Back to basics and a focus on heritage: Tirosh lays out Kadima's education platform

"In general, I think we need to put our heritage and roots as the Jewish people back into the school curriculum."

ronit tirosh 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
ronit tirosh 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
In light of recent low test scores among the country's students and the fast-approaching general elections in February, Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, who hopes to take the reins as Education Minister in a future Kadima-led government, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that her plans to overhaul the country's education system would begin on two distinct levels. "First, we need to go back to the kindergarten level and the first and second-grade levels and reevaluate the curriculum there," Tirosh said. "These kids need to be receiving a well-rounded education, even at a young age, that encompasses all of the basics, along with things like music, economics and current events. "People think that children at this age are too young to grasp these things, but they're not. There are ways of introducing these subjects in a way they can understand." Tirosh also advocated reexamining the way kids were passed from one grade to the next. "We need to reinforce education at this level as a whole," Tirosh said. "We can't allow students to skip ahead if they haven't accomplished what they were supposed to. But no one is looking at a reform geared specifically for this age group, and that's something I would certainly do." The second area where the Kadima education platform would set its sights is on the periphery communities - a long-standing source of contention within the education sector, as the gaps between students in affluent, urban areas and those in lower-income and rural areas continue to grow. "We cannot have a situation where a student in south Tel Aviv is getting a worse education than a student in Ramat Gan," Tirosh said. "The socio-economic gaps in our schools need to be addressed, and I know that they have been to some degree. But even if we were giving this issue a 100-percent effort, we need to give 150% or 200%. We have to close the gaps." With those two issues laid out as a cornerstone of the Kadima party's potential educational plans, Tirosh said she would also advocate an overhaul on the high school level, where she said many students were made to take standardized tests that didn't necessarily suit their aspirations in the work force. "I would like to see an initiative started in which students are able to pursue hi-tech and low-tech opportunities instead of only liberal arts and humanities," Tirosh said. "We used to have something like it in the 1960s, but it was halted after an overwhelmingly high number of Sephardi students began pursuing that track and a stigma was attached to it. "I think today that stigma is gone, and by allowing students the opportunity to begin learning a trade when they're in the 10th grade as opposed to later on, they will have a better chance for success in the workplace. It shouldn't be that every student is required to go to university and study literature or history. We should give them the opportunity to explore careers in electronics, mechanics and other things that can be used, even in the hi-tech sector." Tirosh also commented on remarks made by Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu in August, when, in response to Education Minister Yuli Tamir's decision to remove the writings of Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky from the Israeli curriculum, Netanyahu said, "The government took Ze'ev Jabotinsky out of the school textbooks and inserted the Nakba [the Palestinian "disaster" of Israel's founding] instead." "In general, I think we need to put our heritage and roots as the Jewish people back into the school curriculum," Tirosh said. "It's missing, and our children know nothing [about their Jewish identity]. When they leave the country and, say, go to study in Boston, it's very important for them to remember where they come from. What Bibi was trying to say is that Yuli Tamir forgot this." However, Tirosh was quick to emphasize that it wasn't one or the other. "I don't think we should only learn one side," Tirosh said. "We should learn both - the Arabs have their heritage as well. But this is something to talk about later, when we have the ministry. However it is important to have a vision, and it's necessary if we want to improve our children's education."