“The quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers,” stated McKinsey & Co. in its 2007 report, How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. But ambitious and successful individuals typically do not want to be teachers, a profession associated with long hours, discipline challenges, nighttime meetings, demanding parents, low pay and little acknowledgement or recognition. If their psychometric scores are high enough and can lead to a job in an air-conditioned office with excellent benefits and conditions, who would choose to work in the confines of an understaffed, under-resourced school with thirty teenage students to grapple with in each classroom?

Studies have shown that even those who go into teaching for idealistic reasons, who follow their hearts hoping to better the world, may well not survive in the educational system. In 1993, the Peretz Commission for the Improvement of Education in Israel found that 50 percent of those who go into the field of education remain in the system for four years or less. In 2003, Dr. Yitzchak Friedman published a study that determined that burn-out rates of teachers are highest among all social studies fields. At the same time, Dr. Sarit Ben-Smachot conducted a survey in which 70 percent of participants stated that they would advise their children not to pursue a career in education, even while recognizing the importance of teachers, because of the low status of the profession in Israel.

This is one of the key challenges facing Israel’s educational system. The Central Bureau of Statistics, in its July 2015 report, showed an ongoing trend in which teachers continue to leave the field regularly, with one in five leaving in the first five years: 22.3 percent in elementary school, 33 percent in middle school and 37 percent in high school. At the AMIT Network, we understand that in order for the educational system to be first-rate, to groom students who excel and reach their full potential, it is crucial to find ways to retain good teachers.

In order to address the need, AMIT decided three years ago to spend the coming decade focusing on the empowerment and development of teachers through an initiative called “Gogya.” In the world of Gogya, teachers become stakeholders in the development of their school’s vision, and take on tremendous responsibility beyond their frontal teaching and obligations to their own students. Teachers receive freedom, space, time for development, and the ability to learn from top experts both in Israel and around the world. They are encouraged to initiate, develop and offer new ideas and modes of education. Gogya helps develop the inner leader inside each teacher, provides a plan for professional development and a pathway to get there, and enables teachers to influence, change and better the system, their school, and their students. Gogya removes teachers from the lonely and isolated island of the typical classroom and allows them to work in collaborative learning communities, challenging them to participate in an educational revolution while helping to formalize and stabilize the teaching profession.

We believe that Gogya is the beginning of the solution to the challenge of retaining good, talented teachers, keeping them in the educational system while attracting others who might make excellent educators but had never even considered the field. By helping and encouraging our teachers to effect change in education in Israel, we help to build and develop the future leaders of Israel, our children.