Higher Education within the Druze Community
Summation and Recommendations of the Steering Committee
Daniel J. Elazar
In view of the relatively low number of members of the Druze community in the student body in Israel, in relation to the Jewish community, particularly in the leading courses of advanced study (second and third degrees), the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs appointed a joint steering committee of the heads of Druze local councils, representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture, deans of students at universities, and senior Druze academics for a comprehensive discussion of this subject. Following joint meetings of committee members in Jerusalem and Maghar (see detailed list in Appendix A), this summary document has been prepared which gives a picture of the situation and all its factors, together with a series of recommendations designed to achieve a significant improvement in the present situation.
1. Factors delaying an increase in Druze University students.
1.1 Socio-economic difficulties - lack of means to finance higher education among low incomes families.
1.2 Absence of personal motivation for academic studies in the village and from parents - the general atmosphere in Druze villages and among most families minimizes the importance of further study and prefers military service and employment of adults or drop-outs at jobs that will produce immediate income.
1.3 The psychometric examinations - there is an incompatibility between the linguistic/cultural background of members of the Druze community and sections of the psychometric examinations.
1.4 A negative attitude toward young women attending university, which is perceived as an abandonment of the Druze tradition.
1.5 Unemployment among the educated, such as teachers and practical engineers, deters young potential candidates from enrolling at institutions of higher learning.
1.6 The economic success of those with a minimal education in the business world is contrasted with the difficulties faced by graduates in various fields in earning a living or finding employment.
The recommendations are subdivided according to the different sectors connected with higher education:
2.1 The Ministry of Education and the Local Authorities
2.1.1 The training of a Druze educational leadership that will work to raise standards and motivation within the Druze educational system.
2.1.2 Intensive activity among high school students and their parents to cultivate motivation for further study at institutions of higher education. The local leadership in Druze villages has a decisive role to play in this area.
2.1.3 Assigning tutors to high-potential students in Grades XI and XII on the pattern that has evolved at Tel Aviv University to aid special groups of students.
2.1.4 Offer guidance and give special priority to groups by providing additional academic hours in practical subjects that will enable pupils to integrate into industry and tourism currently developing in the northern part of the country. Studies in industry and tourism can be undertaken in the high schools and, at a later stage, at an academic level.
2.1.5 Improve all components of teaching, including the retirement from the system of those with an antiquated education and their replacement with erudite and proficient personnel.
2.1.6 Reinforcement of English teaching, to overcome a major obstacle for many Druze students who are forced to contend with three foreign languages in high school.
2.1.7 Acceleration of computerization in the schools.
2.1.8 Widening enrichment activities to strengthen both weak and excellent pupils.
2.2 The Universities and the Council for Higher Education
2.2.1 The psychometric examinations
The failure of members of the Druze community in the psychometric examinations is explained in Section 1.3, above. The success of members of the community in high command ranks in the IDF and the recent improvement in the standard of the Druze education system constitute proof that these examinations do not reflect the true potential of the Druze pupils who wish to be accepted for university studies.
Any effort to improve the ability of Druze pupils to meet this hurdle has to focus on three areas:
a. A significant increase in English language and mathematics instruction through enrichment groups at the community centers, English-language summer camps, and a deeper bond with the universities and the Technion.
b. Special preparatory courses for the psychometric examinations, partially paid for by the pupils.
c. Adaptation of the linguistic/cultural section in the psychometric examinations to the special culture of the Druze community. Generally-speaking, the members of the community do not have complete command and fluency in Hebrew and literary Arabic, languages that are not their home vernacular. Druze pupils are thus in an inferior position to Jews and Arabs who are tested in the mother tongue they speak at home and at school. A solution has to be found to the gap between the Druze linguistic /cultural background and the existing pattern in the psychometric examinations.
2.2.2 Affirmative action - a provisional change could be examined in the criteria for acceptance to university in general and to certain disciplines in particular. Affirmative action in the sphere of accommodation in the dormitories could also assist in the absorption of Druze students.
2.2.3 Academic preparatory course - during the last six months of army service or a one-year study course prior to university entrance. This framework could provide an opportunity to become familiar with the method of learning at university and for further study of material in relevant areas. It is also recommended that university preparatory courses be held on the pattern of the preparatory courses for the army held at many schools in the country. These courses will increase students' familiarity with learning methods at university, academic disciplines and acceptance conditions.
2.2.4 Designation of contact personnel from the university staff who will constitute an address for Druze students for counseling during studies. (Prof. Aharon Layish undertook to serve as a contact person for Druze students at the Hebrew University. Prof. Reuven Chen will handle requests of Druze students at Tel Aviv University.)
2.2.5 Acceptance of Druze students at universities according to the matriculation examinations and references from their schools for a trial year, irrespective of the psychometric examinations.
2.2.6 Easing of acceptance requirements, on the pattern of the Institute for Local Government at Bar-Ilan University, with a commitment on the part of the student to meet the academic requirements in order to complete the studies successfully.
2.2.7 The opening of an academic training program for local government employees in the Druze sector, under the aegis of the Regional College in Safed, in a program parallel to the local government studies program at Bar-Ilan University.
2.3.1 Direction of suitable soldiers completing their regular service to further study at university and halting the general rush by Druze high school graduates into career service in the security forces.
2.3.2 The attainment of IDF Personnel Division approval for postponement of service for any Druze soldier who is accepted to a university.
2.3.3 Reinforcement of the Academic Reserve.
Steering Committee on Higher Education
in the Druze Community
(in Hebrew alphabetical order)
Committee Chairman: Mr. Zvi Marom, Director-General, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Mr. Wahib Nasser Al-din, Head of the Kisra-Samiya Council
Dr. Ziad Dahar, Head of the Sajur Local Council
Prof. Reuven Chen, Dean of Students, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Menachem Caftori, Dean of Students, The Technion
Prof. Aharon Layish, Hebrew University
Mr. Muflach Mulla, Head of the Yirka Local Council
Prof. Fadal Mansour, Volcani Institute for Agricultural Research
Dr. Shakhib Sallach, Bar-Ilan University
Mr. Zidan Atashi, Ministry of Education and Culture
Mr. Assad Areyda, Head of the Maghar Local Council and Coordinator of the Education Committee of the Heads of the Druze and Circassian Local Authorities
Mr. Salman Fallach, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Education and Culture
Adv. Youssef Qabalan, Head of the Beit Jann Local Council
Mr. Salim Shama, Head of the Yanuh-Jatt Local Council