Education Ministry ends discrimination against 'returning' Arab students taking high school matriculation exam

Adalah appealed ministry directive in May 2016, demanding Arab students have access to the same benefits and considerations granted to Hebrew-speaking students taking exam.

The Israeli Education Ministry informed Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel on 5 September 2016 that it intends to cancel a discriminatory directive that prevented Arab "returning residents" from receiving the same high school matriculation exam benefits and considerations offered to students speaking Hebrew and other languages.


According to the Education Ministry directive, Israeli students who have studied four or more years overseas and face linguistic challenges upon their return are entitled to significant benefits and considerations when taking the matriculation exam. These benefits, which vary according to the student's age and the number of years spent outside the country, can include: lenience for spelling errors, permission to use a dictionary, verbal dictation of exam questions, as well as an added 10-15 points to their final exam results.


However, the ministry directive indicated these benefits were de facto granted only to students who took the matriculation exam in Hebrew, resulting in a situation in which Arab students' test scores, which are taken in Arabic, were likely to be lower than those of their Jewish counterparts.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher appealed the ministry's directive in May 2016 in an effort to rectify this discrimination.


Education Ministry Attorney Naomi Yulis responded to Adalah's appeal, saying: "It will be made clear that so long as a student is designated by the Education Ministry as a 'returning resident', he will be eligible for considerations [when taking the matriculation exam], whether the student is from the Arab sector or from the Jewish sector. The ministry directive dealing with the rights of immigrant and 'returning resident' students taking the matriculation exam will soon be updated to clarify the rights of such students from the Arab sector."


Attorney Zaher said it was unfortunate that Adalah had to file an appeal to the Education Ministry "in order to update the ministry directive after it had already harmed so many children. It is the responsibility of the Education Ministry to work towards equality in education and to give special priority to providing full consideration for Arabic-speaking students during the course of their studies.


"Adalah is satisfied with the Education Ministry's decision to update the directive to allow equal access to benefits and consideration for Arab students taking the matriculation exam."


READ: Adalah’s letter to Israeli Education Ministry (Hebrew)


READ: Israeli Education Ministry’s response to Adalah (Hebrew)


(Photo by D'Arcy Vallance/Flickr)