First-graders will not have exams starting this school year.
Education Ministry released a circular this week stating that all exams would be
canceled in the first grade, in order to “reduce potential damage that they may
cause to the learning process.”
Orna Zach, adviser in child development
at the Adler Institute in Tel Aviv, explained that it was important to look at
the process of learning as an achievement rather than to focus on the result:
“The idea that a student will only make efforts if there is a grade involved is
wrong, in my opinion. If you teach them to enjoy the learning process, they
don’t need a grade to be fulfilled by their achievements.
anticipation that a child feels before entering the first grade is healthy, but
if it becomes heavy, it can paralyze the child, it can lead to attention
problems or fears,” she added.
The circular states that canceling exams
will enable children to experience the learning process in a more positive, less
Mira Itach, a teacher in the Tel Aviv area, supports the
initiative: “They are small kids, they don’t have any experience yet that you
can really assess. Once the basics are acquired, then you can assess through
She added that exams are of no help to a first-grader: “On the
contrary, knowing that there are no exams could lead to greater
According to the Education Ministry, exams are “one of many”
tools that teachers can use to assess a student’s advancement in the school
system. The circular says that exams “could have unwanted negative consequences”
and calls for teachers to use other means of assessment such as oral or written
comments on the child’s achievements.
Itach believes, however, that
reading skills should stay subject to an exam, to check the fluency of the
child’s reading and measure where the class stands: “It is important to test
reading, a lot of kids may have difficulties in terms of reading. The teacher
needs to know about them in order to help overcome the obstacles.”
stress that exams can cause to a child can sometimes be amplified by demanding
parents: “Sometimes, parents compete with other parents on how well their child
did. No exams will also lift that stress off the parents,” Itach
Adi Blum, mother of Yuval, who started first grade this year,
says she is happy about the ministry’s decision: “The transition from
kindergarten to school is already a really stressful thing, grades only make it
worse,” she said.
She noticed the effect exams had on her son, Nadav, who
was in first grade last year, when he took a math test at school and received a
comment from the teacher that said “very good” instead of the usual “perfect.”
He was so ashamed that he preferred not to show the test to his
“We always tell them that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that
if you don’t make mistakes, you can’t learn, but despite that, the system forces
kids to participate in this competition,” Blum said.
“Parents too need to
focus on giving encouragement on how much the child has invested into learning,
and less on the result,” Zach added. “The grades only lead to competition and a
feeling that you always need to compare.”