Vast Majority of Israeli School Principals Believe Education Ministry Is Unprofessional

Survey found 80% of dissatisfaction with the ministry in almost every area that relates to a principal’s work, ranging from professional assistance to work conditions.

Naftali Bennett
Ofer Vaknin

Eighty percent of high school principals think the Education Ministry is not being led by true professionals, while 63 percent believe they cannot rely on the professionalism of most of the ministry’s personnel, according to a survey conducted by the High School Principals Association.

The survey expressed respondents’ dissatisfaction with the ministry in almost every area that relates to a principal’s work, ranging from professional accompaniment and assistance, work conditions, respect, fairness and service. The poll also showed that a large majority of principals see the ministry as too afraid to deal with educational problems, leaving the principals responsible for doing so. Seventy-one percent believe the ministry takes credit for successes that are relatively meaningless.

The survey report was based on responses from 300 of some 700 high school principals, and was conducted last summer by Geocartography Knowledge Group. According to various sources, neither the principals’ association nor the Secondary School Teachers Association wanted to publish the poll results until now, because they were negotiating various issues with the ministry, among other reasons.

Menashe Levy, chairman of the principals’ association, said the survey was initiated due to “a prolonged and continually increasing sense of great discomfort with the ministry’s functioning and its attitude toward the principals.”

He said publication was delayed to give Minister Naftali Bennett and ministry Director General Michal Cohen a chance to respond. “We met them two-and-a-half months ago and they were shocked by the harsh results. Bennett even thanked us for not running to the media and promised to get back to us within two weeks with a plan of action. Since then we haven’t heard from the ministry,” Levy said.

According to the poll, 69 percent of principals agree with the statement, “The ministry’s conduct sometimes leads me to reconsider my career as a principal,” and 72 percent believe ministry employees are not familiar enough with what goes on in the schools.

In contrast to the publicity campaigns that gained momentum under former Education Minister Shay Piron and continue under Bennett, the principals paint a far less rosy picture of the reality in the high schools. Eighty percent said that there is a serious shortage of teachers in various subjects and 82 percent said the ministry isn’t dealing with this problem.

Between 80 percent and 90 percent feel the ministry is giving them increased responsibility, while a similar ratio feels that they are spending too much time on bureaucratic tasks, like issuing reports and filling out forms.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said they are afraid to express opinions at ministry conferences, “which is why the ministry believes everyone’s happy.” Half said they violate educational principles because they fear “getting hurt,” and only 40 percent agreed that “most ministry officials respect what I think as a principal.” Only a quarter said that it was easy to communicate with ministry staffers by phone or email.

Only a third of the principals believe that the “Israel moves up a grade” reform launched by Piron will improve the educational system; only 29 percent believe that the ministry staffers themselves understand the reform, and a mere 16 percent think the ministry thought through the reform properly before it was implemented.

The Education Ministry said in response: “We are busy trying to cut down on the number of students per classroom, giving free English courses, revolutionizing mathematics studies and improving the teaching standard in Israel.”