Government’s Educational Testing Program Crashes

YERUSHALAYIM -

The flagship testing progam of the Israeli Education Ministry — known as Meitzav — has been discontinued in the wake of complaints that it was counter-productive, focusing attention on test performance rather than actual scholastic achievement and fostering unhealthy competition and widespread cheating.

Government officials were openly admitting the failure of the program, and educators in both the secular and chareidi sectors welcomed the decision.

Education Minister Shay Piron (Yesh Atid) said that “the message is we’ve gone crazy, confused. This thing turned into something that drives us from learning to measuring.”

“The standardized tests are important and valuable evaluation tools, which we should continue to use in the future. However, they cannot be carried on with in their present format,” Piron told Ynet. “The current form of the tests harms schools, teachers and students,” he added.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Piron’s party boss, spoke in the same vein. “Today we canceled the Meitzav exams. Why? Because education isn’t about measurement, but about learning. Because knowledge and intellect shouldn’t be graded. Because we can’t compare students as long as we haven’t made sure they enjoy equal conditions … In a world based on cooperation, teamwork and creative thought, we’ve enslaved our children to endless memorization that ends with them sitting alone in front of the [test] paper and hoping to get a better grade than the person sitting next to them.”

Chareidi educators had for years resisted heavy pressure from the Education Ministry to adopt the Meitzav tests, as ordained by Gedolei Yisrael.

Chinuch Atzmai chairman Rabbi Avraham Yosef Leizerson said that the decision to suspend Meitzav vindicates the position taken by the chareidi streams all along.

MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) also welcomed the news, and called on Education Minister Piron to desist from his efforts to interfere in the chareidi school system. “Traditional schools have succeeded in imparting pure Torah values for thousands of years, while other approaches, which change from one generation to the next, succeed only in alienating Jewish children from their traditions,” he said.

Officials gave as one of the reasons for the postponement of the Meitzav a recent High Court ruling that the results be made public, enabling school-by-school comparisons of the results. The Education Ministry argues that such comparisons embarrass teachers and students at low-performing schools.

The Education Ministry is postponing the tests until the 2014-15 school year, pending official review and revision.