Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 281–301 | Cite as

Gender discourse in an Arab-Muslim high school in Israel: Ethnographic case study

  • Khalid Arar


Although the school constitutes a key cultural arena for the production and reproduction of gender identities, few studies have addressed gender discourse in educational institutions in developing societies. Such studies are especially sparse in Arab society in Israel. This study goes some way to addressing what is often absent from many sociological portrayals of young pupils and schools, since it uses the words of the teachers and students to clarify the construction of gender discourse in an Arab high school in Israel. It points to activities considered to be gendered; identifying distinctions between the sexes (if they exist) in the staff’s and students’ perceptions of educational experiences at school; and examining to what extent school authority is seen as masculine and whether the school promotes debate and socialization for equality between the sexes. The research employed an inductive methodology including ethnographic data-collection techniques: observations, focus group interviews of students and in-depth personal interviews with school role-holders. Findings indicate that a covert learning program influences gender construction in the Arab school, a program intended to maintain the existing hegemonic social hierarchy. Patriarchal control of the adolescents’ agenda appears weakened and a generation gap separates teachers from students. Voices of students and younger staff advocate deconstruction of the traditional structure and norms of Arab society, suggesting a new agenda, promoting egalitarian discourse, and new personal and collective identities. Conclusions are drawn concerning the school’s role in the deconstruction of the existing male hegemony, the promotion of gender equity. The paper provides ethnographic insights concerning the Arab high school in Israel, pointing up a need for empathetic educator-student dialogue, that will promote egalitarian perceptions and practices, listen to the voice of the younger generation and challenge residual social norms of Arab Muslim society. The findings indicate that a more open gender discourse could offer symbolic resources and/or practical tools to enhance the every-day implementation of equity in the school. The paper also suggests some new research directions.


Gender discourse Equity Management High school Learning program Muslims Israel 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationThe Center for Academic StudiesOr-YehudaIsrael

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