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TMH בזק בנלאומי קבוצת ברן AC נכסים

Not Just a Matter of Education - Reputation Counts Too / Shuki Stauber

Professor Rami Yugav of Tel Aviv University’s School of Education said there would be a lack of teachers in Israel in the future. He presented findings indicating the median age for high-school teachers is now over 50!
Western countries are already importing teachers from abroad. Many teachers make their way from England to the US, and England itself imports teachers from Eastern Europe. The shortage of teachers began primarily in the sciences, but is reaching the humanities as well.

In Israel the problem is more acute since there is nowhere to import teachers from, even if we so choose. English-speaking teachers can be found around the globe, whereas Hebrew-speaking teachers are hard to come by outside of Israel.

Furthermore, the education system prevents early retirement for teachers, although it is certainly called for in such a grinding profession. Thus veteran, burned-out teachers are unable to step aside to make room for younger teachers. Meanwhile younger people are less than eager to join a profession with such organizational characteristics.

Another factor contributing to this negative trend is the pressure placed on teachers in recent years to produce quantifiable achievement among their students. This pressure has aggravated the dropout rate among existing teachers and undermined interest in joining the teaching system.

While the majority of teachers in Israel used to come from the middle class,
adds Yugav, today more and more education students – especially at colleges (27 such institutions around the country) – come from relatively low socioeconomic levels. As a result, says Yugav, many of them lack the “cultural capital” the education system seeks to impart in the students.

The attempt to bring middle-class students back to teaching is generally part of the attempt to improve salaries. This constant battle is waged by teachers’ organizations.

“That’s not enough,” says Yugav. “The field of teaching needs new vision to make it attractive to those who want to work in teaching.” He claims the high-school curriculum is the same as that of 100 years ago and is based on the practice of studying a series of unrelated subjects. “All of the reforms that were tried in the education system were in the area of organization. No serious attempt has been made to carry out curricular reforms, such as specialized high-school study tracks, e.g. technological studies. Without such a fundamental change the chances of repositioning the teaching profession are not particularly high.”


Dr. Chaim Saadon, dean of students at the Open University, proudly presented the achievements of the institution he represents. Saadon pointed out students’ ease of access to this university, which is what makes it “open.”

“In order to study at the Open University, said Saadon, “there is no need for psychometric exams and other limiting conditions. The student also has almost unlimited control over his study plan and pace. All that is required of him is to meet the degree requirements.”


Dr. Chaim Saadon, dean of students at the Open University (Photo: Gidon Markovitz)

Saadon emphasizes that the “openness” does not undermine the quality of studies and cited examples in which Open University graduates went on to Master’s degree studies at “closed” universities. This indicates the Open University serves as a gateway for students who could not get accepted through regular channels, either because they lacked admission requirements, such as a matriculation certificate, or because they were unable to meet the time schedule, e.g. due to the need to work fulltime.

In his speech it was clear Saadon was trying to present the advantages of the Open University. For example he proudly shared the story of one graduate who started a business and now gives hiring priority to other Open University graduates.

Nevertheless Saadon acknowledged Open University graduates encounter problems in the job market stemming from the unwarranted image it has acquired.

Saadon is right. People typically assume many employers look less favorably on job candidates from the Open University – like graduates of Israeli colleges rather than universities – than job candidates from “closed universities” (and not always justifiably).

The reason behind this thinking soon became clear. In a later session Lior Ron, vice president of human resources at an Israeli development center for global software company SAP, was asked if he would hire college graduates (as opposed to university graduates). His reply: “Not really.” At his company, Ron explained, unit managers prefer their employees are graduates of the Technion or other well-known universities, explaining that managers tend to select workers who come from a background similar to their own. 

This might explain why the business owner from the Open University mentioned above prefers to hire employees from his alma mater. Perhaps he also does not want to employ workers whose professional abilities exceed his own.

Another possible explanation, which might influence his considerations, is occupational positioning. If elite employers prefer Technion graduates, then graduates of the Open University and colleges can be paid slightly less since their bargaining power is diminished.

This state of affairs is unfortunate because the Open University is a high-caliber academic institution. Other speakers at the conference agreed. Prof. Rami Yugav, for instance, added that the Open University’s image has improved in recent years.

The Open University’s problem is its image and to this day the heads of the university do not know how to cope with it. Neither has the advertising agency it hired managed to alter the situation.

In a discussion with him Saadon rejected this conclusion, saying in the case he cited the opposite is true. He says a degree in computer sciences from the Open University is considered among the best in Israel.

Sharon Arieli of The Hebrew University, which has no such image problem, presented an interesting study she conducted with her colleagues at The Hebrew University’s School of Business Administration. The study focused on the differences in values separating various departments within the university, differences that reflect the students who apply to study in the various departments, “because people prefer to work (or study) at organizations that allow them to realize their values,” says Arieli.

The study found the dominant values at the School of Business Administration were power and achievement, in contrast to the School of Social Work, where social justice, cooperation and promoting others stood out instead.

The values were assessed through several different means, such as a survey of Internet sites posted by the respective departments at The Hebrew University that describe the department and the study programs available. On the site for the School of Business Administration words like “advancement,” “leadership” and “achievement” appear frequently, whereas the site for the School of Social Work often uses words like “cooperation” and “integration.”

These findings remind us of the well-known advertisement for the academic program at the College of Management, in which the slogan “Don’t fit in, lead” appears prominently below the logo.

Arieli and her colleagues investigated whether the values at the schools influence the values of their respective students. The findings show a marginal correlation. Students typically arrive with “suitable” values already acquired from their upbringing. An examination of the positions and values of first-year students compared with third-year students did not reveal significant differences.

“If the students underwent any process of socialization during these two years,” says Arieli, “apparently it is manifested in elements less central than values.” 


For the Hebrew Article     

 
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