Getting schooled
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Hebrew media review

Getting schooled

A new plan makes sure students don’t have to endure the horror of learning subjects that won’t be on a standardized test

Students in Hartman secondary school in Jerusalem take matriculation exams in mathematics in 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Students in Hartman secondary school in Jerusalem take matriculation exams in mathematics in 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

With the 24 hours of annual national remembrance of the Holocaust behind Israel, Hebrew papers return Tuesday to the sordid business of internal political fights, with educational reforms and the death of Margaret Thatcher taking center stage.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with Education Minister Shai Piron’s plan to have high school teachers only teach material that will be on the Bagrut matriculation exams, which will ensure higher scores and cut down on student’s stress of overlearning. The paper details that other reforms in the pipeline include the addition of something called a Social Bagrut, but an overall shrinking of the number of tests offered (currently students can take the exam in anything from biology to chess). The paper quotes a number of students on the subject, and not surprisingly, they are in favor: “Teachers sometimes tell us what is worthwhile to learn and what not and now we can divide our time more correctly and learn without pressure,” says one 11th grade future government employee. “The way I see it, this is great because we are going to learn less.”

As if you needed any more proof this is a bad idea, Merav Batito writes in the paper that this is exactly the opposite of what Israeli pupils need today, though she may exaggerate a tad. “Think about how many important historical chapters will no longer be taught to our kids. Perhaps the Shoah will be left on the cutting-room floor?“

In Israel Hayom, Arieh Locker, the head of the principals’ association, praises the decision as something schools have been asking for, to get them out the dreadful task of teaching material that won’t be on standardized tests. Because, you know, no teacher should have to do that:

“This is something we’ve been requesting for a while, from the last education minister, so that teachers will get the material already from the beginning of the year and they will have the option of teaching the material, and not to start with the murmuring until Passover break over what will be on the test. In the current situation we taught two months of material that we discovered won’t be on the test.”

Who moved my milk?

Haaretz leads off with news of the “massive,” in its words, NIS 4.6 billion budget deficit, which it says will force the finance minister to cut even deeper than he had been expecting to.

However, the paper devotes considerable space to remembering Britain’s Iron lady, who died on Monday. Not surprisingly, the left-leaning broadsheet did not shed too many tears over Thatcher’s passing, with English edition editor Charlotte Halle writing that Thatcher’s move to rid schools of free milk sharpened the line between rich and poor in England.

“To socially-conscious teenagers in Thatcher’s Britain of the 80s, the Iron Lady came to represent all that was wrong with our get-rich-quick and look-after-number-one society. There was no one we despised more. We campaigned against her: against her privatization of our ‘crown jewels’ – British Gas, British Telecom, the railways, social housing; and against her crushing of the workers’ unions; against her education cuts and her failure to address youth unemployment or curb racism within the police force,” she writes.

Maariv plays up a report on pessimism among Israeli officials that Turkey will hold up its end of the deal and thaw ties with Israel in the wake of an apology for the deaths of nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-blockade busting ship in 2010. And with good reason. The paper reports that Ankara is still blocking Israeli involvement in NATO drills and that the country pushed off an Israeli delegation’s visit to Turkey to meet with the families of the nine killed, since they are still considering legal action against Jerusalem.

Anybody in the market for a BMW? Yedioth reports that there is a perfectly good, barely used one sitting in a garage that nobody wants to take, and you already own 1/7,000,000th of it. The car was purchased by the state at the request of then-deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman, who got to cruise around with his German-engineered machine for all of two months before being booted out. His successor, Yael German (fittingly enough), has no intention of being seen in such a flashy car (even though her Hybrid Citroen C5 cost the government nearly as much) and none of the other new ministers, who are supposedly cool cats that are “with” the people, want it either. The paper reports that the administration in charge of government cars is sure it will find some minister, or even just high-up bureaucrat, who will take the keys.

Having a respectful good time

In Maariv, Dror Zarski writes that those who eat and be merry in public on the ninth of Av, a Jewish day of mourning, are no better than those who barbecue on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Both sides need to learn a modicum of respect, he says, or both observances will become niches in the greater societal tapestry. “The best would be if we all agree to change our behavior even on days we don’t identify with. To the best of my knowledge, respecting others is a privilege and not an obligation – and not just because there’s no law commanding us to do so. If we don’t remember our past and respect the present, also the future won’t hold good tidings.”

Haaretz also writes about people having a good time, and says that as a human right, there is no reason to collectively punish the owners and revelers of a club where drug trafficking may be taking place: “It is to be hoped that now that nightclubbers’ ability to have a good time is enshrined in the recognition of human rights, it will lead them to be bothered more when the human rights of others are infringed.”

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