Education Minister Shai Piron’s reforms to Israel’s educational system are expected to target standardized testing practices and university admissions processes.
Piron was slated to unveil his plan in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, but some details of the reform were leaked on Tuesday.
Perhaps the most significant change under Piron’s plan would be that applicants will be required to either have a high score on their matriculation exams or a good score on their psychometric exam for admission to universities, as opposed to the current practice by which universities take the average of a candidate’s scores on the two tests.
The initiative could substantially lighten the academic and financial load borne by Israeli students, who generally take their psychometric exams after completing military service, spending up to a year and often several thousands of dollars taking courses to prepare for the exam, which is equivalent to the SATs in the United States.
Universities will also be expected to work with the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education to write new material for the matriculation exams in order to ensure that the tests are consistent and meet university academic standards.
“Students come [to university] with great matriculation [scores] and suddenly you see that it is not what it seemed,” said MK Avishay Braverman, a former president of Ben-Gurion University, according to Channel 10. “Unfortunately part of that comes from cheating. [A test must be a real test], and therefore universities need to write the matriculation exams and review the candidates. On the other hand many people specialize in [doing well on] the psychometric exam and are not suited to study in university.”
Piron’s plan would also have students starting their matriculation exams later and taking fewer exams, and would give teachers leeway to choose up to 40 percent of the material they teach in the classroom, according to Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuhav. These move are presumably geared to address concerns that teachers are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of time teaching specifically for the tests.
“Today, there are 22 matriculation exams and the Education Ministry is cutting that number in half,” Abuhav said on a Channel 10 TV morning show. “[We won’t give up testing] on subjects like history and geography, and instead of three tests in some of the subjects there will be only one test. Additionally, the matriculation exams will start in 11th grade and not 10th grade and will continue until 12th [grade].”