Sunday, August 26, 2007

Proposed "Education Reform," Like "Dovrat" Doesn't Improve Israeli Education

I'm the last person who would claim that the Israeli Education System is perfect, but Yuli Tamir's "reforms" are no better than Limor Livnat's Dovrat Commission.

The new "reforms" are similar to Dovrat in that they blame elderly teachers, like myself, for the problems in the system, and they demand that teachers spend much more time in the schools for just a drop more salary.

Of the two Israeli teachers unions, one, the Histadrut approved the agreement, but the Irgun Morim, Organization of Teachers, which I belong to, has rejected it.

In Israel it's possible for teachers to work part-time and overtime. That helps prevent burn-out and enables those who can't, for various reasons, work full time teach. Also in smaller schools, and most schools aren't all that large by American standards, there aren't enough hours available for every teacher to teach his/her specialty full time. It also makes it possible to earn more by working more than what's considered a "full time" job.

Only non-teachers claim that teaching is "easy" and consider the "long vacations" inefficient and money-wasters.

The problems with Israeli education are because of faulty curriculum. For instance, similar to the trends in the United States and other "enlightened" places, language "fluency" has replaced "accuracy" as goal, so that basic grammar is no longer emphasized. Not only has the students' "native tongue" deteriorated, but it caused learning a second language to become more difficult. I'm supposed to teach Israeli high school boys English, but I find myself teaching general grammar and composition skills they should have had been taught in Hebrew.

This is ongoing, not new, and a generation of young teachers don't know Hebrew as well as they should. Demanding that they spend more hours at work won't correct this, and pushing out the veteran teachers won't improve matters.

Modern children, used to quick flashes of facts and ideas, don't know how to get to the depth of texts and ideas nor concentrate on texts for long periods of time. They are visually superficial. Their "gist of it" is frequently inaccurate. This is seen in all of the subjects demanding language skills.

In Mathematics, there are different problems. Most children aren't required to memorize basic arithmetic skills, like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. From the youngest age, they're told that it's perfectly fine to use an electric gadget, such as a calculator, cellphone or mp3 to calculate the simplest things. Add to that the digital clock, which just gives numbers and doesn't help the child develop a lasting visual memory of half, quarter, third etc which they would have by looking at an old-fashioned clock face.

Another problem is the prevalent use of workbooks, instead of copying material and questions from the board. The workbook is a "pre-digested" lesson for the teacher, less efffort to prepare. By not preparing the lesson it's harder for a teacher to explain the material to the student whose learning style, due to Mild Learning Disabilities or Giftedness, doesn't suit the workbook. Workbooks prevent the flexibility needed in all classrooms, whether heterogeneous or homogeneous. Not all students comprehend and process the same way.

Requiring teachers to teach longer hours and spend more time in the school building will not help the students. It will force some teachers out of the profession, but it won't attract any into it.

Education isn't a factory; it's more an art. And we teachers need the freedom and support to create the best possible lessons for our students.


marallyn ben moshe said...

bravo muse!!! i agree with everything you said...and were kind...but don't get me started...sorry i disappeared...simply did not have the time to write, answer and visit...but missed you all...good luck with the new school year...and your book...and maybe before yontiff we can meet? let me know what your schedule is like...a sweet shavuah tov

Batya said...

thank you darling

I'm glad you agree.

G-d willing we'll find a time to meet, even though my schedule isn't easy, and my daughter's due sometime around the chaggim, G-d willing.

Shannah tovah!

Anonymous said...

one of the problems is that our society too often sees the school as some sort of baby sitting service, and then it's a search for the cheapest price. only now and then are we reminded that the young students are practically unaware of things that we oldsters take for granted.

Batya said...

A couple of other problems:
1- The English teachers don't get involved in general curriculum, whether in their schools or the unions. Our talents and general knowledge are wasted. Because of the general "inferiority complex" of Israeli Anglos, everyone suffers.
2- The irony of it is that the "system" imitates the worst of the American educational fads, while ignoring the local America-raised teachers.

Anonymous said...

How true it is that you have to learn the ‘hard way’ to really understand something. Only when you are proficient should you start using work-saving gadgets, and then always evaluate if the gadget-generated result is logical and plausible. I think that I was of the last generation that took my matriculation exams without using a calculator – they were banned in examinations because only the ‘rich’ could afford them. Grammar should also be learnt in a scientific way, but English is so riddled with exceptions that it makes it a very difficult task. I was fortunate to learn French and Latin, which gave me solid grammatical grounding. Learning Latin, and to a lesser extent French, is like learning a programming language – vastly complex, precise and unforgiving.
Wishing you success in the coming year, and happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Hi Batya shalom uvracha,

I agree with you 100 percent.Those stupid workbooks makes the pupil lazy and dumb and non-creative. As you said they don't learn to count properly and they cannot multiply because they don't have to learn by heart though children enjoy learning things by heart. Specially till the age of 10 and 11 their memory is excellent, logical reasoning or moreover abstract thinking start most of the time after 4th grade.
What I constantly notice is that the children here don't even know how to hold a pencil (I think it is also not practical to make them write with a pencil even in higher grades) so many don't know how to draw.
I challenged children from grade 3 till grade nine to participate in a composition contest through the library but very few responded. Most of the telling me they don't know how to write (When I did a drawing contest most complained they don't know how to draw and that is somewhat mose excusable). When I asked them if they write compositins at school they answered negatively. And this was among children who do read a lot of (reasonable) books and still were not able to think of something; this was after I had given them some subjects to write about.
Every now and then I ask my readers, including adults, to comment on the books they have read or to give a short report of the contents and then it appears that they cannot write three logical lines. And the spelling mistakes are outragious.
I think I told you once that when I was teaching English privately I had , as you do, to explain at first the Hebrew grammar, before I could start with English, I am speaking about grades 5, 6 and 7.
What are they doing in school?
The first thing they hae to change here is not longer hours but many more small classes, certainly not more than 20 in one class and home work in school with a specialized teacher to supervise and help. Most of the children have never learned to do home work and many parents are not able to help. So only privilaged children with parents who have time and knowledge or enough money to pay a tutor can may progress easily.
Also the time children spend in doing home work could be spend by doing sports which is very neccessary for many children or go to creative chugim after their own choice. We could use more and better musicians or artists etc. etc.
Schools should be less passive but the children should work on exercise at school and not at home. Repetitions can be a very good thing and not that jumping from one subject to the other especially in artihmetic and math. It takes a while for children beore they have mastered one subject, and if there is a child who is quick in grasping the material so give it more extra challenges.etc.etc.
On the other hand there should also be more cometition there should be more possibilities for children with special talents to perform to exhibit etc.etc.

Batya said...

yoni and rivka, thank you for your comments

Yes, I feel sorry for today's youth, since they aren't getting a good educational foundation.

Anonymous said...

Older teachers used to be better, but the 'system' is mking them burnout much faster than ever before. When I grew up, I remember that my high school classes had 25 kids and it was a huge scandal that so many could get into one classroom. Now only if a class passes 42 is it split, meaning that public schools will rarely have the magical twenty in a class. So the teachers have to deal with the dynamics of many kids rather than dealing with teaching.

It is incredible though that there are still people out there who have this 'juke' in their head telling them to go teach. A mystery of the inner soul. All rational thinking tells people not to get into the mud, but many young people still strive to contribute to society. I really appreciate them.

On the other hand, today's parents are spoiled, arrogant 'bratz' (gevald), and have so much chutzpah. The kids have the time of their lives in large classrooms and come home without discipline. The parents are tired from a days work and want sometime for themselves. The kid is usually right and the teacher is a liar. The parent usually unwilling to admit their kid is 'bad' cuz it reflects directly on them. So the teacher gets hell, the kids gets away with murder, and the big winner is:

The government who can keep compounding the situation by looking for ways to simply make the shekel go farther and shortsightedness. The great high-tech boom of the 2000s was the direct result of Russian aliyah and Israeli ingenuity, not some education bonanza.

Batya, how can kids get 9s and 10s? In my time in the old country, only the brilliant geniuses got passed 90 on a regular basis and 100 was virtually unheard of. Is that just to shut the kids up and avoid challenging the kids? I know, if the kids start getting 7s and 8s, then the teacher is an idiot and the standards too high. Sigh...

Batya said...

Josh, thanks, your points are so important.

I should have mentioned one of the worst things that brings down education here, 55% is passing. Kids who know barely half the material pass to the next level. Passing should be at least 65%.

Anonymous said...

I belong to Milton Friedman's "School Choice" movement in the USA.
Because of the decline in the quality of American public schools,
we want to give parents the choice to be able to send their children to private (even religious) schools with the help of tax credits or gov't. vouchers.
It's an uphill battle against powerful entrenched interests but, little by little, we are making progress.
It will also serve to enable Jewish parents to send their children to full-time Jewish day schools by encouraging their proliferation into the hinterlands where so many Jews are diffusely scattered .....
making it convenient as well as affordable. It is needed to help combat the serious assimilation problem in America.

....... Norman Cohen, Los Angeles

Batya said...

Good luck with it.

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