High Court Orders Translation of Matriculation Exam into Arabic

Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCR) has ordered that a computerized matriculation exam be translated into Arabic. The decision came in response to a petition submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) demanding that all material constituting part of the 5 unit matriculation exam in geography be translated. The court stressed that all preparations must be made in advance so that the quality and level of the exam in Arabic will not fall short of those in Hebrew.

The HCJ saw its decision as one establishing legal precedent writing: “It is preferable to draw the necessary conclusions – in terms of preparing for similar situations in the future in a timely manner, such that the array of exams in the Arabic language won’t fall short of those in Hebrew, while giving full weight to the status of the Arabic language in the state of Israel and to the well-being of students for whom Hebrew is not their native tongue,” wrote the HCJ in its ruling pertaining specifically to the 5 unit (highest) computerized exam for geography.

ACRI attorney Tal Hassin, along with a student and a teacher of geography in the Arab education system and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee for education, had filed the petitioned demanding that the court instruct the Ministry of Education to translate into Arabic all material for the 5 unit computerized matriculation exam in geography, including the maps and accompanying text.

Following the petition, the Ministry of Education announced that the maps would be translated and sent to the students as a printed appendix to be included in the exam. In response, the ACRI contended that this solution was insufficient unless significant additional time would be granted to students to complete the exam, to which the Ministry acquiesced. The Ministry further committed itself to provide a full Arabic translation of all exam documents, including maps and appendices, for all forthcoming computerized matriculation exams in geography.

Atty. Hassin, who filed the petition, responded: “It is amazing that the Ministry of Education, which is supposed to take care of all students, Jews and Arabs, has not yet bothered to translate the exam for over a decade. This is discriminatory, degrading, and humiliating conduct, and I am glad that the Supreme Court [HCR] has put an end to it. It did not stop there. It also obliged the Ministry of Education to give full weight to the special status of the Arabic language and to the well-being of students whose native language is not Hebrew. This ensures that such long-standing discrimination will not recur.”