Policy and Teaching English to Palestinian Schoolchildren in Israel: An Ecological Perspective to Language Education Polices

Muhammad Amara

During the British Mandate between 1922-1948 in Palestine, most Palestinian schools used Arabic, and English was used also as a language of instruction in the high schools. However, Hebrew was not taught in Palestinian schools.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the linguistic repertoire of the Palestinian citizens of Israel became progressively more complex and diverse, and the status of the languages in it changed. Hebrew and Arabic became the two official languages of the state, and English took on the status of a foreign language. Today, Arabic is the language of instruction in Palestinian schools in Israel. Hebrew is learned as a second language by all the Palestinian pupils from the third grade on. English is then added on, a third language for the Arabic speaking pupils, or a fourth considering the spoken language used as the home language and for on-going communicative needs.
Palestinian language education serves different purposes: Arabic is the language of personal, cultural and national identity of the Palestinian pupil; Hebrew is an important language for social mobility, for higher education, and for shared citizenship; English is a global language, and a window on the wider world.
English is as important to Israeli Palestinians as to other Israelis because of its status as the international language of science, technology, commerce and communications and its usefulness in the touristic area. Many English words have been borrowed into Arabic by way of Hebrew. There is no distinct English curriculum for the Palestinian students, and they study it like other Israelis in all streams of the Hebrew education.
This paper will deal policy and teaching English to Palestinian schoolchildren in Israel, examining the new English curriculum, textbooks, and achievements. We will relate these issues to the Palestinian complex linguistic repertoire, the Israeli context, and English as a global language, drawing on an ecological perspective to language education policies.