“I’m committed to undertaking a genuine educational revolution,” Netanyahu said during his 2008 election campaign, on the eve of the school year’s opening. “We’re in a crisis, yet we can get out of it,” he said. “A government under my leadership would make education a top priority.” To that end, “Netanyahu’s education plan” was developed.
So how would this revolution take place? These days, it’s difficult to find “Netanyahu’s education plan” on the Likud website, yet it can be found in the “Netanyahu speeches archive.”
In that speech, back in August 2008, Netanyahu revealed the following: “In the past year we consulted with educators, with teachers’ organizations, and with international experts. We spoke to principals, teachers, and parents.” The consultation sessions prompted great determination: “These are the main principles of action formulated by us for the required reform.”
The first target was “The finest for teaching.” Netanyahu said: “We shall restore the teaching profession’s high social status…we shall boost the bar for entering the profession through stricter screening, raising teacher salaries, greater investment in the training of teaching candidates, and ongoing training after one becomes a teacher, as is customary with doctors and psychologists.”
“This is what countries that excel on the educational front do, and we should learn from them,” Netanyahu said.
The second target was indirectly related to the first, and was titled “Let the principals manage.” Netanyahu said: “We shall significantly boost the management skills of school principals and enable them to promote teachers on the basis of their abilities and level of investment…while allowing deeper involvement by the parents and Education Ministry.”
Broken promisesYet on the eve of the opening of the upcoming school year, two years after the above declarations and at the midway mark of the second Netanyahu government’s term in office, we would do well to stop and ask whether we see the buds of the declared reform on the ground. The answer is “no.”
There’s nothing new about the fact that promises are not kept in Israel. The indifference and the weak public memory grant politicians a convenient work environment. The problem is even graver on the education front, because this is an issue that elicits wall-to-wall agreement and that should be made a top priority. What’s even more infuriating is that as opposed to other issues, here we do not face decisions that require coalition compromises forced upon the government. So what’s happening here?
One of Netanyahu’s pledges may provide an answer. “We shall remove the Nakba and return Jabotinsky to the curriculum,” he declared in his speeches. Two major issues are inherent in these words. First, the very fact that a prime minister believes that his job is to determine and shape the curriculum, rather than to advance the education system, already hints that Netanyahu did not plan to seriously undertake any revolution, or that he has no clue as to the meaning of the revolution he planned on paper.
Most of all, Netanyahu exploits the fact that at this time the public still contends with deep existential fears. Hence, the public welcomed with great pride the decision to purchase new stealth fighter jets at a cost that equals one third of the education budget, while nobody said a word about the educational affairs that were neglected.
So dear Israeli children, in the hopes that the word “Nakba” had already been erased from your minds and you already became intimately familiar with the word “Jabotinsky” – I hope you grow to be leaders who keep their promises.
Oren Yehi-Shalom is the director of the Israeli Education non-profit organization