Ruth Zuzovsky

Instructional Variables Involved in Problems Associated with Diglossia in Arabic Speaking Schools in Israel

PIRLS 2006 Findings


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PIRLS 2006 findings establish that reading literacy attainments of 4th graders in Arabic-speaking countries are poor. This low attainment is also reflected in the findings of PIRLS 2006 in Israel when comparing Arabic-speaking 4th graders’ reading literacy mean score with that of their Hebrew-speaking peers (428 vs. 528). Findings of a previous study (Zuzovsky, 2008) supported an explanation that the existence of diglossia typical of the Arabic language (two linguistic codes – written and spoken) is the main cause of the low results of Arabic-speaking students in Israel and recommended educational interventions aimed to directly treat the problems of diglossia. Following these recommendations the present study aims to identify specific instructional activities that are significant in the effort to overcome the problems associated with Arabic diglossia. Of fourteen reading literacy activities positively associated with reading attainment, six exhibited significant interaction effects with the ethnic group variable indicating their relatively higher contribution to the achievement of students in Arabic-speaking schools. The most effective variables for Arabic-speaking students appear to be those indicating early home literacy activities that foster phonemic awareness and letter sound recognition. Among the school literacy activities, repeated listening to the sounds of written Arabic and being actively engaged in reading text and gradually in more challenging tasks, are promising school practices.

reading achievement, Arabic diglossia, reading instruction