Policy Recommendations for the Minister of Education

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After three contentious election campaigns, Israel's new government has been sworn in. IDI's experts weigh-in with their recommendations on the most important issues on the agenda. Dr. Tammy Hoffman outlines policy recommendations for the new Minister of Education.

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The Government’s To Do List

In the wake of the Corona crisis and as Israel’s school system goes back to routine, we see a compelling need for broad revisions to the curriculum and a reassessment of distance learning, as well as for granting greater autonomy to teachers and school principals. 

Among the major challenges facing the new Minister of Education are: reducing educational gaps and inequality in the educational system; upgrading learning and teaching methods to provide students with the skills they need in the 21st-century; improving teachers’ status; investing in early childhood education; and decentralizing authority within the system. The significance of all these issues has been brought to the fore by the epidemic. 

Another key element in the system, which has not received sufficient attention over the years, relates to the need to promote civics and democracy education for students of all ages and in all the streams of the education system—secular, national-religious, ultra-Orthodox and Arab.

This has emerged as a pressing challenge with significant implications for the stability and cohesion of Israeli society, and with great potential for influencing diverse areas within the education system.

In light of the above, we propose the following: To develop and lead the implementation of a national plan for civic education in Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state:

a. Define civics literacy as a required skill for the 21st century and essential for the preparation of students for the world of the future.

b. Design a roadmap for civics and democracy education, backed up with a curriculum for all age groups. 

2. Lead and implement a system-wide plan to combat racism, from early childhood education through to high school, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice’s Racism Prevention Unit.

3. Narrow the gaps among different population groups in Israeli society, in terms of the allocation of resources and the access to high-quality education, along with enhancing skills that are relevant to the current reality.

4. Apply the lessons learned from the education system’s during the coronavirus epidemic and create a plan of action for emergencies, by setting up a commission comprising professional experts and representatives of teachers and principals, to examine the education system’s functioning during times of crisis:

a. Pedagogy—distance learning and the adaptation of school timetables to emergency situations

b. Infrastructure—ensuring access to distance learning for all students

c. Teacher training—training teachers for distance learning, particularly in the area of digital pedagogy

d. Decision-making—examine decision-making processes and the and the communication of instructions and guidance to educational staffs during emergencies

5. Establish a National Education Council that is not affected by changes in government and serves as a professional advisory body to the country’s educational leadership. This council will be representative of the various educational streams in Israel and will prepare a multi-year plan for achieving long-term change in the education system, based on the reports of civil society organizations and ministry units over the last year, and particularly during the coronavirus epidemic.

6. Improve teachers’ status and revamp the relationship between the staff of the ministry’s headquarters and education professionals in the field.

7. Address the partitioning between some of the ministry’s units by developing a long-term plan, led by the Ministry of Education, to set measurable objectives, budgets, and evaluation measures for programs on civics and value-oriented education, and thus creating an educational continuum that complements existing efforts to promote the goals of the national education system