The Knesset`s Education, Culture and Sports Committee met on Sunday to discuss a recent poll which indicated that the vast majority of Israel`s teachers cannot answer basic questions about the country`s history, geography and culture.

The poll, commissioned by the Israel Hayom newspaper, revealed that more than half of Israel`s teachers could not say which countries share a border with Israel and less than a fifth were able to name all 12 current and former Israeli prime ministers.

Only 24% of teachers knew the secular date on which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, with answers ranging from ”around February” to ”in the 1980s” to ”Sept. 11.” Rabin was assassinated on Nov. 4, 1995.

Some 95% of the teachers could not name the president of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Miriam Naor.

Only 43% of the teachers knew the answer to the question ”What is the Green Line?” while only 68% succeeded in writing the first four lines Hatikvah, the national anthem.

”We all feel that there is a need for a change within the education system – a large, heavy and good system with dedicated teachers,” Education Committee chairman MK Yakov Margi (Shas) said during the meeting. ”We must examine the teachers` training tracks. Something has happened over the past few years.”

Margi lauded Israel Hayom for publishing the poll, and said new ways must be found to ”improve the knowledge and adapt the teachers` training tracks to the needs of Israeli society.”

Teachers` Union chairman Yossi Wasserman said the poll`s results ”do not seem reasonable,” adding ”I do not understand what the newspaper was trying to achieve. Over the past few years we have worked to bring the best young people to the field of teaching, and it is wrong to tarnish all of Israel`s teachers and sling mud at them.”

MK Yoseph Yonah (Zionist Camp) said that the lack of general knowledge is a problem among the general public, not only among Israel`s teachers. ”We must rethink the style and scope of the studies at the university level, where specializing in a certain field does not require general and multidisciplinary studies. The system demands expertise, but it does not demand a familiarity with general culture – and then we complain about the lack of knowledge.”

MK Itzik Shmuli, also from the Zionist Camp faction, said ”the results would have been similar if others sectors – including MKs – would have been polled. Due to the tense situation in Israel, because of the high cost of living and the security situation, people do not have the time and [peace of mind] to read a book and broaden their horizons.” Moreover, he argued, the academic system places an emphasis on training and focuses less on knowledge. ”The teachers` inferior status is due to their low salary,” he added.

MK Masud Ganaim of the Joint Arab List called to change the goal of the education system. Instead of merely helping people get jobs, the system should create people who are prepared for life, he contended. Likud MK Anat Berko said: ”We must educate people to be curious and express themselves verbally and in writing, but we must not give up on grades – to maintain the level.”

Education Ministry official Eyal Ram complained about what he called the ”tendency to `flog` teachers and expose their failures.” He said the Ministry plans to introduce ”quality selection processes that will examine the level of our future teachers.” Ram further noted that the Ministry will also encourage teachers to obtain another degree. According to him, 64% of Israel`s teachers have a second degree.