Masar School – Uniqueness and pedagogic program

Historical background

Masar school has been established by the founders of Masar institute for education and is considered the first Arab school that joins the global trend of alternative schools. The school has started with 11 students in September 1998 and has grown in one class every year since then. For 5 years, it resided in the Mai Ziade School, which supported the initiative. In 2006, Masar has moved to its current facility and was recognized officially by the ministry of education as an elementary school from kindergarten to the 8th grade. In 2008, high school classes were added and in 2010, the first class has graduated. Today, it serves around 300 students from kindergarten to the 12th grade. Masar School is in the frontline of a true educational pluralism in Nazareth, enabling parents to choose for their children a setting, which is not based on the traditional education system.

School as an exploratory space – Learning from doing

Theoretical uniqueness – A theoretical space of action

Masar School is being run according to a theoretical approach developed by Masar – institute for education. Its conceptual uniqueness stems from the combination between complexity theory (as a theoretical background) and Action Research (as a work and development method). This combination is what makes Masar school unique locally, and as far as we know globally.

(Figure 1 below shows this learning method based on this combination)

This above circle of action incorporates the idea of "doing-wondering" into the heart of the developmental process of study programs and the everyday life in school. We believe that in order to nurture the student's investigative ability the school needs to turn into a research center. Therefore, Masar institute took on itself the role of documentation and the production of new knowledge in different fields. The school has no constitution and we see it as a space of interaction between all members of the school's community (children, teachers and parents) that changes accordingly.

Figure 1: Combination between action research and complexity Theory

Learning from conflict:

The teacher's role is about managing relationships, and to create safe learning space where individuals can learn conflicts and dilemmas that stems through the interaction in the space. Since this principle requires special skills, Masar institute channels significant resources to the teacher’s trainings.

From the above stems an important and distinct pedagogic principle: learning from conflict.

Figure 2: Circle of Learning

Why Masar is unique:

1. Civil society involvement: Education system in Israel is very centralized and two authorities, the governmental and the local control it. The allocation of roles between them is very well structured and defined. Masar School is offering the participation of civil society through the involvement of the organization that accompanies, supports and develops the school. This type of involvement is unheard of in Israel and as far as we know, is not very common anywhere else. Therefore, this successful involvement and strategic partnership with different policy makers is a model to be preserved, developed and learned from. In fact, it is an implementation of an educational conception, which ranks in priority the independence of the schools community to conduct its educational process while nurturing a strategic contact with the ministry of education and municipality.

2. Parents' community – a horizontal partnership instead of a representative partnership: Parents' involvement in school is based on periodical general assemblies, from which open action teams are formulated. Parents are involved in the planning and executing of projects such as: volunteering days, "Land Day" and students exchanges have a say in pedagogic issues (such as students evaluation) and are involved in advocacy in front of authorities.

3. A small number of students - the school as a home: There is only one class every year with maximum 24 students per class. The goal is to allow the teaching staff to get to know each student and to enable in depth exploration of relationships.

4. Small study groups: In depth learning. In lower classes, learning often occurs in small groups. In high school, classes are divided in subjects as English, Hebrew and math according to levels.

5. Two teachers for 1st and 2nd grades

6. Focus on creativity subjects during elementary school: Music studies (2 hours weekly), art (2 hours weekly), Checkmate, drama and dance are part of the core studies. The aim is to develop the students’ creativity skills.

7. Focusing on thought development subjects in high school: In addition to core basic studies, the curriculum allows students to choose subjects for thinking development and broadening of social perceptions. Subjects such as critical thinking, contribution to society, production of social events, creative writing and the Arabic language forum.

8. Focused minimal 'Bagrut' program: The school is in favor of eliminating the 'Bagrut' system and moving towards meaningful learning through exploration. Currently, due to social and educational restraints the students can only specialize in environmental studies. A student can accumulate up to 26 studying units from core subjects to specialized subjects.

9. Art internship program – open format lead by an artist: The school has developed in cooperation with an artist a program based on open space principle. Our graduates study in the leading national and international art academies.

10. Alternative evaluation: The school has developed a different evaluation system, which is not based on grading.

Teachers training program

Managing complex relationships in the educational space while referring to conflicts and dilemmas as a source of advancement require skills that are not acquired in standard teacher training settings. Therefore the school implements an intensive training array. The whole staff gathers for training every two weeks. In addition Masar institute conducts joint studies with the staff aimed at developing new programs and trainings