Coronavirus Pandemic to Force Major Changes to Israeli Students' Matriculation Exams

The number and amount of material covered in matriculation exams is to be slashed in the face of COVID-19 restrictions

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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Israeli students sitting the Bagrut exams, June 2020.
Israeli students sitting the Bagrut exams, June 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

The Education Ministry has announced that it will reduce the number of matriculation exams (bagrut) and the material they cover in order to compensate for study time lost due to the school closures on account of the coronavirus pandemic this spring.

High school students taking the tests, which are important for admission to higher education, will register for six subjects in the 2020-21 school year, instead of seven or more. According to a plan announced Monday by Education Minister Yoav Gallant, the quantity of material covered in the exams will be reduced by around one-third in most subjects, and by around 10 per cent for mathematics. Makeup dates will be offered for all subjects, for students who may miss the original date due to being in quarantine or ill with the virus.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant during a press conference in Jerusalem, August 2020.Credit: Tomer Appellbaum

The format for the exams this year will be similar to that of this summer: three tests in the mandatory subjects of math, English and proficiency in the student’s native language (Hebrew or Arabic); two humanities subjects instead of the customary four, chosen by the school from among literature, Bible, history and civics; one expanded subject, chosen by the student. The school will administer exams on the other subjects. This summer only five bagrut exams were given, in the three mandatory subjects and one each from the humanities and the sciences.

The ministry suggests that schools test students at the start of the school year to determine any learning gaps from the 2019-20 school year. The ministry’s research authority has developed exams in math, English, mother tongue and sciences for grades 1-9 to measure proficiency relative to grade level. The schools will not be required to report the results of the tests to the ministry, and they will be used for internal purposes only.

In addition, the ministry has issued protocols for acclimating preschoolers and first graders to school. They call far prohibiting entry to parents, who will instead wait for their children in the yard of the school. The youngest preschoolers, who are 3 years old, will come to the preschool on the first day for a short stay in small groups of up to six pupils. On the second day they will be divided into two groups, and starting on the third day the preschool will be in session from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. The older children will have a full day of school from the first day.

In first grade the pupils will come to school gradually throughout the day accompanied by one parent, in order to prevent a gathering of over 20 people in the schoolyard.

An association representing parents of preschoolers called the decision to bar parents from the school buildings “a serious blow to the children” that “has no connection to reality. Apparently the Education Ministry isn’t thinking about the emotional health of the children, and instead of enabling them to acclimate together with their parents, even gradually and in small groups, they are finding solutions that continue to harm the children.”

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