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Israel Should Employ the Education Voucher Method: By Moshe Feiglin

The Education Ministry is considered highly desirable. As the 44 billion NIS budget of the Ministry is augmented by the local municipalities, it turns out that the education budget is the largest in Israel – even more than the defense budget. The percentage of its budget that Israel invests in education is higher than almost all the OECD nations. But somehow, the classrooms are very crowded and the results are not extremely impressive.

Control over the huge education budget and an enormous amount of jobs translates into a great deal of power.

And the education?

When were our children more educated? When Gideon Sa’ar was the Education Minister, or when Shai Piron filled the role?

Ministers come and go, money is spent as if it is water and the level of education? Well…

An Education Minister who wants to truly change the education system must implement reforms that completely contradict the essence of politics: He must forgo 90% of his power…

That, of course, will not happen and so there is very little importance to who is filling the role of Education Minister.

The real problem with the education system is not the money; the system has that in abundance. The real problem is that according to Israeli law, the responsibility for the education of our children is on the shoulders of … the Education Minister. You read correctly. Israeli law absolves the parents of the responsibility to educate their children and deposits it in the hands of (the Big Brother) Education Minister.

This is antithetical to any concept of liberty and human rights regarding what every parent holds most dear, but we will leave that issue unaddressed right now and focus on the education itself.

There are 1.6 million students in Israel (may their number increase). A simple calculation shows that the State of Israel invests approximately 2300 NIS per month in every student. Approximately 90% of that sum goes to salaries (not just for teachers). So let us conclude that the direct investment in each student – not including buildings and accessories – is approximately 2000 NIS per month.

Let us assume that you are an Israeli family with three children who are currently ‘customers’ of the education system. On the surface, the State invests approximately 6000 NIS per month of taxpayer money in salaries that are supposed to educate your children. The State also prohibits you from giving your children alternative education.

What would you do with that money?

With 2000 NIS per student plus 300 NIS rental and accessory funds, it is possible, for example, to put together a small group of 10 students (instead of 40), to hire a private teacher for 20,000 NIS and a private classroom for 2000 NIS plus other expenses.

If we make a true calculation that includes the entire public investment (from our pockets, of course) in education and we include the private tutoring and other incidentals that we must fund from outside the system we would easily conclude that with the same budget, we can provide a much better education for our children than what is offered by the State.

So what is my message to the Education Minister? Close the ministry?

Of course not.

Education is a basic value accepted by everyone. We all have a common interest in the proper upbringing of the coming generation. This is not just a private issue and thus, it is the right and duty of the State to tax its citizens so that the parents of every child will have the ability to fulfill their responsibility and educate their children.

The situation today is just the opposite: The state takes the responsibility – and the money – from the parents and educates their children instead of them. And it does not do a very good job.

How can this proposal be accomplished?

The voucher method – education coupons.

The parents will receive an education voucher for every child. He may redeem the voucher in any educational institution that will open and teach a minimum of required hours. The Education Ministry will recommend study programs, will ensure that the parents understand what material their children must learn in order to be accepted to academic institutions  – and that is all! The Ministry will not interfere with the content of the learning material. The responsibility will return to the parents and they will be very involved in their children’s education. The parents and children will treat the teachers with the respect given today to private tutors. (Have you ever heard of a child who disrupts a private tutor during the lesson? Of a parent that curses him?)

And the teacher? He will give the small and intimate group of students his entire heart and soul because he will be able to be truly involved in the success of every student. An added incentive will be the fact that he will have many competitors for his highly paid and respected job.

Three notes:

  1. This method has been successfully employed in the maternity wards in Israel. Social Security gives every expecting mother a voucher to be redeemed in the hospital of her choice. We all see the difference in the level of service in the maternity wards as opposed to the other wards in the health system.
  2. The education voucher method has been employed on some level in a number of countries and has been very successful.
  3. The method assumes that the State belongs to the citizen and not vice versa. It dissolves the thought monopoly and will foster the education of children as per the values of their parents – not the values of politicians and power hubs. The latter will not easily surrender their power and hold on the keys to the country’s consciousness. I do not currently see a leadership that will try to face off against them and thus, I do not see a serious chance for the implementation of this simple and wonderful idea – which can lift our children out of mediocrity to the highest peaks of study and development.

 

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