Pre-vocational education: The making of Israel's ethno-working class

Ishak Saporta, Yossi Yonah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This article deals with pre-vocational education that was first implemented in Israel's educational system in 1955 in 7th and 8th grades of elementary school. The purpose of the article is to examine the role that this education played in making Israel's ethno-working class. This role emerged, we argue, through conflicting dynamics involving two opposite rationales: universalistic and particularistic. On the one hand, pre-vocational education was perceived as an integral component of both a pedagogic conception and a national worldview that viewed vocational training, respectively, as crucial for the development of every child and for 'economic equilibrium' in the country. Yet, on the other hand, from the beginning of the program's implementation the universalistic rationales were abandoned or collapsed as growing importance was attributed to particularistic rationales. In other words, pre-vocational education came to be seen primarily as a means by which to ensure the 'integration' of Mizrahi children (i.e., children of Asian and African background) into Israel's social and economic life, thus contributing significantly to creating Israel's ethno-working class. Presenting the dynamics leading to this result, we proceed to offer the reasons that led the particularistic rationales to gain the ascendancy over the universalistic rationales. We argue that these reasons owe to the dynamics characterizing of the nation-building processes in general. That is, the particularistic rationales are implicitly embedded within the universal and homogenizing logic of these processes, processes that tend to suppress this logic from within. Whereas the inherent internal logic of the modern nation-state appears to necessitate equality of opportunities, it was that same logic, we argue, that constructed certain groups that are 'incapable' of benefiting from that equality, because they are ostensibly unable or unwilling to adopt the basic values of modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-275
Number of pages25
JournalRace Ethnicity and Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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