Hello dear people. I've had a request for work to do over the break to make you just great at English. So, I've been thinking about this over the weekend, and here are my top ten ideas:

  1. Read books. Start with children's books. Read them over and over until they are easy, and you know every word, and you understand the use of every phrase, or at least appreciate the use of the tenses. Then move up to something a little harder.
  2. Read children's books to children. If you have children in your life, read them English children's books. They'll learn. So will you. But mostly, as you read them over and over, you'll really start to get the flow and cadence, which will help you to read and understand as you move forward.
  3. Watch an English language movie, over and over and over (It's best to find one you really like). You'll find the first few times is mostly about the vocabulary you don't know. Then you'll start to notice the grammar and special turns of phrase. Again, you'll get into the cadence and the flow, and you'll get a better idea of when it "sounds right."
  4. Find a reason to write, to someone or just for yourself. You could keep a journal. If you are given to sadness, you might find Shawn Achor's recommendations useful.
  5. As you all know, I'm hot for you all to come up with a compelling why for your life. You've got anywhere from a few minutes to a hundred years ahead of you. How nice it would be to be excited to get up to put your special dent in the universe. So you could design your life, in English, or your own language. Dr. Peterson's Self Authoring Suite will cost you about 50 sheq a person (find a friend to split the two for one with) to do just that. But as we're talking English, that might be the better choice.
  6. If you are a musician, and there are English songs you like, learn them in English, but also make it a point to understand them. Be careful though, because musicians and poets do often take license with grammar.
  7. Listen to, and maybe memorize, great speeches.
  8. There are many commencement (graduation) speeches on line that could be worth your time. Here are some I like by Amanda Palmer, and Admiral William McRaven.
  9. Read and memorize some poetry.
  10. Read and memorize some Shakespeare.
  11. If there is something else you like, take a course or get some coaching on that. There is something on almost everything available.
  12. Or just spend time with English speakers speaking English.
  13. Follow me on Quora, or Facebook,
  14. or my personal notes, or my other Blogs or pages
  15. Or just write me and keep in touch.

You should all have a great Summer.

I love you all.

This after I shared "I am Wise" (see my poetry page) to the ETNI (English Teacher's Network in Israel) list:

Hey, I got this from one of our colleagues, and I don't care to keep it private:

RE: Have you heard about cultural relativity?
I would prefer that this be kept between us, but if David Lloyd, who is cc.ed, considers some response on etni to be appropriate, I can craft one.
Have you heard about stereotyping? Or cultural sensitivity? Or tolerance - or the embracing - of diversity?
These are all terms which are used widely in the Professional English Teachers' associations, which include academic and practical scholars and experts of ALL types - fat ones, skinny ones, dyslexics, small people, folks with various skin colours and ethnicities, gender choices, religious persuasions, and, as we note from this "lovable" poem, levels of sensitivity , understanding and tolerance of fellow beings , whoever they are.
Any educators today who consider themselves wise will not dare to quote some of the bigoted language of that poem in a public forum, even if in jest!
I dread to think about the reactions of some of etni's international readers. They will have much fuel for thought about Israel's teachers of English, and their bigotry.
VSJ

Have you heard that “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names could never hurt me?”

Have you heard of the notion of anti-fragility? Are you aware of the crap that's going on in universities because people “should” be protected from language that might trigger them?

Do you think it's wise to try to bubble wrap children instead of giving them tools to deal with what's out there in the world? Have you heard the songs they listen to anyway? This is tame in comparison.

I thought the poem was very sensitive. The midget neither worked in the circus nor jumped through hoops.

The bottom line is if you don't like it, don't use it. And if you want, talk to the powers that be and do your best to banish me from this group. That would be a good way to show your tolerance.

And by the way, I consider myself wise, and I am deeply hurt by your suggesting I might be otherwise. Are you aware of the hurt that your language causes?

And further, I take offense on behalf of our international readers, and I apologize to them for your comment suggesting that they will somehow view Israel differently based on the comments of one wise – or is that unwise – English teacher.

David R. Herz, March 27, 2109


First, I really do want to acknowledge the commitment of the people who have taken on and are promoting the HOTS program. It is rare to see people taking to a ministry directive with such passion. As many have said, and I am sure I agree, there is a lot that is good about it. I am all for the use and inclusion of HOTS. Though it may be a new acronym, its underlying tenets have been advocated for centuries. And as Mr. Tzur and others have indicated, literature has always been a part of the curriculum.

That said, I really wonder if the method of bringing this work into the classroom is the most enrolling, least anxiety raising and least intrusive way to bring this work to fruition. The teachers in the pilot program were for the most part master teachers. For many of them, and probably even for most of the people who take enough of an interest to be on this list, a lot of this work IS already familiar. However, one can easily imagine the teacher who will be overwhelmed by this.

What would be wrong with spending more time giving the kind of continuing education that Fran and Penny and Avi have given at ETAI conferences about tweaking one's lessons to using higher order skills? Or instead of funding a whole new program, including the money for implementation and writing and evaluating more tests and giving more required education, using that money to actually provide enough “inspectors” to get out in the field and support and work with teachers to make sure they are teaching at the highest possible level.

First, do no harm. I agree with the concept, but not Mr. Tzur's conclusion. While I have no reason to question that students are doing better, and even becoming better people, under the new program than the old, I must question why he uses the old program, or the status quo, as the starting point of his analysis, and then I must question whether the allocation of resources in support of this program is the best way to achieve the results we want.

Research may show - I have yet to see the committee cite us to valid peer-reviewed research (though I haven't looked too hard either) - that explicit teaching of HOTS does have a positive effect on some result we want to measure. But depending on the measure - pro-social orientation, motivation to continue learning on one's own, capacity to synthesize and analyze - there is also a lot of research that shows that the underlying system's design works against those same values. Some of you are familiar with my positions on the bagrut, grades and homework, but we need not go to that level to question the allocation of resources to this program.

Let's look at what we want to encourage - yesterday Ms. Steiner mentioned citizenship - and then look at various ways and their costs to achieve the results. It might be that training teachers to more effectively use groups correlates positively. It might be that explicit teaching of HOTS does. It might be that grading the explicit teaching of HOTS or putting it on a test has a positive effect, or it might actually reduce the positive effects of the explicit teaching.

Heck, it might be sufficient if we could encourage teachers to teach English for its own sake and trust that an appropriate and maximized Bagrut result will follow. My point is that an improvement from one program to the next is not necessarily a sufficient reason to change to that program, and is certainly not an indication that no harm is being done. If a diabetic stops eating a lot of sweets but continues smoking, does that mean that no harm is being done? The programmatic change should occur after the review of all, or at least a number, of reasonable options have been investigated. These should then be vetted for their cost effectiveness and the opportunity costs should be taken into account. This analysis should extend to include questions of whether having a national curriculum or requiring teachers to teach in a certain way correlates positively or negatively with the outcomes we are seeking.

This didn't happen here. Anat Zohar had some bright idea and Judy Steiner jumped on it. It is not that there is anything wrong with the idea itself, but rather that we have yet to actually look at our practices, weed out those that do wrong or are inconsistent with our goals and then do a rigorous analysis of the best means to accomplish our goals, which we must also define.


Dear Inspector _______:

First, I thank you for responding and for even being willing to engage in this conversation. While my viewpoint may at first seem strident, I am fairly convinced of its truth. This is not to say that there are not other impediments to a great education here, like reasonable pay, better teacher in-service training, more school psychologists, a rational system of accountability, etc., etc., but the Bagrut raises a whole host of problems, and what it gives us is questionable.

You speak to “reliable assessment data,” but it is difficult for me to see what exactly we are assessing. I am a native English speaker, and turn to other teachers to make sure I am answering module C questions according to what the testers want. I have students who understand texts, but are too specific or general in their answers, and others who have mastered test taking, but are not so sure what they have read. Indeed, when I train students for tests, I tell them what is important is the right answer, not understanding. The results may be statistically reproducible, but this does not mean they tell us much. A module C, for instance, does not tell us what tenses a student has learned, what grammatical structures he is familiar with, or how well he can put two thoughts together. I would love reliable assessment data, if it serves the purposes of education. For me, that would best be an assessment of what was taught close in time, with prompt evaluation, such that I could use the data for redirecting my education efforts. What we have now does not do that. I am not sure I am well trained to provide the kind of assessment I just spoke about, and I suspect many of my colleagues could also work on the matter, so give us in-service training. Let’s set up standards responsive to the needs of our customers, the students, on a local level, with our students, with our subject matter teams, with our principal, etc. See “A Balanced School Accountability Model: An Alternative to High-Stakes Testing” Phi Delta Kappan 85(8):584-590 · April 2004

This is not limited to English. I speak to my students about history and math as well. They may know facts or have formulaic understandings, but often lack the desire to put two and two together to deepen their understanding. I ask history questions close to what they are doing, and if it is not on the Bagrut, they have no idea. They are logical and do what is necessary to pass a Bagrut, which typically requires a superficial knowledge of numerous things instead of in-depth knowledge in any.

So what we are assessing seems to be a teacher’s ability to prepare a student for an exam that is not representative of life, unless we say that the purpose of life is to get over this hurdle so we can tackle the next. My goal is a populace that loves to learn, that is satisfied and happy in life and passionate about its undertakings and its participation in our society. The Bagrut does not train for this. Indeed, training for the Bagrut runs counter to this purpose.

I teach English. Because many of my 11th grade 4 point students didn’t do their work and then moaned to the principle, all my independent evaluation was erased, leaving me with the privilege of giving ten percent of the grade for participation. My students who worked like dogs to do the literature tasks I requested and who really put their all into their projects and homework ended up feeling like suckers, because in the end their grade was composed of two unseens and the project (half of which I would not have accepted because they were garbage, but I was over-ruled there as well). My school, and I suspect many others, are about getting students over the Bagrut, good work ethics or anything else be damned. I think a far better lesson would have been learned if some of my students had just been allowed to fail or been stuck with a lousy magen because they didn’t participate. And why should we accept 50%? We are closest to the students. We are in a position to monitor and guide progress. We are in a position to evaluate on more than one one and a quarter hour test. Let’s work on the quality of our teachers instead of looking at the test scores after the fact.

I am not familiar with ANY quality nationwide system of assessment. What I am familiar with is bureaucracies which think that they can raise the standard by imposing a series of standards.


An early version of my manifesto; it's just enough for a two-sided flier.

Our society claims it wants to foster educational excellence. We, as teachers, do our best to try to make this happen. There are, however, institutional influences that hamper our progress. The most nefarious is the Bagrut system:

  • It encourages superficial thinking and learning: Matriculation exams cause students to orient themselves to the search for a right answer. Students skim passages, mindlessly apply formulas, and regurgitate facts without making meaning of them. They learn is learned for the short term and is usually lost when the exam ends.
  • It kills motivation and causes behavior problems: When students are oriented toward matriculation exams, many start to measure their self-worth and potential based on those exams. Instead of developing a healthy image of themselves, they create one dependent on results which are outside their own control. When students have convinced themselves they can't, they act out and lose interest in their studies.
  • It kills interest: As students orient themselves toward their results on matriculation exams, they lose interest in the underlying subject. As far as most are concerned, when the Bagrut ends, the need to learn also ends.
  • It limits the autonomy of the teacher and her students: Once upon a time, a teacher was trusted to know her students capabilities and educational needs. She could set goals with the cooperation of her students and change them if they proved unrealistic. Now a one-size-fits-all standard is set by someone distant from the classroom, and we are often pressured to limit teaching toward unrealistic and inappropriate standards.
  • Standards almost invariably lower the standards: The natural inclination of the uninhibited learner is to set the bar a little outside his comfort zone, to experiment and explore and take his knowledge to the next level. However, the student is a logical creature. When he is instead oriented toward numerical results – Bagrut results and grades – his natural inclination takes second seat, and is often lost completely, in the service of the goal of maximizing "results." Instead of learning for its own sake, he learns to game a test. Instead of aspiring to his own high standards, he does what is necessary to meet those of others.
  • The teacher is discouraged from experimenting: As teachers, we want to make our classes great, to have fun and make learning fun. To do this, we must have the freedom to experiment with and design our classes to suit our purpose. However, the system discourages this. If we do not attain certain "results," we will be told to stick to the curriculum, to do what works, even when "what works" works only to kill the joy of teaching and learning.

We stand for the inspiration of lifelong learners, people who care, ask critical questions, think deeply about issues of importance, question authority and the status quo, engage with their world, and stand up to make it a better place. The Bagrut system is simply unacceptable.

Our Goals:

  1. Moral and Ethical Human Beings, people who love the game of life and who care for their fellow human beings and the society to which they belong.
  2. Scientists and Philosophers, people who are intellectually curious, who have the capacity to delve deeply into matters, who continue on a life-long quest to understand their world.
  3. Life-Long Learners, people who are constantly reflecting, evaluating, and incorporating new information to deepen their understanding and broaden their knowledge of how their world works.
  4. Risk Takers, people who take responsibility for their own lives, who set for themselves the highest of standards and are not afraid to realize them.
  5. Active and Committed Citizens, people who are willing to take a stand for what they believe is right, for themselves, for their families and communities, and for society as a whole.
  6. Individuals, people who are independent, proud, confident, and know what they stand for, while also accepting, respecting and relating with those who don’t share their ideas and viewpoints.

Our Proposed Solution:

  1. Eliminate the Bagrut.
  2. Use summative assessments sparingly. To the extent that a status report is necessary, randomly select a statistically significant sampling of students and administer the test to them. Do not require students to do comprehensive exams, but break the tests into parts that will be spread over a larger sampling of students. To the extent possible, use the results for formative purposes.
  3. Where particular bodies of knowledge are required (i.e. army placements and university program admissions), put the burden on those making the selections to provide sufficiently targeted evaluations to meet their needs. The military can rely on armed services vocational aptitude batteries and additional tests for special services. Universities can use portfolio reviews, personal interviews, statements of interest and proposals for research – in addition to or in place of targeted tests – to provide a more complete and accurate assessment of a student’s potential than a Bagrut certificate provides.
  4. Train teachers and administrators in the art of formative assessment. Teach teachers how to most effectively use assessment to guide their teaching and achieve their educational goals.
  5. Teach students to regulate their own learning and use metacognitive strategies to achieve at their highest potential.
  6. Restructure the inspectorate to provide ongoing consulting and formative evaluations for their schools and program areas. Provide inspectors the opportunity to spend extended blocks of time with individual teachers and schools to provide support and training over the course of a school year. Require schools and teachers to set out their own goals, and provide the opportunity to reflect on and review the methods used to carry out those goals at various times during the year.
  7. Establish a Best Practices Initiative to provide teachers with the research and tools to be the most effective teachers they can be. Continue to train and work with teachers, both in and out of their classrooms, in order to bring these best practices to fruition.

This is my letter of righteous outrage. The Bagrut must be eliminated. Everyone knows it, but no one thinks it can be done. We should be up in arms, but we are not. Why?

Israel was built on the backs of people who put their lives on the line for a cause. My heroes are people like Theodor Herzl, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, David Raziel, Avraham Stern, and Menachem Begin. My joy is that we do not need to be like them. We have legal, acceptable, recognized channels by which to effect change.

The future of our children – if not our state – is on the line. This goes well beyond any concern for Israel’s economic prosperity based upon its vaunted “intellectual capacity.”

My vision for our educational system is one in which we have happy, intellectually curious, morally upright students joyously growing into successful, satisfied and committed adults, people who have a passion for their work, their families and their country. The Bagrut system is fundamentally at odds with this vision. It stymies the students, it limits the teachers, and also reduces our collective intellectual capacity.

The Bagrut is not effective at ensuring that students have any particular base of knowledge. What our students learn is that passing the test is all-important, that collaboration is cheating, that someone else has the one right answer, that they need to reproduce it, and once they have done so, they have done their job. They do not learn to think deeply, they are not trained to collaborate, and come to doubt the knowledge they already have. Then we lament that no one has respect for anyone else and that people disregard others in their quest to get ahead.

Some students might recognize some of my “heroes” as figures from history class, but few could cogently argue whether these people were terrorists, builders of a state, statesmen or a little bit of all of these. What’s worse is that even fewer care. They might know the formula for an ellipse, but fail to recognize that this shape characterizes the orbits of planets. They can look at the sun in the morning,, but don’t wonder why they can’t at noon. They are taught the basics of science, but the miracle of life is lost on them. Quite simply, they haven’t been taught to ask questions or take initiatives. They are uninspired and join the rat race for money, status and possessions instead.

Often, when they do know a subject, that knowledge is not reflected in the Bagrut grade. I teach English, and frequently find myself asking other English teachers what answer the Bagrut examiners want, even at the three point level. I have students who understand a passage without difficulty, but then lose points because their answers are too specific or general. Some just don’t take these tests well or lose credit based on errors in interpretation or computation, while others may know a formula or fact and get full credit without any real understanding, We are left with the question of whether the Bagrut really measures anything that matters in life. Even if it does, is it worth the cost?

On the other hand, teachers are expected to teach what is on the test. To cover all the material, they may not have the time to delve deeply into any particular matter, or even to determine whether students truly understand the concepts underlying what is taught. In many schools, what’s left of the school year after Passover – probably a fifth of the year – is given over almost entirely to test preparation and Bagrut examinations. Even though most of us know that substantive teaching will give us the same results in the short term and greater ones in the long term, we are strongly encouraged to “prepare” our students for the test, in other words finding the right answer, whether they understand or not.

While this is sufficient cause for outrage, it is not my inspiration for writing this letter. What is is the lack of willingness to do anything about it. Instead of taking action to effect changes, we make excuses why things are the way they are and why no one is willing to change it. Further, we live in fear of the system. We claim we have a free press and freedom of expression, but our inspectors do not feel at liberty to give their opinion on the Bagrut system, school administrators and teachers won’t take a stand for fear of losing their jobs, and students don’t act because they have been given no model to follow. We are willing to be victims instead of agents for change, and we all lose out.

It is time for a change. We know that one person can change the world. We have seen it time and again in Jewish history. It is our turn to be that one person, for our own futures, for our children, and for the health and continued prosperity of this country.

Talkback Comments

  1. Interesting Article, but the focus is on what to get rid of. For this piece to be valuable, it must not only argue against the current system, but must propose a viable alternative. You will not get anybody to pay attention to your negativism, even if justified, unless you propose an alternative. Coming from the American educational system, I have no insight into the Israeli matriculation exam. I have no doubt the system is as broken as you contend. Here's your free speech opportunity. Rather than just complain, propose the solution.
    David - land of the free (08/06/2008 22:05)
    You are absolutely right. One of my highest priorities at this moment is formulating the plan for the system that should replace the Bagrut. I invite you to check back at this site from time to time to see how that plan is progressing.
  2. How about just reforming the Bagrut? Be careful of the slippery slope you're proposing. Teenagers need goals and focus - and perhaps what you feel the Bagrut is currently missing. Elimination of exams altogether is simply national suicide. It starts with something like this and ends with millions of Britney Spears living where Nobel Prize laureates once stood.
    Global Citizen - Israel & USA (08/06/2008 22:16)
    I absolutely agree that teenagers need goals and focus. The problem is that the goal and focus the Bagrut sets up is one of passing a test instead of engaging with the world in any other meaningful manner. This goal will not change with the reform of the test. The goal will remain passing the test.
    Instead I would propose a system in which students and teachers are encouraged to set up their own goals and then encouraged and given the support to meet them. This is not to suggest the elimination of requirements or of a core curriculum, but a system in which people can be accountable for living up to their own high standards rather than the mediocre ones the Bagrut sets up.
  3. The test ensures a high standard of education. Without the test, teachers will teach whatever they "feel" is important. The test ensures that all students receive the same skills. The US is already doing what Mr. Herz suggests and is the reason American kids are years behind Israelis, especially in math and science. Throwing out the basics and switching to a touchy-feely approach ruined the American education system while Israelis are making great strides in science, technology and medicine. Israel should, however, stop teaching multiculturalism and the "nakba" at the expense of Israeli culture and values. It is destroying the country.
    original mk - us (08/06/2008 22:40
    I will agree that the test ensures a “standard,” but that standard is not high, and it has little to do with education as I define it. My goals for students are set out in other areas of this site, and include teaching scientific method and critical analysis, along with respect and ability to engage others verbally and in writing. The are not the values the Bagrut encourages. If anything the test ensures a low standard of teaching. A teacher who can show he or she has “covered” the material is on relatively safe ground, regardless of the results on the exam or whether students really understand a subject. In other words, students may all be taught the same material, but what they receive is of doubtful value.
    As to the second point about teachers doing what they “feel,” I do not suggest that there should not be a system of accountability. Further, I object to the implicit slight against teachers. Most teachers take their jobs and their responsibilities to their students and their students’ advancement quite seriously. They should do what they “feel,” based on their training and professional judgment to ensure the success of their students. Perhaps we should focus more on giving them the tools via ongoing professional training to hone their ability to make good educational judgements.
    As to the United States, the suggestion that American kids are years behind is not scientifically supported as far as I have seen. Moreover, the suggestion that the US ever switched to a touchy-feely approach is in error. While there have been many efforts to reform education in the United States, most have been stillborn. In the meantime, the US had been making steady progress in its educational attainment. If anything, it is the new emphasis on testing that is killing innovation and learning in the US system. Vibrant places of education are giving way to test preparation factories, and everyone is suffering.
    As to the strides in science, I again am unaware of any research that shows a correlation between out educational system and the advances made. One could also assert that Israel’s intellectual capacity is in spite of its educational system and the consequence of the immigration and meeting of great minds here.
    As to the last point, if Israel’s educational system would emphasize logical thinking and critical and analytical skills, I am sure its students would surprise us with fairly sophisticated analyses and much advanced thought on such issues as are suggested.
  4. The best article on this subject. My mother used to hate her school, I used to hate mine, my children will hate theirs. It's just the way it is, and nobody is willing to do anything. Sad.
    Vlad - (08/06/2008 23:01
    I thank you for your comment, but hope you find the unedited version a little more readable. With a little luck however, we will make your and my children’s experience better than our current expectations.
  5. trouble in paradise? the trouble with the educational system here may well lie in such additudes as are shown by the author. with heroes like that how did we get to where we are -by accident? as if all we had to do is get rid of the bagrut and everything would be fine ; as if the corruption and fear would then just go away. the state of education reflects the state of things which were brought on by these heores, better to ask if the leadership wants people trained to think for themselves than to indulge in self-delusion ed wishful thinking half able to look at reality then hiding in state sanctioned hero worship
    jack - is (08/07/2008 06:44
    I agree that the abolishment of the Bagrut is but a step. I am wellaware that my choice of heroes can be considered controversial. What I envision is a student body that can powerfully challenge my choices, who could cogently argue why the current state of things is the result of actions by those I admire, and maybe suggest those it would be more appropriate to look up to. If the current leadership is interested in such a potentially trouble-making populace is really of no concern to me other than that it represents a political reality that I must overcome.
  6. get real The bagrut is the final part of the system. The change must come from the bottom up. http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2008/08/real-world.html
    Batya - Israel (08/07/2008 07:34
    You are right that reform is needed in more than one part of the system, and the elimination of the Bagrut is but one reform of many I would like to see. I like your comments, and would like to see our Bagrut budget go to things like teacher training and development to make sure that our students do get the best training at all levels.
    You may be right that students won’t “study” if they don’t have a test, but it is very likely that they will learn given the right environment and teachers trained to recognize where their students abilities and need and appropriately challenge them to reach the next level of understanding, starting, as you well point out, in nursery school.
  7. Great article The bagrut is one of the many symptoms representing the failure of the Israeli education system. The Japanese have a method of working when looking to solve a problem, which involves trying to find the core problem which leads to the problem they are experiencing. I don't know what the core problem is, but it is clear that the whole Education Ministry is high up as the cause. From my limited experience, the only schools which appear to have happy kids interested in learning are private institutions not under the guidance of the Education Ministry.
    Gabe - (08/07/2008 09:11)
  8. Too many tests The writer makes many good points. The kids should have a test, but the way it is now they are way over-tested. There should be just five exams, math, English, Hebrew, something in Judaism, and their major. When they apply to college, they should submit their report card grades for the other subjects. That would be enough.
    Susan - (08/07/2008 09:11)
  9. to #2 Not exactly. The teachers have tosubmit a magen grade which is 50% of their final Bagrut grade. Teachers can pad the grades. I worked in a school where the principal made me give passing grades even to kids who couldn't pass, just to make his pass rates look good. I didn't have a problem with some of the grades, because the kids really tried, but couldn't pass because of a learning disability, but there were others who never came to class. I was very against passing them, but that would have made the school look bad. The whole thing was a lie. And passing is only 55 in this country.
    Susan - (08/07/2008 09:17)
    I share this experience. There are numerous examples of students not taking responsibility for their own learning only to have administrators override the decisions of teachers in order to please parents or make the numbers look good.
  10. to #2 continued Passing is only 55% in this country. And we all know the low standard of education which was proven about two years ago in international tests, where Israel scored very low. In recent years the English Bagrut has been made easier. What we have here is a dumbing down of the exams because the kids aren't as good as students of the past. So, how hard can it be to get a 55? Many kids in this country just don't work and as they get older they work less. Playing hooky is rampant in high school, especially in 12th grade.
    Susan - (08/07/2008 09:23)
  11. Bagrut tests Been there, done that - getting along without tests has been tried many times in education, and has almost always proved an unmitigated disaster. We can't afford an experiment doomed to failure.
    Michael Greengard - Israel (08/07/2008 09:45)
    There are multiple types of assessment, and I am not suggestinggetting rid of all of them. Indeed, I encourage a strong system of formative assessment at all of the student, teacher, school and various administrative level. Part of this includes appropriate summative assessment to measure achievement from time to time.
    But this is not the same as a matriculation exam system. There is ample research documenting the damage that such exams cause, and none suggesting such elimination has had other than a salutary effect, let alone that elimination has “proved an unmitigated disaster.” Many experiments have been done and the data is there to assess and review. What we can’t afford to do is ignore it.
  12. Get Rid of the Bagrut, Redefine Our Goals For Each Level Just getting rid of the bagrut would be a good thing. "Teaching to the test" is so accepted here that students, especially in the upper grades, are generally sent home to study for the test. They get no class time whatsoever and spend much of their senior year at home! Upper levels should be encouraged to take the AP level exams and get college credit. Other levels should have intensive in-class preparation for whatever their goals are determined to be. My 2 high school kids got through the bagruyot just fine, but it was a tremendous waste of time and a subversion of the learning process
    C. Siegel - (08/07/2008 10:04)
    Right on.
  13. Even though meaningful in critics, the author misses the point What the author basically says is that our schools are bad and the matriculation exams are bad as well. I can hardy imagine anybody arguing with this sincerely. However, the title of the article and the suggestion to abolish matriculation exams is, unfortunately, not more clever, than the destruction of machines by the workers in early 1800s. A Math lecturer
    A Math lecturer - (08/07/2008 11:08)
    It is more clever in that the machines were the instruments of the workers in the early 1800s, and thus the foundation for their jobs. There is in this case however much evidence that the Bagrut is an impediment to the work of the student, which is to learn how to learn. Abolishing the Bagrut provides the clearing in which students can actually begin to learn.
  14. part of the problem is the textbook based approach to the entire education system
    ces - israel (08/07/2008 11:16)
  15. If Bagrut Tests are eliminated... Congratulations! I quiteagree with your concepts! But (what's the option?)
    miller lidia - Israel (08/07/2008 14:45)
  16. A comprehensive system of accountability that includes a heavy emphasis on individual setting of goals by teachers and students and the training in assessment models to measure progress at all levels of the system.
  17. Don't Get Rid of Classroom Testing or Grading--Just Eliminate the Bagrut The problem is teaching TO the test, FOR the test. The point should be to learn the particular subject while inculcating a desire for excellence and the ability to work hard and honestly. The bagrut exams teach students to take the bagrut, and incidentally breed an atmosphere of cheating, because the goal is to pass the test, not to master the material.
    C. Siegel - (08/07/2008 15:04)
    I could not have said it better myself.
  18. Standardized Tests Have A Place In The Real World Despite Their Shortcomings The argument against the bagrut proferred by this writer is the same argument given by those calling to eliminate the SAT. While it is true that many teachers and students are too narrowly focused on learning just the right amount of material to do well on these exams, there is no basis to support that the exams themselves impede critical thinking skills, as well as collaborative learning. In fact, the best students are always those who are of curious mind, who read on their own beyond the course material, and who learn for the sake of learning. The bagrut and the SAT do not hinder this.effort
    Adina Kutnicki - Israel, new olah (08/07/2008 18:36)
    There is actually significant research to support the assertions I have made. You are right as to the best students, but matriculation exams, as well as many other practices in education, have been proven to diminish the curiosity of mind, desire to look beyond the course material, and the desire to learn for its own sake.
  19. About the same in the UK We have a similar situation here in the UK. We teachers are supposed to deliver the syllabus for the external exams. There is not enough depth, and there are too many exams. When I taught 11 year olds in Hackney I was told to scrap everything except exam preparation from January to May, focusing just on maths, English and science. As exam results improve, surveys find pupils enjoy reading less and are dropping science because they no longer enjoy it.
    Ben Azai - UK (08/07/2008 20:42)
    Furthermore, short term gains in exam scores may lead to long termlosses in learning. Research has shown that though training for an exam may produce short term results, there is often a loss in the accretion of skills that would otherwise be taught and which are necessary to advance the student to higher levels. Thus, teaching to the exam actually results in less learning than otherwise.
  20. Adina--The SAT and the Bagrut Are Not Comparable The SAT is more like the psychometric in that it is taken once, and it is doubtful that one can really "prepare" for it, except by sharpening general test-taking skills. The bagrut, on the other hand, dominates the entire curriculum--the tail wagging the dog--and actually detracts from the quality of the year's study. 11th and 12th graders frequently stay at home preparing for the test instead of going to school. Students should be trained to USE school time, not just mark it off like a prison sentence.
    C. Siegel - (08/08/2008 08:53)