Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) has more than once announced his plan to cancel most of the matriculation exams that Israeli students are required to take in order to graduate from high school, but he is expected to face strong opposition from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if he tries to implement the change.
In its election campaign, Yesh Atid promised to cancel most of the matriculation exams, including those in Tanakh (Bible) and history. The move is meant not only to save some funds in the Education Ministry’s budget that could be allocated for something else, but is also a reflection of party chairman Yair Lapid’s view that most of the matriculation exams are unnecessary. "Our children need matriculation exams in English, mathematics and reading comprehension - that’s it," Lapid said during the campaign.
Yesh Atid’s platform notes that the party will work to reduce the number of matriculation exams to four: Language (Hebrew/Arabic, reading comprehension), mathematics, English and one elective subject. Piron has been a vocal supporter of Lapid’s position on this issue, which was a central factor in Yesh Atid demanding the education portfolio during post-election coalition talks.
The Haaretz newspaper reported on Thursday, however, that over the past several days, a group of Israeli history teachers have gotten together to protest Minister Piron’s planned change. The teachers, reported the newspaper, have received backing from a slew of senior Israeli historians, who warned that cancelling the matriculation exam in history or any other subject would eventually lead to these subjects disappearing from the curriculum altogether.
Haaretz turned to Netanyahu’s office asking for his position on the issue, and Netanyahu reportedly responded that he was strongly opposed to cancelling the matriculation exams in Bible and history.
Piron, meanwhile, has indicated that no final decision has been reached in the matter and convinced the protesting teachers to hold off any actions until the matter is discussed further.