Improving the status of teachers in Israel

It is troubling to see that the very discipline meant to produce our future scientists and to cultivate creativity, entrepreneurship and leadership in sundry fields does not merit the type of compensation expected for professionals in our society and economy.

March 16, 2013 22:48
3 minute read.
School children

Fighting for the little guys_521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The issue of teacher status in Israel is frequently raised in the public discourse, but it seems that all the words written and events created have not crossed from the realm of discussion to the reality of causing actual improvement.

In the current era, in which the Internet and online databases are reputable resources for imparting information, we see a clear need to redefine the role and mission of the teacher. This role cannot simply be one of imparting facts and sharing knowledge. Rather, the focus must be on teaching values, that cannot be acquired via search engines or social media. Our youth, on the whole, recognize the importance of values in building their character, so it is imperative to ensure that those who impart knowledge are also those who, at their core, live by values of appreciation for our homeland and its people.

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As one who came to the Knesset from the halls of academia, I spent many years in the world of teacher training and guidance. I was pleased to see that the lion’s share of those who seek education as a profession have the drive and motivation to create positive societal change. Besides this drive, the educational system requires other strengths such as broad academic education, with various specialties; in social sciences, humanities and especially the natural sciences.

Unfortunately, the teaching profession is not considered an attractive career choice for many students.

Despite the challenge and educational mission it presents, many promising students prefer to join the world of industry and hi-tech, which confers higher professional status and comes with a myriad of benefits and a more than respectable salary.

It is troubling to see that the very discipline meant to produce our future scientists and to cultivate creativity, entrepreneurship and leadership in sundry fields does not merit the type of compensation expected for professionals in our society and economy.

Lately, we have witnessed a number of incidents in which the teacher was disrespected, by students and by parents.

A proper society, one that is critical and enlightened, as in Israel, must place the status of its educators on a pedestal, as a tangible rebuttal to these extreme incidents. We must not ignore the steps taken to improve teachers’ salaries by a not-insignificant amount, as an acknowledgement of their considerable investment. However, the day has not yet arrived in which we will see the salary of the Israeli teacher match that of counterparts in other enlightened countries, which see education as a supreme value.

Upon my induction to the 19th Knesset, I declared my intention to promote the status of teachers and of teaching in the State of Israel for the benefit of society and for the next generation.

This expedition will be long, but worthwhile and ultimately necessary.

My first action as a Member of Knesset and as a result of my declaration, was to create a parliamentary panel to deal with this issue and lead, hopefully, to an improvement of the compensation package for teachers and thus to turning the teaching profession into a more attractive one to those with the appropriate skills. This first step will lead to continued development and growth for all Israelis.

The great educator Janusz Korczak stated it best when he said, “One who worries about the coming days plants wheat, and one who worries about the coming years plants trees, while one who worries about the coming generations teaches people.”

The writer is a member of Knesset for Yisrael Beytenu and former deputy director of the Churgin School of Education at Bar-Ilan University.

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