Educational Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
In Sweden, a debate has raged for the last three or four decades, where some people claim that grades and tests are useless, because they give very little — or even misleading — information about what the students actually know. Since they also cause a lot of stress, they should be abolished and students from first grade up till post-graduate level at university should just study for the joy of learning.
As someone with decades’ worth of educational experience, both as a student and as a teacher, I always thought that to be the stupidest educational policy ever.
It turns out, yet again, that I’ve been overestimating humanity.
It’s a well-known problem in Israel that the Haredi education system isn’t up to snuff — at least if one by “snuff” refers to giving the students the proper knowledge and tools to get on in life, and maybe even get a job so that they’ll be able to support themselves and their families. Politicians have tried to find different solutions, but to no avail it seems. Haredi men are still unemployed to a large extent — partly because they’re unemployable.
And they’re unemployable because they don’t learn anything in school. Or at least nothing that would interest an employer outside the religious sector. Anyone who doubts this can just take a look at the score results for Haredim who undergo the matriculation tests for university.
In other words: the matriculation tests work. They give people a chance to realize that they don’t have the adequate knowledge or educational background to get through a university education — before they’ve paid tuition fees and wasted months, or at least weeks, of their lives agonizing over course material that they clearly can’t handle.
Now, apparently, Haredim have started to complain. In their view it’s not, if you had already jumped to that conclusion, their education system that needs to be reformed. No, instead they claim that the matriculation tests are too hard, and not sufficiently geared toward the knowledge of the Haredi students.
I’m sorry, but to become an engineer you need to know algebra — not gemara.
And what is the response of the Education Committee? Has it told the representatives of the Haredi education system to start teaching mathematics, English and other evil secular subjects? Alas, no. Instead, they’ve launched an initiative to explore ways to adapt the matriculation tests to the Haredi students.
The silver lining, as Haaretz reports today, is that two thirds of the Israeli school children still don’t study in Haredi schools.