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The Israeli Educational System

In recent years, there have been some noteworthy developments in the struggle for sexual equality in the Israeli educational field.

For some time organizations such as Na’amat have worked for equal educational opportunities for Israeli boys and girls. For example, Na’amat launched last year a campaign to encourage Israeli high school girls to enter “high-tech” fields, a fast-growing sector of the Israeli economy.

Concern to provide Israeli boys and girls with equal educational opportunities has been echoed within the Israeli Ministry of Education itself. In July 1986, the Ministry held a landmark four-day conference for educators to analyze reasons for the educational gap between boys and girls (particularly in math, science, and technical fields) and to develop strategies to better prepare girls to meet future challenges. The conference, held in Jerusalem, was designed to train speakers to address this issue in the educational community-at-large and to begin developing a model egalitarian curriculum.

The 40 participating educators (including principals, teachers, and school counselors on the elementary and high school levels) represented all sectors of Israeli society, including the Arab population, religious and secular schools, various kibbutz movements and women’s organizations.

In February, the Israeli Education Ministry banned sexism in nursery schools, instructing teachers to stop reading stories to children that depict girls as “weak, passive, or waiting for a boy to rescue them.”

Ministry directives published in the Ha’aretz newspaper also advised preschool teachers not to tell tearful boys that they “cry like girls.”

Shimshon Shoshani, director-general of the Ministry, said the new instructions were issued after it became apparent that the Israeli education system had yet to achieve sexual equality in the classroom. “Girls, in all stages of education, achieve less than boys,” Shoshani said. “The reasons are educational-social, not hereditary.”