The topic of equal opportunity in education has always generated a fierce public debate in Israel. Such debate is vital, because the quality and level of education greatly affect the chances of pupils to succeed later in life. The existence of the debate is also evidence of the degree of the society’s cohesiveness and of its commitment to social justice.
Practices of Difference in Israel Education: A View from Below, a collection of articles, offers a discussion of equal opportunity in education from the perspectives of various theoretical and research approaches – those that observe reality “from below,” at the micro level, and those that observe it “from above,” at the macro level. This collection includes both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. The conjunction of these theoretical approaches provides a rich and complex picture of the field of education in Israel. As the book shows, this field is characterized by trends toward continuity and social reproduction and at the same time by far-reaching changes.
One of the main insights arising from the book is that it is impossible to understand these contradictory trends without taking into account the perspectives of the various players in the field: teachers, pupils, parents, principals, and administrators. Indeed, most of the studies in the collection deal with the active role of these players and with their dynamic and continued coping with the complex, contradictory reality of the act of education. To a great extent, this book invites a re-examination of the theoretical toolbox available to sociologists and anthropologists who study inequality in education. The underground streams in society that have surfaced recently both in Israel and elsewhere exemplify how important it is to preserve the centrality of the debate over inequality in education – to examine what generates inequality and to outline ways to overcome it.