Tuesday, May 18, 2004

That the Dovrat Report on Israel's education system, approved unanimously by the Cabinet, met with condemnation from teacher's unions and parents groups, is perhaps no great surprise. The recommendations of the report, which include a move to a longer school day and a 5 day week, paying good teachers more than bad and leaving hiring and firing in the hands of school heads rather than the Minstry of Education, seek to overhaul an antiquated system, set up to serve an entirely different country to that in which we currently live.

That Israel is a world leader in so many fields, is in spite and not because of its education system. Successive Ministers and Directors of the Education Ministry have come under continuos fire as Israeli schoolchildren have fallen short in international comparison tests.

I personally find the system odd and the objections to moving towards a proven one with which I am more familiar, strange to say the least. A five day school week is one which works throughout the world. The main objection to this move seems to be that children from weaker socio-economic groups whose parents are more likely to be working on Fridays, will be out on the streets. Would this not be counterbalanced by the fact that on 5 other week days, when they would have been out on the streets from the early afternoon, they will actually be in school until four o'clock (as is customary elsewhere) and this will mean that parents would not have to pay for child care or enrichment activities in the afternoons?

The knee jerk reaction of the Unions to firing teachers is hardly unexpected and certainly the loss of jobs in the economy is not something to be happy about. That the move will get rid of poor teachers and encourage good ones to remain in the profession is a positive step however. Better pay and working conditions will improve the way in which teaching as a profession is percieved and will result in an increase of standards as better people opt for the profession. Our children will receive a better edcuation as a result.

Yes there will remain a difference between the haves and the have nots - there is always the possibility that the wealthy will choose to send their children to private tutors in addition to their basic education. This is a universal truth however and will not be alterred. If the basic level of education is raised however, children remaining in school for a longer day with happier, better motivated teachers, then surely that is an immensely positive step in the right direction towards guaranteeing a decent education for all?


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