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A Public Statement: The Position of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities regarding the Reform in the Matriculation Examinations

24/02/2022
The Council of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities wishes to express its concern over the planned reform in the study of compulsory subjects in the humanities (history, Bible, literature, civics, and mishnaic and talmudic literature) in the state school system, and questions the manner in which the decision about it was made. Even if a change in the current format of the matriculation examinations is necessary in order to improve the manner of study and the methods of evaluation, it has not been clearly established that eliminating the external matriculation examinations in humanities subjects only and replacing them with exams given by the schools and the submission of papers in two elective subjects is the right way to do so. The Council is concerned about the possibility that using one evaluation method for humanities subjects and another for other subjects will accelerate the decrease in prestige of the humanities in the Israeli educational system, which in the long term will also affect the character of Israeli society as a whole.
 
Both the natural sciences and the humanities are essential to pupils’ development and the well-roundedness of their education. The humanities are vital for shaping the pupils’ inner world and personalities, developing literacy in Israeli society, enriching knowledge, and fostering thinking skills, writing skills, and even scientific qualifications. Reducing their status translates to pushing them to the fringes and may even cause them to be abandoned completely.
 
The Council fears that once the reform is implemented, it will be difficult to rectify its undesirable consequences, should there be any. In addition, a reform that transfers the responsibility for teaching humanities subjects to the schools might make the care of these subjects the exclusive province of schools that have the desire and the ability to allocate their own resources and skilled teaching staff to them. This could widen the educational and cultural gap between Israel’s central region and its periphery and heighten the influence of socioeconomic conditions upon the level of studies in the schools.
 
The Academy Council calls for a moratorium in the implementation of the reform, which is planned for the next school year, in order to reopen the issue by carrying out a thorough discussion about it, which would include an in-depth examination of its possible future effects.
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