Subject: School and Curriculum Academic director: Davis Dan, Prof ; Olshtain Elite, Prof
Pedagogical Development - Samira Neiroukh; Editing - Dr. Nazia Kassis and Dr. Hana Haj; Organizational Management - Ana Bar; Design - Noa Levi
“Reading Together in Arabic”, a tutoring program operating under the umbrella of the Yachad programs, is designed for tutoring the earliest stages of Arabic-language reading in a computer-based environment. The program was developed at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem by Dr. Baha Makhoul, Prof. Elite Olshtain, and Prof. Dan Davis.
Throughout the years, scores on national and international literacy exams have indicated more failures and clearly lower achievements among Arab and Bedouin pupils than among their Jewish counterparts (e.g., National Achievement Test, Mother-Tongue Hebrew and Arabic in Grades 4 and 8, June 1996). The results of the 2001 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), conducted in 35 countries, ranked Hebrew-speaking Israeli pupils twelfth, while Arabic-speaking Israeli pupils ranked thirty-first. In 2006, pupils from 40 countries participated in the study; Hebrew-speaking Israel pupils improved to eleventh in the country ranking, but Arabic-speaking pupils were ranked last (40). Prof. Elite Olshtain (NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Prof. Ruth Zozovsky (School of Education, Tel Aviv University), the Israeli directors of the 2006 PIRLS, found that in the analysis of the results based on pupils’ level, the percentage of Arabic speakers below the lowest level was extremely high (40%) in comparison to Hebrew speakers (4%). Moreover, among Hebrew speakers, they found a gap of (up to) 45 points in the scores of pupils from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds; among Arabic speakers, they found a 51‑point gap between the scores of pupils from medium and low socioeconomic backgrounds. Finally, the achievement gap between Hebrew speakers and Arabic speakers increased from 113 points in 2001 to 120 points in 2006. These findings point to a difficulty in acquiring standard literary Arabic.
“Reading Together in Arabic” was developed to help Arab and Bedouin communities improve their literacy and address the problems of bridging the transition from spoken Arabic to the literary Arabic that is taught at school (diglossia). The program helps struggling first-graders cultivate various aspects of the literacy skills needed to acquire literacy.
The program staff believes in tutoring as the main method for creating an environment that encourages learning and supports the pupil. This view is in accordance with the PIRLS recommendation of compensatory intervention based on the creation of a school environment that supports reading for pupils from a low socioeconomic background.
The program has the following goals:
1. Developing vocabulary in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)
2. Developing reading skills in MSA
3. Developing writing skills in MSA
4. Developing the motivation to read in Arabic
5. Improvement of oral-expression abilities
The program is run via tutoring in a computer-based environment, because of the widespread research findings that tutoring and reading in a computer-based environment increase motivation for learning. This motivation is an extremely important stage in the process of developing literacy skills and helping pupils who are experiencing difficulties to progress.
The tutor (a teachers’ college graduate who does not work in the school) and teacher work in rotation with the ten pupils in the program. They are thus synchronized in various ways to address each pupil’s difficulties and progress. Each class teacher meets with the tutor assigned to her class for one hour each week to plan the group work so it suits the material she is teaching in class and in order to evaluate the program.
The program’s instructional materials are structured and tiered and include: slideshows for each student on portable memories, evaluation sheets on each student for the teacher and tutor to complete, and an instructional booklet about running the program.
The program makes use of texts with a variety of topics and genres, with special emphasis on (a) developing listening comprehension skills; (b) developing phonological awareness skills; (c) conveying and improving parsing abilities; (d) developing the child’s vocabulary in MSA; (e) developing reading comprehension skills; f) developing abilities in expression and syntax.
“Reading Together in Arabic” was run successfully in Bu’eine-Nujeidat and Tamra in the Galilee. During the 2011/12 academic year, the program was run in the Bedouin community of Segev Shalom, which has a population of approximately 7,800. Designated a “community pilot”, the program was run for the first time simultaneously in all the first-grade classes of a single locality. Fifteen first-grade classes participated, involving 150 pupils, 15 teachers, and seven tutors. The program was implemented also in Kseife and Arara. This year it is implemented in Segev Shalom and Issaweia (2 schools for boys and girls).
The program is funded by a private donor and the Ministry of Education. The Education Ministry representatives – Yehudit Kadesh (director of the Elementary Education Department) and Salah Taha (Arab Education Inspector in the Elementary Education Department) – are supportive of the program and have recommended its expansion to other localities in the south.
“Reading Together in Arabic” is being professionally evaluated and includes individual surveys to support pupils having difficulties. The program staff has recently finished updating the materials in accordance with the Education Ministry’s request and in light of needs and conclusions reached following the program’s operation during the 2011/12 school year.
Every day of work in the “Reading Together in Arabic” program narrows the gaps in Arab first-grade classes. Every such day also narrows the educational, social, and economic gaps between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities.
More details: 02-5882012, 02-5882013, email@example.com