At the opening session of the Holon Conference on Education, President Shimon Peres presented innovative ideas and called for changes that will make the hair of Finance Minister Yair Lapid stand on end.

After all the cutbacks that Lapid has introduced, including in child allotments, Peres wants the state to provide free, nutritious food for all children from the time they are born till they are three years old, because this is one of the most vital periods in the healthy development of a child.

“Social justice begins in the cradle,” he said on Thursday.

More than that, Peres proposed that the hefty revenues that the state will receive from existing gas fields and further gas exploration and discovery be invested not in banks or investment houses but in the nation’s children.

“If Israel does not invest in education today, Israel will not be able to compete on a global scale tomorrow,” he warned. “If we do not sow today, we will not be able to reap tomorrow.”

Peres is acutely familiar with standards of education around the country. In the course of his weekly visits to different communities throughout the country, he always makes a point of visiting schools and addressing high school students.

Peres emphasized the need to begin teaching children English when they are still in kindergarten and to use it frequently as a second language, because English has become the most universal language and is also the language most widely used in the digital world.

Citing some of the competition that tiny Israel has to face, Peres said that Israel is competing against giants such as India, China and South Korea.

In India alone, he said, there are 400,000 engineering graduates per annum.

All children from at least grade one onward should have a personal digital tablet as a learning tool throughout their school years, said Peres, who sees it as an obligation on the part of the state to supply and update such tablets.

He also urged that provision be made within the education system for 11th- and 12thgrade students who are taking technical subjects to be allowed to work for two hours each day in hi-tech companies, so that they can acquire practical experience to complement their theoretical knowledge.

This would also be beneficial to the companies, because the students would be coming with fresh, innovative ideas that could be incorporated in company products and solutions said Peres.

He has already spoken to several hi-tech CEOs about bringing students into their companies for two hours a day, and reaction has not only been favorable but enthusiastic.

Another revolutionary concept that Peres frequently mentions, and which in fact has been adopted in a pilot program with the Open University, is that the government should fund the first degree studies of every soldier doing army service.

The IDF should be transformed into an academic college functioning in tandem with an army camp, he said.

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