- What is the vision behind the upcoming Taub Center conference on education in Israel?
The inequality in scholastic achievements among Israeli students is among the highest in the developed countries. Moreover, gaps in education between the social classes have remained stable over the years. As part of the conference we will discuss possible explanations for these unfortunate phenomena. We will examine whether the explanation for inequality between the classes is genetic, whether it stems from the structure of the education system or from the economic and cultural situation of the families in which children are raised.
- One of the most important themes of the conference is inequality in the education system. Where, in your opinion, is this inequality most evident, what causes it, and what can be done to reduce it?
The educational abilities and emotional resources of young children have a significant impact on their educational and economic achievements and on their social functioning in adulthood. Cognitive abilities and emotional resources are shaped by environmental stimuli that children are exposed to at the earliest ages and even during pregnancy, before they are born.
Children are also adversely affected by the stress they are exposed to in the early stages of life. The chances that children growing up in families with weak socioeconomic backgrounds will obtain the necessary stimuli for proper development are lower than for those who grow up in well-off families. Therefore, these socioeconomic gaps must be reduced.
- One session of the conference will focus specifically on vocational education. What do you see as the future of vocational education in Israel? Should this type of education be promoted, changed, or abandoned in Israel’s modern society?
The central question is how to provide vocational/technological training without it having an adverse effect on the future achievements of its graduates. Experts in the field offer different answers to this question. Some propose including vocational/technological components in all curricula, so that each student in Israel will receive an integrated education – theoretical and vocational.
Others suggest postponing the process of choosing between academic and vocational tracks to the extent possible in order to enable students to change their minds about their direction. The most radical solution is that wage gaps between the various professions should be narrowed, thereby reducing the future economic gaps between graduates of the different educational tracks.
- What are some of the most exciting areas in education research internationally and to what degree are these being researched in Israel?
Research on education has advanced greatly in recent years. Most studies focus on only a portion of the factors known to be connected with educational and social achievements. Recently more and more studies have gathered data on multiple factors. These longitudinal studies track subjects from a very young age through adulthood, and collect biological data (DNA samples, for example) as well as psychological and social data.
The studies compare these findings to examine how the institutional and cultural differences between countries affect aspects of education. The level of knowledge transmitted through such studies is extremely high, as is their cost. Israel’s government needs to fund basic research and infrastructure of this kind.
- As the Knesset comes back into session, what are the most important policy issues relating to education that should be addressed during this coming year?
The most important issue in education in Israel is the high level of inequality in achievement. A multi-year program should be initiated to significantly reduce class inequality in educational achievement. The program would initially focus on early childhood, but wouldn’t stop there.
It would improve the income of poor families with young children, increase the quality of daycare centers – including through professional training for the teaching staff – and expand training and counseling services provided to young parents and parents with financial difficulties.
Sign up for the conference – “Educational Inequality in Israel: from Cradle to University” – here!