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Clarification from the Ministry of Education Regarding the Palestinian Curriculum and Textbooks

The Palestinian Ministry of Education (MOE) was set up in late 1994. It is a well-known fact that it has inherited a deplorable educational situation in the West Bank and Gaza from the Israeli occupation authorities. Since then, the Palestinian Ministry of Education exerted a significant effort tackling the deterioration befallen on the educational system during occupation. Serious problems like, triple shift schools, lack of teacher training, and the dire consequences of the recruitment practices… etc-characterized education in occupation time. However, the MOE, felt the need to develop a curriculum, relevant to the students needs to substitute the duality of curricula use in West Bank and Gaza and consequently to unify the education system.
The plan includes contemporary topics in areas of democracy, human rights, and children rights, women empowerment, pluralism, tolerance. The new vision also includes new subjects: Health, Environment, Christian Education and Information Technology, in addition to improvement and changes on foreign language teaching…etc. Soon after its establishment, the MOE sought the assistance of UNESCO and donor countries in setting up the Palestinian Curriculum Development Center (PCDC). PCDC is now fully engaged in developing the first Palestinian curriculum ever in history. It has so far published Palestinian textbooks for two grades only: first grade (children aged 6 years) and sixth grade (children aged 11). For pedagogic reasons, it is planned and expected that the Palestinian textbooks for the remaining ten grades will be produced in stages by the year 2004/2005. Meanwhile, these grades are still using Jordanian textbooks in the West Bank and Egyptian textbooks in Gaza, which has been the case since 1950.
Many in the international community underestimate the difficulty and the sensitivity of producing a national curriculum and textbooks for a people which is still suffering from a long brutal occupation and engaged in very complicated and frustrating negotiations which will decide its fate and its borders. Many underestimate the complexity of reconciliation and healing process and the time it requires. The MOE has so far operated under these circumstances. It is proud to be associated with a number of partners who wanted it to succeed in developing an efficient and effective system of education and in the making of a just and durable peace.
Why this clarification:
During the past three years, there has been a significant interest in the issue of the Palestinian textbooks, both locally and internationally. The international interest and questioning, though, were mainly focused on what Palestinian children study at school. There was no similar interest in what their Israeli counterparts study. The textbooks used in Palestinian schools were under continuous scrutiny, mainly by an NGO entitled the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) a right wing, anti-peace Israeli center. CMIP started as a cyber institute (www.edume.com) three years ago. It now maintains offices in Israel and an address in the USA. During more than the first two years of its work, CMIP looked into textbooks used in Palestinian schools. Its reports on this subject were mainly used to argue against providing assistance to the Palestinian Ministry of Education (MOE) and UNRWA in the USA congress and European parliaments. So far, MOE has chosen to answer only questions or queries addressed to it directly and officially, and not to engage in media or lobby campaigns. We now feel that the internationally waged campaign regarding textbooks used in Palestinian schools has been one-sided and unfair. Therefore, it has decided to state its position regarding curriculum development in Palestine and to clarify some claims and misconceptions in various CMIP reports and publications.
Some important issues:
1. The Palestinian problem did not start with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. It started with the dispossession and eviction of he Palestinians from their homeland in historic Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 . This fact is alive in the individual and collective memories of the Palestinians. Curricula and textbooks will not be credible if they do not address this fact. We will not brainwash our children and miseducate them about the past. They will have to come to terms with the fact that the Palestinians are making historic concessions in order to achieve a just and durable peace in their country and in their region, in preparation for a better future for them.
2. The MOE is grateful for Jordan and Egypt for allowing us to use their textbooks until the Palestinian textbooks for the whole range of school grades are produced. The MOE reprints the Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks and uses them in Palestinian schools till replaced by Palestinian curricula which is phased-out over a 5-year period.
3. The MOE has avoided dealing with unresolved political issues in Palestinian textbooks. It has not mentioned Israel borders on maps. Israel itself has not defined its borders. The borders of the future independent Palestinian State are still not defined. These matters will be decided on by representatives of both countries and people through negotiations and agreements. Once these decisions are made, and are ratified by the international community through the UN, then they will be included in future Palestinian textbooks.
4. The MOE has chosen a participatory approach in developing the Palestinian curriculum and in writing the textbooks. It has invited qualified academics and educators from universities, colleges and schools to participate in the writing of textbooks through public advertisements. This participatory process required a lot of effort and time. The textbooks, which have been produced so far, reflect the general mood of the Palestinian at this stage.
5. The produced textbooks will be tested in schools and will undergo changes based on input from school teachers, the community at large and Palestinians academicians. The MOE welcomes comments on its published Palestinian textbooks from partners and professional bodies of all sorts. It will review this input and introduce the changes which will, hopefully, improve the textbooks.
6. We have referred to Israel in some of the Palestinian textbooks as the occupier this is what Israel is in fact on our land. This is what the United Nations calls Israeli presence on our land in its resolutions. We hope that Israel will end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza soon. Once it does, then we will stop using this name.
7. The Palestinian textbooks produced do not include any racist remarks against any people. This is a big step forward in the direction of reconciliation and peace, bearing in mind the fact that Israel is still occupying our land and subjecting our people to various forms of repression, harassment, collective punishment, killing, assassinations, destruction, denial of our human and national rights and confiscation of the future and dreams of our children.
8. East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in June 1967. The Palestinians have the full right to mention Jerusalem in their textbooks as an occupied city. More, the late Israeli prime minister a greed in the last Camp David talks to return the city to the Palestinian people. They have the full right to consider Jerusalem as their future capital and to mention this position, hope and aspiration in their textbooks. Doing so is not incitement against any body.
9. Palestinians are Moslems and Christian so our Textbooks teach tolerance between them. This is part of civic education. Our textbooks focus on Palestinian society at this stage. The Israeli occupation authorities have denied us our right to teach about our country and our people all during the period 1967-m 1994. This teaching is part of our efforts to build a civil society and a modern democratic state. In the textbooks we have produced so far, we have not dealt with any other people, religion or country outside of Palestine. But, the intention of the Ministry is to avoid all forms of stereotyping on basis of race, gender, disability or religion. More, we expect it to encourage the development of positive images of people who are different from ourselves.
10. The inclusion of pictures or drawings of the Palestinian flag is not an act of incitement. It is, also, not in contradiction to any agreements or accords signed with Israel, as some CMIP reports state. Palestinian flags have been officially raised on all Palestinian institutions even on places where meetings with Israeli leaders and officials have taken place.
11. Like any other people on earth, we have the right to decide what our children study without pressure or coercion. As stated above, we welcome comments on our Palestinian textbooks after they are published and distributed.
12. We are producing curricula and textbooks in the shortest period possible. It is in our national interest to do so. A Palestinian curriculum is a necessity for the creation of one national identity and unity. We have chosen the stages and the sequence of producing the Palestinian textbooks so that the process will not cause gaps in and harm to the education of our children. Meanwhile, we will go on using the Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks in grades which do not have Palestinian textbooks. It is not possible to shorten the period required for developing the Palestinian curriculum and textbooks. We will follow this logical sequence, which we have chosen as a result of a long discussion.
Final note:
The donors and the international community should help the Palestinians walk with pride in the difficult path of negotiations leading to independence and peace. The donors and the other UN member states should be courageous to voice their honest opinion about reality here in Palestine as they learn it first hand through the presence of their representative bodies. They should not be coerced into silence by unofficial lobbyists from any side. We expect them to use due process before they take positions and pass judgments. The first step in this process is to seek and find out the truth. This requires talking to all parties concerned and not accepting one-sided and biased reports. We are, and have always been, willing to answer questions and to clarify matters.
The Palestinians and Palestine have the right to have a place under the sun. The Palestinians have suffered enough because of the inactivity of the international community to enforce the UN resolutions in this land. The Palestinians should be supported to build an independent, sustainable, prospering, modern and democratic state. In the long process to do so they should be allowed the time to grow slowly and to develop their own views and convictions and act based on them. If surrounded and supported by sincere partners, the Palestinians will be able to overcome their frustration and will regain their hope in a better future for their children in the region.
The MOE has worked, and is still working, sincerely for the benefit of Palestinian children, for their better future and for a just and durable peace based on international legitimacy. It is grateful for all those who have supported its difficult work, commented sincerely on its shortcomings and celebrated its achievements and successes.

© 2005 Palestinian American Council