Education Min. Initiative Brings Public Figures Into Schools

The Education Ministry will institute two new enrichment projects involving volunteers during the upcoming school year. One will bring some 100 public figures into high schools to teach over a two-week period at the beginning of the school year.

The other will be an extensive program intended to encourage volunteers to give classes that match the needs of the schools. The ministry is now formulating the criteria by which the volunteers will be accepted.

The ministry says the program is intended to "strengthen the status of the teachers," and create "a positive link between society and the school system."

However, according to some Education Ministry sources, "Instead of seeing to it that the government increases teaching hours, they are now asking for help from the public."

Strengthening volunteerism in the schools is one of the declared goals of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. Sa'ar has said the creation of "circles of volunteers" in the education system will "strengthen the system, enrich it and educate toward volunteerism." A source in the ministry said: "Responsibility for enrichment or scholastic help should be the state's. It is inappropriate for volunteers, some of whom do not have the proper training, to deal with these areas."

Thousands of volunteers already work in the school system, mainly in kindergartens and elementary schools without a great deal of coordination with the ministry. However, in the new program, the ministry has begun setting criteria that will match volunteers to the needs of the schools.

Among those who have signed on for the more extensive program, which will continue throughout the school year, are the chairman of the Israel Bar Association Yori Geiron, the chairman of the National Students Union Boaz Toporovsky, the school system's retirees' organization, graduates of youth groups and a number of businesses.

"We won't bring just anyone into the education system; only those who meet the criteria," says Gila Nagar, director of the ministry's teacher-training administration and in charge of the program.

"It could be an hour a week or longer. Schools will tell us what they need, such as math enrichment or some social activity, and we'll match it to the volunteer."

Among the public figures to appear during the first two weeks of the school year are artists, past and present university faculty, senior Israel Defense Forces officers, media figures, hospital directors and professional athletes. The ministry says such role models will "strengthen values such as effort, persistance, responsibility and contributing to the community."

Among the public figures set to give single lectures, two groups have particularly outstanding representation: scientists and media figures. Among those already on board are Nobel laureate Prof. Robert Aumann, Technion president Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig and Hadassah Medical Organization director general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef.

Among the media figures are columnist and TV host Yair Lapid, TV journalist Dana Weiss, radio host and journalist Razi Barkai and investigative journalist Ilana Dayan and cultural icon Gal Uchovsky.

Businesspeople Eitan Wertheimer, Ofra Strauss, Amos Shapira and Shraga Brosh will also be teaching a class, as will writers A.B. Yehoshua, Meir Shalev and Yehudit Rotem. IDF reserve major generals Moshe Kaplinsky, Doron Almog and Elyezer Shkedy will also be lecturing, as will judokas Arik Ze'evi and Yael Arad.