Proposed Reform Would Require Israeli Teachers to Earn Master’s

Higher education council also wants to test student teachers’ social, emotional skills

File photo: Students take an exam at a high school in Israel. May 16, 2019.
Emil Salman

Teachers and preschool teachers would have to earn a master’s degree, according to a recommendation being made by a Council of Higher Education committee formulating new guidelines for teacher training in Israel.

Under the proposal, undergraduate studies in teachers’ colleges would be shortened from four years to three, at the end of which students would proceed to a master’s degree program, which would be a prerequisite for earning a teaching certificate. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, only a third of Israeli teachers have master’s degrees.

The committee is also recommending that the admissions process include a test of the applicants’ social, behavioral and emotional skills, not just academic achievement. The Education Ministry and the council are to develop together the tools for evaluating these abilities.

The committee is also recommending that teachers colleges be allowed to not award teaching certificates to a limited number of graduates who turn out not to be suited for classroom teaching, and instead to give them only an academic degree. According to Prof. Ofra Inbar, who headed the committee together with Prof. Rivka Wadmany, at present, even if an institution isn’t sure that a student is suited to teaching, it will tend to grant the certificate because the certificate and the degree are connected to one another.

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Additional recommendations relate to the teacher training curriculum. The committee recommends adding subjects like preventing racism and dealing with issues of gender, sexuality and conflict within the classroom. The committee also recommends that all teachers be trained to teach children with special needs, given the increasing integration of children with special needs into regular classes. The reform in special education, which will go into effect in two years (and will begin in September in the Education Ministry’s northern district as part of a pilot program), will allow parents of special-needs children to decide whether their children will study in a special education framework or a regular school.

As already reported, training for primary school teachers will undergo significant changes, with greater emphasis on the subjects the teachers plan to teach. Mathematics teachers will have only one major, so that 64 credits, about half of the degree, will be devoted only to mathematics. Teachers of other subjects will have a double major. Moreover, all primary school teachers will be trained in language and reading instruction.

Practical training will be part of the master’s degree studies and the number of hours of student teaching will increase. Teaching programs at the universities designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree, and which now include six weekly hours of student teaching, will require nine hours. Students at teachers colleges will get at least 12 hours experience per week, instead of the current nine hours.

University students who want to earn a teaching certificate as part of their studies will be able to do so from their second year of studies, and not from the third year, as is the current practice, to equalize the training periods in colleges and universities.

The basic outline of the plan for teacher training was presented Tuesday at a conference attended by the heads of teachers colleges and university education departments. The proposal will be forwarded to the council’s Planning and Budgeting Committee for approval and then to the full council. The college and university officials have been asked to submit their comments.

The Council of Higher Education said: “The plan for teacher training is in the midst of discussions and consultations. When the process ends the plan will be discussed by the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Council for Higher Education.”