The Bottom Line / Less really could be more
When they talk of investing in infrastructure to boost economic growth, the two main planks of this infrastructure are physical infrastructure and education. Physical infrastructure means roads, trains, ports, electricity, water, sewage and environment protection.
When they talk of investing in infrastructure to boost economic growth, the two main planks of this infrastructure are physical infrastructure and education. Physical infrastructure means roads, trains, ports, electricity, water, sewage and environment protection. Education is that of human infrastructure, and that's also a condition of growth.
But while on the physical side, we lag far behind, needing an annual injection of tens of billions of shekels just to match the European norm, our education budget is on a par with the western nations, and even higher; and yet our use of this is inefficient, incredibly wasteful and with monstrous bureaucratic processes, such that we could easily save billions here, while still raising the level of education for every Israeli child.
But Education Minister Limor Livnat is already sharpening her tools of battle to ward off budget cuts.
The Education Ministry runs seven districts, some with staffs of hundreds. Each and every district is superfluous, as every city and local authority has its own education department. In the education system, there are 850 inspectors, the vast majority of whom are unnecessary. Over the years, the number of teacher training colleges has grown to a current 40! - half of which are redundant. Each year around 4,500 teachers become qualified at a cost of NIS 700 million, but only half of them are taken on into the education system, so there's NIS 350 million wasted every year.
In any case, the teacher training colleges could be absorbed into regular colleges. It would also be appropriate for the teachers' organizations to allow sub-standard teachers to be dismissed, because it is those shoddy teachers that prevent the advance and wages of the good ones. There is only one kitty for them all.
The cost of the education bureaucracy is mind-boggling. It reaches NIS 1.75 billion a year - in other words, 7 percent of the education budget. In Finland, for example, it is only 1.7 percent; and in South Korea, 1.9 percent - and their achievements beat Israel's.
The Education Ministry devotes millions of shekels each year to experimental projects, which, in effect, are there to employ all sorts of clerks, pen-pushers and education experts in and outside the ministry. But most are just trying to be original: The programs do not help the children, but instead hold them back. Prominent among these experiments were the new ways of teaching reading and math, which were forced on the teachers and failed horribly, with a drop in achievements.
Now the Education Ministry is considering returning to the tried and trusted ways of teaching, but the trouble is that this won't provide enough work for the "researchers" and the "doctors," and parents won't have to buy new text books. How then will the clerks, researchers, coordinators, publishers and shops earn a living?
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