23 October 2007

inspiring education

i read two different news articles yesterday that intrigued me. (both from the guardian, of course.) one was about a mixed jewish/arab school in jerusalem. each class has students (boys and girls) who are muslim, christian and jewish. there are two teachers for each class, one arab and one jewish. and the school has two principals as well, both women, one jewish and one arab. all three religions are taught and discussed. similarly, history is taught from both perspectives.

"We teach everything and we discuss the issues and we accept it is possible not to agree with each other," said Amin Khalaf, a co-founder of the Hand in Hand mixed education project. "But we have to know both sides."

The children admit it is often difficult. "Some of it is quite hard - questions about the independent state and the naqba," said Tamar Borman, a 13-year-old Jewish pupil. "Sometimes we argue and sometimes we cry. But it's nothing too big. And if we don't face the problems we won't be able to solve them."

the school seems to have created a new community, where students, parents and teachers of all three faiths genuinely co-exist. amidst the constant conflict, violence and suffering that plagues both israel and palestine, this is so tiny a step as to be almost irrelevant. but any journey starts with a single step. and that these kids can learn and grow together, is surely a good prospect for the future of both arabs and jews.

the second article was about 'extreme education' for poorer city kids in the UK and US. i admit i was taken aback by the idea of "10-hour days, parental contracts and zero tolerance behaviour policies", but if it gets the kids into college (and there is no abuse involved), why not? moreover, i have always been a fan of smaller schools and classes. the attention given to students in smaller schools, as well as the classroom interaction, is very different. perhaps hk schools could incorporate some of these ideas!

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