Education Minister Shai Piron is expected to announce new educational reforms at a press conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday afternoon.
While the Education Ministry remains silent on the specifics of the press conference and the expected educational reforms, details of his new plan have been released in the media. The plan is expected to call for major reforms in the Israeli education system, most notably a reduction in the extent of the bagrut, the mandatory matriculation exam for high school students, and the cancellation of the psychometric exam as a prerequisite for university admissions.
According to the plan, matriculation exams will begin in 11th grade rather than in 10th, in an effort to encourage more meaningful and in depth learning. The exams will cover roughly 60-70% of the material learned with internal school evaluations encompassing the additional 30% of the grade in the form of a student research project.
Despite Piron’s past outspoken intentions to reduce the extent of the mandatory matriculation exams to only core subjects, this stage of the plan does not include any cancellations of exams; though it does aim to reduce the number of questions per exam. In addition, second sittings for matriculation exams will no longer be available for students wanting to improve their grades, only for those that receive a failing grade.
Another major facet of the intended reforms includes the cancellation of the psychometric exam as a prerequisite for acceptance into universities for students who receive a high average grade on their matriculation exams. Today, universities accept students based on an average of these two scores, the new reform will allow good students to apply to a wider range of university fields, such as medicine and engineering, without having to undertake the psychometric exam. Students who do not receive a high score on matriculation exams or who were ineligible to receive a matriculation diploma will still be able to apply to universities using their psychometric score.
According to recent figures released in the State of the Child report in 2013, more than half of Israeli students were ineligible for the bagrut. These new reforms are intended to make higher education more accessible, as well as decrease the time between completing high school and acceptance to university.
MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid), chairman of the Lobby for Students and Higher Education and past chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students, welcomed the plan and said, “I will work to make sure that the program will include all institutions of higher education and will enable greater freedom for colleges in determining admission requirements and increasing accessibility, while encouraging excellence. Entrance gates to knowledge should be open to all interested parties, I have long been hoping for this step and it is the right one for higher education and the future of the country.”
In conjunction with the Minster’s expected unveiling of new educational reforms on Wednesday, Ben Gurion University in the Negev announced the launch of a new pilot program, aptly named “Path to Academics”, which aims to enable new undergraduate applicants the opportunity to apply and be accepted to the University without taking the psychometric exam.
Under the new program, designed with the approval of the Council for Higher Education and the Israeli National Institute for Testing and Evaluation, students will participate in a number of courses, including mathematical thinking and English at a university level. At the end of the course, the students will take assessment tests, which along with their final course grades will be weighted in the same manner as the psychometric exam. The students can then apply directly to any department in the university with these scores.
“Psychometric courses do not promote the candidates in a personal matter, but only predict the success of their academic studies with tricks and patents for the speedy resolution of questions. In contrast, this type of course is success in itself because it provides students numerous tools to prepare them for further academic studies and helps them become more successful in final exams and in their studies,” said Professor Zvi Hacohen, rector of the university, who initiated the program.