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Education Minister Yuli Tamir on Tuesday harshly criticized the treasury's educational reform plan, as state negotiations with teachers over their employment contracts continued.

The reform plan, still in its preliminary stage, includes the introduction of a competitive element into the school system in an effort to promote excellence.

The treasury is formulating the reform precisely during negotiatuions with the teachers, because it hopes to persuade teachers to support the plan in exchange for substantial wage increases in their contracts.

"The plan is an explicit manifestation of what shouldn't be present in the education system," Tamir said in response to the proposed reform. "The proposal in effect treats the students like stocks on the stock market. It is the privatization of the system, and an attempt to incorporate financial market principles rather than educational principles. There has to be a limit to the amount of intervention the treasury is allowed within the education system."

One of the central principles in the reform proposal is general competition between schools. The plan proposes to publicize test scores as well as teachers' performance scores and to do away with school districts, thus allowing parents to select a school for their children, rather than being assigned a school. The plan also proposes that school principals would have more control over their respective schools' budgets, and would receive monetary rewards for their school's academic achievements. Monetary incentives are also proposed for teachers who would be willing to work longer hours.

"This is an anti-educational reform," said Tamir at the Be'er Sheva Conference sponsored by the National Council for the Child. "The educational system must appreciate its students for their own betterment, not to create rank lists. I want to reward teachers according to their ability to handle difficulties within the system. The assessment of teachers has turned into a beauty contest between schools, and thus we have lost the educational aspect."

"The treasury has only one goal and that is to privatize the system. Their vision is to have an education system which publicly examines and ranks its educational structures using the criteria of a beauty contest. The result will be the widening of social gaps, the shirking of social responsibility and the creation of an anti-educational environment within schools," Tamir added.

"The fact that the treasury is withholding funding unless anti-educational processes are implemented is an unworthy act. It would be better if the treasury minded its own business. It is the treasury's right to dispute budgets, but not the academics. The treasury's job is to fund educational programs, not dictate them. There is no reason the treasury should tell us how to make our schools better."