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Education goals for 2012: Zionism first, math failures second

The government ministries have set their goals for 2012. It’s good to know the Education Ministry has got its priorities straight.

Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

With so many people dealing with Iran, it’s a wonder anything actually gets done in this country. But yes, next week the CEOs of all of the Israeli government’s ministries will present the goals they set for the year 2012. (Not to be the eternal party-pooper, but shouldn’t this have been done in late 2011? Just a tad before 2012…? Oh well, what do I know about running a country.)

But anyway, amidst all the bombs and rockets flying just a few dozen kilometers south of me, I tried my best to read the goals that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues have planned for moi, the loyal taxpayer. As someone who has written often on the dire situation of Israeli education (you can read here some very disconcerting data), how happy was I to read Lior Dattel’s item in the financial daily The Marker [Heb]? Finally, it looks like Bibi and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar have got the priorities set straight.


The first goal that the Ministry of Education has set for the coming year is “strengthening the education of Zionist, Jewish, democratic and social values,” which also includes the struggle against violence. Only after this, second on the list, does the ministry address improving student achievments – by raising the number of those who pass Bagrut (matriculation – A.K.) exams (which is now less than half), improving the results in international tests, and narrowing the gaps of students based on geographic and economic background.

The plan to strengthen values includes raising the number of students who tour Jerusalem this year as part of the “Let’s go up to Jerusalem” plan from 50 thousand children to 550 thousand. The ministry has recieved criticism of this plan, through which some of the students also visited the Templ Mount. Furthermore, the ministry plans to raise to 17 thousand the number of students who will take part in the “Israeli voayge” program – a trip that lasts 7 days going all over Israel and run by an organization called “Genesis”, which was founded by Rabbi Moti Elon, who has been accused of sexual harrassment.

The Ministry of Education also plans to raise the number of schools in which the program to strengthen Jewish-Zionist education from 40 to 142, to raise from 713 to 913 the number of schools that allocate study hours to teaching the topic of Israeli culture and heritage, and to raise the number of schools who run the program that encourage service in the IDF, which is mainly run in schools with low draft numbers.

Something tells me even Theodore Herzl wouldn’t be happy.

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    1. Bill Pearlman

      You know, it is possible to do two things at the same time.

      Reply to Comment
    2. @bill – great comment! I said that while chewing gum, by the way.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bill Pearlman

      I can walk also. Seriously, I think that you can be cognizant of Jewish history and calculus at the same time.

      Reply to Comment
    4. @bill – this isn’t an argument about doing things at the same time. It’s about priorities, about deciding what’s more important When someone gives you a list of priorities, do they not list the most important first, the less important second and so on?
      Surely, Bill, you’ve made a list or two in your life. So please, spare me the childish argument.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Bill Pearlman

      Look, your the one with kids in the Israeli school system, not me. But in my observation Jewish day schools in the United States manage to turn out kids who are conversant in Judaism and Physics at the same time. Why not in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bill Pearlman

      Possibly if the haredi parties weren’t extorting funds from the government for yeshivas that seem like mafia “no show” jobs there would be more left for the regular schools. Why not address that issue.

      Reply to Comment
    7. @bill – that’s a totally different post. in fact, i addressed that issue and linked to that post, in this one above.
      and yes, you’ve got it right – it’s MY kids in this system, not yours. and i find this list of priorities so distorted, i can’t find the words to express it.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Eitan

      It might also be worth saying that if you breathe anywhere in Israel, you get a pretty big dose of ambient Zionism/Judaism, whereas to the best of my knowledge, few people have learned math, languages, or sciences through osmosis. (and if we’re sharing our experiential creds, I have two kids in the Israeli school system – and can assure you that they were taught about the Holocaust, the Jewish people, the Jewish state, kashrut, and every conceivable – Jewish – holiday, well before they were taught math, the alphabet, or nearly anything else, for that matter. true story). So ritzy Jewish day schools are probably not the best comparandum. I’m just saying.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Bill Pearlman

      Fair enough, Look, despite what you think I’m not in the habit of lecturing Israelis about internal Israeli matters when I live in the United States. And staying ahead in education is quite literally an existential matter.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Bill Pearlman

      You know Ami, Its interesting that something like this, that pertains to the educational system, and doesn’t entail geopolitics, engenders literally no response from the masses. But throw something up about the palestinians and evils of Israel and they come out of the woodwork. Fascinating.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Education isn’t a hot topic. Unfortunately.
      It’s a shame, because it could help solve this conflict.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Philos

      I wonder how many Israelis leave Israel to give their kids a better education? I don’t see myself raising my (still theoretical) kids in Israeli system to become obnoxious little cretins

      Reply to Comment
    13. Bill Pearlman

      Are you Israeli?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Steve

      Would convincing Israel’s neighbors to stop trying to destroy Israel help solve this conflict in any way?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman


      Ministry of Education should consider Zionist Olympiad. Olympiads are a good way to focus the best of the students of various topics, like math, physics, chemistry, computing or history. Similarly, schools could have Zionist teams who could compete, “who is more Zui

      Reply to Comment
    16. Bill Pearlman

      You know Berman. You should shove it up your ass. Your not that funny.

      Reply to Comment
    17. sh

      Agree that education should be THE hot topic. Mis-education and dumbing down is the rule more than the exception. Today there was a report on breakfast radio on a poll that measured viewing figures and asked teenagers whether they thought HaAh HaGadol (Big Brother) reflected Israeli family life accurately and whether they’d want to take part. I don’t remember the figures they cited for Yes to both, but they were worryingly high. The discussion about whether Big Brother reflects Israel family life or whether Israeli life mimics Big Brother was to follow but I missed it. “Reality” TV and overblown talent shows seem to be the main viewing fodder today.
      Peeking at the homework: the subject schools in the rest of the world call history turns out to be only Jewish history. Eyebrow-raiser from years ago: there are High School teachers in the system (a very varied and uneven one, depending on “sector”) who have never heard of Rembrandt, so what can you expect from students? And of course, the Ministry of Education offers Israeli children only a half a day in the classroom. You’re expected to be able to pay for afternoon activities if you want to broaden their minds or even just keep them occupied.
      It’d be nice if exiles here from other blogs were made to keep their posts civil.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Cortez

      Why won’t they spend money educating Palestinians about the values of Zionism or about unity and diversity? Education is an important issue since much of the historical education in Israel (probably in the territories too) is rife with gaping holes about everyone’s true history.

      Reply to Comment