Education – The Next Frontier

Categories: Israel
By Guy Spigelman

In the background of the battle over disengagement, Israel has been debating a major reform of the country’s education system. In 2004 the government set up the National Taskforce for the Advancement of Education, headed by Shlomo Dovrat – one of Israel’s leading hi-tech tycoons.

The report of the National Taskforce was delivered last year and it is the source of much controversy, especially amongst the teachers unions who are fighting key recommendations via a national campaign on billboards and in the media.

Fundamental proposals include moving from a six day to a five day school week, longer school days, changes to the working conditions for teachers, a large reduction in teacher numbers, more autonomy for school principals, reducing class sizes, and more.

Every reform, especially such a major reform as this one, involves some pain for the stakeholders. In this case the extent of the opposition can be traced back to the flawed make-up and procedure of the Taskforce. The Taskforce was comprised of academics, former teaching professionals, business people and community leaders. There were no representatives of the Teachers Unions or the Ministry of Education – nor were there parliamentarians. The consultation process with the public and other interest groups was sporadic, without clear targets for community input.

In early June, the Education Minister announced partial, one-sided, implementation of the report in 33 municipalities for the 2005/6 school year. The same day, the Teaching Unions launched stop work measures in those municipalities.

While Labor recognizes the urgent need to overhaul the education system, a system that Labor nurtured in the early days of the state and produced results that were the envy of the world, we cannot and will not accept implementing the reform without the agreement of the teaching profession. There are many good things about the report and what is now required are serious and honest negotiations about the recommendations with all the stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, and the government.

Come September 1, the traditional start of the school year and the middle of Disengagement, the unions are preparing for the “mother of all strikes” to protest the Education Minister’s one sided moves – it seems as though Israel’s summer heat will continue well into spring.

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In May, Guy Spigelman held a community briefing, the first of its kind, on the Dovrat report with the head of the National Taskforce, Shlomo Dovrat. For a copy of the presentation, in English, please write to guy@i-tech.org.il.

About Guy Spigelman

Guy Spigelman is the editor of "Revival", the English language news magazine of the Labor Party. Guy was born in Sydney, Australia and served as Mazkir of Habonim Dror before making Aliya in 1994. Currently, Guy lives in Tel Aviv and serves as VP Asia Pacific at XMPie, a leading provider of software for the advertising and printing industry. In 2003 Guy and other leaders of the hitech industry founded I-tech, the hitech forum of the Israeli Labor Party. Today the forum has over 500 members who have banded together to promote: support for R&D, an overhaul of the education system, reducing social gaps and political reforms. Aside from politics, Guy is an active board member of Merchavim, the Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel, an NGO that has trained hundreds of teachers from across the school system in models for promoting cultural diversity inside the classroom. Guy is married to Naomi and together they are the parents of three wonderful girls Eden, Galia and Neta.
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