The ABCs of Being the No. 1 Teacher

Maybe in the upcoming government, the incoming education minister will plan to fulfill the role of the education minister.

Judging by the names being suggested for the job, there is no doubt that in the next government a positive change can be expected concerning the position of the minister of education. This is good. First of all, this time, someone who has a matriculation certificate, if not a lot more than that, will serve as minister. Secondly, the person - man or woman - who is appointed will already have "plowed with the education wagon," and therefore he or she knows the riddle; the only question is of the solution that the new minister will offer to it.

It is only to be regretted that the issue of education was not given prominence and was not sufficient detailed in the election campaign, relative to other issues: Anyone who supports a minimum wage also knows that a minimum of education is no less essential, and anyone who supports the enlargement of the basket of medical benefits also knows that he will not agree to a freeze in the existing education basket, because there is no cure in there for the ills of ignorance and failure - the most pernicious of illnesses. Whom should the public prefer as minister of education? A person in whose voice a message of privatization cannot be heard.

Education must not dwell together with privatization, and a back door must not be opened to the latter because it will steal in and spread out. Just give it an inch at a school and it wants the whole mile. Privatization must remain out of bounds, because there is no education for purposes of making a profit. The responsibility for education lies entirely with the state and its authorized agents, and it is not divisible.

It has many names, privatization, and all of them are beautiful and seductive. Anyone with eyes in his head will look carefully at the names and not be captivated by the music that distracts him from the main thing. And the main thing is not to allow in any form the existence of special and unique institutions that dodge integration through various and changing escape routes - that in actuality select and sort their students like packing houses and send the "grade B" apples to the crate of a different institution.

A privatized education system is an education system that is out of control and refuses to afford equal opportunity to those who in any case find it difficult to achieve equality. It is necessary to state a preference, with respect to the position of education minister, for a person who gives a bill of divorcement to the Dovrat Commission report. Every minister wants to embark on his tenure on the right foot, and he has no chance of succeeding if he takes his first step in the tight little shoes of the previous minister; he will limp right at the outset, until he stumbles. The Dovrat report is dead and there is no need or means to revive it. And if, nevertheless, a worthy conclusion can be identified in it, it is better to pull it out and plant it in a new and known reform: Everyone knows what will be done to the education ordinance, and anyone who values his immortal soul will stay clear of another commission.

At the end of five years of destruction and neglect, the time has come to roll up our sleeves and start the work of rehabilitation immediately. For too long it has been corrupted. And it is necessary to prefer for the position in question a candidate who loves teachers. These are your teachers, Israel, and they have no substitute. The education minister is their minister, their leader, their partner and their friend. During the past five years the wind has gone out of the sails of teaching because educators were given a bad name, and were depicted as an empty vessel - an unwanted vessel destined for dismissal, exhausted, slack and lazy. But they are not like that at all. The vast majority of them are doing their best in unbearably difficult conditions.

An education minister who hopes to build and be built on the destruction of the teachers, male and female, and the destruction of their organizations will quickly find himself alone in the battlefield, the commander of an army without soldiers. And it is necessary to opt for the candidate who does not agree to take the job unless promised in advance that there will be a return of the education budget to what it was in 2000, at the very least.

In the days of education minister Limor Livnat and Education Ministry director general Ronit Tirosh, the budget cuts multiplied - 16 of them, for a total of NIS 4 billion, a sum that is four times the size of the "available budget" at the disposal of the minister for the most urgent needs within the system.

Things are now completely dysfunctional and only an irresponsible individual would take upon himself a burden which, from the outset, he has no chance of bearing. The public must expect every high-level public servant to serve as an exemplar of a clean mind and clean hands; for the education minister, this is even more the case. The teachers, the students and the parents will follow their minister to make certain that he or she both talks and acts, speaks and behaves well, teaches and also learns. Only when every mother in Israel says, "This is the person I want as a teacher for my children" - only then will the minister be worthy of the truly important title: the No. 1 teacher. And preference should go to a person who sees the position of education minister as the position of his or her life, and not as a springboard: Here is the education system and from here, there is nowhere to jump. The candidate will not see any position as more important than this one, and will not be looking toward more exalted positions and tasks. There aren't any.

During the last Knesset term, there was no great importance attached to the identity of the education minister. At an early stage of her term, she effectively gave up the status of her ministry and her position, and delivered the fate of education - present and future - into the crude hands of the Finance Ministry. The voice is the voice of Livnat, high and hollow; the hands are those of former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his bunch, sabotaging and cutting. More than anything else, it is important now to know whether the next education minister truly plans to fulfill the role of the education minister.