The Test Results / Rebel Without a Cause

People, if we were serious we'd put aside our other dealings and organize a mass rally this Saturday at Rabin Square focusing not on Annapolis or the Iranian threat but on another issue that demands our immediate attention.

The horrendous results of the PISA test published this week should make at least 400,000 people rush to the square and cry out to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and the two heads of the teachers organizations to help us.

Israel has dropped to around 40th place from among 57 countries tested in reading, math and science. It also won the dishonorable first place in terms of differences in capabilities between rich and poor students. "Our results are low, the gaps big and the A-students have disappeared. Students just aren't ready to deal with the modern world," one of the testers said.

This deterioration must be stopped, and we must examine the Labor Court ruling this week in this context.

Judge Steve Adler's ruling was a compromise because he knew that Secondary School Teachers Association head Ran Erez - a self-styled Che Guevara who does not sign deals with traitors (Tamir) or oppressors (the treasury) - will never compromise. No matter the 3.2 million teaching hours lost.

"You are a difficult man to negotiate with," Adler told Erez three weeks ago. "Do you remember how the great strike of '78 ended? With no agreement, only a memo. Is that how you want this strike to end?" But Erez's face was frozen and he did not budge.

If Erez were reasonable, he would understand the government's limitations. It knows that next in line are the university faculty lecturers, and behind them lurks the entire public sector. If he were reasonable, he would be happy with what he was offered: An 8.5 percent pay rise, a NIS 5 billion budget increase, a reduction in the number of students per class and other pledges.

The reform, even in its watered-down version, is still worthy of implementation. But even if it is, its current version is so modest, so incomplete that it stands no chance of pulling us out of the mud. For that, we need to revolutionize our system and completely replace the old order. We need a prime minister who will also be an education minister, and that will place it as his central goal.