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Volansky theisraelieducationsystemenglish22007-131017061649-phpapp02

  1. 1. 1 The Israeli Education System Dr. Ami Volansky Tel-Aviv University Submitted to The International Encyclopedia of Education Elsevier – Oxford The author wishes to thank Prof. Yuval Dror of Tel-Aviv University and Eliezer Shmueli, former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Education, whose deep familiarity with the Israeli education system as it has evolved over the years was instrumental in ensuring the clarity and accuracy of the material covered in this paper. December 2007
  2. 2. 2 Background As of late 2006, Israel’s population was at 7.1 million – 16.5% Muslim, 2% Christian, 1.6% Druze, and slightly over 80% Jewish. The founding of the State of Israel in 1948 as a Jewish national home – following the destruction, on the European continent, of a third of the Jewish people during World War II – triggered waves of Jewish immigration to Israel from countries around the world – a phenomenon that continues to this day. Israel is a rich and unusual demographic mosaic, in which diverse cultures intermingle and the streets resound with a medley of languages other than the official Hebrew and Arabic. Jews from a hundred and thirty countries, representing over a hundred different languages (Shohamy, 2006) have made their home here. In addition to the formidable task of building a nation, Israel has had to cope, throughout the years, with a tense geopolitical situation in the Middle East.. These facts elucidate the complex reality with which the Israeli education system is faced. Complex though it may be, Israeli society is perceived, , as a creative and vibrant one in all spheres of life. For example, during the five-year period between 1999-2003, Israel ranked third in number of scientific papers per capita, a world leader in applied science and ranks second worldwide in astrophysics, third in computer science, and fourth in molecular biology.1 All seven of the country’s universities were included in the list of the world’s 500 leading research institutions for 2005.2 The local thirst for culture has led to the creation of a wide and growing variety of cultural institutions. Indeed, recent years have witnessed an unprecedented growth of cultural activity, reflected in a three- fold increase in cultural consumption on the part of Israeli children and adolescents over the last two decades. On the economic level, since the 1980s Israel has undergone the transition from a planned to a liberal economy. As of 2007 Israel’s GDP is $26,500 per capita.3 : economic growth rate was 5% in 2007, nearly double that of the OECD countries.4 Annual inflation is about 2%, the labor force participation rate is 55.2%, and the unemployment rate is 8%.5 . During the 1990s the ICT sector was the main force driving Israel’s economic growth. To give some perspective, in 2004 the sector’s share of
  3. 3. 3 Israel’s total exports was 20%, compared with 13% for the same year in the OECD countries.6 Despite Israel’s achievements in the areas of economic growth, immigrant absorption, reach of cultural life, science and research, social disparities persist. A quarter of Israel’s children live under the poverty line;7 the disparity in per-pupil spending on education between the highest and lowest decile has held steady for the past decade at eleven-fold (NIS 126 per month for the lowest decile versus NIS 1,355 for the highest decile in 2005).8 Against this background, it becomes easier to understand the complex circumstances in which the Israeli education system operates: absorbing new immigrants whose native language is not Hebrew, profound social and economic disparities and, above all, the drive to meet international standards – as well as a demanding public’s expectations – for scholastic performance. The Israeli education system is based on the foundations laid during a fifty-year pre-state period of all walks of life were administered by the Vaad Leumi, or Jewish National Council, mainly during the British Mandate in Palestine. This infrastructure was influenced by the numerous initiatives, organizations and ideological tracks that were active in Palestine from the end of the 19th century on and from which a growing variety of educational enterprises emerged. These enterprises included vocational education networks as well as boarding school systems ("youth village”) that rescued children via “youth aliyah” frameworks prior to the European catastrophe as well as, assisting young people in immigrating to Israel after the establishment of the state. At the time these youth villages served a third of Israel’s children. Alongside the youth village system, a joint school system developed that encompassed over four hundred kibbutzim and which itself absorbed numerous immigrant children. While the language of instruction for Jewish pupils is Hebrew, the language of instruction for Arab pupils is Arabic. Israel’s Arab and Jewish education systems do not operate on an equal footing. Over the years various infrastructural and service disparities have been
  4. 4. 4 identified between the Jewish and Arab, as will be discussed below. These disparities have been a persistent source of frustration as well as for action. In this article we will be looking at the various levels of Israel’s education system, from early-childhood education through higher education, with particular attention to the system’s internal contradictions, complexities and weaknesses, as well as to the major challenges faced by each successive level. Early-Childhood Education Israel’s Compulsory Education Law calls for compulsory schooling from age 5 through age 18. However, when the law was passed in 1949, a year after the founding of the state, compulsory education was defined as eight years of schooling only,9 from age 5 to age 13.10 The latter approach viewed early-childhood education as a preparatory stage crucial to ensuring young children’s readiness for primary school and, in particular, to narrowing educational disparities. This approach has found practical expression, particularly since the 1980s, in intensified governmental efforts to encourage the enrollment of children in preschools from age 3 – efforts that have taken the form of state subsidies for early childhood education in Israel’s disadvantaged population sectors. As a result of this policy, 37% of Israeli children aged 2 and up, 75% aged 3 and up, 86% aged 4 and up and 95% aged 5 and up were enrolled in preschools in 2006, for a total ages 2-5 preschool enrollment of 400,000.11 From a pedagogical point of view, the Israeli early-childhood education system has undergone two distinct stages. During the first stage the focus was on education for positive social habits, arts and crafts, music, holidays and festivals, hygiene and linguistic usage,12 while until the late 1980s the pre-primary education system came to be perceived as a framework for preparing children “in accordance with the requirements of older pupils in the system.”13 This trend led to the development of a more demanding curriculum that taught basic scholastic skills and strove to ensure a smooth continuum between kindergarten and primary school. What occurred was, in essence, a complete overhaul of the kindergarten curriculum, which was now oriented toward teaching
  5. 5. 5 arithmetic, science, art, life skills, and the historical-cultural heritage.14 The transition from a relax pedagogy and free of external policy pressure to a more defined standards and prerequisites policy generated considerable controversy within Israel’s education system, that has continued to resonate into the twenty-first century. Despite the pedagogical differences of opinion, Israel’s early childhood education system is generally thought to possess many positive features and has earned a high degree of professional and public esteem. Primary Education Israel's primary education system, in which some 800,000 pupils currently participate at 2,200 educational institutions, developed in three main stages. The first stage, which spanned the first two decades of Israel’s existence, was characterized by a melting-pot policy. Half of the country's pupils came from immigrant families; in some localities immigrants formed the decisive majority. In order to promote the development of a homogeneous society and to blur differences and disparities between immigrants and veteran Israelis and between Jews of Western and of Middle Eastern ethnic background, a uniform curriculum was adopted for the entire pupil population. The main goal was to do away with the various educational streams that had existed prior to the founding of the state and to absorb and unite the immigrants under a 'single uniform curriculum – to ensure the development of one unified people within one state, by means of a single curriculum.'15 Schools and teachers were regarded as partners in the ideological mission to forge a cohesive society. This aspiration to uniformity cast the teaching profession in a conservative mold and impaired its ability to address the tremendous differences that actually existed between different pupil groups (Dror, 2004). The second period began in the late 1960s, when an approach gradually emerged that called for emphasizing differences in pupil needs over uniformity in the provision of educational services. This approach engendered a policy of the child centered approach. It led Israel's primary education system to stress individually-tailored instruction, to encourage independent learning and to foster the acquisition of inquiry based learning; it
  6. 6. 6 promoted active learning, enrichment of the learning environment, the offering of electives, schedule flexibility and a multi-year curricular structure, democratization of the school social framework, involvement in the community, an emphasis on identifying individual pupil needs and a diminished reliance on standardized assessments (Bentoitz 1960; Eden 1971; Tzameret 1977; Shtall 1991; Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua 1990). Additionally, a trend toward differential allocation of learning resources took hold, in which priority was given to disadvantaged populations (Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua 1988; Zilberstein 1984; Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua and Zilberstein 1999). This in turn created the conditions for large-scale adoption of a school autonomy philosophy – to a point where a third of Israel’s schools became self-managing (Volansky, 2003; Dror, 2007; Gibton & Goldring, 2002; Gibton, Sabar & Goldring, 2000). The third stage in the development of Israel’s primary education system is characterized by contradictions in the realm of pedagogical policy. On the one hand, a teacher empowerment policy and a trend toward transferring authority to the schools; an understanding of the new information age and accessibility to knowledge and its concomitant re-casting of the teacher as “facilitator” guiding the pupil to knowledge sources, rather than serving as the sole source of knowledge in the classroom. This trend harmonized with the growing tendency toward encouraging pupils to actively build their own individual “knowledge maps” and toward employing the computer for instructional purposes. At the same time, contradictory pedagogical approaches began to garner support, approaches that called for increased standardization of teaching, learning and testing methodologies. These approaches drew strength from Israel’s medium to low rankings on international scales of scholastic performance, and from growing criticism of instructional methods that gave pupils excessive degrees of creative and scholastic latitude. This is reflected in the growing use of strictly-defined and rigid instruction frameworks for the entire pupil population, as well as in the development of a culture of high-stakes testing. Israel's primary schools have, thus, undergone three major changes in pedagogical approach – changes that have, necessarily, affected their organizational and administrative structures. Schools have transitioned from a climate of extreme centralization to one of pedagogical autonomy and self-management, while a current
  7. 7. 7 trend toward standardization is restricting the freedom of the teacher and the educational institution and transferring significant pedagogical latitude from the schools back to the central planning authorities. Secondary Education At the end of primary education, pupils move on to the secondary education system, divided into junior and senior high schools. In 2007 610,000 pupils were enrolled in 1,588 schools comprising Grades 7 to 12. Nearly half (47%) of these schools are operated by non-for-profit organizations, while the other half are run by local authorities (38%) or the Israeli government (15%).16 Up until 1979, when secondary education became open to the majority of Israel's pupils, a selective system was in place. Graduates of the primary education system were divided into three groups: those headed for academically-oriented study in “grammar schools,” those headed for vocational training at “technology schools,” and those who entered the workforce directly. A series of policy changes opened the gates of secondary education (through Grade 12) to a growing percentage of young people. These measures included: the decision at the end of the 1960s to enact an education reform lengthening the period of compulsory education to age 16 and the period of free schooling to age 18; the establishment of junior high schools with upgraded curricula; the elimination, in 1973, of screening exams for secondary education; the reformed matriculation exam system, instituted in 1979, which provided for a more varied curriculum reflecting pupil needs, multiple inteligence and differences; the trend toward differential budgetary allocation as a means of strengthening disadvantages populations. All of these things contributed to a profound change in the structure of secondary education in Israel.17 Over the course of the last three decades this change has been reflected in three main indices: a greater number of pupils from the middle to low range of the socioeconomic scale completing the twelfth grade; a greater number of pupils finishing high school with a matriculation certificate; and a greater number of pupils gaining admission to institutions of higher education.18 These measures, taken both individually and together, led to changes in Israel’s educational structure, particularly in terms of offering educational opportunity to
  8. 8. 8 disadvantaged populations for whom the gates of learning had previously been closed (Shmueli, 1998; Volansky, 2005). These changes may largely be credited to the increased scope given to schools for defining study disciplines with a high degree of relevance to their pupils and communities, without renouncing the duty to teach and test the entire Israeli pupil population in six or seven core subjects. A wide variety of unique and innovative curricula were developed that had never before been on the education system’s agenda: animal care, cosmetology and beauty, music and art, sports and culture – all in addition to the required subjects comprising Hebrew/Arabic, English, mathematics, the sciences, history, Bible, geography and civics. This was an era of exceptional creativity and innovation in the education system, one that lives on in memory as a “golden age.” This age came to an end during the 1990s, when the education system was forced to yield to growing pressure from Israeli society. The first to oppose the aforementioned educational approach were the universities (Volansky 1999, 2005), which argued the impossibility of ensuring qualitative matriculation standards in a situation where study disciplines developed by the schools and not by the state. The second group to oppose the “innovative” educational approach was the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition, a movement involved in guaranteeing the rights of Jews of Middle Eastern (“Mizrachi”) origin. One of the movement’s claims was that the education system’s vaunted flexibility and variety had actually created a situation in which Mizrachi pupils were being channeled toward less prestigious courses of study, mainly in the technology schools and were, thereby, being barred from acquiring higher education – in contrast to native Israeli pupils and to those of European/American origin. A third, “back to basics,” group called, quite simply, for the elimination of non-core disciplines and for a re-embrace of the basics, that is, of six or seven uniform subjects for the entire Israeli pupil population. By the early years of the 21st century these pressures had gathered momentum in generating change in the education system (Yogev, 2007). The change consisted primarily of a transition to academically-oriented study, consistent with the back to basics approach. This approach has been a source of discord since it began to gain currency during mid- 1990s. On the one hand, the overall percentage of Israeli pupils eligible for the
  9. 9. 9 matriculation certificate has risen to about 50%. This is, indeed, an impressive improvement, considering that in 1990 only 35% of Israeli pupils were eligible for the matriculation certificate. On the other hand, this contraction of the curricular structure has left the other half of the secondary school population behind. These pupils have been deprived of the kind of flexible educational option that they need in order to complete 12 years of compulsory schooling in an environment that engages them, challenges them, brings their talents and abilities to the fore, and secures them a matriculation certificate so that they can go on to tertiary education. Brand-naming schools as successful or outstanding and using league tables to rank them have intensified pressures with regard to pupil screening. The slashing of education budgets during the past decade has also resulted in the inability of schools to implement special curricula which by their very nature are more expensive. This development has caused schools to limit their study offerings and to focus overwhelmingly on curricula that require little more than a blackboard and chalk. School networks that developed over decades as frameworks offering a broad variety of curricula spanning the range of academic, technological and practical subjects, have been forced over the last ten years to confine the bulk of their instructional activity to scientific/engineering subjects geared mainly for the more academically-oriented segment of the pupil population. In effect, school principals have been obliged to intensify their pupil screening activity as a way of boosting the prestige of their schools, and to adopt curricula that are, in practice, suitable for only the upper fifty percent of the pupil population. The ramifications of this policy may be seen in the following table: Table 1: Percentage of Those Completing 12 Years of Schooling and Percentage of Those Eligible for the Matriculation Certificate, Per Cohort, Since the Founding of the State: Year Size of Cohort* % of Cohort Members Enrolled in Grade 12 % of Cohort Members Eligible for the Matriculation Certificate at the End of Grade 12 1949** 12,000 6.7 1.6 1960 25,000 27 14.2
  10. 10. 10 1970 52,900 39.7 20 1980 65,500 53.4 21.3 1990 85,000 72 34.7 2000 103,000 86 43.6 2006 107,000 92 49.2 Source: Statistical Yearbooks, 1986-2007. Central Bureau of Statistics *Cohort of 17 years olds **Jewish population only The table shows both the strengths and weaknesses of Israeli secondary education. The larger the cohort, the greater the number of pupils who complete 12 years of schooling; but in absolute terms the number of pupils completing Grade 12 without a matriculation certificate adequate for tertiary education has also grown, reaching 54,000 in 2006. This illuminates the significant challenge facing the Israeli education system – that of adapting the curricular structure to make it relevant and meaningful for the lower 50% of its enrollees who, despite the system's success in ensuring that they complete Grade 12, nevertheless remain bereft of a ladder of opportunity leading to higher education. It may be assumed that the coming decade will bring with it a search for balance between the two trends described above, that of instructional standardization and uniformity, and that of variety in educational offerings – variety that encompasses a broader range of intelligences and talents than that currently addressed by the system. Higher Education Legal authority for Israel's system of higher education, which in 2007 comprised a quarter of a million students in 65 educational institutions, lies with the Council for Higher Education. A Higher Education Planning and Budgeting Committee operates within the Council’s framework. These bodies, which are responsible for formulating higher education policy, initiated a reform in 1993 which led, over the course of the subsequent decade, to a substantial re-structuring of higher educational opportunity in Israel.
  11. 11. 11 For most of the State of Israel’s existence, the higher education system was a monolithic structure founded mainly on seven research universities. Starting in the mid-1990s the system underwent a profound transformation, expanding to include new colleges and evolving into a pluralistic structure that includes 65 institutions offering a broad range of study options. This increase in the number of institutions was made possible in part by the trend toward legitimizing degree conferral in disciplines not normally associated with the research but on professional studies. Five main reasons may be identified for this large-scale opening of the gates of academia. The first of these is the disparity that existed around 1990 between the percentage of those eligible for the matriculation certificate (35%) and those admitted for first-year studies at Israel’s institutions of higher learning (20%). A particularly low rate of admittance to higher education was found among Mizrachi Jews and in the Arab sector. The second factor was the growing pressure exerted by professional post-secondary institutions for accreditation to grant academic degrees. These were institutions offering courses of study in tourism services, communications, insurance, optometry, dental hygiene, laboratory technology, architecture and design, and various technological disciplines – as well as teacher training colleges, only a minority of which awarded academic degrees prior to the reform. The third factor was the rigorous screening policies that prevailed in the more desirable and prestigious disciplines, such as law, psychology, medicine, computer science and economics. Because the planning echelon of that period felt that the economy's needs in these fields was limited, the number of student places was likewise limited in conformity with projected needs. The fourth factor that led to the development of academic colleges was the rapid increase in the number of students at the universities – 8% – four times higher than the annual growth rate of the population.19 Growing public expenditures on higher education were the fifth factor that came into play. The national expenditure per full-time student20 in Israel was high at the time ($11,100) compared with other countries.21 All of these factors culminated in the decision to develop academic colleges whose cost of maintenance as teaching facilities would be a third lower than that of expanding the universities. A decision of the Council for Higher Education was supported by Israeli government decision and by a legal amendment passed by the Knesset.
  12. 12. 12 Thus, starting in the mid-1990s and over the course of a decade, Israel’s higher education system doubled in size and absorbed nearly one out of every two (42%) members of the high school graduate cohort, compared with one out of every five at the beginning of the 1990s, due mainly to the development of the academic colleges. The following table illustrates the change in access to higher education: (To the editor: the structure of the table is not in right order – first in the left is the YEAR and than the SIZE of CHORT than the % eligible…and the last one is % ENROLLED – ami volansky) Table 2: Percentage of Students Admitted for First-Year Academic Study, Per Age Cohort*** (1949-2004) % enrolled in institutions of higher education, per cohort % eligible for matriculation certificate, per cohort Size of cohort Year 1.6 6.7 *11,902 1949 11.6 14.2 25,032 1960 17.8 20 52,900 1970 21.3 21.3 65,500 1980 22.9 34.7 85,000 1990 36.2 42 106,300 2000 42.1 49.2 113,000** 2006 Source: data of the Central Bureau of Statistics and the CHE. *Jews only **Median age cohort 20-24 *** Does not include students enrolled in the Open University. The rapid growth of the higher education system also had a swift impact on the quality of teaching and learning within the system. Governmental funding in institutional budgets, particularly those of the universities, was cut by 20%; the senior faculty/student ratio, which in the mid-1990s was 1:16, had reached 1:25 by 2006; the opening of branches of foreign institutions in Israel; the establishment of nine new private institutions; an increase in the number of public colleges, and an overall rise in the number of institutions to 65 in 2007 . The structural change have produced an effect opposite to that anticipated
  13. 13. 13 - intensified competition which led to lowering academic quality rather than enhancing it. Criticism of academic quality and frequent budgetary crises, particularly in the universities, gained momentum and led to the creation of a governmental commission that, in 2007, formulated recommendations intended to improve the state of affairs. These recommendations included returning the budget to its 2001 level; raising student tuition by fifty percent; expanding the support system for students from the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder; merging existing colleges; recruiting new faculty staff means of enhancing instructional and research quality; defining the universities as the exclusive venues of research and the colleges as institutions geared solely toward academic teaching and external quality control system.22 The commission’s recommendations, which will be coming up for government approval in early 2008, are controversial. While the universities regard the recommendations as a potential lifeline, two other factions oppose them: the students, who are unwilling to pay higher tuition, and the colleges, which are unwilling to see research defined as an area of activity in which their instructional personnel have no part. All of the stakeholders are gearing up for the coming battle. Special Issues A. The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector Up until the early 1990s, the percentage of Israeli pupils studying in the Haredi sector was 6%. This figure began to increase in the early 1990s, and by 2006 about a quarter (25.6%) of Israel's Jewish primary education population was Haredi. Main features of education in the Haredi school sector include the non-“state” status but enjoyed a public funding of most of its expenses; a focus on religious studies with minimal attention to secular subjects; a sense of alienation from the state, and a tendency to shirk civic duties. This situation has two main consequences: firstly, many young people who graduate from the Haredi education system find it difficult to gain admittance to institutions of higher education, due to an inadequate education background in secular subjects; and
  14. 14. 14 secondly, this population has obstacles taking its place in the labor force. In a study that was conducted with unemployed Haredim, the latter identified their lack of background in English, mathematics and computer studies as factors preventing them from finding work.23 Their limited potential for labor force participation partly explains why a high percentage of Haredim live under the poverty line, and why a high percentage of Israeli children living in poverty belong to this growing sector. Despite awareness on the part of the Haredi spiritual leadership of the community’s severe economic plight, and despite increasing calls from within the population, particularly women, to permit secular studies for the purpose of ensuring family livelihoods, the formula has yet to be found that will enable hundreds of thousands of Haredi pupils to study secular subjects at the level and scope needed in order to earn a living. To a great degree the issue is in the hands of the Haredi leadership, but it is not their province exclusively. The state has means available to it for generating a new kind of dialogue, one capable of striking a new balance between the Haredi sector's curricular structure and the budgetary support that the state provides to Haredi educational institutions. B. The Arab sector The educational disparities that exist between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations date back to the pre-state period. Jewish organizations were established during the 19th and early 20th centuries to promote Hebrew education in Palestine (Elboim-Dror, 1986). Differences in strength of leadership and budgeting policies led to disparities as early as the British Mandate period, and their effects were felt during the early years of Israel’s existence. For example, in 1935 only “20% of Muslim children aged 5-15, versus 80% of Jewish and Christian children,” were enrolled in educational institutions.24 During the years of Israel's existence the gaps have narrowed continually. For instance, in 2006 the percentage of those enrolled in Grade 12 in the Jewish sector was 93%, compared with 83% in the Arab sector.25 Another issue relevant to Jewish-Arab educational gaps is that of the strength of the local authorities. The Arab local authorities’ limited economic capabilities make it
  15. 15. 15 difficult to collect local rate and to establish complementary educational services. Although the government pays teacher salaries and funds for most educational services. The 1980s witnessed a turning point in governmental policy toward the Arab sector. The government initiated five-year plans to eliminate the deep disparities between the Jewish and Arab sectors. The plans had an “affirmative action” orientation that called for increased investment in Arab education. Although discrepancies between planning and implementation still exist, there has been a gradual trend toward closing the gaps on all measures of inequality. The percentage of school-aged Arabs enrolled in study frameworks has grown faster than that of school-aged Jews; there has been a significant increase in the percentage of Arab pupils eligible for the matriculation certificate; the percentage of Arabs studying in institutions of higher education has grown, although it is still low relative to the Arab presence in the overall population; during the 1990s priority was given to school construction in the Arab sector; and, no less importantly, in 2003 a new formula was determine for the allocation of teaching hours, giving precedence to the Arab sector over the Jewish one. These corrective measures reached their height in 2007 when the Education Ministry made a politically charged and publicly contentious decision to allow the events of 1948 and their implications for Palestinian society to be taught in accordance with the Israeli Arab community’s traditional narrative. The sensitivity surrounding this authorization is rooted in the fact that, while Israel’s achievement of statehood – the establishment of a Jewish national home in Eretz Israel – constituted a tremendous achievement for the Jewish people, for the region’s Arab inhabitants it occasioned a collective trauma, the “Nakba,” inasmuch as many of them left for neighboring countries in the wake of Israel’s declaration of independence. Another issue is that of the development of an Arab educational leadership. From the time of Israel’s founding until 1987 education in the Arab sector was administered by Jewish position holders. This had consequences for the development of a senior Arab leadership in the educational sphere, and for the degree to which the sector’s educational needs were actually addressed. The Ministry of Education’s administrative dominance and its exertion of pedagogical authority in nearly all areas of the education system, This reality led, unintentionally, to a stifling of any original thought that might have
  16. 16. 16 encouraged the development of a professional leadership capable of adapting pedagogical programs to Arab-sector needs. This dependence, though it did in some cases generate educational initiatives, nevertheless compromised the Arab-sector leadership’s ability to come up with creative programs. In contrast to this stifling effect of the centralized educational leadership, recent years have seen the emergence of an intelligentsia that has left its mark at every point of the educational map to which it has traveled: inspectors, school principals, professional online forums; graduate students in education. These individuals have demonstrated professional awareness and a higher degree of administrative ability than anything seen heretofore in the Arab educational sphere. A critical perspective; educational innovation; needs-assessment capability; a broad educational background; professional leadership ability – all of these attributes have been increasingly evident since the late 1990s in encounters with the new cadre of Arab educators. The paradox of this leadership lies in the fact that it is still trapped in a dependent relationship, with the ideas coming from the Jewish sector. This sense of dependence is still having a paralytic effect and is rendering largely useless the vision, original thinking, talents, pedagogical initiative and courage of the new intelligentsia. At present, midway through the first decade of the 21st century, Israeli Arabs’ potential for social integration at middle-class status depends more on the sector’s professional leadership and its determination to drive educational initiatives aimed at eliminating disparities, than it does on the establishment itself. Recent years have, unquestionably, witnessed a turning point: philanthropic initiatives to raise funds for education institutes; the establishment of organizations to improve school performance; initiatives on the part of numerous local authorities to increase the percentage of pupils eligible for the matriculation certificate; an impressive rise in the percentage of Israeli Arabs studying in institutions of higher education (Volansky 2005, 2006). More than at any time in the past, the Arab sector seems to be aware that the way to upgrade its status in Israeli society is to focus on quality education. The Arab leadership has a decisive role to play in ensuring the continued development of this trend. C. The teacher crisis
  17. 17. 17 The key to the current teacher crisis in Israel is the teaching profession’s relative undesirability, to which several factors have contributed over the years. Firstly, various occupational alternatives to teaching have emerged that are considerably more attractive to young people. These alternatives sectors include finance, insurance, tourism, recreational/leisure services, information and communication technology, complementary medicine. Another factor is the harsh public criticism to which the education system is subjected, and the prevailing negative image of the teacher. Articles by key figures in Israeli society that portray the Israeli teacher as a “failure,” and crude insults to the profession on the part of public leaders have caused this image to become ingrained in the public mind and have deterred young people to join the teaching profession. A third factor is the expanded sphere of individual, parental and pupil rights which, albeit unintentionally, has undermined the teacher’s authority. Fourthly: teacher salaries. Salaries have eroded to the point where teachers are relying on National Insurance income supports in order to achieve a mandatory minimum income – or taking on additional jobs beyond their professional teaching positions. A fifth factor is the trend that developed during the the first decade of the 21th century toward a shorter school day (14% on average), which indirectly contributed to a heavier teacher burden. And sixthly, intensifying public critiques with Israel’s performance on international tests. All of these factors have caused demand for teaching as an academic study discipline in Israel’s teacher training colleges and universities to decline. In 2006 the discipline demand breakdown in Israel’s 27 academic teacher-training institutions was as follows: Table 3: First-Year Student Enrollment in Primary Education Programs at Teacher Training Colleges – 2006-2007 Subject No. of students enrollment (State education) No. of students enrollment (State religious education) No. of students enrollment (Arab sector) History 0 0 0 Judaism 13 22 0 Bible 7 119 0
  18. 18. 18 Talmud 0 20 0 Hebrew language 4 0 0 Hebrew literature 4 0 1 Geography 0 0 0 Israel studies 0 0 1 English 45 3 35 Arabic 0 0 50 Science 45 4 0 Mathematics 87 50 33 Source: Training Teacher Division, Ministry of Education, 2007. The low student enrollments in teacher training programs explains, at least in part, the current teacher crisis in Israel. Conclusion Israel’s education system is faced with several challenges. The first and most visible of these challenge is the teaching profession’s lack of demand. Cumulative damage to the image of the teacher; changes in the Israeli economy’s employment structure, including the rise of higher-status and better-paid occupational sectors; the growing complexity of the teacher’s job, and the higher median age of the teacher population – all of these things have led to a situation in which only profound change will draw young people with cultural/educational capital and personal charisma to the Israeli education system’s forty- five thousand classrooms. A second challenge relates to the clear choice of a pedagogic strategy. Over its years of existence, the Israeli education system’s standards have traditionally revolved around the matriculation exams administered at the end of Grade 12. However, the permeation of high-stake testing at all educational levels, including the early-childhood level, has created a situation rife with contradictions. Those who support this approach view it as a major, if not the sole, tool for improving scholastic performance throughout the country. Critics see it as harmful to knowledge-building processes and cultivation of mind by development of thinking skills, and consider it to be a return to mechanistic and formal teaching methods. Those who oppose the standardization process see in the development of ICT a golden opportunity to create challenging new teaching methods relevant to the pupils’ world, and they feel that the
  19. 19. 19 education system must under no circumstances waste its chance to incorporate information and communication technologies into the teaching and learning process. Hence, today’s great challenge is that of choosing a clear pedagogic strategy capable of resolving the existing contradiction. A third challenge is also connected to the pedagogical sphere: the need to enable the lower fifty percent of the pupil population to complete 12 years of schooling, based on curricula that will function as a “ladder” to advancement and give these pupils the requisite background for tertiary education. In order for this to happen, there has to be choice and variety and flexibility in the curricular structure, as in the ideology of variety that came to prominence in the late 1970s – an ideology at odds with the current trend toward a monolithic, academically-oriented system founded on a back to basics approach that favors the upper fifty percent of the population. Unless a different attitude is taken toward curricular structure at the secondary level, it will be difficult to ensure equal opportunity for tertiary education to tens of thousands of high school graduates. A fourth challenge lies in the Haredi sector. The continual growth of this population, which now accounts for a quarter of all pupils in the Jewish sector and which focuses primarily on religious studies at the expense of secular subjects, is responsible for the plight of the Haredim themselves, who are largely unable to integrate into the labor force. This in turn dooms the Haredim to economic distress, with most of the population’s children living under the poverty line; it also keeps the state from increasing the percentage of its citizens who participate in the labor market (the Israeli figure is 10% lower than that of most developed countries).26 Any effort in this area will entail new definitions for the relationship between the state and the Haredi community, definitions capable of encouraging and supporting secular studies within this sector, if only in certain and minimum core disciplines essential for their integration into the labor market. A fifth challenge is that of formulating an education budget capable of addressing the system’s various other challenges. The budget cuts that Israel’s education system has absorbed over the last few years have led to larger class sizes, fewer weekly class hours, a heavier burden on the teacher, a loss of pedagogical flexibility in the schools, a cessation of the trend toward school autonomy and self-management, and fewer resources for advancing disadvantaged populations, including the Arab sector. These are the
  20. 20. 20 challenges faced by the Israeli education system in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.
  21. 21. 21 Bibliography Bentoitz, Y. (1960). Education in the State of Israel, Tel Aviv: Chachik. (Hebrew) Cohen, A. (1999). “Fifty Years of Primary Education,” in Peled, E. (ed.) Fifty Years of Israeli Education, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, pg. 881-93. (Hebrew) Dror, Y. (2004). “The Education System as an Agent for Jewish Patriotism in Israel: from Pioneering Zionism to Balanced Israeliness,” in Ben-Amos, A. and Bar-Tal, D. (eds.) Patriotism: Homeland Love [sic, per English title page], Tel Aviv: Deyonon and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, pg. 137-173.
  22. 22. 22 Dror, Y. (2006). “Past Reforms in the Israeli Education System: What History Can Teach Us about the Dovrat Report,” in Inbar, D. (ed.), Toward Educational Revolution? Bnei Brak: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, pg. 35-59. (Hebrew) Eden, S. (ed.). On New Curricula, Tel Aviv: Ma’alot. (Hebrew) Elboim-Dror, R. (1986). Hebrew Education in Palestine, Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi. (Hebrew) Gibton, D. , and Goldring, E. (2002): The role of legislation in education decentralization: The case of Israel and the United Kingdom., Peabody Journal of Education, vol. 76, no.3+4, pp.81-101. Gibton, D., Tsabar, N., & Goldring , E.B., (2000). “How Principals of Autonomous Schools in Israel View Implementation of Decentralization and Restructuring Policy: Risks, Rights and Wrongs,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22 (2) pp. 193- 210. Shmueli, A. (1998). “The Israeli Education System,” in Yavin, H. (ed.) Fifty Years of Israeli History, Jerusalem: Zamir, pg. 462-470. (Hebrew) Shohamy, E. (2006): Language policy : hidden agendas and new approaches, London, Routledge Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua, N. (1988). Metamorphosis of a Curriculum. Tel Aviv: Yachdav. Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua, N. (1990). “Planning School Curricula: the Concept, and the Risks and Dangers Inherent in its Implementation,” in Friedman, Y. (ed.) Autonomy in Education: Conceptual Frameworks and Implementation Processes, Jerusalem: Szold, pg. 130-144. (Hebrew)
  23. 23. 23 Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua, N. and Zilberstein, M. (1999). “From Unity to Diversity: the Development of Curricular Planning,” in Peled, E. (ed.) Fifty Years of Israeli Education, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, pg. 193-203. (Hebrew) Tsameret, T. (1997). Across a Narrow Bridge, Sde Boker: Ben Gurion Heritage Center and Ben Gurion University. (Hebrew) Volansky, A. (1999). The dialectic between center and periphery in the education system of Israel. In E. Peled (Ed.), The Jubilee Book on the Israeli Education System (pp. 283- 300). Defense Ministry, Tel Aviv. (Hebrew) Volansky, A. (2003). From experiment to educational policy: The transition to school- based management in Israeli schools. In A. Volansky, & A. I. Friedman (Eds.) School- Based Management – An International Perspective (pp.217-232). MOE, Jerusalem.(English/Hebrew) Volansky, A. (2005). “How to Shatter the Glass Ceiling: Issues in Education Policy,” in An Israeli Agenda for Social Change, Rubik Rosenthal (ed.), pg. 328-348. (Hebrew) Volansky, A. (2005). Academia in a Changing Environment – Higher Edcuation Policy of Israel 1952-2004, Hakibbuts Hameuchad and Neeman Institute, Bney-Brak. (Hebrew) Volansky, A. (2007). School autonomy for school effectiveness and improvement: The case of Israel. In T. Townsend (Ed.) International Handbook on School Effectiveness and Improvement, Springer. Yogev A. (2007). “Ideology, Pedagogy and Education Policy in Israel,” in Aviram, U., Gal, J., and Katan, J. (eds.), Formulating Social Policy in Israel: Trends and Issues, Jerusalem: The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, pg. 131-148. (Hebrew)
  24. 24. 24 Zilberstein, M. (1984). “The Place of the Teacher in Educational Planning in Israel,” Iyunim BeChinuch, (40), pg. 131-150. (Hebrew) 1 Czapski, G., & Ilan, Y. (2004) International Status of Israeli Research: A Comparative Analysis Using Scientometric Indices, Neeman Institute, Technion, Haifa, p. 2 2 Source: http://ed.sjtu/edu/cn/ranking/htm 3 http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/shnatonhnew_site.htm (Hebrew) 4 http://www.mof.gov.il/budget2008/pdf/scira_macro.ppt#1 (Hebrew) 5 http://www.cbs.gov.il/publications/isr_in_n06h.pdf (Hebrew) 6 http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/shnatonhnew_site.htm (Hebrew) 7 http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/pages/ShArtPE.jhtml?itemNo=110457&contrassID=2&subContrassID=21 &sbSubContrassID=0 (Hebrew) 8 http://www.cbs.gov.il/publications/expenditure_survey05/pdf/t03_2.pdf 9 Israeli legislators at the time were divided into two camps – those who attached importance to the age at which schooling was to end preferring that it continue until age 15 and who, due to limited resources, proposed that schooling begin at age 7, and those who attached special importance to pre-primary education, insisting that compulsory schooling begin at age 5. 10 The State of Israel was founded in May, 1948, while the Compulsory Education Law was enacted in September, 1949. 11 http://www.cbs.gov.il/reader/shnaton/templ_shnaton.html?num_tab=st08_06&CYear=2007 12 Michaelovich, R. (1999). “Pre-Primary Education in Israel: the Development and Application of Varying Approaches,” in Peled, E. (ed.), Fifty Years of Israeli Education, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, pg. 80-859. (Hebrew) 13 Foreword of the Director General of the Ministry of Education, http://cms.education.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/A096CD1C-0204-458F-A6F1- 4CC43C7641F5/45389/tochnitavoda08.pdf [quote not found in the foreword – Julie] (Hebrew) 14 http://cms.education.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/A096CD1C-0204-458F-A6F1- 4CC43C7641F5/45389/tochnitavoda08.pdf (Hebrew) 15 Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua, N. and Zilberstein, M. (1999). From Uniformity to Diversity: Curriculum Development, pg. 194. (Hebrew) 16 Facts and Figures (2004): Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, pg. 43. (Hebrew) 17 Iram, Y., and M. Schmida, 1998. The Educational System of Israel. Westport, CO & London, Greenwood Press. 18 Drori, Y. (1999). “A Historical Overview of 50 Years of Education in Israel: Periods and Dilemmas," in Peled, E. (ed.), Fifty Years of Israeli Education, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, pg. 39-66. (Hebrew) 19 To ensure their stabilization at current levels through 2000. 20 Including tertiary and higher education. 21 22 http://www.che.org.il/download/files/shohat-report_e.pdf , pg. 23-29 (Hebrew). 23 Naon D., King, J., Wolde-Tsadick, A. (2006). Populations Not Fully Participating in the Labor Market: Extent, Characteristics and Programs to Promote their Employment and Occupational Mobility. Jerusalem: Meyers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, pg. 36. (Hebrew) 24 Ibid, pg. 36. : : : : : : : : : : : : : :
  25. 25. 25 25 http://www.cbs.gov.il/reader/shnaton/templ_shnaton.html?num_tab=st08_07&Cyear=2007 26 http://www.cbs.gov.il/shnaton58/st28_04.pdf