Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The National Student and Youth Council launched a new campaign Monday countering Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s mathematics matriculation exam reform.
“We cannot stand idly by as the Education Ministry created a new ‘golden calf’ – five units of mathematics [the highest level],” Eliav Batito, chairman of the NSYC said on Monday.
Earlier this year, Bennett announced a reform to double the number of students taking the five-unit math matriculation exam, which in recent years has been in decline.
As part of the campaign, the NSYC has invited youths to upload pictures of themselves to social media with a sign that reads “Successful – not only with five.”
“We welcome the aspiration to excel in mathematics, but to differentiate from the Education Ministry, we believe you can succeed in other areas, and that excellence is not necessarily measured by one subject or grade,” Batito said.
He added that the campaign was a “real battle” on the nature of the education system and whether it strives to place an emphasis on students’ abilities or just their accomplishments.
“It is possible and you should strive for excellence, but the ambition should be that every student will succeed in the field in which they are good, and realize their potential. Values and excellence do not contradict each other. They can coexist,” he said.
The NSYC chairman said that students were aware of Israel’s shortage of engineers and mathematicians in the fields of science and industry.
“However, the intention and messages of society only on this issue divide youth, glorifying one group over the other and delegitimizing anyone who does not meet the threshold conditions,” Batito said.
He added that it was clear that Bennett’s intentions were “positive,” but said the reform has had the opposite effect, causing students to despise math and thus widen the educational gap.
Bennett released a statement in response to the students’ campaign, and said “excellence is not a negative word.”
“The State of Israel was facing a future disaster in the field of science and mathematics, with the dramatic deterioration in the number of graduates from five units after a decade’s decline of 40%, which put the national comparative advantage in hi-tech and security in real danger,” the education minister explained.
He reiterated that every child deserved a chance to excel in any area, and that the state and education system did not regard students with only three or four units in math any less.
“But those who want to insist and make an effort – it is our duty to help,” he continued.
“Hundreds of children were pushed down by a system that failed to bring them success. The decade of deterioration in the number of graduates from five units has come to an end, and the trend is being reversed.”
According to Bennett, the ministry opened some 100 mathematics classes in the periphery where students had not been privy to them. He reiterated his goal that within three years, the ministry would double the number of students completing five units in math.
“We will save the future of science in the State of Israel,” he said.