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Israel Universities Try To Keep Arabs Out

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  • ummyakoub
    Israeli academics fight racist university test Chris McGreal in Jerusalem Monday December 1, 2003 The Guardian
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2003
      Israeli academics fight 'racist' university test

      Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
      Monday December 1, 2003
      The Guardian


      Israeli academics are threatening to call for an international
      boycott of their
      own university heads if admission tests alleged to have curbed the
      number of
      Arab students are reintroduced.

      The heads of the country's five universities last week announced that
      they would
      bring back controversial psychometric testing that favours middle-
      class Jewish

      The boycott would include rejecting academic papers from individual

      The psychometric assessments were dropped more than a year ago,
      resulting in a
      big increase in the admission of Arab students. A statement by
      university heads
      justifying the tests has reinforced the view that the move is racist.
      lecturers at Israeli universities met at the weekend to decide how to

      Nadim Rouhana, a psychology professor at Tel Aviv university and
      director of the
      association of Arab professors, said: "It's an openly racist policy,
      but what's
      more dangerous is that it's being conceived and conducted by what
      should be
      considered the centres of enlightenment, the centres of education. I
      will be one
      of those to call for a boycott in Europe and the world."

      The psychometric tests were dropped in the hope of benefiting poorer
      Jews whose
      families originate from the Middle East. They lost out in tests
      skewed in favour
      of wealthier Jews of European origin.

      But the main beneficiaries were Arab Israelis poorly versed in test
      such as Jewish history and Hebrew literature. At Tel Aviv university
      the number
      of Arabs studying medicine rose sixfold.

      University heads did not refer to Arabs in their statement announcing
      reintroduction of the tests but spoke instead of students from poor
      families. It said: "Admissions policies based on grades do not make
      studies more
      accessible to students from the periphery. Since the number of places
      in university enrolment has not risen, the acceptance of one
      population nudges
      out another population."

      Arab lecturers say the wording refers to Arab students replacing
      Jews. But the
      universities deny any such intent.

      "The psychometric tests are relevant to the whole population. They
      are held in
      six languages, including Arabic. The sections dealing with culture do
      not have
      an inclination toward Jewish culture," said the association of Israeli
      university heads. But the universities cannot explain why the number
      of Arab
      students increased when tests were dropped.

      Among those who question the claim is Hassan Jabareen, director of
      the Israeli
      Arab legal rights centre, Adalah.

      "The whole system is sys tematically biased," he said. "Twenty years
      ago I sat
      one of these tests at Tel Aviv university. I was asked who Einstein
      was. I said
      he was the biggest scientist in the world. But they said no, we gave
      a different
      first name. We are speaking of a singer from Tel Aviv."

      The controversy has flared as Israel tries to head off a growing
      foreign boycott
      of its universities by accusing those behind it of anti-Semitism or
      Israel to a higher standard than other countries.

      "It's ironic," said Prof Rouhana. "They [university presidents] don't
      see the
      connection between the boycott and their actions."

      Relly Sa'ar, Haaretz, 11/27/03

      There's no politically correct spin to put on it,
      and the facts speak for themselves: As soon as
      Israel's top university administrators noticed
      that the big winners from admissions policy
      changes were not Jewish youngsters from low-income
      towns, but rather Arabs, they reverted back to the
      old admissions system.

      This year, the universities
      instituted a policy change -
      the abandonment of
      psychometric aptitude tests
      as a requirement for
      admissions. However, once
      university officials realized
      that the main beneficiaries
      were Arabs, they decided to
      reinstate the exams.

      During the upcoming academic year, university
      admission candidates will be judged according
      to the old system, which is based on a
      combination of high school matriculation exam
      results and the psychometric tests. By
      reinstating the old system, the universities
      apparently intend to guard against high
      enrollments of Arab students in selected

      One of the country's universities studied the
      results of this year's new admissions policies
      - candidates had to submit their results from
      various high school matriculation exams rather
      than take the aptitude tests. However, the
      university discovered that the new admissions
      system benefits Arab candidates. For example,
      the percentage of Arab students who were
      supposed to be accepted to the university's
      faculty of dental medicine under the new system
      was 52 percent; in the previous academic year,
      when psychometric results were part of the
      admissions policy, Arab students comprised just
      29 percent of the first-year class. The same
      held true for the university's occupational
      therapy department: under the new admissions
      system, 56 percent of first-year students were
      to be Arabs; under last year's old admissions
      system, the figure was 19 percent.

      To prevent a heavy influx of Arab students in
      fields such as dental medicine and occupational
      therapy, the university instituted what one
      department head described as "revisions" in its
      admissions policy. "We set the [minimum] entry
      age for studies at 20, instead of 18, and we
      also gave added weight to personal interviews
      with candidates," the department head said in
      describing the "revisions." The Arab candidates
      do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces, so
      the previous minimum entry age, 18, worked to
      their advantage, while increasing the
      importance of personal interviews worked to the
      disadvantage of Arab candidates, partly because
      the interviews are not conducted in their
      native language. As a result, the "revisions"
      helped the university departments maintain the
      same Jewish-Arab demographics that had been
      obtained in previous years.

      The universities did little yesterday to conceal
      the fact that admissions policies are being
      altered to benefit Jewish candidates.
      "Admissions policies based on [high school]
      grades do not make studies more accessible to
      [Jewish] students from the periphery. The
      opposite is true," declared the committee of
      university heads. In its statement, the
      committee was careful not to use the words
      "Jews" and "Arabs," but its intention was
      clear. In a euphemistic idiom, it wrote: "since
      the number of places available in university
      enrollment has not risen, the acceptance of one
      population [that is, the Arab students, R.S.]
      nudges out another population [Jews, R.S.]"

      Based on cold statistics, it remains unclear
      how this year's new admissions policy, which
      took into account matriculation exam results,
      unwittingly instituted an affirmative action
      program for Arab youth. For years, the Arab
      secondary school system has notched poor
      matriculation exam results due to chronic
      discrimination in budget fund allocations.

      Two weeks ago, the heads of the universities
      worked out an arrangement with Education
      Minister Limor Livnat and Knesset Education and
      Culture Committee Chairman MK Ilan Shalgi
      (Shinui) whereby the system of considering
      matriculation exam results in lieu of
      psychometric exams is to be "suspended for one
      year" rather than be scrapped permanently. At
      the end of the current academic year, the
      universities are to submit to the Knesset
      committee empirical research studies that
      address the correlation between academic
      performance in higher education and
      psychometric exam or matriculation test
      success. Since the universities vehemently
      opposed adoption of the system used this year
      and claimed that psychometric exam results are
      the most reliable indicator of success in
      higher education settings, it can be expected
      that the research will point to the need for
      reinstating the psychometric tests as an
      important factor in admissions decisions.



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