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fatal damage to the cultivation of science

Enrichment studies for science-seeking youth are reduced or closed due to sharp cuts in budgets

By: Zvi Peltiel

The factory that the universities, research institutes and other bodies established for about forty years is eliminated by the Ministry of Education in twenty months. The branched system of enrichment programs for science-seeking youth, which the institutions worked hard to establish and which the Ministry of Education supported until recently, is collapsing before our eyes.

I doubt if parents will stand up and protest. Those with consciousness and ability will finance the scientific enrichment of their children out of their own pockets, and those lacking the financial ability are often also incapable of protesting and shouting. The ones who will pay the price of the destruction are the children, who will be robbed of the chance to be exposed to the secrets of tomorrow's science and technology; The knowledge-rich industry, which in the future will be forced to look for experts abroad; And also the country as a whole, which will lack the scientists, engineers and experts it will need.

But until all this happens, the top of the Ministry of Education will change and no one will remember that they were the ones who brought about the destruction of scientific education outside the school.

We heard about plans to increase the percentage of those eligible for a matriculation certificate using shoddy methods. We heard about a populist instruction to assign a quota of Mizrahi writers and poets in the curriculum. We heard about such and such new programs. But we did not hear about the fact that the department for science-seeking youth at Wingate College was almost closed or that the activities at the Higher School of Technology in Jerusalem and the Hebrew University were largely reduced. Thousands of teenagers who participated in activities in these places for years will not return to them this year. In the "Galil Knowledge Center" in the north, many welcome programs were held until recently. Here, too, the department for science-seeking youth faces serious financial difficulties. The situation is not much better at the Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University and other institutions. Another side effect is that all those departments will find it difficult to continue the policy of supporting talented students whose families are unable to pay their share of the participation in the class or camp. In this way, the Ministry of Education contributes directly to increasing the social gap.

What brought all the bodies that deal with science-seeking youth to the brink of the abyss is the brutal cut in their budgets. A cut of about 20% in the 2001 budget was accompanied by another cut of more than 50% in the 2002 budget. Combined with the effect of inflation, the cut actually reached about 80%.

Departments that held extensive enrichment programs in the 50 academic year will receive only a small portion of the expenses they actually had. Even those who anticipated in advance that there would be a cut in the budgets at a rate of a few percent - as the government announced - and acted accordingly, were not prepared for a cut of more than XNUMX%.

The difficult economic situation requires the allocation of budgets and cuts. However, you don't have to look far in newspaper reports to understand which parts of the Ministry of Education's budget were not cut at all and even received an increase.

In comparative tests of the students' level in mathematics, Israel deteriorated to a low place. Growing parts of the student population in Israel study in schools and yeshivas where science is not taught at all. The others are robbed of the opportunity to enrich those interested in knowing more. In order to stop the decline in the level of the sciences, the teaching must be improved, the students must be excited and encouraged, and those who are interested in the sciences must be nurtured. The improvement of teaching can be achieved by training teachers and nurturing them. That is why the big cut in the budget that the ministry indicates for this purpose is of particular concern. Cultivating interest in science and opening windows to its various fields for the youth are the property of the departments for science-seeking youth. The factory that was established with great effort is now being destroyed by the Ministry of Education. The failure of the Ministry of Education is a disaster for all of us.

* Dr. Peltiel directs "Tsmad - Young People in Science" at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot

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