Expanded Civics Program Teaches Teens That They Can Be Influential

Yulie Khromchenco
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Yulie Khromchenco

Shai Buba will graduate from the Aryeh Meir High School in Kiryat Gat this month. She is intent on becoming an MK and heading a party with a socialist agenda. Already, she has no problem presenting her party's platform.

She says that her drive to enter politics stems from three years of civics courses in school. As part of her studies, she drafted a bill on the treatment of women who suffered sexual assaults and sent a copy to every Knesset member for review.

"Before I started taking civics, I told myself that while I lived in a country that was democratic, if I could not vote and did not have a party that represented my views, then I could do little to change things," Buba says.

While 52,000 pupils will sit for the regular matriculation exam in civics, which covers a single study unit, Buba and several dozen other pupils from three schools will take the exam on five study units.

The expanded civics program and matriculation exam is part of a pilot project conducted by the ministry in cooperation with the Hebrew University's Gilo Center for Citizenship, Democracy and Civic Education.

The program began three years ago with the participation of tenth-grade students in six schools. This year, the first group of students who have completed five study units in civics is scheduled to take the exam.

According to the Education Ministry official in charge of civics, Esti Brandt, the principal achievements of the students who take five study units are reflected in the third unit, which involves an independent project dealing with a social issue. The pupils are expected to research the problem, propose solutions and then attempt to implement them.

Buba says that she chose her subject, sexual assault, after her friend was raped. She said that from talks with her friend, she discovered that the authorities often make it difficult for victims instead of offering the necessary assistance.

After researching the subject, she recommended creating a government authority that would centralize assistance to the victims, and sent her plan to all MKs. She is still trying to market her idea, even though she has already completed her exam.

The multifaceted nature of the projects gives students room for self-expression. A student of Ethiopian origin, for example, worked on the absorption of Ethiopian immigrants in Kiryat Gat. Another group of students did a year-long survey of all articles published in local newspapers on unemployment in their town, in order to determine the reasons why the subject was not a priority on the national agenda.

Rachel Shulmark, in charge of civics at the Kiryat Gat high school: "The pupils know how to formulate their arguments better and how to support them," she said. "The fact that they meet officials at City Hall and other places while preparing their project makes them feel that they can be influential."

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