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Authors: Wright, Lucie
Advisors: Lockheed, Marlaine
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: Despite the fact that approximately 93% of all Bedouin girls from Israel’s Naqab Desert complete up through 8th grade, only about 67% of these girls complete high school (Abu-Bader & Gottlieb, 2009). Moreover, just 39% of Bedouin girls from the unrecognized Bedouin villages – villages that the government does not acknowledge as legal – have graduated high school, rendering them the subpopulation with the highest dropout rates in Israel, significantly above their male Bedouin peers from the unrecognized villages as well as their non-Bedouin Palestinian Arab Israeli and Jewish Israeli peers. This thesis seeks to understand the determinants of these low high school completion rates amongst female Bedouin students, particularly among the girls from the unrecognized villages. How do we explain the high female dropout rates in general? How do we explain the gender gap in secondary school completion in the unrecognized villages specifically? Is this fundamentally an issue of demand (e.g. “culture” or “tradition”) or of supply (e.g. state policies)? To answer these questions, I critically analyzed literature on the Bedouin girls’ high school dropout phenomenon and conducted field research with Naqab-based experts on this issue (e.g. Bedouin girls, teachers, principals, educational scholars, NGO staff). While the dominant scholarly discourse has attributed the high dropout rates to demandside factors (e.g. cultural restraints such as gender separation that render families unwilling to send their daughters to school), my thesis joins and advances the emerging literature that challenges this notion. Although traditional concerns around gender separation and maintaining girls’ honor are important to many Bedouin families, these types of concerns only become relevant barriers to educational access and completion because of the specific educational policies implemented by the Israeli government. My field research finds that a) the vast majority of Bedouin families want their daughters to finish high school, as do the majority of girls themselves, and b) that this demand for high school education for girls is not fully realized because of the government’s refusal to build high schools in the unrecognized villages and its imposition of coeducational schools and transportation. Ultimately, I argue that these policies - and hence the dropout issue - are a direct consequence of the Bedouin’s profound social exclusion and unheard voice in Israeli society. My argument differs from the existing scholarship in that it synthesizes the past research, adds new evidence through my field research, and explains the key determinants (previously treated separately by various scholars) through a single framework, the Bedouin’s social exclusion. The Ministry of Education’s failure to respond to past requests for high schools in the unrecognized villages and single-sex educational options as well as ongoing official attempts to dismantle the unrecognized villages (which would forcibly relocate and dispossess a minimum of 30,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel) combine to present a grim, politically hostile environment. Yet without taking one or more of the policy steps outlined in this thesis, without listening to the voices of Bedouin families and girls that are demanding high school education, it is very unlikely that full gender equity in secondary school completion will be achieved for the Bedouin in Israel.
Extent: 130 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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