Parents’ Choice of a Bilingual Hebrew-Arabic Kindergarten for the Children
Parents’ choices regarding bilingual education are not arbitrary. Parents have background motives, related to their family language and cultural policy, which drive them to integrate their child in a bilingual and bicultural environment. It is inevitable that this choice will have some impact on their child’s linguistic, cognitive and social development.
In Israel, the unique socio-political context in which the Jews and Arabs live makes bilingual educational institutions in the country exceptional and incomparable to those in other countries. Unlike elsewhere, the two languages used in these institutions are both official languages of the state, belonging to two host (non-immigrant) communities living separately in the same country and unfortunately, sometimes in conflict. Bilingual education, in this case, may give the Israeli population, especially the Jewish majority, the opportunity to be exposed to this significant but less familiar language. The two groups are introduced to each other’s cultures with the potential of achieving mutual recognition. The aim of this study, therefore, was to investigate the background motives and family language and cultural policy of the parents who chose to send their children to bilingual Hebrew-Arabic kindergartens in Israel. The following two questions were examined: (1) What are the similarities and differences between Jewish and Arab parents regarding their motives for choosing a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic kindergarten for their children? (2) What are the outcomes of this language and cultural policy concerning the child’s socio-linguistic development, the family’s satisfaction with the kindergarten and the family’s language and cultural policy regarding the two target groups of comparison?
The study was conducted by applying the mixed-methods sequential explanatory design, which implies collecting quantitative data (from parents’ questionnaires) and then qualitative data (from parents’ semi-structured interviews) in two consecutive phases within one study. The research population in the study consisted of Jewish (n = 35) and Arab (n = 45) Israeli parents who had chosen bilingual preschools in the north of Israel. The data revealed considerable similarities between the Jews and Arabs regarding their motives for the kindergarten choice and satisfaction with the kindergartens. However, the differences were found in the parents’ self-reports on the management and practice of family language and cultural policy. As for outcomes of this education, both Arab and Jewish parents reported that this experience strengthened their children’s personalities and empowered them as individuals. Finally, we found a dramatic increase in the Arab and Jewish parents’ interest in the second language and this was reflected in their practice with their children. These findings will be discussed in light of state language policy in Israel.
KeywordsLanguage Policy Mother Tongue Minority Language Bilingual Education Family Language
Our grateful thanks go to the School Principal of the Bridge over the Wadi (Gesher al HaWadi), Dr. Hasan Agbaria, and the School Principal of Ein Bustan, Amir Shlomian. We would also like to thank the teachers and the parents of the children in the kindergartens, for their unlimited support and fruitful collaboration.
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