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The cost of becoming irrelevant the case of the Israeli Education System - an oped

Our (Michal Shalem & Michal Lebenthal Andreson) article as published in the JP on 28/3/2021.

The biggest leadership challenge in systems today is the ability to move from a world of standardized systems to personalized ones. We are witnessing this in the worlds of medicine, education and within organizations. The crisis accelerated this. The exponential changes in technology and digitalization over the past year have forced us to be flexible and adaptable in uncertainty. The realization that what was, was and shall not be, affords an opportunity for colossal change.

Systems that do not adapt to the pace of change, risk becoming irrelevant. Like Blockbuster not understanding the shift from the video world, or Kodak missing the disruption that digital photography created, complex systems, such as the Education System, are no exception. They too are not immune to irrelevancy, if they are not able to change and adapt themselves to serious disruptions, they risk extinction. Sources for acquiring knowledge are varied and easily accessible. They are no longer solely in the domain of the Education System. It will be easy to opt-out and choose other means of acquiring knowledge.

This week the State Comptroller published a report on "Preparedness for the Changing Labor Market", describing how unprepared students in Israel are for the labor market.

In Education 2030, a roadmap for Education and Learning in Israel, which we launched in November 2020, in collaboration with the National Public Board for Education, we pointed out the gaps in imparting skills, values ​​and knowledge to relevant employment. These constitute a barrier for students to social and occupational mobility.

The grave mismatch between the school graduate and the demands of the existing and future labor market, along with the growing demand and shortage of workers with current skills and professional technological skills, require a shift in paradigm.

So what needs to be done for the Education System to remain relevant, leading and forward-feeding?

Education should be a tool provider for tackling the challenges of a changing world and skilling learners for an unpredictable future. Technological education based on experiential learning and making is a cornerstone in the economy's preparation for the challenges of the 21st century. According to data from the Bank of Israel(2018), improving skills in Israel to the OECD average level can even increase productivity by 2.7% -2.9% (estimated at NIS 36-39 billion) per year. Reducing the skills gaps, will close a significant part of the productivity gaps between Israel and the OECD. Adapting the curriculum of technological education to the needs of the current and future economy and industry is a prerequisite for this as well as developing skills that will accompany learners throughout their lives. For this we must enable access to online learning resources and infrastructure as a basic right of every child in the State of Israel.

Technological Education with its various characteristics should be at the core of learning early on. Exposing students to the possibility of varied professions, and experimentation will open up options for them. Allowing for informed choice, widening their employment horizon in accordance with their inclinations and aligned with their abilities.

A learner centered approach, that equips the learners with basic skills of verbal and computational literacy and with soft skills such as creativity, critical and practical thinking abilities, must be at the core. These tools should be personalized and fitted to each student’s needs.

In order for the technological education system to provide value and relevancy, after an in-depth study we have done at the initiative of the Beyahad Foundation and the National Public Board of Education, we recommend focusing immediate efforts on the following points:

  1. Establishment of a National Authority for Technological Education (NATE) alongside the Ministry of Education that includes policy makers, representatives of relevant sectors such as industry, business sector, academia, educational field, parents and learners. NATE will regulate technological education policy, learning and training. A regulatory body with budgets and executive powers.

  2. Development of a training system relevant to the teachers in cooperation with industry and the military and creation of transition routes from industry to teaching in Technological Education.

  3. Building maker spaces as a national project - learning through experiencing.

  4. Development of hybrid Technological Education systems allowing for regional exposure and experience starting from middle schools. Use of hybrid learning allows access of excellent teachers to the periphery and overcomes the barriers of location.

  5. Dealing with governance issues and the challenges that arise, including mutual recognition between education and training systems, transferring vocational schools to the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and promoting a unified national program for certification - a unified training system under the Ministry of Labor and Welfare.

Technology education plays a key role in igniting a different future and an integral part in the construction of a holistic learning system. The disruption created by traditional education and learning methods opens the door to a real opportunity to change fundamentally, to move from education to learning, to change the paradigm and to grow a generation with skills and abilities adapted to the new reality and future employment market requirements. A generation whose self-learning, curiosity and exploration are part of its being, a generation that is open to technology and speaks the language. Disruption brings many opportunities for fundamental change. Unlike Kodak and Blockbuster we do not have the privilege of missing, the price of maladaptation of the education system is too heavy, once we have identified the disruption we have an obligation to act.


Michal Shalem & Michal Lebenthal Andreson, Llb

The writers are co-founders and CEOs of Think Creative, authors of the plan "Education 2030, Roadmap for Education and Learning in Israel" and "Technological Education 2030, Sequence of Learning from Middle School to the World of Employment".

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