START ‘EM YOUNG: Israel to promote hi-tech studies in kindergartens

“This is a step that will touch each and every home in Israel and is a significant part of my vision of turning Israeli innovation and technology to a factor that will reshape society and increase economic resilience in every Israeli household,” said Science, Technology and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.

By Tobias Siegal, Israel World News

In an attempt to further promote hi-tech among the Israeli society, related scientific fields will soon become mandatory in Israel’s education system.

In a joint statement released Tuesday by Education Minister Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton and Science, Technology and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, the two new ministers announced the inter-ministerial program aimed at “advancing scientific thinking from a young age.”

The program will first be launched as a pilot, beginning in the next school year, following the summer break, and will expose students to computer science, robotics and other fields of study that were previously reserved for extra-curriculum activity or non-formal education programs, none of which were ever obligatory.

“The pilot will help expand [Israel’s] human capital for future employment in hi-tech and adapt it to the emerging challenges of the 21st century,” the statement read.

Studies have also shown that promoting scientific studies in young children has a direct impact on social mobility, which refers to the ability of individuals or groups in a certain society to change their social position over time.

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“This is a step that will touch each and every home in Israel and is a significant part of my vision of turning Israeli innovation and technology to a factor that will reshape society and increase economic resilience in every Israeli household,” Farkash-Hacohen said, noting that by instilling technological capabilities in children from a young age, Israel will join other leading countries in the fields of hi-tech and technological excellence such as the United Kingdom, Japan and Singapore – all of which hold similar educational programs from a young age.

The new program is also meant to meet the government’s goal of reaching 15% of Israeli employment in hi-tech fields in the long-term. Today, only about 10% of high-school students in Israel choose an enhanced study curriculum in “hi-tech related fields” (mathematics, physics and computer science,) which are considered preferable by universities and future employers. Moreover, recent polls have indicated that Israeli students are losing interest in these fields, slowly creating a gap in that regard between Israel and other OECD countries. The program will thus focus on reigniting interest in these fields by promoting exposure to them, rather than forcing anything.

“We must allow students the opportunity of advancing themselves in areas that they find interesting and allow them to express their strengths,” Shasha-Biton said. “That’s why it’s our job to make different fields of study accessible to students, and that includes the world of hi-tech,” she concluded.

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has already expressed his support in the program, which will first launch in middle-schools across the country and will gradually be integrated into elementary schools and eventually in kindergartens as well.