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Will the new Education Minister overcome the odds?

Dr Yifat Sasha-Bitton recently took over as Minister of Education and very quickly expressed her intention to reform the outdated education system in Israel. Her aim is to change it from a cumbersome centralized system with the management held wholly by the national Ministry of Education to a lean more flexible model where much of the power will be delegated to local authorities and schools. 

Prior Education Ministers have shied away from implementing real change due to the almost impossible battle they knew they would face when up against the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Union, both of whom wish to retain control and power to the detriment of Israel’s school children. 

In comparison to the international arena, standards of education in Israel are low. Teachers who have abandoned the education system despite their love of teaching claim the system is crippling due to the low starting salaries, their current lack of authority and the needless bureaucracy. Headteachers claim it is almost impossible to dismiss a teacher who is underperforming. In the three years between 2018 and 2020 only 19 teaching staff were discharged nationwide. When the entry threshold is low, layoffs do not exist, and wages are affected almost exclusively by number of years in the profession rather than by performance or achievement, the entire profession is severely hampered.

Dr Yifat Sasha-Bitton will be put to the test when negotiations begin with the Teachers’ Union. If the focus is only on the distribution of wages a real opportunity for change will have been missed. If she decides to fundamentally change the employment model within education she will have overcome a decade old battle. 

To view the Hebrew version first published in Makor Rishon please click here.

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