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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mentors, tutors and sandwiches join forces in the pursuit of higher math education

Photo: David Shamah
"Skills needed to prepare students for high-tech careers are now being taught at some of Israel’s toughest high schools" summarizes David Shamah, writers, The Times of Israel.

If Israel is to remain the Start-Up Nation, it needs to make sure enough students are studying the science and math that are necessary for a career in computer engineering, cyber-security, virtual reality, and the other deep-tech areas in demand today, according to Karen Tal, who heads the Tovanot B’Chinuch program. 

Tovanot kids at work at Herzog High School, Holon (Courtesy) 
Photo: The Times of Israel

The country, she said, cannot afford to let any latent talent go to waste, even if the kids with that talent had the bad luck not to be born into middle-class and upper middle-class families. 

The best approach to encouraging kids to study science and math is to build a community in the context of junior high and high schools, where volunteers who are successful themselves can act as role models to kids and show them that there is a better way,” said Tal. “Unfortunately, this job is too great for the schools to take on themselves, so we intervene – with the cooperation of the school, the administration, and the Education Ministry – to develop a program that will inspire students to see themselves as being capable of success themselves.”

That there is a need for Tovanot is indisputable. Education Ministry statistics show that no more than 10% of Israeli high school students take on the full math course load (known as “five units” in Israeli high school jargon), which is generally required by universities for students who want to major in computer science and related subjects. In 2013, only 9,100 students studied math in depth, the statistics show.

Most of those students attend the country’s top high schools – the ones located in places like Kfar Shemaryahu, Herzliya Pituah, Ramat Aviv, and the tonier neighborhoods of Jerusalem – while many kids in the rest of Israel make do with the minimum math they need to take in order to get their matriculation certificates and graduate high school.

Photo: Dr. Dalia Guri
Among those less-favored districts is Holon, one of Israel’s largest cities and a stone’s throw from the Rothschild Boulevard tech district, an area bubbling over with high-tech firms large and small, from brand new start-ups to giants like Facebook and eBay. Three years ago, Tovanot began its program at Herzog High School in Holon, and in just that short period, said Dr. Dalia Guri, headmaster of the school, “I now have ten times more kids studying five math units than when they started – 78 instead of seven. And the more kids I have in five units, the more are inspired to join each subsequent year. The turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous.”

Source: The Times of Israel