‘High-level science more important than computers’

Education Ministry chief scientist says pupils who study 5 units of physics, mathematics and chemistry will be vital to the economy in 20 years.

March 23, 2010 06:26
1 minute read.
Education Ministry chief scientist Dr. Gabriel Avi

gabriel avital 311. (photo credit: Judy Seigel)

While computer-related startups are important to Israel, increasing the number of high school pupils who study five units of physics, mathematics and chemistry will be much more vital to the economy in 20 years, Education Ministry chief scientist Dr. Gabriel Avital said on Monday.

Speaking at the 17th annual Torah and Science Conference organized by Yeshiva University in Israel, the Jerusalem College of Technology and Bar-Ilan University, Avital said that these are the basic elements of science and that computers are only tools to assist in the development of these vital sciences.

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The conference, attended by nearly 100 people, was held at YU’s Gruss Center in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vagan neighborhood.

He said that pupils who study physics at the level of the maximum five units used to be regarded as an “elite,” but today they are regarded as having “less prestige,” though the three subjects are tougher now than ever.

“Pupils think the computer mouse solves everything, but it does not. You have to understand, and this comes from studying these key subjects,” said Avital.

He revealed that the ministry aims at tripling the number of high-level physics pupils within three years. Lower-level technicians in these fields are also necessary to implement and serve as the infrastructure for what the academics develop, he said.

Avital also called on the organization sponsoring the all-day conference to assist pupils in the periphery – not necessarily the geographical periphery but the social one, as in the same cities, there were disadvantaged poor and advantaged well-off populations.

He added that his ministry is currently mapping the growing haredi and Arab sectors and their educational achievements in order to know how to promote science learning among them.

“Torah is close to haredim,” he said, “but science is far from them. You should deliver science to them, and [at least some of them] will study it,” the ministry chief scientist said.

He advised the organizers next time to invite more women and young people to the conference, as they constituted only a minority of the audience.

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