Right Foot Forward

Education Minister, Gideon Sa'ar, is opening the school year by putting his right foot forward - not only with no teachers' strike, but with no fear of one either.

The new school year is opening with two reforms in the school system. Both are necessary but don't alter the fact that this year once again Israel will be investing in each child less than the other OECD countries. Israeli teachers will also be earning less than all their colleagues in the developed countries, much less. Israel's teachers and students continue to be deprived by every comparison.

Meanwhile, the weaker locations get weaker and the strong ones get stronger. There is no equality or even similarity in the funds passing through the three funnels - the governmental, municipal and parental. A student in Sderot or Kiryat Shmona is not like his colleague in Ramat Hasharon or Ra'anana and the opportunities he receives are nothing like equal. The Arab students are children of a lesser Allah, as if they were Ethiopians or Mizrahi girls, heaven forbid.

School in Ma'aleh Adumim - Emil Salman - August 31 2011
Emil Salman

It could be put this way: Tell me where you come from - what place, community and family - and I'll tell you how far you'll go. There are more outrageous ways of putting it as well. As long as this distortion is not straightened out, our education system is not educational, but racist and anti-educational. The reforms include some helpful amendments, but they are far from enough.

A serious breakdown occurred in the high school reform dubbed Oz Letmura. True, dedicated teachers must be rewarded; at least they should have promotion prospects. But the way the reforms attempt to do this will make things even worse. On the basis of the agreement between the government and teachers union, outstanding teachers will receive incentives in the form of wage increments. The criteria distinguish between teachers who are really good at what they do, teachers who are less good and teachers who are good for nothing.

Thus 50 percent of Israel's teachers are to be labeled as second or third rate. This is how a mean spirit, rather than team spirit, is brought into the schools. This is how the system encourages dropping out to improve average grades, this is how an opening for forging grades is formed.

Until now schools were a factory for students' grades. From now on they will be a factory for teachers' grades as well. It's never too late to correct a mistake that is still retractable.

Gideon Sa'ar is opening the school year by putting his right foot forward - not only with no teachers' strike, but with no fear of one either. Over the summer vacation, civics has been beefed up and updated without him, despite the Education Ministry's efforts in censuring, rewriting and replacing textbooks. This year may be opening without a chief scientist who defies science and without a Pedagogical Secretariat chairman who confused fields of knowledge - one retired and the other is on his way out. But the atmosphere they sowed is still in the air because it is the commander's spirit.

Every child who saw the tents over the summer learned a lesson in civics that none of the biased school texts can equal. They learned how people can make a difference, how they can challenge fallacious conventions and why it is important to be a concerned, critical citizen, not a small, adaptable one. Suddenly the minister discovered he is no longer the only custodian of values.

It was reported this week that most young people prefer Avigdor Lieberman - a strong man - as prime minister, shocking participants in education conferences. Maybe this will cool down Sa'ar somewhat, for even he cannot provide the nationalist drug in such a highly concentrated dose as his colleague.

Another encouraging sign can be seen right at the start. No celebrities have been invited this morning to the first lesson at a school, as they were last year to serve as an example of success. This summer has performed miracles; even the splendor of some celebrities has been dimmed under suspicious circumstances, and they've been replaced by more deserving heroes. The Education Ministry must have changed its mind and is now relying on the teachers to manage without celebrities or even a senior army officer, for they are the best example for their students.