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Learning from Past Initiatives to Improve Science Education in Israel and Promote Excellence

Activity type: Expert Team
Activity coordinator: Niv Strauss
Activity period: 2016-2017

In response to a request by the Trump Foundation, the Initiative for Applied Education Research is embarking on a joint learning process for researchers and professionals in order to study from policy and development processes that have taken place in Israel during the last thirty years to improve science education, in general, and promote excellence, in particular. The expert team members leading this activity are Prof. Israel Bar-Joseph of the Weizmann Institute of Science (chair), Prof. Benny Geiger of the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Israel Science Foundation, Prof. Shaul Hochstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ms. Esther Magen (master teacher) and Ms. Shlomit Amichai (former director-general, Ministry of Education).

Promoting mathematics and science education in Israel, beginning in early childhood and up to the secondary school stage, is an important component of educational goals and practice in Israel. However, while Israel, considered a “Start-Up Nation” has acquired an international reputation for excellence in innovation and research and development based on mathematics-science education, its students are ranked as middling on international tests that examine knowledge in math and science such as PISA, and the percentage of outstanding students in Israel is not high.
In line with worldwide trends, mathematics and science education in Israel has experienced many changes throughout the years. These changes reflect prominent advances that have occurred in research and development in the field, as well as progress in knowledge about learning that have accrued over time. Some changes are the result of processes taking place outside the field of education (such as growth and change in the composition of the population of learners), and some stem from processes within the education system (for example, changes in the curriculum). Among the changes that affected curricula and how they are organized, some (such as the middle school reform) apply to all the subjects studied in the education system, and some (for example, the addition of “STS” – Science and Technology in Society studies) are unique to science and mathematics education. However, it appears that in Israel, a culture and tradition of learning lessons from past experiences has not yet been developed, and at times, consideration of issues of continuity or innovation in reforms announced is limited.
The proposed learning process is designed to place current practice in the field of mathematics and science education within the context of time-society-education, with the assumption that understanding relevant connections will benefit policy makers and practitioners to better direct their practice. It will also enable establishment of an infrastructure for future learning based on past processes and present experience. During the learning process, goals and implementation of significant policy initiatives instituted in the Israeli education system since the 1990s, for example, “Tomorrow 98” and the “Dovrat Commission”, will be analyzed.
The activity, which will take place throughout 2016, is expected to include three study sessions and will culminate in a seminar at the end of the year. In addition to the expert team leading the activity, a permanent core group of learners will also be part of the learning process, including two teachers and six senior officials from the Ministry of Education. Apart from these, other professionals and stakeholders from diverse organizations in Israel will be invited to the sessions.
The activity is being carried out with the full cooperation of the Trump Foundation, which is also funding it. The Trump Foundation dedicates its resources to improving educational achievements in Israel and focuses on promoting quality teaching of mathematics and the sciences in secondary schools.
For more details, please contact the activity coordinator, Mr. Niv Strauss, via email:

Members of the team of experts:

  • Prof. Israel Bar-Joseph (Chair), Weizmann Institute of Science
  • Ms. Shlomit Amichai, 'Chotam' program
  • Prof. Benny Geiger, Weizmann Institute of Science and Israel Science Foundation
  • Prof. Shaul Hochstein, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Ms. Esther Magen, Ostrovsky High School and Weizmann Institute of Science

Members of the core group of learners:

  • Ms. Bayan Abu Katish, Hand in Hand School, the Center for Gifted Pupils in East Jerusalem, and 'Amirim' program
  • Dr. Noa Cohen Eliyahu, Leyada High School (unpaid leave), Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Jerusalem College
  • Sheikh Muhana Fares, Ministry of Education
  • Ms. Dalia Fenig, Ministry of Education
  • Dr. Miri Gottlieb, Ministry of Education
  • Dr. Hannah Perl, Ministry of Education
  • Mr. Moti Taubin, Ministry of Education
  • Ms. Meirav Zarbiv, Ministry of Education