26 March 2010 British educational expertise passes over to Israel Were Kadima Madas contribution to the advancement of Israels education system limited to cutting-edge classroom technology, teacher training, childrens study programmes, material support for needy students, massive building projects, curriculum development and improved schooling for hospitalised children DAYENU! But Kadima Mada is also using World ORTs international networking capacity to support Israels own efforts to make its schools better at preparing young citizens for the challenges ahead of them. Together with the Israeli Embassy in London, it has organised a series of pre-Pesach meetings with top British education professionals for a visiting delegation led by the Director General of the Ministry of Education, Dr Shimshon Shoshani. World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer (left) welcomes Dr Shimshon Shoshani (centre) and the Israeli delegation to ORT House, London. The United Kingdom has a good reputation at the moment in education and we wanted to get an understanding of the British system to help us implement a strategic plan to introduce the Israeli education system to the 21st Century, Dr Shoshani said on the last day of the four-day visit. World ORT, which operates in Israel through Kadima Mada, has organised a perfect professional visit. The programme was organised in a very professional and systematic way. We met the right people, the people who knew the things that we needed to hear. Successive British governments have made education a priority over the past 17 years, investing huge amounts of money to raise standards to a level which has commanded increasing respect internationally. Dr Shoshani is under no illusions that Israel faces a similarly long and expensive haul to regain the high educational standards it boasted of a generation ago. In Israel we decreased our educational resources over the last 15 years so the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Education Minister Gideon Saar have decided to invest a lot of money in order to see that the education system improves over the next few years, he said. And not before time: an economic survey of Israel published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in January noted that while the Israeli system has coped well, considering the countrys high population growth (the population of five- to 14-year-olds is expected to increase by 15 per cent by 2015) and socio-economic diversity, there was a need to improve the educational attainment in the Arab and Haredi communities, which now account for more than 45 per cent of children starting primary school. In addition, OECD and other international tests indicate that there is a much more widespread problem of weak skills in mathematics, reading and science among secondary school students. To the extent that workplace training and tertiary programmes fail to offset this deficiency, skills and tertiary qualifications are, on average, weaker than in most OECD countries, putting at risk further expansion of high value-adding activities. Dr Shoshani said that Israel had already started work on implementing the OECDs suggestions but added: We have in mind more advanced ideas. These include improving teachers salaries, introducing longer school days, introducing new technologies, and investing more in disadvantaged students in deprived areas with the aim of narrowing the gap between the lower and best achievers. Kadima Mada is doing this already in several schools and areas in Israel in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Dr Shoshani said. Most of the projects are in developing areas, the most disadvantaged areas of Israel. As one who is very familiar with World ORT activities [he was Head of World ORTs representative office in Latin America between 1989 and 1993] I am sure that these projects are of a high educational quality and that the cooperation with the Ministry of Education will increase in coming years, not only in Israel but also in the Former Soviet Union. Visiting London lies at the beginning of a long process to prioritise education in Israel and make the Jewish State one of the most advanced countries, in educational terms, in the world. Meetings were arranged with David Bell, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF); Jon Coles, Director General of the DCSFs School Directorate, which transforms Ministers policies into the delivery of education in England and Wales; Steve Moss, Strategic Director for ICT at Partnerships for Schools, which was set up by the DCSF to ensure that investment in secondary schools was based on robust educational strategies and achieved value for money; Miriam Rosen, Executive Director of the Office for Standards in Education, Childrens Services and Skills, (Ofsted), which is responsible for inspecting the standards of all schools and local education authorities in England; Stephen Crowne, Chief Executive of the British Educational, Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), which leads the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning; Ray Barker, Director, and William Prieto-Parra, International Manager, of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), and organisation whose members have a combined annual turnover of more than 1.8 billion; senior staff at National Strategies, a key national delivery vehicle for many government learning priorities; and the Directors of Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising levels of achievement in secondary education. In addition, the Israeli delegation visited Britains oldest Jewish school, the Jewish Free School, where it met the Principal and a school improvement specialist working for the Brent Local Education Authority; and the Michael Sobell Sinai School, Europes largest Jewish primary school. They also toured the Capital City Academy, an over-subscribed secondary school in a state-of-the-art building with very good ICT resources and excellent sports and arts facilities. The Head of World ORTs Education Department, Daniel Tysman, who was one of the organisers of the itinerary, accompanied the delegation in its meetings. I think the meetings have been productive, Mr Tysman said. There is a wealth of expertise in the UK system and the willingness to share it has been gratifying. World ORT has acted as a facilitator using its local knowledge to introduce the Israelis to the best people. I am confident that these people have given them information and insights which will steer them in positive directions. Dr Ofer Rimon, Director of Science and Technology Administration at the Ministry of Education, agreed. We have been given a very good view of the British education system and especially how they have integrated ICT, Dr Rimon said. Dr Rimon and Dr Shoshani, together with the rest of the delegation the Education Ministers Chief of Staff, Kobi Yelovich, the Director of the Ministrys Administration for Telecommunication and Information Systems, Sofia Mintz, Dr Shoshanis aide, Eli Fried, the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Finances Budget Department, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, and the Manager of the Finance Ministrys Education Sector, Hagai Ido rounded off their stay in London with a presentation of World ORTs activities around the world. World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said: We are extremely happy to help and be instrumental in this strategically important initiative for the State of Israel. We believe that the vision expressed by Dr Shoshani and the rest of the delegations members is the right approach at the right time, and by the right people. We look forward to any future opportunities to support it.