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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
writer is the president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and chairman of
the Committee of University Heads of Israel.
Translated by Hannah