Photo Credit: Moshe Feiglin
Moshe Feiglin

Israel’s education budget is larger than its defense budget. Indeed, the percentage of the budget that Israel invests in education is higher than that of almost all the OECD nations. And yet, our classrooms are very crowded and our children’s education is subpar.

How is that possible? Because the problem is not money. The problem is that according to Israeli law, the responsibility for educating our children is on the shoulders of… the Education Minister. Israeli law absolves parents of the responsibility to educate their children and deposits it in the hands of (the Big Brother) Education Minister.

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This is antithetical to any concept of liberty and human rights regarding what every parent holds most dear, but we will leave that issue unaddressed for the moment and focus on the education itself.

There are 1.6 million students in Israel (may their numbers increase). A simple calculation shows that the state invests approximately 2300 NIS per month on every student. Approximately 90 percent of that sum goes to salaries (not just for teachers). So let us conclude that the direct investment in each student – not including buildings and accessories – is approximately 2000 NIS per month.

Let us assume that you are an Israeli family with three children who are currently “customers” of the education system. On the surface, the state invests approximately 6000 NIS per month of taxpayer money in salaries that are supposed to educate your children. The state also prohibits you from giving your children an alternative education.

And yet, think: What would you do with that money if given the choice? With 2000 NIS per student plus 300 NIS rental and accessory funds, it would be possible, for example, for you to put together a small group of 10 students (instead of 40) and hire a private teacher for 20,000 NIS and a private classroom for 2000 NIS. In other words, with the same budget, we could provide a much better education for our children than what is offered by the state.

So what is my message to the Education Minister? Close the ministry? Of course not. Education is a basic value accepted by everyone. We all have a common interest in the proper upbringing of the coming generation. This is not just a private issue and, thus, it is the right and duty of the state to tax its citizens so that the parents of every child have the ability to fulfill their responsibility and educate their children.

But Israel goes way beyond this duty. It takes the parents’ responsibility – and their money – and educates their children instead of them. And it does a rather mediocre job.

What is the solution? School vouchers. Parents should receive an education voucher for every child from the state to redeem at any educational institution that teaches a minimum number of required hours. The Education Ministry should recommend study programs, ensure that parents understand what material their children must learn to be accepted to academic institutions – and that’s all!

Under the kind of school voucher system I am, proposing, the Ministry will not interfere with the content of the learning material. The responsibility will return to the parents who will be very motivated to involve themselves in their children’s education. And parents and children will treat start treating teachers with the respect they currently give to private tutors. (Have you ever heard of a child who disrupts a private tutor during a lesson? Of a parent who curses him?)

And teachers? They will give their small and intimate groups of students their entire hearts and souls because they will be able to be truly involved in the success of every student. An added incentive will be the fact that they will have many competitors for their highly-paid and respected jobs.

Three notes:

  1. This method has been successfully employed in Israel’s maternity wards. Social Security gives every expecting mother a voucher to be redeemed in the hospital of her choice. We all see the difference in the level of service in maternity wards as opposed to other wards in Israel’s health system.
  2. The education voucher method has been employed on some level in a number of countries and has been very successful.
  3. The voucher method assumes that the state belongs to the citizen and not vice versa. It dissolves the thought monopoly and fosters the education of children as per the values of their parents – not the values of politicians and power hubs.
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Moshe Feiglin is the former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He heads the Zehut Party. He is the founder of Manhigut Yehudit and Zo Artzeinu and the author of two books: "Where There Are No Men" and "War of Dreams." Feiglin served in the IDF as an officer in Combat Engineering and is a veteran of the Lebanon War. He lives in Ginot Shomron with his family.

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