Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, is not your typical politician. She’s not clamorous and populistic. Instead, she works hard and quiet to push forward much-needed reforms in the education system. This week the “New Horizon” reform is scheduled to be signed between the government and Israel Teachers Union. For the sake of fairness, I want to point out from the start that I’m not familiar with the fine details of this reform plan. I obtain my information on the matter from the media, and from intimate conversations with teachers and friends.
The new reform is meant to increase the average salary of an Israeli teacher and to provide the necessary funds to construct smaller classrooms. It should also place more emphasis on a teacher’s competence and training than on his or her seniority in the system.
However, the second teacher’s union in Israel, The Association of Teachers (Ir’goon Ha’mo’rim), has refused to join the “New Horizon” reform, and went on strike earlier this year, paralyzing the education system for about two months. They claimed that “New Horizon” would require the dismissal of thousands of teachers, and that all the “perks” the reform supposedly offers are simply a form of jugglery. For example, while the reform proposes the construction of new classrooms, in order to accommodate less students in each class, it neglects to mention the natural increase of the population.
As a private citizen, it’s really hard choosing a side. Both parties seem genuine, and both agree that the current state of affairs is a long-term disaster. However, everyone has an agenda, and it’s not easy to separate the objective facts from the subjective world-views each party holds. I believe the Israeli teachers aren’t being rewarded enough. They function under extreme conditions, and have the responsibility of nurturing the future generations of this struggling country. They deserve to earn a respectable salary, without having to make ends meet by providing private tutoring in the evenings. However, at the same time, the children deserve highly-qualified teachers, who have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, and have proven themselves to have the proper qualities of personality, such as patience and the capability to convey new knowledge in a clear and interesting manner.
This ain’t the end of this story. After all, we know by now that the world is round, and that behind each horizon, there lays another one.
Picture by NFC