New Hope for Education
The Israeli education system is in crisis.
The corona crisis also revealed a management crisis in the education system, with Israeli students among the only ones in the world who have barely attended school since the outbreak of the pandemic.
This crisis has revealed two key aspects that demand special attention:
i. The Israeli education system is one of the most centralized in the world
The crisis demonstrated the extent to which an non-decentralized system fails to adapt to local and changing needs and to the different needs of different populations. Effective decision making is not possible in this manner.
ii. The teacher is the most important factor for the success of the students
Quality teachers bring about the realization of the potential of their students and advance them towards success in life. Students who study with caring and engaging teachers will be more able to overcome crises successfully, especially with high emotional support. On the other hand, students who have not had the benefit of being taught by such teachers risk developing deeper gaps and even drop out of the system.
The education system is a key component in the national, social, and economic resilience of the State of Israel.
New Hope aims to promote every student to success and to the fullest of their abilities and strengths, thus promoting the Israeli education system to the pinnacle of the most advanced countries in the world. In order to achieve these goals, it is a priority to improve the status of teacher and principals – with the understanding that the human component is the most important variable for the success of the system. In addition, we will commission a strategic plan that will include a number of dimensions that will be detailed below.
Details of the main steps:
1. Flagship reform in the status of teachers
- Recruitment of new teachers
Due to the low demand amongst the workforce for teaching jobs, the threshold conditions for admission continues to decline. In 2018, the average psychometric score of new teachers entering the system dropped to less than 500 points. The average among teaching students in the Arab sector is even lower and stood at only 450 points.
- The dropout problem
Over a quarter of new teachers drop out before completing 5 years in the education system. About 15% drop out already in the first teaching year. Worse still, studies show that about half of the dropouts are actually the quality teachers who excelled in their academic studies.
- The wage problem
Although the Ofek Hadash and Oz LaTmura reforms have significantly improved teachers’ salaries, the conditions of teachers in Israel in the early stages of their careers are still lower than the OECD average. Beyond the fact that teachers’ starting salaries are low, the salary gaps between young and old teachers in Israel are among the highest in the Western world and reach 2.5 times on average.
It is important to remember that the real average salary of beginning teachers is NIS 4,870. This is because they are employed, reluctantly, only part-time.
The most important question for the future of education is, therefore: how can a change in the status of the teaching profession be brought about?
The following is New Hope’s proposed strategic plan that we will implement in order to bring about the required change.
- Government decision
We will promote a government decision according to which the strengthening of the status of teachers and educators is an overall national and social goal. All factors in the central, local government and Israeli society must be harnessed to this effort.
- Teacher status in legislation
The “Teacher Status Law” will be enacted to regulate the profession and determine, among other things, the threshold conditions and eligibility for teaching.
- Raising the quality of incoming teachers
- A master’s degree will be a prerequisite for any future teacher.
- We will encourage courses of excellence for education and teaching studies, bachelor’s and masters’ degrees, and a teaching certificate in 5 years.
- Strengthen the teaching conversion paths: The conversion paths for professionals outside the education system will be strengthened, and we will encourage specialization in teaching for those in professions in which they have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
- The “Cadets for Public Education” program will bring candidates together for rigorous screening. The 50 applicants who will be accepted for each cycle of the program will study for a degree in education and teaching free of charge, with a generous stipend and will be guaranteed a teaching position. In return, applicants will have to commit to teaching in the public education system for at least 7 years. Graduates of this program will also serve as the administrative reserve of the Israeli education system.
- Reform in the salaries of entry level teachers
Teachers’ salaries will be raised as part of a reform that will include additional components. In the first phase, immediately and unconditionally, the salary of the entry level teachers will increase to NIS 8,000 (a move that will increase the average salary, including additions, to NIS 9,500). In this context, it should be remembered that the average wage in the economy is about NIS 10,500. Under the current situation a professional teacher has to work 13 years to reach a similar salary. It is hoped that a teacher will reach the average wage in the economy within 7 years.
- Reform in teacher training
The training of education students will change and be adapted to innovative pedagogy. During the training, emphasis will be placed on types of skills beyond the study of the professional discipline:
- Personal skills: empowerment, strengthening personal ability, self-confidence and standing in front of an audience.
- Emotional skills: Dealing with students’ social and emotional needs and creating a dialogue.
- Skills concerning students with special needs.
- Digital literacy, technological skills and entrepreneurship: promoting each student according to his or her strengths.
- Professional development
The Ministry will provide teachers with general professional training, or focussed on their relevant area of expertise, during the summer vacation. Teachers will be selected for these workshops according to the decision of the school principal and according to a defined quota.
Teachers with a master’s degree with 10 years of experience or more who have demonstrated excellence in their work and according to a defined quota, will be able to reduce to 50% and study for a doctorate in education or teaching, without their salaries being harmed.
Teachers with 10 years of experience who have demonstrated excellence in their work will be able to guide and mentor teachers in other schools to establish and promote best practices.
- Accompaniment and mentoring for entry level teachers
Entry level teachers will be mentored for two years, by a valued teacher at the school, selected by the school principal and rewarded accordingly. The mentor will observe and analyse their lessons, and offer guidance.
- Differential compensation
Teachers will be rewarded and promoted not only on the basis of seniority and qualifications, but also on the basis of an assessment by the school management, rewarding teachers who have achieved success for their students and demonstrated personal and professional excellence. It should be noted that personal differential compensation was determined in the ‘Oz LaTmura’ reform but was abolished in 2015 and must be restored.
The program will increase the motivation of the teachers and will be at the principal’s discretion, who will decide on the appropriate salary increase for each teacher according to the evaluation of their achievements in various aspects: academic, emotional, social, values.
- Digital teaching system
A national set of digital courses in the main fields of knowledge will be developed. These courses will be accessible to all students and will allow them to learn from the best teachers through innovative teaching methods. In addition, this system will help bridge gaps stemming from teacher shortages.
- Backup for teachers
A policy will be adopted that provides full support for teachers in the face of parental over-intervention, and in particular in instances of verbal or physical violence. Alongside this, we will promote the contributory involvement of parents in school leadership.
2. Reform in the status of managers/administrators
The current problem: The state education system has about 5,000 principals of educational institutions. It goes without saying that school principals are at the forefront of the educational professional staff in the field, and that the image of the principal has the broadest impact on the success of the school.
The success and character of the principal also largely determines the character and spirit of the school and directly affects the motivation of the teachers. The shortage of quality managers is very noticeable across the system.
Israel is one of the most centralized countries in the world in terms of acceptance conditions for head teachers and school managers. Instead of creating a process that would encourage the enlistment of high-level executives to the system and create competition for management positions, the threshold conditions create a situation that greatly limits this. The problem is even greater because many management positions remain unstaffed. While some principals are discouraged from pursuing positions, others remain in office for decades without updating their modus operandi, leading to stagnation and even deterioration of the schools.
Steps to solve this:
- Recruitment of quality managers
We will change the method of recruitment and acceptance conditions for principals with the aim of attracting the best talent to the education system. We will encourage outstanding individuals from the private sector, the third sector, and academia to join the education system. We will remove barriers in the recruitment process that make it difficult for worthy candidates outside the system to integrate into management positions in education. A principal will not be able to fill a role in the education system without dedicated training, while we will create innovative programs designed for principals who come from outside the system.
- Executive remuneration
Remuneration for principles will be formatted in a way which will recognize the valued position they fill in the system. This will include a personal contract in exchange for greater flexibility in their employment.
- Term of office for managers
Principals will be appointed for a term of only eight years. At the end of the term, they will be able to rotate and continue management in other schools. Outstanding principals will be invited to respond to the management challenges of complex schools and make the most of their managerial capacity and contribution to the education system.
3. Early childhood reform
The current problem: In Israel, the proportion of children in early childhood is the highest in the OECD. In recent years, there has been a worldwide recognition of the necessity to invest significant resources in early childhood education (from birth to 6). This recognition stems from studies that show that this is the most important stage in a child’s development: at these ages the human brain develops and this investment is geared at aiding optimal development. In addition, early diagnosis and treatment of disabilities and learning difficulties are of great importance in order to prevent the widening of gaps in older ages.
The current situation is that the early childhood frameworks are divided between different government ministries: the frameworks for births up to the age of 3 include day care centers, nurseries and private frameworks and are subordinate to the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services. In contrast, kindergarten frameworks for ages 3-6 are subject to the Ministry of Education. This split does not allow for the educational-pedagogical continuum that best facilitates early childhood development. In addition, poor supervision of early childhood education allows for shocking incidents of abuse as we have seen exposed in the media. Another problem is the poor training of the workforce, the high turnover, and the low employment conditions. Finally, another gap that requires an immediate response is the lack of proper structures for early childhood day care centers, a lack that deepens with the increase in population.
Steps to solve the problems
- A focus on the infants
We will transfer the day care centers and nurseries to the responsibility of the Ministry of Education in order to create the necessary educational-pedagogical continuum in early childhood.
- Strengthening the supervisory system
We will establish a system of supervision of educational and therapeutic frameworks from birth, following the supervision legislation led by MK Yifat Shasha Bitton.
- Strengthening the status of assistants and kindergarten teachers
We will set up a professional training system for caregivers and improve their conditions.
- Development Diagnoses
We will shorten the waiting times for early childhood diagnosis and strengthen the developmental system for children.
- Construction of day care centers
We will promote the construction of daycare centers on a large scale, in order to fill the existing gap in relation to population growth.
- Educational system in kindergartens
In the education system for ages 3-6, we will make the assistants part of the staff of the educational system.
4. Placing the student at the center
The current problem: The education system is charged with preparing students for the challenges of the changing environment during their studies and adult life. The challenges facing students today are enormous – and most of them are still unknown. We must prevent the failure of dealing with the challenges of the past and propose reforms that will address the challenges of the future.
Steps to solve the problems
New Hope, will focus on preparing students for the changing world and will provide them with knowledge, skills, and values that will help them cope with the changes in the world around them.
In addition, we will emphasize emotional and social support, and invest in special education students as well as promoting reforms in matriculation exams.
- Emotional and social aspects
The corona pandemic has proved the immense importance of emotional and social resilience. Aspects relating to values, and emotional and social elements provide the infrastructure for optimal learning and child development.
We will leverage programs for principals to enable the provision of emotional and social skills support, in collaboration with the parents. In addition, we will increase the hours of school counsellors, and promote a standard for each school to ensure that emotional response is provided to all children and teachers who need it.
- 21st Century Skills
Students’ readiness for the changing world depends on their ability to apply complex and diverse skills. We will define the “Bank of Skills” required in the Israeli education system and place an emphasis on interpersonal communication skills, decision making, self-efficacy, teamwork, research, entrepreneurship, problem solving, and independent learning. At the same time, we will place an emphasis on promoting STEM studies (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and we will allow each student the choice of any career that suits their abilities. In the same way, we will reduce gaps in education and the gender pay gap.
- Reform in the matriculation system
We will reduce the number of matriculations to five core subjects: mother tongue, English, mathematics, science and the humanities. In the other subjects, priority will be given to research, multidisciplinary learning and personal projects, and they will be internal decision of the school.
- Special education reform
The important special education reform implemented 2018 was proper and correct in its goals and the perception behind it, but in practice the reform, in its current implementation, harms and causes damage to the integration and advancement of children. In the current implementation of the reforms, special education children do not receive the necessary comprehensive care package, nor the necessary staff members appropriate to their needs. We will prepare the education system to address this, and allocate the necessary budgets to implement the reform in the best and most successful way that will serve the best interests of the children.
- Outstanding students from all walks of life
Along with the advancement of all Israeli students, we will invest efforts across the State of Israel. We will invest in locating outstanding students and in realizing their abilities, with an emphasis on the social and geographical periphery, the ultra-Orthodox society and Arab society.
- Strengthening informal education
Informal education is a pride of Israeli pioneering. The sense of mission conveyed to the students in informal education organizations – in youth movements and organizations, in community centers, third sector bodies and volunteer units in local authorities – is the center of the highly praiseworthy contributions these groups make to Israeli society. We will strengthen the infrastructure of informal education organizations, with an emphasis on the geographical and social periphery.
We will return the pre-military/national service preparatory academies to being under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and will work to expand the deferral of service permits, so that more youth will enjoy this unique opportunity. We will also work to make these courses more accessible to youth from low socio-economic backgrounds, in order to create socio-economic leadership.
- Strengthening student councils
We will strengthen the student councils in all schools, we will ensure the existence of a student council in each educational institution and we will work to integrate more students in activities and social involvement.
- Promoting values, identity, and heritage
The school, in addition to the home and the community, is where the students’ personalities and values are shaped. We will promote identity and heritage studies in the Israeli education system, to strengthen society’s identification with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and emphasize the importance of developing individual character. We will do this through a combination of formal and informal education, strengthening knowledge of the land and heritage of Israel, and promoting programs addressing the diverse fabric of Israeli society.
- Preventing dropout, and aiding students at risk
The corona crisis affected all sections of the population and more students became at-risk students. The increase in dropouts from the education system has become a common phenomenon, and worse still – the education system has little to no information about students who suffer from difficulties, or have left school out of the need to find work. We will strengthen the response and assistance for students considering dropping out, in particular at-risk students, through home visits, and having dedicated teachers focussed on these students, to ensure they have an optimal and supportive school environment.
- Strengthening Hebrew language study
We will increase the study of Hebrew among Israel’s minority communities, in order to promote optimal integration in society, higher education, employment and the Israeli economy. In addition, the move will allow for a rapprochement in relations between the Arab population and the Jewish population in society.
- Innovative pedagogy and dynamic learning
One of the main motivating factors for learning is the element of choice. The education system under our leadership will base learning on student choice, entrepreneurship and creativity, innovative pedagogy and giving space in the educational process – without sacrificing core content.
- Technology in teaching and learning
We will create a digital teaching system that will allow teachers to upgrade their teaching methods. In doing so, we will improve the digital vocational training and development systems, invest in the development of digital literacy of teachers and students, and improve the distance learning systems.
- Strengthening state-ultra-Orthodox education
Many ultra-Orthodox parents strive to allow their children to acquire tools that will help them in their professional future. This is in addition to their religious studies. We will double the number of ultra-Orthodox public schools and encourage core studies. In addition, we will allow mathematics, English and science studies outside of school hours for all ultra-Orthodox students.
5. Changing the structure of the education system, and promoting parents’ choice
The current problem: The education system in Israel includes four organizational levels: the ministry’s headquarters, districts, local authorities and the schools themselves. Beyond the great problem of centralization, there are other problems that result from the fact that the division of powers of each level is unclear and produces unnecessary bureaucracy. In addition, local authorities and schools operate according to uniform procedures, regardless of their capabilities and characteristics.
Steps to solve the problems
- Autonomy for school principals
The independence of the schools is an important foundation for their success and a significant way to improve and promote the education system in Israel. Each school should be run according to its unique characteristics.
We will work to grant pedagogical, budgetary and managerial autonomy, and to strengthen the status of the head teachers and increase their powers. We will attach authority to responsibility, and each school will be measured according to the results in a variety of indicators (academic, emotional, and social).
- “Small and smart staff”
The headquarters of the Ministry of Education is responsible for the development of cultural capital and the preparation of the future human capital of the State of Israel for the employment market, academia and the defense system, and for the benefit of Israel’s national resilience.
The staff structure of the Ministry of Education has not changed for decades and has become a machine for producing bureaucracy that complicates decision-making procedures. We will reorganize the office headquarters, cut unnecessary bureaucracies and turn the headquarters into a regulator.
- Parents choose education
We will expand the options for parents to choose the right school for their children, and we will encourage the schools to promote uniqueness and innovation. We will open registration areas in accordance with the capacity of the local authority and will work to accompany and operate a recovery program for schools with low demand, and to expand successful institutions. In cases where there is a need to close schools, we will ensure a successful reopening, while seeing to the best interests of the children. In addition, we will work to strengthen parent leaderships and encourage their involvement in school design.
- Financial incentives for weaker authorities
A large part of the education services in general, and the informal education in particular, are based on the authority’s budgets and infrastructure. To support students in economically weaker authorities, we will assist these authorities with budgets for the benefit of classes and social activities.
- The transfer of vocational high schools to the responsibility of the Ministry of Education
Vocational high schools are important for the development of human capital in Israel and provide the youth who wish to do so, with professional training that will help them integrate into the labor market. However, today these high schools are not under the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Education and therefore they suffer from lack of supervision, inefficient budgeting, and incompatibility with the other high schools in the education system. The reality today makes it difficult for vocational high school students to have access academic matriculation, which hinders their ability to switch tracks. We will work to transfer the responsibility for these high schools to the Ministry of Education.
6. Adjusting the vacation schedule to the labor market
The current problem: In the education system, there are 76 vacation days during which the parents typically work (excluding Fridays). The lack of coordination between the school vacation schedule and the accepted vacation schedule in the economy, creates a heavy financial burden on families and especially on parents of young children. When both parents are working, there are over three months of work per year in which they need to find an alternative framework for their children. This is almost a third of the households in Israel with children aged 3 to 11 (excluding families of teaching staff). There is a gap of about 47 days without a framework for children after taking advantage of the parents’ vacation days – a gap among the largest in the West.
This means parents may face heavy costs for summer camps and babysitting, or loss of working days and loss of income. The damage to the productivity of the Israeli economy is estimated at a cost of NIS 5-8 billion per year. The “Summer School”, an alternative that has been tried in recent years, does not constitute a real solution to the problem, but bypasses it, and even then only in part.
Steps to solve the problems
- Adjusting the vacation schedule to the labor market
We will reduce the gap between the vacation schedule of the education system and the vacation schedule of the labor market. In this way, we will reduce the harm to students, reduce the heavy burden on parents, which is reflected in the loss of working days and income, and avoid the severe harm to productivity in the Israeli economy.
- Shortening to 5 school days a week
Israel is the only country in the West where students study six days a week, while parents work only five days a week. We will shorten the school week to five school days a week for elementary school, as recommended by the Bank of Israel. At the same time, we will work to hold social programs and classes on Fridays in elementary schools.