Why did the fellows of the Mandel Leadership Institute begin their academic year in the southern city of Netivot?
The Mandel School for Educational Leadership fellows explored the southern city of Netivot, trying to discover the secret of its success in the field of education.
The Mandel School for Educational Leadership launched its new academic year with three days of practical learning in the city of Netivot. Fellows and faculty began their field work at the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev (MCLN), where fellows learned about some of the social characteristics of the Negev in general, and specifically Netivot.
They worked together over the three days in order to crystallize probing questions and research plans to be clarified and resolved upon their return to Jerusalem, and over the course of in-depth studies throughout the year. Some of the questions and findings have already been articulated in preliminary reports that are being used as part of the Mandel School for Leadership curriculum.
Instead of beginning the academic year in the conventional manner at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, fellows spent the first days of the Program observing life in Netivot. They interviewed professionals in the field of education and local government in an attempt to understand how the education system in Netivot has progressed and improved in recent years. Fellows attempted to understand how Netivot has succeeded in improving its educational system, when surrounding cities have been challenged in this area.
Prof. David Dery, a faculty member at the Mandel Leadership Institute described the fellows’ work in Netivot in a radio broadcast on Reshet Bet (Israel Radio):
“Thirty fellows and fifteen members of Mandel faculty and staff ‘invaded’ Netivot for three days, met the mayor and toured the City. We instructed fellows to observe, explore, meet with people who seem interesting or relevant and at the end, and report what are the major questions that they would like to address...”
Most of the questions revolved around the issue of leadership. This is a major issue both for Mandel fellows and Israeli society.
Return from the field – The 48-Hour exercise
The questions raised throughout the duration of the visit to Netivot were later addressed in the “the 48 hour exercise”, which required fellows to grapple with questions of policy in 48 hours. During the exercise, an emphasis was placed on the way policy problems are approached; on identification and analysis of principle considerations which ought to guide policy-making. The exercise, therefore, creates a foundation for the methodology of policy-making.
Nir Haziza, formerly principal of Branco Weiss School in Tiberias, and currently a Mandel fellow, thinks that “the 48 hour exercise” demonstrated the dynamism inherent to dealing with questions of policy: “The attempt to identify solutions is a significantly complex process. A medley of opinions and approaches are thrown into the centre of the room, creating a brain storm.”
“The discussions which took place were in a pleasant educational atmosphere. So we each learned about each other and about our educational and social philosophy,” says Batya Shochen, who was principal of a Modi’in High School prior to joining the program. “The dialogue between the members of the group and the participation of Mandel faculty and staff strengthened the educational experience,” adds Shochen.
Dr. Eli Gottleib, Director of the Mandel Leadership Institute, explained the decision to open the academic year in Netivot:
“We wanted to open the academic year in a place where the educational activity is located in a trend of improvement and demonstrate from the outset the type of learning we want to encourage amongst the fellows: learning that connects between doing and principles; learning that focuses on the existing questions and problems and entails meticulous observance of reality. We decided to begin the year with a trip to a city that few of us know in depth, and with no theoretical or methodological introduction. We did this in order to necessitate the fellows to ask themselves searching questions concerning the tools required for intensive analysis of situations, events and social and educational institutes. Our hope is that these questions will serve them and us as a base and an initial agenda for meaningful learning.”