“I’m a blogger,” I told the young woman who asked for my name and ID at the press conference Sunday morning at the Likud Party Headquarters.
The woman smiled.(
I guess she knew that already. . .
There I was, with Rafi, Carl, RivkA and her husband Moshe. [Lurker must have been lurking too much; I didn't see him.] Scouting the room for Hebrew bloggers I found Anat and Dalia, who cover education for the site Avodah Shechorah. “Avodah Shechorah” means black labor, or getting down to the nitty gritty. The site advocates for Israel to become a welfare state, which is not exactly in line with Bibi’s economic goals. But the topic today was education.
Bibi made a special point of greeting the bloggers. I had a better view than at NBN. About twenty journalists attended but more were clearly expected.
Bibi is running for prime minister as head of the Likud, and in honor of the new school year he presented the Likud party’s education plan.
His main points:
- As prime minister he would make education a priority, equal in weight to security and the economy. He would head an “education cabinet” and give full authority to the education minister, just as Sharon gave Bibi as economic minister.
- Only education can close the vast socio-economic gaps in Israel. Wealthy parents can hire tutors to overcome a weak system, while the poor are left behind. The number of years spent in school affect income and employment more than the parents’ education or socio-economic status.
- The level of Israeli students has declined by all measures, despite additional sums invested in education. Israel spends an average amount of money per student, yet our international test scores scrape bottom.
- He studied the successes and failures of other countries, claiming that this method worked when he [supposedly] brought the Israeli economy back from the verge of collapse in the early part of the decade.
- His plan focuses on teacher quality, the most important factor in a child’s success.
How does Netanyahu plan attract good teachers to the educational system?
- Carefully screen candidates and raise the standards of acceptance. He pointed out that doctors and psychologists require years of training and are not well compensated (in Israel), yet because of prestige spots are still in demand.
- Invest in these high-quality teacher students by providing a high level of pedagogical and academic skills and knowledge.
- Continue to train new teachers on the job, pairing them with more experienced mentors. Build support for new teachers within the system.
- Raise salaries, but don’t count on that alone. France and Australia, respectively, doubled and tripled teacher salaries with no visible improvement in performance.
Teachers, what do you think? Is it possible, in theory and in practice, to raise the level of prestige and professional satisfaction within the teaching profession?
Netanyahu presented the five main points of his plan:
- Tovim lehoraah–the best students go to education (as outlined above). Increase salary and professional training.
- Give administrators independence and authority, train them in management, and make them accountable for the results.
- Intervene quickly to assist weak students, especially in the early years. Keep track of progress and address problems the day they are discovered; the next school year is probably too late.
- Return to core subjects. Israeli students spend 56% of their classtime, as opposed to 93% in OECD countries, on reading, writing, literature, math, science, foreign language, history and citizenship.
- Return values to education: Citizenship, democracy, respect for teachers and principals, zionism and moreshet yisrael (Jewish tradition), and discipline. He spoke about the danger of anti-Israel sentiments in our schools.
RivkA asked about cheating. [I was also wondering how Bibi planned to bring discipline back to informal Israeli "zeh lo fair" classrooms.] Bibi said that you need to develop a framework of personal responsibility and accountability. He didn’t specify how he would accomplish this.
A reporter asked about the charedim, who recently won the right for their schools to be exempt from core subjects. Bibi replied that we must work within the political reality, and added that even now more charedim and Arabs, including Arab women, are entering the workforce.
I asked about the wisdom of implementing new reforms so soon after the recent Dovrat reforms (now known as Ofek), which aroused strong objections from teachers. He replied that the teachers’ union asked him the same question. He plans to uphold with the positive elements of those reforms, and not make change for its own sake. I was hoping he would be more specific, but he only mentioned the renewed emphasis on Zionist education as lacking in Ofek.
AddeRabbi posted his take on the plan, pointing out that Bibi did not bring up the issue of private schools. This concerns me too and I wish I had asked about it. I have read some of AddeRabbi’s posts on the private school system in Israel. As I understand it, he believes that parents choose private schools because of supposedly higher educational standards. But Israeli parents, at least in the religious sector, will choose exclusivity over education every time. This holds true from the most modern Orthodox to the most haredi. (According to my husband, parents see schools as a club for parents.)
Bibi mentioned drawing good teachers to development towns and other poorer areas, but if he said how he plans to do this, I missed it. Funneling more educational resources to the lower socioeconomic sectors is a good idea. Because from where I sit, “protekzia” and exclusivity are the name of the educational game.