The inclusion came after 13 years of discussions. The Education Ministry made the change after consultation with Palestinian Churches. In Bethlehem, students are happy. Before, Christian religion was taught but was not part of the state exam. The school is a place to educate children to “live together, accept and help each other, regardless of religion."
Bethlehem (AsiaNews) - At the next General Secondary Education Examination (Tawjihee), Christian and Muslim students will have to answer exam questions about their own religion.
This is the first time that the Christian religion is an official subject in Grade 12 exams, said Brother Marwan Di'Des, a Franciscan friar and director of the Holy Land School on Bethlehem where interfaith dialogue is a permanent feature.
This year (2018-2019), the school year in the Palestinian territories began on 29 August, making the younger pupils happy, not so much high school students, an amused Di’Des noted. At the end of the year, grade 12 Christian students will be tested on ‘Christian Education’.
This follows 13 years of discussions and efforts. Finally, the Palestinian Ministry of Education adopted a textbook drafted in cooperation with the Churches in Palestine to prepare students.
In previous years, only Islamic education was on the final exam even though studying both religions is mandatory. For Br Di’Des, "It is a matter of social justice. If Muslim kids can be officially tested [on their own religion], why not Christian kids?"
"This is great for us because we are less than 2 per cent in the Holy Land. That such a tiny minority can get their own religion in an exam is an important achievement. It is also the sign that the Palestinian Authority recognises our pedagogical role."
"The kids are excited by the change, even if they have their own worries, because it is their first time. This is also true of the teachers, who previously taught only to prepare students and now have to prepare them for an exam. It is a challenge for teachers and students."
Equality between Muslim and Christian students is a major issue in the Bethlehem school, where 67 per cent of students are Christian and the rest are Muslim.
Every year, the school organises new activities following suggestions from the students themselves. The aim is to "make the school interesting, enticing". Some of suggestions are aim at teaching coexistence and brotherhood, starting with shared values.
"Every week, we dedicate an hour to 'General moral ethics' with the educator, a teacher in charge of the class. We propose ideas, projects around shared values like brotherhood, charity, volunteerism, coexistence. We see this in the kids, how they live together, accept and help each other, regardless of religion."