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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.