Labor presents education platform

Party calls for "true educational reform" that would actively involve teachers.

yuli tamir 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yuli tamir 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections would not change the Labor party's focus on social issues, Labor chairman Amir Peretz said at a press conference that focused on education policy on Sunday in Tel Aviv. "The Hamas victory will not change the difficult problems faced by Israeli society," Peretz declared. "It will not change the number of children in Israeli classrooms, and we will not allow the new political situation to serve as an excuse for ignoring social issues." Peretz also criticized acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decisions as Finance Minister, and said Olmert bore direct responsibility for the social situation in Israel over the past year. At the press conference, Labor MK and Professor of Education Yuli Tamir, Peretz's choice for Education Minister, outlined Labor's education platform. "The education system is collapsing," Tamir said. "The ongoing alienation between the Education Ministry and the teachers has disabled the entire system." Tamir referred to the massive budgetary cuts of up to NIS three billion, and the resulting cut in school hours and growth in class sizes during Limor Livnat's tenure as Education Minister. She called for a "true educational reform," which would actively involve teacher representatives. "A reform cannot be imposed from above," Tamir said. "Teachers who constantly hear that they are fatigued, inadequate, and unable to function lose their authority, and are unable to function." Tamir called for cooperation among all elements of the education system in order to reach an accord concerning an education reform. The country's conservative education system, Tamir argued, must be adjusted in order to accommodate the needs of students in the 21st century - including digital classrooms and improvements in the status and training of teachers. Other issues that Peretz and Tamir underscored as part of their educational vision included state-sponsored education for children three years and older, which would begin preparing children for school, and daycare subsidies for children aged one to three, which would enable mothers to return to the work force. Tamir also spoke of the necessity of tending to the country's higher education system, and referred to the initiative launched several months ago by Tamir and by Labor activist Guy Spigelman which would allow students to borrow money in order to attend college, and to pay back their loans over time once their salaries reached or superceded the national average. "Once cannot speak of speeding up economic development without speaking of broadening the access to higher education," she said. Among those who spoke at the press conference was Haifa University Professor Gabi Solomon, who spoke of the damage caused by the Dovrat Reform initiated by former Education Minister Limor Livnat. "Luckily, the system is so inefficient that it wasn't able to implement Dovrat," Solomon said. "That reform could equally have been written for a shoelace factory - it had no connection whatsoever to education." Solomon also said that Israeli education has come to a standstill, and has advanced little since the founding of the state over fifty years ago. In addition, he warned that unless the education system seriously addressed the Arab sector, as outlined in the Labor platform, the educational gap between the country's Jewish and Arab populations would continue to grow in a dangerous way. "We are building the mines that will explode at our own feet," he warned. Among the other participants in the press conference that contributed to outlining Labor's educational agenda was the chairwoman of Na'amat, attorney Talia Livni, who stressed the importance of providing quality healthcare for young children, a policy that would enable mothers to join the workforce and would contribute to closing the significant gap between the level of education in OECD countries and that in Israel during the early formative years of childcare. The event kicked off a weeklong series of Labor Party presentations on education. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.