Six months in the making, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's advisers released a new education platform this week that focuses on improving the quality of teachers. Although the next national election is only scheduled for November 2010, the new education policies have been prepared in the hopes of an early vote.
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The platform promises that Israeli pupils' test scores in science and math, which currently rank 33rd and 31st in the world, respectively, will reach the top 10 within four years of Netanyahu's return to the Prime Minister's Office.
This will be achieved, according to the document, through more careful screening and higher standards for teachers entering the education system, improved teacher training, and programs to attract outstanding university students to education. By cutting back on Education Ministry bureaucracy, the plan calls for teachers' salaries to be increased by up to 50 percent.
In addition, school principals will be given broad powers to hire and fire, making the profession more competitive and weeding out weak teachers. The plan also calls for smaller class sizes, longer school hours and hot meals for needy children.
The new platform includes an ideological component. Citing the concern that "many young people in Israel don't understand why they live here, many don't even know the words to Hatikva," the plan calls for a new curriculum on Jewish history, traditions, the history of Zionism, and citizenship and democracy. Tools for teaching the curriculum will be provided to all teachers, regardless of their teaching subject, to integrate Zionist values into the general life of the school.