Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2006 Issue »

    An Interview with Khalil Mahshi

    Introduction to the Interview:

    In 1989, the Harvard Educational Review published “The Palestinian Uprising and Education for the Future” by Khalil Mahshi and Kim Bush. In that article, Mahshi and Bush reviewed Palestinian education from the time of the Ottoman Turks until the late 1980s. They documented that throughout history, Palestinians were educated within systems imposed by outsiders. Mahshi and Bush argued that an already contentious relationship with Israel was exacerbated by the combination of an Israeli civil and military authority and a Jordanian educational curriculum. The first intifadah (uprising), which began in December 1987, challenged the Israeli occupation and its imposed institutions. During this time period, educational establishments in the West Bank and the Gaza strip were subject to frequent closures by Israeli military authorities, forcing Palestinians to reexamine their current system of education and to look for both short- and long-term alternatives.

    Given these conditions, Mahshi and Bush argued that the first intifadah was a catalyst for educational change in Palestine. They examined different models of education that were developed when schools in the Palestinian territories were forcibly shut down by the Israeli military: United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon; private schools; Popular Committee schools; and neighborhood schools. They also analyzed several initiatives created by and for Palestinians during that time: informal, community-based education methods; alternative modes of instruction such as home-learning packets, which did not require the school structure but still used the existing system and textbooks; and long-term planning that conceived of education as nation-building. Mahshi and Bush argued that the intifadah created a giant educational laboratory and challenged conservative educators to start afresh. Finally, they outlined a pioneering project, Education for Awareness and Involvement, that they believed contained the beginnings of a new Palestinian curriculum that would connect school and community and shift the focus from end-of-school examinations to student-centered pedagogy.

    By articulating the challenges of Palestinian education clearly, Mahshi and Bush encouraged debate among educators in Palestine and the international educational community about the future of Palestinian education. In the more than fifteen years since their article was published, the debate on Palestinian education has flourished. And much has changed. Khalil Mahshi served as the director-general of international and public relations for the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education and is now a senior program specialist with the International Institute for Educational Planning at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. Preceding the Palestinian elections of January 2006, and given both Mahshi’s extensive experience and his close relationship with Palestinian education, the Harvard Educational Review took the opportunity to interview him. On December 1, 2005, two members of the HER Editorial Board spoke with Mahshi about the legacy of the first Palestinian intifadah and the current state of Palestinian education. Mahshi — who asked us to call him “Khalil” — emphasized the subjective nature of his observations and the complex role of commenting on the work of colleagues who are still engaged in the difficult work of building an education system. Khalil describes the changes that have taken place in the education of Palestinians since he and Bush wrote “The Palestinian Uprising and Education for the Future,” and he outlines lessons from this development process that are applicable globally to the building and rebuilding of education systems in the face of occupation, resistance, and conflict.

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    Spring 2006 Issue


    Community Forces, Social Capital, and Educational Achievement
    The Case of Supplementary Education in the Chinese and Korean Immigrant Communities
    By Min Zhou and Susan S. Kim
    What the Resistance of New Teachers Reveals about Professional Principles and Prescriptive Educational Policies
    By Betty Achinstein and Rodney T. Ogawa
    An Interview with Khalil Mahshi
    No Longer Overlooked and Undervalued?
    The Evolving Dynamics of Endogenous Educational Research in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Richard Maclure
    Editor's Review - College Choices edited by Caroline M. Hoxby
    Baoyan Cheng

    Book Notes

    Teaching Social Studies That Matters
    By Steven J. Thornton

    Becoming Adult Learners
    By Eleanor Drago-Severson

    NCLB Meets School Realities
    By Gail Sunderman, James S. Kim, and Gary Orfield

    Compelled to Excel
    By Vivian S. Louie

    Inequality in America
    By Benjamin M. Friedman

    Call 1-800-513-0763 to order this issue.