Figures compiled by Dirasat, a Nazareth-based organisation monitoring education issues, show 5,400 Arab students from
Despite the fact that most Israeli Arab students in
College-age Arabs, representing nearly one-quarter of their age group in
“Our findings should raise serious questions about the hurdles that have been put in the way of Arab students that make them feel they have no choice but to study abroad,” said Yousef Jabareen, a law professor at
Typical of the new exodus is Haneen Bader, 23, from the
Dirasat’s researchers were surprised to find that nearly one-third of all Israeli Arab students in
But, he added, good travel links between
Ms Bader said she was the first member of her family to study outside
She added that some of her friends thought of Jordanian universities as second-rate. “That comes from ignorance,” she said.
“I prefer to study in
“Also, it is far more cosmopolitan in
Ms Bader said studying in
Khaled Arar, a professor at
Dirasat estimates that last year alone Israeli Arab students spent more than $80 million on their education in
Dr Arar listed several factors responsible for the recent increase in the popularity of Jordanian universities.
Most significant was Israeli universities’ growing reliance on culturally biased psychometric exams. Nearly half of Arab students who passed their matriculation exams failed to win a place in higher education because they failed the psychometric test, compared with just 20 per cent of Jewish applicants.
“The gap in psychometric scores between Jewish and Arab students has remained steady — at more than 100 points out of a total of 800 — since 1982. That alone should have raised suspicions.”
He noted that a decision by Israeli universities to scrap the psychometric test in 2003 to help “weaker” groups was reversed when the admission of Arab students rocketed. A statement from the universities justified the about-turn on the grounds that they had been referring to the weaker parts of the Jewish population.
Dr Arar said
The delay was justified by the university authorities, he said, on the grounds that most Jews are conscripted into the army for three years after finishing school.
Arab youngsters, he added, could rarely afford to wait three or four years to begin their studies: most faced problems finding work and were often ineligible for welfare benefits. Among women, there was also strong family pressure to marry early.
Finally, the use of Hebrew, both in admission interviews and as the language of university tuition, meant many Arab youngsters leaving school, where Arabic was their first language, feared they would be at a strong disadvantage against their Jewish peers.
Areej Dirini, 38 and a divorcee, takes her three children with her as she splits her time between her parents’ home in
A mature student completing a masters in graphic design at al Zeitouni university, Ms Dirini said she had spent many years living with her former husband in the Gulf and lacked the confidence to study in Hebrew.
“I’m planning to do a doctorate next but I’m afraid to study in
Years of demands for the establishment of a university, teaching in Arabic, in
Dr Arar noted that the phenomenon of Arab citizens being forced to study abroad because of problems accessing higher education was not new.
“From the 1960s onwards the Israeli Communist Party offered scholarships to universities in the Soviet bloc because many of the brightest Arab students were denied places in
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth,
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in