Vote with Your Matza in Hand

Voting day in Israel is tomorrow.

With the clock ticking, I wanted to quickly share some of the educational platforms that have been proposed by the different political parties.  The education of the children of Israel is of paramount importance, and we should all take these platforms into consideration when we cast our vote. My blog post below is only an effort to distribute some more information about educational policies to the English speaking world in Israel.

In the information below, I rely on the information on Israel2050.

The Hebrew word “matza” means “platform” or “proposal;” and hence the #matza in the link above.

I’ll begin with a few of the parties that identify as right wing, and then continue to the center parties and then to the left, if I have time or space.

Zehut – Moshe Feiglin

Zehut wants to implement a voucher system, a method that combines public funding and free competition, and gives parents responsibility for education.  Parents will be able to receive directly from the Ministry of Education a voucher of financial value that they can use in any school they wish to fund their children’s studies.  The voucher will be about NIS 3,000 a month per child.  This method will allow: Free choice of parents in the educational institution; the growth of a variety of independent schools that will compete for the parents ‘vouchers and thus offer a curriculum adapted to the parents’ wishes; and schools can offer very high salaries to teachers to attract the best.

The Zehut party’s idea of vouchers sounds a lot like the controversy that was raging in the USA when my family moved to Israel.  Zehut is proposing great changes that will provide more freedom and choice for parents.  But if these proposals are put into place, will it weaken schools that benefit from the current system and hurt students on the periphery?

Hayemin Hahadash (The New Right) of Naftali Bennett and Ayalet Shakeid.  Bennett is the outgoing Education Minister, but has established a new party without some of the leading religious voices of his past party, Habayit Hayehudi.   Here are some of the points in The New Right’s educational platform:

Strengthening the status of the teacher.  Iincreasing teachers’ salaries, with an emphasis on beginning teachers, transferring authority and tools to school principals to grow teachers in schools.

Expanding the freedom of communities to establish new schools – allowing parents to choose between schools while expanding registration areas.

Bennett recently declared, “Any school that refuses to accept a student due to his origin will be closed.”  He added, “I say this loud and clear – any educational institution that discriminates against any student, thereby degrading the education system, will not continue to be part of it.  Not on my watch.” Yet, under Bennett we have seen the proliferation of schools that screen out students for different reasons.

Studies by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avoda organization have shown that religious public schools in Israel, such as the MAMAD system, or Mamlachti Dati, accept students whose families come from a lower economic background.  In contrast, schools that open up as Talmud Torah schools or Torani schools often accept students from a higher economic background.

Under Bennett’s direction in this previous administration, the government opened more schools and devoted funds to these schools even though they served only one sector of the population. While Bennett says he opposes discrimination in the school system, his party platform does not make clear how he will fight discrimination in education.

The Likud party and the Union of the Right-Wing Parties did not list their educational platforms.  It therefore is difficult to say anything about them.   My fear is that without a platform the parties will be more likely to fund special-interest groups to the detriment of the larger population.   Additionally, while Bennett has made statements opposing discrimination, some of the statements from other right-wing politicians may cause one to pause.  If you prioritize education for your child and seek an inclusive school for your child that will respect diversity in a welcoming atmosphere of learning, perhaps seek more clarity from these parties regarding their views about welcoming students of all races, religions, and sexual orientation in the school system before casting your vote.   Similarly, if you prioritize economic justice in education, there are outstanding questions for the Zehut party regarding whether their voucher system will hurt the sector of the population in need of most financial assistance from the government.

Centrist parties

The Gesher party of Orly Levy lists some revolutionary educational ideas in their platform.

Gesher seeks to transfer responsibility for early childhood education (0-3) from the Ministry of Labor to the Ministry of Education, and introduce financing frameworks from age six months to age 3. 

Changing the Assessment Methods for Students and Schools:

  1. Cancellation of the external מיצב.

The Voucher program for each student – a reversal in the subsidized tuition so that it will be given to students according to the socioeconomic background and to the academic institution, and will not be given to the public institutions themselves.

I took a small selection from Gesher’s extensive platform about education.  The party calls for the cancellation of the external Meitzav test.   I have previously written about how the standardized test of the Meitzav provides useful information about the school system for people who are in the dark otherwise.

The Kulanu Political Party of Moshe Kahlon

Kulanu’s educational policy places an emphasis on strengthening schools in the periphery and a separate focus on giving all students in Israel and opportunity to receive a diploma after 12 years of study.  They state:

The adaptation of pedagogy to the 21st century in educational institutions, with an emphasis on the socio-geographic periphery:1. Empowerment of teachers in the education system – granting managers freedom to manage time resources in order to train and train teachers, and to expand administrative flexibility at the school and administrative level. 2. Strengthening schools by bringing in new teaching forces – attracting quality forces for teaching, developing differential wages, and promoting the participation of training institutions  Preventing open and covert dropout by diversifying curricula and professional authority – nurturing the field in which every student is outstanding or talented, professional certificate and completion of 12 years of study, variety of study programs, inclusion of youth at risk, establishment of a central body for treatment of youth at risk in the Ministry of Education.

Kahol Lavon of Gantz and Lapid.  The Kahol Lavon platform emphasizes that education is open for all the students of Israel.

Free education – Gradual transfer of the educational system for free education from early childhood to completion of a bachelor’s degree.

Equal Opportunities in the Education System – Increasing Public Expenditure on Education, Different Budgeting between Central and Periphery Areas, in Accordance with Existing Needs and Investment in Improving Physical Infrastructure and Human Capital in the Geographic and Social Periphery.

Gradual promotion of a long school day law to facilitate families. Part of this goal will be achieved by strengthening informal education, including youth movements, and introducing it into the school framework several times a week in the afternoon. Thus, all children in Israel will benefit from quality enrichment.

The early childhood revolution – a massive investment in early childhood education, a large-scale subsidization of day-care centers from the age of two in the center and a year in the periphery, the transfer of day care centers and early childhood to the Ministry of Education instead of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs; Day and establishment of early childhood centers.

Avoda – Israel Labor Party

In early childhood education, the Avoda party is calling for the government to provide greater assistance before the age of 3.  Some of the centrist parties have advocated a similar proposal.  The Avoda party makes specific mention of the need to include students from all sectors in their educational platform.

  1. Formulation of a government program for full access to education services for students with special needs. 2. Expanding the Ministry of Education’s programs to promote gifted students with potential for excellence. 3. Expanding government support in schools that integrate students from diverse sectors of the population, including religious-secular schools and bilingual schools, and integrating them into the state education system.

Meretz

Stopping all process of privatization, external sources and bringing in commercial entities to the heart of the activity of the education system.A transition to a policy of zero private money in the education system.  Encouragement of values education, for democracy and for peace.  Cultivation of humanistic education.

In this short post, I have tried to paint a sketch of some of the different parties out there.  I hope that you the reader will continue to take a look in more depth at the educational policies of the parties listed above and of all the parties on the Israel2050 website.  I have left out some very important parties in the upcoming election, but this is not intentional.  If you are an English reader, you can see the Israel2050 website and paste the platforms of the parties on education and other social-economic issues into google translate and thereby read the proposals.  I have highlighted parts of the educational proposals that were of interest to me, but there are many very important passages in the proposals that I did not include.

Finally, as was stated at the outset, the education of the children of Israel is of paramount importance, and should be part of our consideration when we vote.   Yet, when we think about the education of our children, we can’t simply consider the educational policies of each party only on a micro level.  When a political party in Israel talks about teaching our children about peace or emphasizes the Jewish aspect of education, these are larger issues of concern that we of course have to think about when we talk about goals in education and life for our children in Israel.

About the Author
Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld works on English language projects at Ne’emaney Torah Va’Avoda. He is a co-parent of five rambunctious children, and lives in Modi'in.
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