Sa’ar: Schools not keeping up with the digital times

“We are competing against the most developed countries in the world,” says education minister.

February 2, 2010 23:48
2 minute read.
A schoolgirl checks out the Web.

kid computer 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The school system is not keeping up with breakthroughs in technology, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said on Tuesday.

He argued that schools must adopt new teaching practices for the 21st century.

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“Nowadays, graduates of the school system live in a completely different world than the one we grew up in,” Sa’ar said, adding that we must make sure to teach them “21st-century skills.”

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Sa’ar said that education must be seen as central to the future of the State of Israel, and the state must take budgetary action to reflect this importance. He painted a rather grim picture of Israel’s education system in comparison to others in the developed world, highlighting how Israel spends much less per student than the average among Western countries.

“We are not just competing against ourselves, we are competing against the most developed countries in the world,” Sa’ar said. New technologies, instructional methods and greater training for teachers are key to making sure Israeli pupils can stay competitive with their Western counterparts, he said. Sa’ar argued that such methods can also help close gaps between weaker and stronger segments of society.

He also called for a continued focus on fighting the rise of violence in the school system, saying, “It is the right of every student to be free from violence.”

Gila Ben-Hor, general secretary of the Center for Educational technology, called on the state to implement educational reform policies to prepare pupils for the changing demands wrought by advances in technology, and to ensure that they can compete with students from elsewhere in the developed world.

Ben-Hor called on Israel to implement programs like the US 21st Century Skills Incentive Fund Act, passed by the Congress in 2009, which awards federal funds to states that build curricula pairing core courses with creative skills the bill refers to as “21st-century skills.”

Ben-Hor presented figures from a poll compiled by the Center for Educational Technology in January 2010 that found 52% of Israeli students think that schools are not preparing them for the future, and that 82% would prefer a curriculum in which they are required to carry a laptop to class in lieu of textbooks.

Students also said that schools should provide laptops to all teachers and students, with wireless Internet access and completely digital classrooms.

Also at the Herzliya Conference, President Shimon Peres praised the IDF for educating youngsters, calling the army “the best public school in Israel.”

Peres called for the IDF to serve as an educational institution in which recruits can attain a higher education, saying, “We must turn the IDF into a college, so that every youngster who finishes the army will leave with a bachelor’s degree.”

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