(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Education Minister Shai Piron unveiled a reform on Tuesday for acceptance into higher education institutions based on matriculation certificate achievements alone, without the psychometric exam requirement.
The plan was developed by a joint forum of the Education Ministry, the Council for Higher Education, the Committee of University Heads, the Committee of Public Academic College Heads and the Committee of Non-Publicly Funded Academic College Heads.
“We set out on a long path matching learning to the 21st century. The new program reinforces excellence, the learning process and evaluation during the high school years, and provides a social message expanding the number of those approaching the gates of higher education,” Piron said at a press conference announcing the reform at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Tuesday.
According to the outline, high school graduates will be able to apply to higher education institutions on the basis of their matriculation certificates alone as early as the next academic year, without the need to take the psychometric exam.
“Some view the psychometric exam as a tool suffering from cultural bias. The financial investment in preparation and the structure of parts of the exam may discriminate between students, and turn into a wall that prevents many students from entering the gates of academia,” said Piron.
The reform aims to provide pedagogical continuity from preschool to higher education and contribute to the “deepening of learning, the quality of teaching and the reinforcement of the status of the education system.”
According to Piron, the goal for the next few years is to see one in three students accepted into academic programs based on their matriculation certificates alone – some 30 percent of students in universities and some 40% of students in academic colleges.
As the plan takes effect, each year academic institutions will publicize the level of achievement required for admission based on matriculation certificate achievements alone. Academic institutions will also accept students based on matriculation achievements in engineering and the sciences in an attempt to encourage students to pursue higher units of study in high school in the fields of English, mathematics and the sciences.
According to the agreed upon reform, for example, students applying to academic studies in universities in the field of humanities will be required to present five units of English and five units of another unspecified subject. In comparison, students applying to academic colleges in the field of humanities will be required to present a matriculation certificate with four units of English and five units of an unspecified subject.
Acceptance into a natural sciences program at a university however, will require five units of English, five units of mathematics and five units of either physics, chemistry or biology; while acceptance in the same field at academic colleges will require four units of English, four or five units of mathematics and five units of another science subject.
“The universities recognize the importance of pedagogical continuity and expect to continue the fruitful cooperation with the Education Ministry.
The step presented today is the first in a series of measures aimed at strengthening the matriculation certificate and as such empowering learning in school, which will be achieved among other things by eliminating the psychometric exam taking obligation for university acceptance,” Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and chairman of the Committee of University Heads said at the press conference.
Higher education institutions have yet to announce the grades necessary to gain acceptance to the specific programs and are only set to reveal the requirements in December, said Ben-Sasson.
The reform was announced as the second phase in a broader “Meaningful Learning” reform announced by Piron in January 2014.
According to the massive reform, which took effect this academic year, matriculation exams begin in 11th grade rather than 10th. The exams cover roughly 60%-70% of the material learned, with the remaining 30% to be covered by a student research project.
In addition, in order to be eligible for a matriculation certificate, students are required to complete three years of individual and group volunteer services in the community, totaling some 180 hours.
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the Planning and Budgetary Committee of the Council for Higher Education said: “I welcome and strengthen the hand of Education Minister Shai Piron on this brave move, which is right, essential and which will reduce the path to higher education, prevent discrimination against certain sectors and in light of all this will strengthen higher education. There is no value in the psychometric exam apart from being a screening tool, and from here there is a welcome program that returns the reliability to the matriculation exams. This is a significant contribution to the common goal to provide education, information and high quality human capital to Israeli youth.”