Sa'ar unveils emergency plan on education

New Hope vows portfolio will go to Shasha-Biton

GIDEON SAAR in his Knesset office this week: Leadership is based on advancing your ideology, and the public respects that. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
GIDEON SAAR in his Knesset office this week: Leadership is based on advancing your ideology, and the public respects that.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar on Sunday outlined his party’s plan for revamping the education system.
During an online press conference, he said if elected prime minister, he would keep the education portfolio for his party and give it to his No. 2, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton.
Shasha-Biton is an educator with a doctorate in education from the University of Haifa. She headed the education department as deputy mayor of Kiryat Shmona and served as vice president of Ohalo, a teacher-training college in Katzrin.
“In the coronavirus crisis, the government failed at educating and protecting our children,” Sa’ar said. “Education must be based on long-term planning and a thought-out worldview. The current government handled education as an afterthought off the cuff. That is how parents and children are treated by a government that sees its citizens as their mere subjects.”
The plan focuses on reducing educational and learning gaps and providing emotional and social support to students. Its starting point is that children need learning, companionship and emotional support, and the government must provide answers to overcome the hardships created over the past year.
 “We will place an emphasis on the emotional, ethical and social aspects of education as key to the infrastructure for optimal learning, ensuring that our schools provide a fully comprehensive education,” the plan reads. “The change will include strengthening the focus on educational counseling standards, social activities, trips, cultural events, integrating youth movements and organizations, and more.”
New Hope said it would work to ensure autonomy is given to school principals. It will allow them to make use of the allocation of teaching hours for the benefit of the unique needs of their schools, and it will pass a flexible budget that focuses on the needs of the students.
“The vast education system, as it stands, is not succeeding to meet the needs of the individual student,” the plan reads. “Accordingly, when we find ourselves in a situation whereby our children are sitting at home for months on end, these needs are only mounting up. We will relate to each and every student personally, providing them with social meetings and effective learning through the required course of teaching in small groups.”
The party vowed to work to overcome learning gaps, with an emphasis on reading and writing for first through third grades to prevent future developmental delays.
In addition to advancing education for all ages, New Hope said it would ensure that children who require special assistance are given a swift, effective and personalized response.
“We will implement support and catch-up classes for children, even during times when schools are closed, in accordance with the guidelines, in groups of up to five pupils,” the plan reads.
New Hope promised to recruit teachers, providing them with a respectable, fitting salary to teach during the summer vacation, to help bridge the gaps for all Israeli students in cooperation with teachers’ organizations. Teachers who choose to do so would be able to enlist for one to one and a half months of teaching during the summer months to receive appropriate compensation
The plan would also ensure that a long-term response is given to high-school students so that they can integrate into higher education in the best way despite the matriculation challenges caused by the pandemic.
“We will save the lost school year of high-school students: 11th to 12th of this year and 12th of last year,” the plan reads. “These students were deeply affected by the coronavirus crisis and will be aided by intensive bridge programs to continue their higher education.”