available. The Ottoman Government implemented a new law (1913). Primary educational was made compulsory. The schools were made more secular. The Ministry of Education assumed greater control. One historian estmates the school age population in 1911 as 38،053 boys and 35،384 girls. The Government public school system, however, included only a small fraction of these children: 6،104 boys and far fewer girls, some 1,504. The private and foreign schools with Christians and Jews accounted for 6،974 boys and 6،673 girls. This is more important than might be casually assumes. Literate mothers significantly increased the liklihood of literate children. Concerning the overall numbes, a historian write, "A sorry picture that 35،000 boys and 34،400 girls were left without a ghost of a chance of learning the alphabet." [Al-Hag, p. 41.] The conflicts between the Ottoman Government and Arab community concerning religious, cultural, and national issues concerning education were still unresolved at the time of World War I (1914-18). [Mar’i, p. 13.] The low level of literacy is interesting. In Europe the Protestant stress on the Bible resulted in rising literacy levels. Despite the Islamic stress on the Koran, literacy levels into the 20th century were extrodinarily low. And this was not just in Palestine. Especially notable is the extrodinarily low levels of female literacy.
The Ottoman Empire was destoyed and control over Palestine ended with World War I. World War I broke out in Europe (August 1914). Palestine at the beginning of the War was a part of the Ottoman Empire. The population was largely Arab with some Jewish settlements as a result of the European Zionist movement. The Germans sought to bring the declining Ottoman Empire into the War to draw Russian and British resources from the two main fronts of the War. The Ottomans joined the Central Powers (October 1914). They had suffered significan territorial losses in the Balkans and the Caucauses at the hands of the Russians and saw allying themselves with the Germans was one way of regaining lost territory from the beleagered Russians. The War quickly turned into a disaster when the Ottoman army invading the Russian Causcasses was decisively defeated. The Ottomons launched an offensive from Palestine soon after entering the War (November 1914). They crossed the Sinai and at some locations reached the Suez Canal, but were beaten back by the British. The British encoraged an Arab Revolt in Arabia which developed into a major threat to the Ottomans. The Arab Revolt assisted by T.E. Lawrence helped weakened the Ottomon position in Arabia and Palestine. Palestine turned from an Ottoman backwater into the frontline of World war I. The British made commitments to the Arabs about an independent Arab state after the War. They made condflictging commitments to their French ally. Zionists were initially split by the War. There were Zionists in all the major beligerant powers. The Balfour Declaration would largely change this. Thr British mounted a major offensive Against the Ottomans in Palestine. The British Egyptian Expeditionary Force commanded by Field Marshall Edmund Allenby af first made little progress against the Ottomons. The British finally took Jerusalem (December 1917).
The British seized Palestine in World War I (1917). Mandatory Palestine would last only 30 years. The British role in education was governed by two primary obligations. First, with the British defeat of the Ottoman Empire and occupation of Palestine, Britain became the de facto successor to the Ottoman Governmnt. This made the responsible for the former Ottoman public school system. [Tibawi, p. 24.] The Ottoman public school system was, however, not we would think of as a true public system and not entirely secular. Islam was the Ottomn state religion nd only Muslims attended the schools. While this was a majority of the popultion, a substantial minority were Arab Christians and Jews who did not attend the Arab Muslim public schools. Second, the League of Nations Mandate spelled out various obligations affecting education. Article 15 of the Mandate stipulated “the right of each community to maintain its own schools for the education of its own members in its own language, while conforming to such educational requirements of a general nature as the administration may impose, shall not be denied or impaired.” [Tibawi, p. 11.] An Arab historian complains, "It would turn out later that the Muslim public schools were the only schools to conform to regulations and requirements imposed by the administration. [Jabareen] Here the author is misleasing because the Mosque schools which were obviously very much Muslim were not required to conform to British administrative rulings. What he is talking about is the former Ottoman public schools which were only attended by Muslim children. Christain Arab and Jewish children attended the former Millet schools whih like the Mosque schools were essentially private schools. Article 22 stipulated that "English, Arabic and Hebrew shall be the official languages of Palestine." [Tibawi, p. 11.] While Aab authors are uniformily critical of the British role in Palestine, in fact the British took their responsibilities very seriously and put an emphasis on eucation on education that the Ottomons never did and for the first time made Arabic the language of education for Arab children. The British helped finance the opening of mny new schools, including village schools. Th ttoman schools were almost all located in cities and towns. An Arab author critical of the British has to admit, "What is particularly striking about the Arab schooling system under the British Mandate is the extent of its quantitative increase. Also, the British Mandate authorities seemed to allow the original owners of Arab schools to maintain their control over their schools." [Jabareen] Under the Brtish, education was free, but not compulsory. The Ottoman public school system at the end of the War included some 100 schools. Under the British the number of schools increased to 550 (1947). Under the Ottomans only aboy 5 percent of the children attended school. the British raised this to more than 30 percent. The primary constraint was not the lack od schools, but the reluctance of Muslim Arab parents to send their girls to school. A fair assessment of the British achivment reports, "Overall, Arab education in Palestine developed significantly under the Mandatory administration. Schools were established in many villages, making educational opportunities more accessible. Secondary school education increased and became strongly associated with the achievement of a white collar job, usually as a clerk or a civil servant who not only enjoyed economic mobility and security, but also a higher status due to his [note the male form] association with the rulers." [Mar’i, p. 15.]
Muslim Arabswere the majority in Mandatory Palestine. Hostility between the Arab and Jewish communities developed early in Mandate era. Jews suffered during World War I. Casual individual violence developed into a more organized conflict and proceeded to escalate (1920s). Violence was especally severe
’s, and has escalated since then. The most noticeable fighting occurred during the late-30s when the Grnd Mufti received NAZI asistance in launching what he hope would be a Palestinian Kristalmacht. Then of course open war broke out after the U.N. Partition and Israel declared its indpendence and the Front Line Arab sates vaded with well-armed military forces (1948).
The United Nations partition led to the First Arab-Israeli War As a result, the term Palestine took on a whole different meaning. Before Palestine was a geograhic/political term for the southrn Levant, a part of the Ottoman Empire with a majority Arab population (Muslims and Christians) and Jews. Palestinian now became Arabs of both Islam and Chrstianity, although in recent years the Muslim Arabs have taken to driving out the Christian Arabs. Palestine became the areas that both Arabs and Jews claimed and fought. Israel was founded as an independent country. The rest of Palestine was annexed by Egypt and Palestine. The Israelis founded a modern education system. The Egyptians and Jordanians although annexing the West Bank and Gaza did not make the Arab Palestinians citizens. The Paistinians at this time begin to found their own school system with support from the United Nations. Although many Palestinians lived in refugee camps, they soon becme one of best educated Arab groups. Today there are two Palestinian education systems. One operated by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The other operated by Hamas in Gaza.
Education is post-partion Palestine is complicated. Rather than a regime in which the Palestunian had considerable control under the British Mandate, the Palestinians lost all political power except thise who remaiuned in Israeli-controlled areas. Palestinians there could participate in a democratic system, vote and elect representatives to advocate for them. This was not the case in other areas of Palestine. Jordan seized the West Bank and Egypt seized Gaza and other areas of the south. There were no elections and Palestinians could not participate in the political system in either Jordan or Egypt. This chanbged with the Six Days War when Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza and areas up to the Suez Canal. The Peace Process turned the domestic administration of the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palistinian Authority. Elections in Gaza brought HAMAS to power. All of these changes have affected Palestinian education. The Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank and unoccupied Gaza. We have very limited information at this time on the curriculum or effectiveness in terms of student achievement of Palestinian education. Financing schools has been a major problem fpr the Palestinians. Here they have obtained funding from a range of international donors. There appear to be differences among Palestinians about education. The main-stream Fatah movement has taken a largely secular approach. The growing Hamas Movement has a more Islamicist approach.
(Al-) Hag, Majid. Education, Empowerment, and Control: The Case of the Arabs in Israel (State University of New York Press: 1995).
Jabareen, Alu. "The Palestinian Education system in Mandatory Palestine".
Mar’i, Sami Khalil. Arab Education in Israel (Syracuse University Press: 1978).
Tibawi, A.L. Arab Education in Mandatory Palestine: A Study of Three Decades of British Administration (Luzac & Co. Press Ltd.: 1956).
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