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Want 21st century schools? Train 21st century teachers

The education system must equip learners with the tools and skills that will help them work well in the unclear and frequently changing reality

According to Central Bureau of Statistics data, about 12,000 new teaching staff joined the education system in 2018. Approximately 7 percent of the staff who join the system every year are new teachers, without previous teaching experience.

Innovations in the world of education are to be welcomed and there is great potential for promoting them. The state needs teachers who will integrate into the forward-looking education system, one which strives to adapt learning and its products to the acquisition of 21st century skills. We expect teachers to join the system with tools that are relevant to students in the age of modern technology, surrounded by a rich technological world and a flood of information. We need teachers who can guide this process, who can help students in their educational process and constructing of knowledge, teachers who can motivate students to independent learning and encourage entrepreneurship, curiosity and collaborative work.

Ideally, new teachers should have learned educational techniques appropriate to the 21st century through their recent personal experiences as students in the teacher training colleges. They should also have learned how to promote and implement new approaches to student learning. However, most teacher training colleges have not adapted their teaching processes to updated learning techniques.

On the one hand, the Ministry of Education currently invests vast resources in promoting schools and teachers who want to implement change. The Ministry helps to build innovative schools that are adapted to new pedagogical methods and promotes initiatives by individuals, schools, cities and educational systems that have chosen to make pedagogical innovation their top priority. One example is the Ministry’s investment in the AMIT Network’s Gogya approach and the construction of the Gogya complex, AMIT’s innovative center for the professional development of teachers in forward-thinking methodologies.

On the other hand, in colleges and universities that engage in teacher training, the pace of change is different. The curriculum, the learning methods and the skills that those students will have to convey to their own students are still not adapted to innovative pedagogy.

School principals note that most new teachers are highly motivated and have the best of intentions. However, rather than these teachers introducing innovative teaching methodologies to their more veteran colleagues and enriching the students’ learning experience, it ends up being the responsibility of the veteran teachers to provide basic training to their new colleagues. Thus an opportunity for moving forward is lost.

If the education system wants to be relevant for students, it must equip the learners with the tools and skills that will help them work successfully in the unclear and frequently changing reality. Therefore, a comprehensive cultural change in schools is a necessity, a change that affects all components of the school system, and first and foremost the perception of the teachers’ roles and their interactions with their students. At AMIT, we promote and encourage teachers who serve as facilitators, who regard teaching as a profession–learning-focused teachers, developers, and innovators, and mainly, teachers who are a part of an educational learning community.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to understand how an educational learning community works: the walls are broken down, thus turning the classrooms into learning spaces, where several teachers use innovative pedagogical facilities that are adapted to group learning (like the WeWork systems that have become increasingly common in the work market) to teach dozens of students, who learn as a group or in pairs. The learning environment, lighting and structures, encourage creativity and energy, and help prevent depression and inattention.

A report by the McKinsey research institute about education found that “the quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” Innovativeness in education can also not exceed the innovativeness of the teachers. For graduates of the system to be able to integrate into the modern world and future work market, the new teachers and their educational training must be part of the required change.

About the Author
Dr. Amnon Eldar is the Director General of AMIT. AMIT is the premier education network in Israel, serving 34,000 students each year in 110 schools in 29 cities throughout Israel. AMIT enables students to reach their fullest potential and become productive members of Israeli society with the skills necessary to build a successful future. For more information, please visit www.amitchildren.org.
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