New Article: Yemini and Bar-Netz, Arabic and French in Israeli Education

Yemini, Miri and Natali Bar-Netz. “Between Arabic and French in the Israeli Education System.” Journal of Language Identity and Education 14.3 (2015).





In the era of globalization, educational systems are forced to react and globalize through schools’ content and context. Among other 21st century capabilities such as information technology use, team work and entrepreneurship, multilingual competence has been placed among the objectives of education systems worldwide. We analyzed the pattern of students’ choice for advanced studies in English, Arabic and French languages in Israeli schools over the last twenty years (1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010) together with mothers’ education years. Our results revealed a change in the pattern of language learning over the years, with English and French advanced studies highly correlated with mothers’ education (hence associated with a certain perceived status), while Arabic became increasingly correlated with mothers’ education over the years. In addition, we performed semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 20 parents of children studying either French or Arabic in junior high schools. All interviewed parents were selected from schools where pupils can choose between French and Arabic and parents were asked about the motivation for choosing earthier French or Arabic. We found that parents mostly see foreign languages as part of cultural and cosmopolitan capital that their children need to acquire, in order to benefit from it later in their career. While French was found to be perceived in terms of pragmatic and instrumental cosmopolitan capital, Arabic was perceived as a pragmatic but also as an ideological asset. We discuss our findings in the context of Israeli society and the conflict-ridden situation that its education system is functioning within.

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