The 21st century is characterized by rapid change in many areas of the traditional social order; these include technological changes and changes in what is required of graduates of education systems in Western countries. Correspondingly, expectations of the education system are changing: From the long-held expectation that such systems should make knowledge, whose importance is agreed upon, accessible, to the present expectation that education systems cultivate citizens that will be able to act in ways optimal for them and for society, while contending with rapidly changing circumstances.
The Initiative for Applied Education Research has established an expert committee, headed by Prof. Anat Zohar, with the aim of examining what can be learned from research and practice about adapting study materials, state-mandated curricula, and subject matter curricula to the changing conditions of the 21st century. The committee was founded at the behest of the Ministry of Education and with the support and encouragement of Yad Hanadiv. Within the framework of its work, the committee will examine the difficulties with which the system is coping and the opportunities for improving learning processes in the digital era, taking into account the diverse expectations of the education system.
The committee intends to discuss questions such as:
· What do research and educational thought have to say about the role of the state, compared to the roles of the communities within the state, with respect to determining the curriculum and providing study materials, and what is known about mechanisms for attaining consensus regarding curricula, whether uniform or distinct per sector? Special attention will be given to such mechanisms in countries where there is no agreement among all the relevant sectors with respect to the core curriculum, as is the case in Israel.
· What can we learn from the research and practice of other countries about professional or social mechanisms for determining core curricula in the social sciences and the humanities?
· What does research and practice reveal with respect to efficient and structured integration of content knowledge with skills and competencies, in Israel and other countries? Is it still useful to carry on with the currently accepted division between subjects of study and their content, on the one hand, and skills and competencies, values and norms, on the other?
· Under which conditions is it desirable to develop detailed curricula - to the level of specific content, and when is it preferable to plan on a scale of high-level principle (such as “big ideas” in the sciences or genres in literature), and is it advisable to propose curricular frameworks whose specific content will be decided upon at the local level (local authority, school, or classroom)?
In its work, the expert committee will be assisted by the results and reports of previous Initiative committees: The committee addressing “A Proposal to Revamp Schooling for the 21st Century,” which dealt with adapting the teaching-learning structure in Israel to the conditions and demands that will be relevant for educational practice in the next generation, as well as the committee tackling “An Education System for All and for Each and Every One,” which examined various ways to cope with the great diversity in the Israeli education system.
The committee will also be assisted by an important publication issued by the National Research Council (NRC). Entitled “Education for Life and Work,” the report summarizes research studies on the topic of transferable knowledge, focuses on “deeper learning,” includes cognitive, intra-personal and inter-personal dimensions, and provides examples of its recommendations with reference to core subjects.