PM Netanyahu and Education Minister Saar met with school principals and teachers from around the country and commended them on the significant jump in pupils’ achievements on the international tests.

 Cabinet communique


PM Netanyahu and Education Minister Saar with teachers at Cabinet meeting (Photo: GPO)

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Saar, this morning (Sunday, 16 December 2012), at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, met with school principals and teachers from around the country and commended them on the significant jump in pupils’ achievements on the international tests.

Attending the meeting were principals and teachers from all areas of study in which pupils were tested in the international TIMSS and PIRLS tests – mathematics, sciences, Hebrew and Arabic. Prime Minister Netanyahu showed them a 2,700-year-old seal from the era of King Hezekiah from a place that, today, is near the Western Wall, and which bears the name, in the ancient Hebrew script, "Netanyahu."

At the Cabinet meeting, which was dedicated to the issue and which continued for three hours, Education Minister Saar presented the pupils’ achievements.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday, 16 December 2012):

1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Saar made the following remarks:

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "First, I would like to express my shock and that of the Government of Israel, and – I am sure – that of all Israelis – over the awful massacre that took place at the school in Connecticut. I send condolences to President Obama, to the bereaved families and to the American people. Who like us in Israel is familiar with massacres of children and innocents? I pray that the families and the American people find the strength to overcome this terrible tragedy.

Over the weekend, Hamas held festivities and demonstrations in Judea and Samaria to mark 25 years since it was founded. With the approval of Abu Mazen, they called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem and from every point in the State of Israel. We have been here in Jerusalem, not for 25 years; we have been here in Jerusalem for 3,000 years. We have been in the Land of Israel for close to 4,000 years. We have a strong and steadfast national will, the continuous historical consciousness and strength of soul of a people that has struggled for its homeland and knows how to maintain its state.

Last night, I lit the eighth Chanukah candle from the closest possible place to the spot where the miracle of the jar of oil occurred, I actually touched the Western Wall. I said it there and I say it here: The Western Wall is not occupied territory. The Western Wall is ours; it symbolizes the foundation of our existence here for thousands of years. We will stand steadfast in the face of all those who want to expel us from here. The State of Israel, Jerusalem and the Western Wall will remain ours forever.

Today, I would like to commend Education Minister Saar and the teachers who are here. We have here an extraordinary achievement by the education system. We know that in recent years, we declined on the international tests and it seemed that the people of the book had simply drifted away from its special designation and purpose to pursue excellence. We said: We are restoring Zionism and excellence – science and heritage. We said so and we did it, and there are very great achievements here thanks to Israel’s teachers, thanks to the parents, thanks to the director generals, and thanks to the leadership of the Education Minister, the Education Ministry and the unwavering support of the Government of Israel. We invested resources. We gave our support and backing so that we might reach today.

I do not want to say that a great miracle happened here because this was not a miracle, this was a considered policy in which we changed the entire trend.

Now I would like to hear from you Gideon, not just about what has been achieved but about how we will promise the next government that Israel’s children will continue to climb higher and higher – there isn’t much left to climb for in achievements but we do want to continue."

Education Minister Saar: "Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. At the start of my remarks, I would, first of all, like to thank you. Without your personal backing for all of the reforms, for all of the measures that we implemented and without the change in the place of education on the national list of priorities, which found expression in the state budget, we could not have carried out the same revolution that has been seen in the achievements – and there has been a dramatic revolution in the achievements of Israeli pupils. Therefore, this achievement stems from very systematic work and from the backing that you gave me.

The impressive achievements by the pupils, in all areas, are the results, first of all, of hard work. But what happened here is not just a revolution in achievements it is, first of all, a revolution in awareness. It is a revolution that says – we can. We have the most capable pupils, we can achieve better results. On the way here this morning, Mr. Prime Minister, I heard something on the radio that said: If we reached 14th place, it would have been logical but 7th place is too good. I tell the State of Israel and the Jewish people, in principle, according to our tradition of the love of study, of intellect and of perspicaciousness, even 7th place need not be the maximum achievement. We can reach better achievements and believe that we can do so in the future, and we can.

During these years, in the media, there were films on the education system, which our achievements have surpassed, and I very much hope that one of the Israeli media channels will make a film on what happened here during this term, to analyze how this happened.

We worked correctly, and we will detail here how this happened, but we worked hard and I, first of all, would like to thank the pedagogical staff. This is a great group that gives its soul, that works with a sense of mission, everyone preaches to it and explains to it how to do education, this is an excellent group.

I say, Mr. Prime Minister, that if we continue to on this path in the future as well, which is also one of investment – and we believe that spending on education is not an expenditure, it is an investment (and I believe that the next government, which you will head, will continue on the same path), of policy as well, of setting measurable goals in all areas – including that of violence in schools and participation in youth groups – we set measurable goals in all areas, and, by the way, we met them all. If we continue on this path, we can anticipate that we will lead in education and we will lead the Western countries, as we have already proven that this is possible."

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I think that there is very great importance in that there was a willingness to set goals here. In the economy, we were in a similar situation. We trailed the West and we fell and we enacted far-reaching changes that jumped the Israeli economy forward, and this also continued during the present term. I think that as a result of our having the strength to come and say: We are measuring ourselves, we want to be first in job creation, in growth, certainly at the top of the list.

The same thing happened in education – we trailed the West and today we are at the top. In mathematics, it was a great jump, also in science and in reading comprehension; these are very great achievements. They stem from the willingness to set goals for excellence and to adhere to them, invest in them and not be concerned about being measured according to them. I think that this was simply a very great achievement for the State of Israel and for Israelis."

2. Education Minister Saar and senior Education Ministry officials briefed ministers on the significant improvement in achievements by Israeli pupils on the international TIMSS and PIRLS tests.

3. Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver briefed ministers on the implementation of the Cabinet’s 27 March 2011 decision regarding housing for elderly immigrants.