Teachers are the key to unlocking the potential of our education system; the rest is just details. This was the dominant theme at the first annual Education Now conference held Tuesday at Ono Academic College in Kiryat Ono.
The conference brought together a meeting of the minds to deal with current issues facing educators and students.
Headlining the conference was former education minister Gideon Sa’ar. He opened the conference by declaring that the starting monthly salary for teachers must be raised to NIS 8,000, which was met with enthusiastic applause.
“Education is the true security. Excellent education at all levels, from kindergarten all the way to university will ensure the country’s future,” he said, sharing his vision of how he would improve the education system, starting with how teachers are recruited and trained.
President Reuven Rivlin addressed the polarization in society, noting that “already half of Israeli society does not serve in the IDF, and we must educate those who will be our leaders in the coming decades.
“The price that society pays is felt more now than ever before – not only in the classrooms but also in the public discourse that often feeds on the mutual hesitation, we feel it in the soccer stadiums and the television studios. It is clear that schools play a significant role in this mission, and an education system that does not undertake creating a common infrastructure will not perform its function to the end – regardless of how advanced or excellent it is,” the president concluded.
The conference speakers emphasized that better teachers is the most important step in ensuring a stronger education.
Suggesting tactics such as recruiting teachers more effectively, the idea of making teaching an “exclusive” field and teaching them how to be inclusive, was some of the points reiterated throughout the day.
Andreas Schleicher, educational branch department head for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, addressed the audience by video stressing the importance of the teacher in the 21st century: “It’s not about looking at the administration it’s about looking at the teachers so that every student benefits from learning.”
He said that on a global level, today’s teachers are met with greater challenges and need to be prepared for “jobs that don’t exist yet and solve problems that haven’t happened yet.”
His vision of an ideal teacher is for he or she to be “lifelong learners. They must be passionate and compassionate and thoughtful enough to ensure that all students feel valued and included.”
The list of demands sounds almost too good to be true, recognizing this, he concluded: “Make it financially attractive, that’s pretty straightforward, but to make it intellectually attractive, that is the challenge.”
Dalit Stauber, former director- general of Education Ministry and current strategic consultant for the Academic Faculty at Ono Academic College, told The Jerusalem Post the institution is “teaching thousands of people education and many are going into the system and it’s a very important thing to demonstrate that this is an important strategic issue.”
In one of the panel discussion titled “How to Change the Classroom,” high school teacher Hadas Leor Osher from Petah Tikva emphasized her desire to strive for the “gold standard.”
Alluding to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, she stressed the urgency of having her own classroom, a place where she can engage her students, for her lessons to come alive, a place for inspiration and access to digital information. “I love teaching, I love my students and I need the tools and the resources to be the best so that i can give the best.”
Osher also felt that teachers need to become an integral part of pedagogical decisions and “not treated as if they are peons nor as a vessel to pass information from the administration to the students.”
She then told the Post that “there’s a huge gap between dream and the conditions to fulfill this dream.”
Another point stressed throughout the conference was that “the future is now.”
With many speakers sharing their vision for the future of Israeli education, Zvika Peleg, Sci-Tech Schools director-general, shared his vision of an 11-year matriculation, which will be piloted this upcoming school year in selected high schools.
Sa’ar, who wholeheartedly supports this advancement explained to the Post: Israelis enter the workforce at later ages than in other countries, “and this affects our time at work and our pension savings and now we are about to hit a huge pension crisis because” people are living longer.
He believes that better education will create conditions for moving into the workforce earlier, adding that “it’s a good idea to consider improving this before it gets worse.”