Matriculation exams have become the “golden calf” of the Israeli education
system, Education Minister Shai Piron said Wednesday, while presenting
widespread reforms in the education system.
According to the plan, set to
take effect in the 2014-15 academic year, matriculation exams will begin in 11th
grade rather than in 10th, in an effort to encourage more meaningful and
in-depth learning, Piron said in a press conference in Tel Aviv.
exams are to cover roughly 60-70 percent of the material learned, with the
remaining 30% to be covered by a student research project.
The new plan,
called “Israel moves up a grade,” is the result of the cooperative efforts of
professionals from the Education Ministry, academic experts, school principals,
teachers, students and parents. It is based on a number of key pillars:
advocating increased trust in all facets of the educational system, pedagogical
continuity from preschool to higher education, new methods of academic
measurement, improved educational technology and academic
“The matriculation exams direct the content, theory and
methods of learning. They create learning without depth, develop a culture of
summaries, a culture of focuses and other concepts that have grown to serve the
vision of the ‘eligible percentage,’” said Piron.
Despite Piron’s past
outspoken intention to reduce the number of mandatory matriculation exams to
only four core subjects, this stage of the plan does not eliminate any subjects. Instead, all non-core subjects would be clustered into three categories: Hebrew,
which includes language and literature; world and state knowledge, including
history and civics; and heritage and culture, which includes Bible and Talmud
studies, Jewish philosophy and religious studies.
Students would take
exams in each individual subject, though their final grade would reflect the
average of each exam in its group cluster. English and mathematics would
continue to remain individual subjects and each student is to be required to
complete at least one unit of science.
According to Piron, the plan calls
for a 40% reduction in the number of matriculation exams each student will have
While students still require 21 matriculation credits, there
will be a significant reduction in the number of test per subject; for example,
in the past 15 tests were required, under the plan 10 would be
In addition, in order to be eligible for a matriculation
certificate, students would be required to complete three years of individual
and group volunteer services in the community, totaling some 180
The second major facet intended in the reform 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. This point has yet to be finalized, though higher education
and ministry professionals continue to work on the details.
universities accept students based on an average of the psychometric and the
The reform would allow proficient 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 their matriculation exams or who were ineligible to receive a
matriculation diploma will, under the intended reforms, still be able to apply
to universities using their psychometric score.
According to recent
figures released in the State of the Child Report of 2013, more than half of
Israeli students were ineligible for the bagrut (matriculation
These reforms are intended to make higher education more
accessible to underprivileged populations, as well as decrease the education gap
between completing high school and acceptance to university.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem president Menachem Ben-Sasson, who is also
chairman of the Committee of University Heads and part of the panel at
Wednesday’s press conference, “the psychometric exam will now only serve as a
secondary option for students who were unable to achieve their maximum potential
during high school studies.”
The plan calls for more autonomy for
teachers and schools. All public elementary schools are to transfer to a
self-management system, allowing for increased pedagogical and organizational
flexibility. Schools would independently decide what to teach and how to teach
for 25% of the total hours.
The idea is to allow schools to use these
hours to expand in a particular field or integrate a curriculum formulated by
The education minister concluded the press conference by
speaking directly to students and parents, “This program was designed for you.
It was designed to expand your knowledge, to inspire you and to require you to
do everything possible so that the State of Israel will become the exemplary
society that we all dream of.”
In conjunction with the minister’s
unveiling of the educational reforms, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
announced the launch of a pilot program, aptly named “Path to Academics,” which
aims to enable undergraduate applicants the opportunity to apply and be accepted
to the university without taking the psychometric exam.
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
Prof. Zvi Hacohen, rector of the university, who initiated the program.