Text size

There is a strange practice of retired generals and senior officers deciding to set up and head associations or organizations which, with a sense of national responsibility, formulate reform proposals for the education system.

When recession and unemployment worsen and experts seek ways to improve the health of the economy, their concern lead them straight to the education system. The connection between the standard of education, the ability to professionalize, and the ability to be mobile in a changing and crisis-fraught economy, is all but self-evident.

Reports prepared for the Barak government by Haim Ben-Shahar, Dan Ben-David and others pointed to education as the basis for radically transforming the job market. From this point, its a short road to the inevitable conclusion that the educational system "is not delivering the goods."

Given the arguments between the treasury and the Education Ministry over cuts in the education system - which the treasury quite rightly sees as clumsy and wasteful - the Education Minister appointed a committee headed by a high-tech expert, Shlomo Dovrat. It is supposed to analyze the situation and present recommendations for improvements.

Anyone who considers themselves as efficiency experts are now keen to give it some advice. And who would consider themselves suited to the task if not the heads of the security establishment?

After all, the military has operated for several years as a constantly upgrading organizational system. Experts in administration, organization, manpower and leadership programs from the competitive private sector hold seminars and workshops for the army. These try to turn it from a homogenous, ideological "army of the people" into a sleek, effective organization that will attract talented manpower and carry out objectives - which change with government decisions - with maximum efficiency.

Those in the military believe this is how to cut corners and whitewash over cracks that have been created by a prolonged occupation that turns youngsters off military service; by the socio-economic gaps in regular service, and especially in the reserves; and by the significant change in social and political affiliations of the middle command ranks.

These changes have also created a nationalist right-wing switch in army positions, as can be seen in discussions with the public, the politicians, and the media.

The proven success of the army's organizational system provides former senior officers with the impetus for many more years of activity after returning to civilian life. Did brilliant administration and organization raise motivation?

This means former senior security types like Uzi Dayan, Herzl Bodinger, Uzi Arad, Shabtai Shavit and others, aided by committed academics like Dan Ben-David and Zvi Tsameret, can propose organizational solutions to solve in a jiffy all the problems of the children of Israel.

"The education system in Israel has difficulty inculcating suitable norms of behavior in pupils," says the report by the Citizens for Education in Israel. "It also has difficulty in providing them with advanced abilities in vital basic areas.

It is difficult to argue with the solutions they propose. Most of them are correct and logical - from abolishing the districts system to the long school day, with reforms in the way the teachers work so that fewer and better teachers can work more, but also to earn more.

And yet the entire report, just like the organizational advisers in the defense establishment, ignores the social and political reality in Israel. What is worse, it believes reform in the education system can be devoid of any political element and can be effective and independent.

The truth is that education all over the world, and especially in Israel where the education system is divided into separate political and ideological streams, is closely linked to politics and its implications. Gaps in education reflect economic gaps and a weakening of the teachers' status is connected with militancy in other spheres. Education against violence and for democracy and freedom of speech cannot be isolated from what happens in the Knesset, the government, the territories, or on the streets.

The generals and colonels who have tried to circumvent politics because they are weary of it now find themselves on a new bypass route to establish positions of power and consider the education system an enticing market. But this is merely another indication that this system is extremely weak.