Contested Classrooms: Education in East Jerusalem, 1967-1994
Alyssa Bivins

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



George Washington University

Primary Discipline

History of Education
In the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian side of Jerusalem that had been occupied by Jordan since 1948. Despite Israel?s official control of East Jerusalem, including its education system, Palestinian organizations found ways to create and maintain their own educational institutions. Foreign aid programs also provided limited educational opportunities to Palestinian students in the city. These many education actors with varying educational missions created a fragmented, disputed education system in East Jerusalem that has shaped the lives of thousands of Palestinian students for over 55 years. My dissertation investigates the historical evolution of the ideologies, policies, and practices in the contentious education sphere of East Jerusalem since 1967. It relies on oral history interviews, school archives, newspaper articles, and NGO reports to center the lived experiences of former Palestinian school students and teachers who experienced firsthand the impact of the policy changes, political turmoil, and economic upheavals of the past five decades. Through my historical analysis, I argue that Palestinian students and teachers did not only adapt to shifting educational realities, but they also shaped their own education experiences to reach their own individual, community, and national goals. This research helps us understand how, in situations of prolonged inequality and occupation, education sectors can serve as an arena for the reification of colonial hierarchies, but also as a space of limited individual and collective empowerment. It further sheds light on the limitations of foreign education aid in situations of colonialism.
About Alyssa Bivins
Alyssa Bivins is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department at George Washington University. She focuses on the history of education in Palestinian East Jerusalem. Her dissertation, ?Contested Classrooms: Education in East Jerusalem since 1967,? relies on oral histories and archival documentation to create a social history narrative that centers the diverse Palestinian classroom experiences within East Jerusalem. Her work integrates history, education, settler colonial studies, and indigenous studies to assess the impact of ongoing Israeli occupation on the East Jerusalem education sector. Her dissertation research was funded by the Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Fellowship and a yearlong Foreign Language and Area Studies grant. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Alyssa received a BA in History and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago and an MA in History from George Washington University. She has always strived to combine her interest in the Middle East with her passion for promoting education, so she has worked in many diverse areas of the education sector. This has included designing online lessons for an EdTech company, teaching English in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tutoring refugees for the International Rescue Committee, and teaching classes on community-based philanthropy for Chicago Public High School students. When she isn?t writing her dissertation, she is serving as a staff editor for the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).

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