Teachers protest Piron’s intention to cut down matriculation exams

Educators say step will harm certain subjects, especially in the humanities.

Teachers protest outsode Education Ministry 370 (photo credit: DANIELLE ZIRI)
Teachers protest outsode Education Ministry 370
(photo credit: DANIELLE ZIRI)
Some 100 teachers gathered in front of the offices of the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv on Thursday to protest the ministry’s intention of cutting down the number of matriculation exams, saying this step will harm certain subjects, especially in the humanities.
“Our goal is to make sure that the status of the humanities in Israel remains equal to the status of other school subjects like math, English and Hebrew,” one of the leaders of the protest, Sharon Sayag, who teaches history in a Holon high school, told The Jerusalem Post.
“It’s been a long year that we heard [Education Minister] Shai Piron and the head of his party [Yesh Atid], [Finance Minister] Yair Lapid, intend to minimize exams by canceling all or some of the matriculation exams in the humanities,” he added.
Sayag said he and a group of colleagues from the Israeli Teacher’s Union met with the education minister several times this year and stressed to him the harmful consequences that they believe such a decision would bring about for their teaching subjects.
“When we hear in interviews that he maintains his intention, we are worried,” he told the Post.
“When a student knows he has to pass an external exam, he is more motivated, and the exam looks more serious to him,” Sayag explained. “Let’s face it, if a students knows that the exam is replaced with an assignment that will be graded by the same teacher he’s had all year and that there is no objective examiner, all the seriousness is lost. It could also lead to certain parents or students pressuring teachers.”
Although he made clear that the protest is not personally against the minister, Sayag said that he disagrees with his general opinion of exams.
“Exams are great assessment tools and as teachers we must assess our students’ skills,” he said. “If we don’t, students could go all the way to university without having had even one external exam.”
“Even if it means a little bit of stress, students should be trained to memorize information,” he said.
As he took office earlier this year, Piron had clearly expressed his stance on exams and said that reducing their number will “expand the students’ minds and truly inculcate a love for learning and a deeper appreciation of the subjects.”
The minister vowed that public education will soon have a different appearance, saying his motto is “love, believe and excel.”
Back in August, Piron had already announced the freezing of external Meitzav achievement exams, used to evaluate and compare schools, a decision that sparked criticism from many other ministers.
“We cannot cover ourselves up with tests and forms that prevent us from asking questions about the character of our education,” he said. “In a world in which knowledge is so accessible, there is a deep change in authority. A change is needed.”
Piron had stated his intention of reducing the extent of the mandatory matriculation exam for high school students to only four tests: Hebrew, English, mathematics and one elective subject.
According to him, these subjects include specific informational goals, for which teaching for the tests is ideal. However, in other mandatory subjects, such as Bible, history and science, teachers will be free to teach in whichever way they choose.
The Education Ministry said in response to protesters that it has not reached a final decision concerning the matriculation exams.