By Aimée-Stephanie Reid, Haneen Zeglam, Sam Lytton Cobbold
Our project aims to study how Israel-Palestine is taught across many different types of schools across England and Northern Ireland. Our main method of research will be a series of interviews with students reflecting on how they learnt about, or interacted with, the Israel-Palestine conflict while at school. Our participants will cover a range of educational backgrounds including faith schools (Muslim and Jewish), private schools, state schools and Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland, where we believe the situation will provide an interesting contrast.
Our initial research suggests that there is a severe lack of content and teaching resources available on Israel-Palestine at KS3 level and very low uptake of any optional modules that cover the conflict at GCSE and A-Level. Furthermore, across various different types of schools in the UK there are varying degrees of regulation, suggesting there is a lack of uniformity in how students engage with the topic of Israel-Palestine. For example, given the conspicuous absence of Israel-Palestine from most core curriculums, it seems that students at English state schools are extremely unlikely to receive any education regarding the conflict, whilst on the other hand students attending Muslim or Jewish schools, or even Catholic schools in Northern Ireland (where the Palestinian cause is often studied as an analogy to the NI Peace Process) may be heavily exposed to partisan narratives.
The project ultimately seeks to understand how a varied sample of young people view the Israel-Palestine conflict and more importantly, how their experiences in school shaped these perceptions.
Our formal aims are:
- Investigate and compare what UK students from different educational backgrounds think and know about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
- Assess how these opinions were shaped by their experiences at school.
- Suggest changes to the education system that would help promote non-partisan and rights-orientated opinions of the conflict, in line with the goals of the Balfour Project.
The importance of this project comes from its seeking to understand those very opinions, and how they’re formed through one of the most important nationalinstitutions – education. Furthermore, this research feeds into a much broader and extremely relevant discussion in Britain today. Since the Black Lives Matter protests this summer and subsequent demands to decolonise the curriculum, the conversation of how curriculums can best reflect contentious topics has begun. Given this wider context, we believe our research is more important than ever. Looking at how Israel-Palestine is navigated in classrooms is a telling example of how Britain deals with important conversations more widely.