Parliament Learns from Israel

February 23, 2012 by Michelle Coleman
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Israeli educator Rabbi David Samson gave evidence at Parliament on Monday to the Victorian Government’s inquiry into the education of gifted and talented students. Israel is considered a world leader in this area since the establishment seven years ago of a department of the Ministry of Education devoted entirely to dealing with the needs of gifted students.

Member for Northern Metropolitan Region Nazih Elasmar, Atid dean Rabbi David Samson, Member for Caulfield David Southwick and director of aliyah Bezalel Gleiser.

Rabbi Samson, who is dean of Israel’s Atid school system, told the inquiry that gifted students are educated in three different streams: A stream for the gifted top 5% of students who are given partial acceleration and extension in mainstream classrooms as well as attending special afternoon classes; a stream for the highly gifted top 1% of students who attend special schools, and individual mentors to provide one-on-one teaching to the profoundly gifted (those with an IQ of over 155).

“The idea is to identify these gifted children so that they will be the leaders of society and have the responsibility to donate their talents to society,” Rabbi Samson explained. The testing is conducted by the Ministry of Education at kindergarten level, and gifted students are then invited to attend one of the three special programs. The testing also looks at the children’s motivation, social behaviour and ability to innovate.

Member for Caulfield David Southwick, who chairs the Education and Training Committee and invited Rabbi Samson to give evidence, said: “It was great to have Rabbi Samson here today to give evidence to the Parliament’s Education and Training Committee… Having someone of extensive knowledge like Rabbi Samson present to a parliamentary inquiry also provided an opportunity to showcase the great work that Israel does in investing in Education. The committee’s inquiry will benefit greatly from hearing from someone with his background and this will undoubtedly assist our report in to this important area of education policy.”

The Parliamentary inquiry also heard from Aliyah Director Bezalel Gleiser about agricultural schools in Israel.

Meanwhile, on Sunday evening the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) co-hosted a public education event titled “Engaging the difficult student”.

Welcoming the audience of 130 comprising parents, teachers, school principals and members of the community ZCV president Sam Tatarka said “We are very pleased to be able to present the community with the opportunity to engage with such an eminent panel of educational experts who have taken a leading role in successfully addressing the needs of students with special challenges thrown up by aliyah and the need to come to terms with not just a new language but a new societal structure”

The panel discussion was moderated by Erica Frydenberg, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology from the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, and the panel consisted of Rabbi Samson and two of his colleagues from Israel, school principals Rabbi Bezalel Bornstein and Dr Lisa Fredman.

Rabbi Samson introduced the Atid School System and outlined its philosophy and founding principles, while Rabbi Bornstein gave a presentation about the four characteristics of the ‘difficult’ student, namely those who lack academic accomplishment, those who have behavioural problems, those who have poor social skills and those who have difficulty with authority. Dr Fredman spoke about practical ways to engage these students.

JCCV President Nina Bassat AM gave the vote of thanks and said: “The Atid schools are as intent on creating good people as on producing good students. And they do so by combining innovative teaching with individual care for each student. Sometimes, we tend to forget that in the final analysis, what matters is not so much what we say, but how we make students feel about themselves. The Atid system clearly keeps that to the forefront of its philosophy.”

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