Israel will launch a five-year plan to ensure high-tech-related topics are taught to children as early as kindergarten, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Bitton announced Tuesday.
As part of the joint project, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects will be introduced to Israeli children throughout their school years to encourage scientific thinking and prepare them for their adult lives and potential high-tech jobs.
The program will begin with a pilot for middle-school pupils in the upcoming school year and will expose them to computer science, robotics and other fields, in order to advance technological excellence, and deepen the scientific thinking among Israeli students.
“The program will assist in widening and diversifying the talent pool of potential future high-tech employees, and will better prepare them for the ever-changing labor market of the 21st century,” the Ministry of Education stated Wednesday.
“This program is relevant to every Israeli household, and it is a significant part of my vision for turning Israeli technologies and innovation into a catalyst of social change that helps advance the financial security of each household. The Israeli high-tech industry is in need of quality workers. This program is the start of a long-term solution, which must be worked on alongside short-term answers,” said Farkash-Hacohen.
“Israel is joining other high tech-oriented countries which incentivize educational programs in computer sciences from kindergarten through the end of high school. We are investing in what is dearest to us – it is only natural that our children will become acquainted with the computing world at an early age, seeing as it is woven into, and affects, every field of our lives,” she said.
The project was created due to the lack of qualified workers in the Israeli high-tech industry, and the desire to expose children to these fields at a young age.
At first, the efforts will be led by TOP15, the team which led the revolution in advanced math studies. The teams will determine the landmarks and integration of the topics in the education system, as well as the development of curriculums for the various ages and subjects.
Israel’s high-tech workforce is a vital sector that drives the Israeli economy, and the government has set a goal to increase the participation of the workforce in this sector to 15%.
Currently, the vast majority of STEM studies took place in high-school or informal educational settings. In the new format, they will be integrated as early as kindergarten, in an official, long-term program.
Today, only some 10% of Israeli high-school students select to learn a STEM topic at an advanced level for their matriculation exams. These topics are considered good indicators for working in the high tech sector and are prioritized by universities and employers.
Studies have also shown they enable greater social mobility. As of now, there is a growing gap between Israel and other OECD countries in this category. One of the program’s goals is to increase the number of students who are aware of the opportunities in high tech, and subsequently increase the number of students graduating advanced STEM subjects within five years to guarantee the potential pool of university students and high tech employees continues to grow.
The program will start in middle school during the upcoming (2021/22) school year, and will then be expanded to elementary school and kindergartens.
Similar programs exist in other countries, including England, Japan and Singapore.