The chances of such a thing happening? Zero. The leaders of the technological community in Israel may be rolling in the dough, but they'd rather bemoan the crisis in math studies (and other science subjects) in private, or waggle a finger at the government. They leave the work to others.
Those others are few and far between, and sometimes they feel like their work is Sisyphean, like they are pushing a rock that keeps rolling down, with the top of the mountain just beyond their reach. That was also the impression I got when I sat down with Eli Horowitz, the CEO of the Trump Foundation, which promotes math studies in Israel. Trump? I wonder. Why would he care about math studies in Israel? Trump, Horowitz responds seriously, is an esteemed Jewish family from Miami. More than just esteemed: Brothers Eddie and Jules Trump belong to a very exclusive circle of very high-net-worth individuals, with their assets' worth estimated at many billions of dollars. Immeasurably higher than that orange-haired New York real estate mogul who rises and falls, rises and falls, the former reality star and the present start of the Republican primaries - Donald Trump.
Donald Trump took legal actions against Eddie and Jules Trump in the past, trying to force them to drop their family name from the name of the cooperation they own ("The Trump Group," which is not the same as Donald's "Trump Organization"). The courts rejected Donald Trump's petition, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled in his favor and limited the use of the term "The Trump Group" as a trademark. In a short interview with the New York Times about a month ago, Jules Trump, who considers himself a supporter of the Republican Party, said of Donald Trump: "He's a remarkable person, he’s an incredible person," but refused to say whether he would vote for him.
In 2011, the Jewish-American Trump family donated $150 million to improve the quality of math teaching in Israeli schools. The donation, spread over a decade, is the financial basis for the Trump Foundation. "We identified the serious shortage of math teachers as a main obstacle to the improvement of math studies in Israel, and we invested in that," Horowitz says. "We focused on a group of technology professionals with knowledge in math, 35-45 years old, who were tired of their job and were looking for different challenges. Some of them despaired of the dream of making millions in a successful (high-tech company's) exit and some already made enough money in such an exit. Now they're willing to work in teaching, without having to learn in teaching education programs. We, in cooperation with educators and universities, enable this: We fund the training that they do at the actual schools. They participate in a shortened adjustment process and start teaching, with the guidance of experienced teachers and under their supervision. We found that when it comes to teaching, there's no replacing knowledge and motivation."
Over 350 new teachers are trained in this way to teach high school math every year, compared to several dozens a year at the end of the last decade. The great majority do their career retraining with the support of the Trump Foundation. According to Horowitz, the program is considered prestigious and competitive, and allows "interweaving theoretical knowledge with practical experience."
And the results? There has been an improvement, Horowitz determines, based on data and indexes - but there's still a long road ahead. Only five percent of students who started studying five units of math (the highest level offered to high school students in Israel - ed.) in the 10th grade, continued with that program until the 12th grade. "The massive dropout rates," Horowitz says, "mostly points teaching as the main problem."
In order to keep students at high level math studies, a "diagnostic form of teaching" is required: "Thoroughly examining the reasons for dropout among each of the students and conducting a focused effort to keep them in the program," Horowitz explains.
To that end, the Education Ministry, the Trump Foundation, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University and Haifa University are developing innovative methods to diagnose the failures in math teaching including, for example, an analysis of real lessons that were filmed.
At the same time, the Trump Foundation funds long-distance schooling using computers as part of a "virtual high school" program. A thousand students study high levels of math and physics from afar, particularly among the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors.
Eli Horowitz praises the Education Ministry which is "leading the change" and adds, "We at the Trump Foundation have NIS 500 million more to finance the process. And this isn't the end of it for us."