ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Former minister Shasha-Biton: Government has come to destroy

New education minister scraps predecessor’s matriculation reforms

A week after taking office, Yoav Kisch cans move to cancel exams in history, literature, civics, and Bible and replace them with class projects, multidisciplinary work

Incoming minister of Education Yoav Kisch (right) at replacement ceremony for outgoing minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (not seen), at the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)
Incoming minister of Education Yoav Kisch (right) at replacement ceremony for outgoing minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (not seen), at the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

New Education Minister Yoav Kisch confirmed on Thursday that he would cancel matriculation reforms championed by his predecessor Yifat Shasha-Biton, under which some school testing was to be replaced with new methods of study, work, and evaluation.

Under Shasha-Biton’s planned reforms, unveiled in April 2022, the written exams for history, literature, civics, and Bible studies were to be replaced by class projects and multidisciplinary work, graded internally by each school alongside an external assessment.

Kisch said in a statement that “after collecting feedback from principals, industry officials and teachers” regarding “difficulties” with the new format, he had decided to cancel Shasha-Biton’s reforms.

He said his ministry would produce a new matriculation plan and present it to the public by March 2023.

Following its unveiling, Shasha-Biton’s reforms were opposed by the High School Teachers Union, which argued that the new structure would degrade certain subjects, and leave students “ignorant.”

“The humanities, Bible and history are an important part of shaping a student’s personal and national identity… we are returning them to their rightful place,” Kisch, a Likud MK, said. “This decision will first and foremost ensure the restoration of stability and continuity to these schools and subjects.”

Incoming Education Minister Yoav Kisch (left) at a handover ceremony with outgoing minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

Shasha-Biton hit out at the decision, posting on Twitter Thursday that “the government has come to destroy,” and adding, “Kisch only learned a few weeks ago that he would be the education minister, and today he is already razing, destroying, shattering.”

“The public doesn’t interest them… only who can be the biggest bulldozer,” she wrote, likely a reference to the widescale reforms planned by Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly installed government, along with immediate moves to undo the policies of the previous government.

Continuing, Shasha-Biton accused Kisch of “selling the future of our children,” and attempting to “destroy the education system” just to be seen as “the opposite” of the previous government.

The cancelation of Shasha-Biton’s reforms does not come as a major surprise, after Kisch told his predecessor at their ministerial handover on Sunday: “You and I do not share the same path. The Education Ministry will change direction,” before declaring that he would “return” to the curriculum the subjects affected by the outgoing minister’s reform.

Matriculation exams, known in Hebrew as bagrut, can have a significant impact on a student’s future. Scores are a major criterion examined in applications to elite military units and academic institutions. The matriculation certificate is awarded to students who pass the required examinations with a mark of 56 percent or higher in each area of study.

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