Education Minister Shai Piron introduced sweeping reforms to the education system Wednesday that will do away with a number of matriculation exams, and aim to ease the transition from high school to university.

The changes will only increase cooperation between the Education Ministry and higher education in the country, Piron said.

“Israeli children deserve more, it is our obligation to do everything so that the system will give expression to the dreams of Israeli citizens. The education system is the engine of growth,” Piron said.

Under the new guidelines, the high school standardized exams will be cut significantly in two stages. In the first, the number of tests students are required to take will be reduced by 40 percent. Various subjects — such as literature and grammar, history and civics — will merge. The implementation of changes has already begun, Piron said.

Education Minister Shai Piron speaks during a meeting of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee for the upcoming new school year in the Knesset, August 26, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Shai Piron speaks during a meeting of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee for the upcoming new school year in the Knesset, August 26, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In addition, the minister announced that universities will begin to admit students based either on the matriculation exams or the psychometric test, but will no longer require both. Until now, admissions offices averaged the scores of both in considering candidates. Students that excel in high school in the core subjects, including math and English, will be able advance directly to college following their military service.

The initiative could substantially lighten the academic and financial load borne by Israeli students, who generally take their psychometric exams after completing IDF 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.

To further drive this process, administrators from universities will collaborate with the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education in writing the matriculation exams.

“I hope that the level of the students will rise following this move, ” Hebrew University president Menachem Ben Sasson told Haaretz. “To date we accepted students we wondered about. Students that arrived with very high matriculation scores, but did not survive the first school year. Now we will accept students and it will be clear what they learned and how they were tested, because the exams will be reliable.”

“The matriculation exams have turned into the ‘golden calf,’” Piron said. “This way we will focus on learning and increase excellence.”

Additional changes include increased autonomy for high school teachers to choose their subject matter, and mandatory volunteer work for students.

The new acceptance policies are also likely to accelerate the university admissions process for ultra-Orthodox and Israel-Arab students, and may serve as an incentive to students of minorities to further their education.

Ultra-Orthodox students do not take the matriculation exams in high school, and can spend up to two years completing the requisite tests prior to applying to university. Furthermore, the psychometric tests have come under fire numerous times for being culturally-specific, in favor of Israeli students, putting Israeli-Arab students at a distinct disadvantage.

“The present education system increases gaps and perpetuates [social] class [divisions],” Piron said.