Promoting Discourse on Controversial Issues

What do teachers think about discussing controversial issues in the classroom? How do they perceive the expectations of parents, school management and the Ministry of Education, and how do these expectations affect what is actually happening in the classroom? What blocks and what can promote dialogue regarding controversial issues in the education system?

In advance of the Dov Lautman Conference on Education Policy 2016, the Dov Lautman Forum (a collaboration between the Lautman Foundation, the Open University and other partners) asked the Center to investigate the issue and to report the current state of affairs in Israel regarding teachers’ attitudes towards holding discussions on controversial issues in secondary education. The study included a broad sample of 862 teachers and 558 parents of students in the secondary school system.

The main finding from the data is that teachers report significant discussion on controversial issues in the classroom. However, from the teachers’ perspective, the amount of classroom time dedicated to addressing  these issues should be higher (a difference of about 15%).​ Also emerging from the data is teachers' perception that parents and school systems do not want teachers to deal with controversial subjects. Regarding Jewish-Arab relations, for example, about 87% of teachers think this should be taught in school, but only 47% of teachers think the school system expects it of them, and only 23% think it is a parental expectation. Interestingly, when we look at the situation among parents we find that most parents in all education streams actually do think these issues should be taught in school. In addition, it appears that similar gaps are repeated in the communication between teachers and the education system.

classroom discourse

For the research findings (in Hebrew) click here