Israel’s New Ed Minister Wants to Focus on More than Tests

Knesset Member Shai Piron, Israel's new education minister, has a few ideas about the country's education system — mainly, that the system is the country's future, that it is failing, and that it needs to be completely overhauled to become less about achievement and more about learning.

Piron outlined these ideas at his first speech at the Knesset – the Israeli Parliament – last month when he spoke about the fact that the country is filled with young people and educators who are dedicated to their academic mission, but were still underperforming compared to their international peers. He said that he wants students to focus on values like courtesy, language and conduct instead of worrying about their next exam. To that effect, he is introducing a plan for high school students to take only four matriculation exams – in mathematics, English, Hebrew and a subject of their choice.

According to the party, these subjects include specific informational goals, for which teaching for the tests is ideal. However, in other mandatory subjects, such as Bible, heritage, history and science, teachers will be free to teach in whichever way they choose.

The Yesh Atid platform states that reducing the amount of high school exams will "expand the students' minds and truly inculcate a love for learning and a deeper appreciation of these subjects."

Among other goals for Piron is to figure out a way to integrate special education students into regular programs, as well as combat bigotry in education and provide better opportunities to those from low-income families and under-represented minorities. The Yesh Atid platform also includes making half the schools in the country technological or vocational and allowing graduates to transition directly into the work-force, bypassing the university.

"This will enable those non-classic students to flourish and be prepared for life with the tools necessary to earn a living with a professional certificate in hand upon graduation from high school," the party stated.

"This will also free teachers to truly inspire the more classic students with a liberal arts education without expending their energy on students who don't want to be there and simply cannot succeed."

The education platform of Yesh Atid received a great deal of attention in the past month as the fight over the position of the education minister swung between the incumbent party Likud and YA, who are their coalition partners in the new coalition government. Piron, who won the position from the current holder Likud's Gideon Sa'ar, says that he's happy that the power struggle resulted in the elevation of education's importance in the minds of Israelis.

03 18, 2013
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