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From kindergarten straight to university
ByMENAHEM BEN-SASSON
January 13, 2014 22:53
Education Minister Shai Piron recently announced a new educational program, called “Israel moves up a grade: Moving on to more meaningful learning.”
Miki Katz prepares for her first day of school to kita alef, 26 August 2013.

Back to school girl running 370. (photo credit:Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Education Minister Shai Piron recently announced a new educational program, called “Israel moves up a grade: Moving on to more meaningful learning.” While this program aims to develop independent thinking, foundations for learning and moral educational frameworks that begin in kindergarten and continue through the 12th grade, most of the recent media coverage skipped over all of the stages of education that lead up to college entrance exams.

The media has instead focused solely on bagrut (matriculation) exams and the psychometric exam.



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The media has made it seem as if these exams were the only issue that will be affected by the wide variety of educational reforms currently in the works. As a member of the Committee of University Heads of Israel, I can say that our main purpose is to create a program that will provide innovative curricula and incorporate new skills in schools across the country. This new program is a joint venture of the Education Ministry and the universities, and it is our hope and belief that by decreasing the number of bagrut exams and improving the quality of teaching and learning, we will greatly improve the Israeli educational system. As a result, high school graduates will begin college with increased knowledge and better study skills.

The reform’s aim is to deal with the nature of learning and educational processes. This is excellent news for schools, universities and of course, also for students. Science curricula will be reinforced, namely chemistry, physics and biology, and new programs that teach critical thinking and writing skills will also be incorporated. The combination of these new programs will provide students with better skills and a greater knowledge base as they move on to the university level.

Up until now, the norm has been to rely on a composite score of the bagrut exams and the psychometric test. This number has helped universities predict which students were most likely to succeed academically. It was necessary to rely on both types of exams because of the bagrut exams’ lack of credibility.

Nevertheless, it is clear to all of us that the learning process which students currently experience takes place in school, and therefore, ideally we should be able to rely on bagrut exams alone to summarize this period of learning. By relying solely on bagrut exams, universities would benefit from higher quality students, and offer a more egalitarian method for accepting new students.

We have not yet completed all of the reforms regarding college entrance exams – there is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us. We are working diligently with the Education Ministry on curriculum details and the composition of the subject groupings, which will allow students to apply to universities with scores from bagrut exams alone.

However, students cannot be accepted to universities based on bagrut scores alone until these exams are significantly improved upon – to the point where they will become reliable enough that when they are examined in combination with students’ grades, they will accurately reflect students’ levels and abilities. At this point, there would no longer be a need for psychometric exam scores.

Many claims have been made that serious decisions and reforms are being undertaken with no public discourse. To ensure that does not happen in this case, we are now discussing these educational reforms publicly, and there is still time to raise questions and offer suggestions regarding these important issues.

One of the best ways to check if these reforms will be successful is by taking into consideration all of the public debate and discussions on each and every stage of learning, and not just by focusing on college entrance exams. We need to be patient and thorough, and not just want to get ahead.

The writer is the president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and chairman of the Committee of University Heads of Israel.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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