Increasing access to higher education among Arab citizens of Israel is crucial not only for the individual students themselves but for Israel’s overall economic development. In 2013-14, Arabs accounted for 26% of young adults in Israel ages 18-25, yet were only 12% of the students enrolled in higher education. Those who do study in higher education typically study a limited range of fields. Relatively few pursue masters and doctoral degrees.
Since the Institute’s founding in 1974, MJB has been involved in the issue of expanding opportunities for Israel’s Arab population. Most recently, we have taken on the evaluation of the major initiative of the Council of Higher Education, the 5-Year Plan to increase accessibility to higher education among Arab students.
The program relates holistically to the many stages involved in succeeding in higher education: from providing information and guidance in grades 11 and 12, to offering pre-academic preparatory courses, to financial support while in college, to assistance in transitioning to the labor market. Beyond assistance to the individual students, a special effort is made to address the overall organizational culture of the institutions in terms of the degree to which they are culturally inclusive.
MJB first evaluated a pilot effort to introduce an enriched support model for Arab students in preparatory programs for higher education. The model focused on strengthening English and Hebrew language, learning skills, preparation for the psychometric exam, social activities, personal and academic mentoring, and counseling.
Today, MJB is evaluating the implementation of the full program of the Council. The first report on the full program was presented at a forum of senior representatives from the participating institutions, as well as to the program’s Steering Committee. In 2016, the evaluation will continue, with the addition of a survey of participating students.
The Institute is engaged in promoting exchange among similar international efforts. The evaluation is serving as the basis for a book chapter in an international volume on access to higher education for minority groups, led by a research team from the UK, to be published by Routledge next spring. The chapter is being written together with Prof. Faisal Azaiza from Haifa University and the chairman of the 5-Year Plan Steering Committee.
As well, highlights of our study will be presented in December at an international conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education, in Wales. This exchange is supported by the Marshall Weinberg Fund for Professional Development and Collaboration at the Institute.