“Has Israel Lost Its Educational Vision?” - MSEL Graduates' Conference 2007
“Has Israel lost its educational vision?”- With this critical question in mind, nearly 250 people participated in the Mandel School for Educational Leadership annual alumni conference.
The annual conference of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership graduates, held in May 2007, was attended by alumni, senior representatives of the Israeli education system, and a variety of experts in the field of education. The conference, which took place at the Wohl Center at Bar-Ilan University focused on the question “Has Israel Lost Its Educational Vision?”
Businesses and social responsibility
For the opening address of the conference, the Mandel Leadership Institute hosted Profssor Anders Aspling from Sweden, chair of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, an international network which has strategic partnerships with the United Nations. Prof. Aspling, whose personal focus is on the promotion of social responsibility among businesses in the European Union, discussed educating for socially responsible organizations by means of linking between business and academia. MSEL graduate Yonatan Glaser (cohort 4), a social entrepreneur and activist, added: “Prof. Aspling’s lecture taught us all another important lesson. Talk is not enough; we have to tie the vision to action. We all have to know that each of us has a social responsibility one to another.”
Bringing the periphery to higher education
“We all agree that we have to treat assistance for youth at risk as a real mission, handling it under one roof with an orderly administration coordinating and dividing up the resources—and the sooner the better,” said Menachem Rabinowitz, principal of the Hadassah Neurim high school, who moderated a panel discussion on youth at risk in Israel. Participants in the discussion described the extensive resources invested in these youngsters and the way these resources are allocated, given the fact that the investment of israel’s youth is key to her development and flourishing.
Also on the agenda was the issue of access to higher education. According to Yuval Ivry, a fellow in the 14th MSEL cohort and one of the organizers of the panel discussion on this subject, “The panel sought to show that academic excellence is not inconsistent with active equal opportunity and increasing accessibility to education among weaker social groups in Israeli society. We received very favorable reactions from the participants in the panel discussion; many people said that no one is better qualified than the Mandel Leadership Institute to raise the banner of moving the periphery toward the realm of higher education.”
Not just talking education
“The educational standards program, which was created in the United States, is not suitable for Israel as is and should be implemented judiciously,” claimed Ayal Shaul, a fellow in the 14th cohort of MSEL, who moderated a panel discussion on standards in education. In the discussion, which focused on the socio-educational debate on the advantages, price, and feasibility of instituting standards in education, MLI faculty member Dr. Ami Volansky, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University School of Education, urged: “We have to extend the standards program to include measuring the quality of education, creativity, independent thinking, school climate, and of course, administration.”
While the above panel addressed the issue of educational standards, a different panel addressed the issue of education for values. This panel, which comprised school principals and members of the central staff of the Ministry of Education, discussed which value they believed was most significant and the place of values education in schools.
A budgetary issue?
The privatization of education in the age of globalization and reduced government involvement, manifested in part by cuts in the education system, was the topic of the afternoon panel discussion. The panel addressed the question of privatization, focusing on Request for Proposals (RFPs) and their ramifications. Eitan Moran, a fellow of the 15th cohort who moderated the panel, was cited on the MOFET Education portal as drawing attention to different expressions of privatization in education and their meaning in light of the tension existing between the basic goals of education and privatization processes.
The issue of educational budgets was also debated during a fascinating panel discussion on inclusion of special-needs children in schools. Inclusion is today’s buzzword in both schools and the Ministry of Education but how is this policy implemented and why is it so difficult?
The role of education in the Israeli media
Another panel discussion at the conference dealt with media coverage of the education system and whether prominent media figures should have an educational agenda. Education Ministry spokesman Avinoam Magen discussed the gap between the superficial nature of the media and the depth and long-range perspective of the education system.
“The role of the media is not to educate but to report on failings,” claimed media personality Yael Dan, referring to the constant tension between battling for rating and covering a subject that isn’t “attractive.” Haaretz Economic commentator Nehemia Strasler, argued that there is a fine line between a commentator and an on-site reporter, and ‘Voice of Israel’ broadcaster Aryeh Golan spoke about the disparity between education in practice and the way it is presented in the media.
The final session of the conference was devoted to the memory of Michael Gal, director of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership from 1992 to 1997. Several MSEL alumni discussed Michael Gal and his special ability to link big ideas with the practical details, the great esteem he earned among the various echelons of government, and his advising of program alumni even from his sickbed.
The conference concluded with a stimulating presentation by journalist Dan Margalit on the connection between education, politics and leadership, and vision-oriented leadership.
At the end of the day, after thought-provoking discussions and lectures, the conference drew to a close with performing artist Matti Caspi and his show “Intimatti”.
Interest and follow up from the Conference has been widespread, as more than six thousand people have downloaded the policy papers that were written and presented at the conference from the MLI website.