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February 19, 2010

Bethlehem University Project Creates Model for Education Reform

Education reform“The challenges of teaching and education that we face as a university trying to prepare qualified teachers are so many and so huge,” says Mr. Rizek Sleibi, Dean of the Bethlehem University Faculty of Education. To meet those challenges, he and fellow education faculty members initiated the “Quality of Education for All through Partnership” project with two broad objectives: To enhance the quality of education for Palestinian children and  to increase the integration of the democratic values and human rights in education throughout creating partnerships and developing active learning in schools. The multi-year project, which concludes this semester, combines professional training, community meetings, teacher mentoring, educational fairs, conferences and forums to benefit some 5000 students, teachers and administrators.


Education reformCreating partnerships was another strategy to improve the skills and qualifications for both current school teachers and University students preparing to be teachers. Mentor teachers from each of the eleven partner schools supervised Bethlehem University students’ performance as they practiced their teaching methods in the classroom. The mentor teachers then had the chance to expand their own knowledge base by attending University training workshops. While Bethlehem University students may have an educational background in the most recent teaching advances, explains Mr. Rizek, “partner schools have their own teaching methods that they build through experience.” By combining the two strengths, he says, “we can reach this mutual imagination of education.”

Education reformProfessional development and training workshops, which mentor teachers attended free of charge, explored ways teachers could go beyond the standard curriculum to create an active learning experience for their students. These continuing education opportunities included general approaches to dynamic teaching and comprehensive assessment as well as specific teaching tools like drama in education and technology in the classroom. Education faculty members also conducted model classes in specific subject areas (English, Arabic, Math and Science), with recordings of those sessions made available as a teacher resource. The faculty members also worked one-on-one with a group of current subject area teachers in training priorities determined by the teachers themselves.

Education reformBesides improving the delivery of education in Palestine, project leaders also sought to help integrate ideas of democracy and human rights in core educational experience and to spur broad public support for the educational process. Project leaders invited representatives from local municipalities, parents’ councils, businesses, media, local community organizations and the Ministry of Education to public lectures highlighting community and parental responsibilities toward education. “What parents expect from the school and their understanding of education for their children, what they want schools to teach or not teach their kids” is something that has to influence education, says Mr. Rizek. With these community sessions, project leaders explained that while the task of education may be led by Palestinian schools, the process of education demands the involvement of the entire community.

Education reformTeachers and lectures were not the only elements of the project, though. It also created concrete teaching resources on the Bethlehem University campus and in partner schools. The Zou'rub Teachers' Resource Center at the Faculty of Education provides comprehensive educational resources and teaching practice space under one roof. It also serves as a concrete link between programs run by the Faculty of Education, non-governmental and governmental educational institutions. It is, says Mr. Rizek, "the focal point between Bethlehem University, local schools and institutions." Smaller satellite versions of the center, called Educational Corners, have also been established in each of the eleven partner schools. With teaching materials and computers, the spaces were designed to provide an on-site resource for innovative teaching methods.

Education reformUltimately these layers of involvement have made the project not only successful but sustainable. The Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education has deemed the project a realistic translation of its five year plan and of the National Teachers Strategic Plan. As a result, it has funded a project expansion as a pilot model for National Educational Reform.

This project was possible thanks to support from the Fundación Promoción Social  de la Cultura, a Spanish NGO dedicated to “promoting culture and human development,” and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

 

 
Bethlehem University Foundation
Email: brds@bufusa.org
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
E-mail: info@bethlehem.edu
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine