The Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network and the Israeli Minister of Education have announced a joint venture to transform schools in the country’s periphery regions in order to close social and economic gaps there and to create a new generation of skilled and educated Israelis.
The $50 million investment in the Israeli Sci-Tech Schools Network Periphery Initiative will bring 50 schools in the periphery regions into the existing charter school network and revitalize them over the next decade.
Schools will be equipped with new curricula, tools, infrastructures and technologies to provide students living in these economically lagging areas with highly valued and marketable science and technology backgrounds and credentials critical to their own futures and that of Israel.
Fueling the Periphery Initiative is a $25 million fundraising campaign by Israeli Sci-Tech Schools Network and a dollar-to-dollar matching program by the Israeli government, which has committed at least $25 million for the project. Corporate and industrial partnerships also will be forged with each school.
“It is one of the most important challenges for the future human power of Israel, taking on schools in the poorest socio-economic areas of the country that have been failing for years, and turning them around in the direction of values, innovation and excellence in science and technology,” said Zvi Peleg, director general of Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, as he announced the initiative.
“These designated funds will provide some 45,000 youngsters in 50 comprehensive schools in the country’s social periphery a brighter future and more promising horizons that will take them out of the cycle of poverty and ignorance.”
Peleg made the announcement with Israeli Minister of Education Gideon Saar during a event Tuesday evening in New York honoring American philanthropist Edith Everett, who has made education of Israel’s immigrant, impoverished and minority youths a priority, and who chairs Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools.
Citing the Network’s emphasis on science and technology curricula, Everett said that “students educated in these schools are crucial for Israel’s growth and security” and that their own long-term career tracks are greatly enhanced, an especially crucial issue for those living in periphery towns.
Spurring the initiative are statistics revealing Israel’s decline in comparison to other countries in 21st century technological training and education, and a consequential widening income gap, threatening the country’s place as an advanced society.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, gaps between rich and poor fall as the number of students studying technology rises. Yet only 37 percent of Israeli students are on technology tracks today and the number is steadily declining.
In addition, the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli industries report that Israel faces a shortage of adequately educated technologists, technicians, and practical engineers.
The initiative targets some of the weakest middle and high schools in the periphery regions, largely populated by the most economically and socially vulnerable citizens.
Improvements will include construction of advanced laboratories and scientific and technological infrastructure, application of upgraded and improved study programs and teaching approaches, training and development of teachers and principals, and formation of school-community partnerships.
Officials point to the success of schools already existing within the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, including middle schools, high schools and technological and academic colleges. The Network serves nearly 100,000 Israeli students and a majority of them are on science and technology tracks.
The initiative is expected to markedly increase the number of students studying technology and the sciences, improve success rates on matriculation exams and deepen students’ involvement and stake in their communities and the country.