Bennett Launches Plan to Boost Math Study Numbers

‘Give Five’ aims to double the number of pupils taking highest-level math matriculation exam, to 18,000 by 2019.

Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop
File photo: Education Minister Naftali Bennett giving math lesson at a primary school in Petah Tikva, Israel, May 28, 2015.
File photo: Education Minister Naftali Bennett giving math lesson at a primary school in Petah Tikva, Israel, May 28, 2015.Credit: Sasson Tiram
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

Education Minister Naftali Bennett presented a plan Sunday to double the number of pupils taking the five-point matriculation exam in math by 2019.

Ever since assuming the education portfolio last May, Bennett has repeatedly said the drop in the number of pupils passing the highest level, five-point exam – from 12,900 in 2006 to only 9,350 last year – poses a strategic threat to Israel. He conducted a series of consultations to come up with solutions.

Under his “Give Five” plan, more classes for five-point math will be opened by allowing schools to launch a five-point track with only six pupils (15 was the previous minimum). Bennett hopes 18,000 students will be taking the higher-level exam before the decade is out.

“Gone are the days when a child who wanted to take five-point math couldn’t because of where he lived,” said Bennett. Some 15,000 hours of instruction will be added in math to allow for these smaller groups, and education officials believe about 100 new classes will open as a result.

The Education Ministry will also invest in trying to prevent those who embark on the five-point math track from dropping down to four points. The ministry will also conduct a campaign that will explain to parents the importance of math.

Another goal is to increase the number of math teachers. Within four years, the number of teachers teaching five-point math is to double, to 2,000. The ministry said it plans to invest more in training and incentives for math teachers, as well.

It will also establish a public forum for math studies, through which senior education officials will meet with industry, high-tech, military and academic officials to discuss ways to advance math studies in Israel.

Some 500 outstanding high-tech executives will be recruited to assist teachers and help pupils throughout the school year.

The ministry is also recruiting high-tech companies to work with schools. Companies like Intel, SanDisk, Microsoft and Marvell Israel will visit schools and conduct lectures, workshops and tours relating to high-tech.

Another initiative, the Five Club, will see 20 top teachers mentoring 200 teachers, with the outstanding teachers helping new teachers gain knowledge and advance professionally.

Bennett has already said that pupils who sit the five-point math exam will receive a 30-point bonus in calculating their score for university acceptance – up from the previous 25. Some academic institutions will even grant a 35-point bonus.

In many ways, the plan presented by Bennett is similar to the one announced a year ago by then-Education Minister Shay Piron.

Bennett even claimed to have “lifted” the program’s coordinator, Mohana Fares, from the Druze and Circassian Branch of the ministry, even though Fares was actually running Piron’s program.

Still, the program will apparently be better funded under the new education minister: it is receiving 75 million shekels ($19.1 million) this year, with no firm allocation as yet for future years. Piron’s plan, by contrast, was budgeted at 60 million shekels over five years.

Bennett has also recruited former President Shimon Peres to promote “Give Five.”

An Education Ministry source said the plan launched by Piron had produced results. During the school year just ended (2014/15), the source said, more than 11,000 pupils sat the five-point math exam – a figure that has yet to be officially released.

“The threat posed by [low-level] math studies is a strategic threat, and a strategic threat requires a national plan,” said Bennett.

“The role of the leadership is to set national goals and seek to meet them with all our might, and we will double the number of five-point pupils within four years,” he added.

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