Israel Offering Bonuses to Teachers Who Boost Student Enlistment

Article excerpt

Israel is offering new salary bonuses to high school educators based on criteria including their success in motivating pupils to perform their army service, fueling criticism of alleged militarism in its education system.

The decision to give such ''differential rewards'' to school staff was first reported by the Haaretz newspaper late last year, and was confirmed this week to the Monitor by the education ministry. Critics say the move, and other recent steps, could inculcate a hawkish worldview among Israeli youth and thereby make future Middle East peacemaking even more difficult. But defenders of the step say keeping draft rates high is essential for Israel's security in a dangerous regional environment.

An education ministry circular, dated Oct. 21, 2012, and sent to principals, outlines a new policy of giving bonuses as of the close of the current school year. The extra payments to teachers are to be determined according to "achievements in learning," "social achievements," and "achievements in values" by schools. Schools giving places to special education students and their having a ''high rate of enlistment for military,national or civil service'' are the values achievements for which teachers are to be rewarded, according to the circular, which was obtained by the Monitor

Israeli high schools have always been influenced by the military, for which service is compulsory for Israeli Jewish men and women outside the growing ultra-orthodox population, which enjoys de facto exemptions. But the connection has become more pronounced since 2009, when Gideon Saar, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, took over as education minister.

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Army officials say the percentage of the Israeli population performing the mandatory service has dropped slightly in recent years and that this represents a concern in long-range planning.

'Path of Values'

The linkage between bonuses and draft rates comes just months after the ministry expanded a program it runs jointly with the army whose official purpose is ''to strengthen the ties between schools and the army.'' Now running in hundreds of schools, the Derech Erech ("Path of Values") program brings army officers to schools to discuss the relationship between the army and society and to strengthen teenagers' desire to make a substantial contribution during their three years of mandatory military service.

The army also runs another long-standing program, Gadna, which gives high schoolers a taste of life in the military. Addressing teachers at a session of the Derech Erech program in Jerusalem, last summer, Mr. Saar told them ''teachers are lifelong draftees,'' according to media reports at the time.

According to the circular, full-time teachers in schools whose achievements are ranked as being in the top 10 percent in their category will receive bonuses of 8,000 shekels ($2,160), while 6,000 shekels ($1,620) will be paid for the next 10 percent, 4,000 shekels ($1,081) for the following, and then 3,000 ($810) shekels for being in the top 40 percent of the schools.

Unabashed assertion of Israeli claims to biblically resonant sites in the occupied West Bank is also part of the ministry's current approach. Two years ago, Saar inaugurated a controversial program to bring high schoolers on trips to the Cave of the Patriarchs holy site and the hard-line Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron. …