Integration of Negev Bedouin into Higher Education Evaluated

Integration of Negev Bedouin into Higher Education Evaluated

June 13, 2019

In 2018, the Council for Higher Education initiated a three-year program to integrate Negev Bedouin into higher education, based on a model developed and piloted at Sapir College. This “Gateway to Academia” model program was established to overcome the distinct barriers to higher education that Negev Bedouin youth face.

The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute evaluated this pilot, a four-year program toward a bachelor’s degree that includes a “gateway” year of preparation for academic studies. The study was commissioned by the Council for Higher Education to help the government determine if the Sapir College pilot should be continued and expanded to additional schools. Although there are still many barriers to be overcome and modifications needed to prepare young Bedouin to succeed in higher education, the study concluded that the Gateway to Academia will ultimately enable increasing numbers of them to enter institutions of higher learning and complete their studies. 

The number of Bedouin students studying towards a bachelor’s degree rose from 942 in 2010 to 2,034 in 2016. However, the Negev Bedouin remain under-represented in Israeli higher education and enrolled students often face difficulties. The southern Bedouin population of 280,000 is Israel’s poorest community and faces far more significant barriers to academic achievement than Arab society overall, including language competency in Hebrew, English and Arabic, low test scores, poor study skills, limited access to educational information and support, cultural issues stemming from traditional family structures, and geographic isolation.

With the program’s expansion to a total of five schools, the number of students enrolled in the Gateway to Academia increased from approximately 100 in 2017-18 to 385 in the 2018-19 academic year.

The first cohort of the pilot began the program in 2015-16. The study was conducted in 2017-18 and examined the program from the perspective of participating students and staff, and the benefits to students based on their opinions and academic progress.

The first year of the program, the Gateway to Academia year, aims to prepare Bedouin students for academic studies by focusing on their learning and language skills, exposing them to academic courses with small class sizes, and providing extensive scholastic assistance and support. During the program’s second year, the first undergraduate year, students are integrated into the college’s regular classes but continue to receive enhanced support and academic aid.

Students are screened during the Gateway year to determine whether they are able to continue at the college. While only 58% of students who started the pilot continued to the first undergraduate year, 84% of those who began the first undergraduate year completed the year, compared to 70% of direct-admissions Bedouin and Jewish students at the end of their first year. 

While the Bedouin students in the pilot scored lower on most admissions criteria than both direct-admissions Bedouin students and Jewish students at the college, those who remained in the program had higher scholastic achievements at the end of their first undergraduate year (the end of the second year of the program) than the college’s direct-admissions Bedouin students. However, their academic achievements were still lower than the Jewish students.

The study concluded that no single element of the Gateway program stood out as particularly beneficial, but that the program as a whole, comprising numerous elements offering a range of services, promotes successful integration into higher education. The researchers noted that as there is not yet a study of an entire Gateway cohort through graduation, the ability to draw conclusions from changes made to the pilot thus far is limited. The final stage of the study is planned for the end of 2019 and will include other cohorts and the pilot’s development.


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