Monday, July 16, 2012

The real danger for Israel

For years, Israel's Minister and Ministry of Education have been busy finding ways to have students spend more time studying all kinds of national(istic) and religious subjects, trying to turn a college in the West Bank into a university (which will make it even easier for Israel-bashers to initiate boycotts of Israeli academics, but who cares), organizing visits of army officials at high schools to motivate students towards their army service, setting up high school visits to Hebron and other places in 'the' territories, and so on, and so on. Gid'on Sa'ar, the Education Minister, is one of the more ideologically inspired members of Likud and of this government, and that shows. Meanwhile, in spite of often outstanding individual achievements of students and the endless efforts of teachers who are often highly qualified and motivated but usually underpaid, the Israeli education system fails in more than one way. Just look at this table, which shows the ranking of all countries in the yearly Mathematics Olympiad since 1959. Israel has participated in the olympiad since 1979. The highest position the country has ever reached is 11th place, in 2000. On the other hand, what probably is our most dangerous enemy right now, has 'beaten' us ever since 2002, by a landslide in most cases. A not so random selection of countries that reached a higher spot than Israel (31st place)  this year: Bulgaria, Belarus, Brazil, China (nr. 2!), Greece, Croatia, India, Iran (8!), Peru, Poland, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (12th place; of course South Korea was the overall winner), Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam. This should give us some real food for thought, I'd say, especially because so much of our economic and military power relies on our famous 'Jewish minds'. Our strength does not lie in holding on to yet another hill in Judeah or Samariah, but in the minds of our children and teenagers. And the key to properly challenging and developing those minds lies in Israel's education system.

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